Dewey Dudes help
patrons navigate library with fun
Posted Sunday, March 12, 2006
Quick! If you wanted a book on photography
from the library, where would you look amid all those
mysteriously numbered shelves?
While you’re checking out books at the
Geneva Public Library, check out the Dewey Dudes — specifically
the Holiday Photo “dude” — in the upstairs display case. The
Holiday Photo dude is checking out a slide and is wrapped in
35mm film. And his display label mentions an appropriate number
in the Dewey Decimal System.
From now through April 15 (hmmm, wonder
where tax code books are, Dewey-wise), patrons can enjoy the
library’s “Dewey on Parade” promotion. The point? To highlight —
with humor and whimsy — the various reference tools available at
the library. Foremost among those tools are the reference
librarians themselves as well as the Dewey Decimal System, which
categorizes library collections. (And library employees used a
touch of humor and whimsy in cataloguing the dudes, by the way.)
Besides the mannequins, patrons also may
participate in the trivia contest, with 10 new questions and a
Sudoko number puzzle posted every week. Along with each question
is the same basic hint: to find the answer, ask a librarian. The
process, and the fun involved in getting the answer, is the
point, more than the correct answer itself.
“We’ve had patrons sit down and do all 10
in an afternoon,” a library employee said. Weekly and grand
prizes will be awarded.
This is a communitywide parade, much as
Chicago’s “Cows on Parade” celebration was. The 12-inch
mannequins were decorated not only by library staff but also by
every Geneva school and many local businesses.
The small mannequins were the brainchild
of library graphic artist Cathi Bartels, during a brainstorming
session on the promotion. “Employees had already come up with
the idea of the larger figures and were having fun trying to
decide how to dress them. They thought it would be fun if there
were smaller figures for schoolchildren to create.
“I saw in my mind the artist’s mannequin
on my drawing table,” Bartels said.
Everybody loved the “Cows on Parade,” she
said. “We said, ‘let’s take this mannequin, call him ‘Dewey’ and
have businesses and schools decorate them. Then we’ll assign fun
Dewey classifications to them,’ “Bartels said the staff members
They figured a few businesses would want
to participate. But the parade kept growing, with more and more
merchants seeking a Dewey of their own. “It’s wonderful,”
Bartels said. “I can’t believe how creative this community is.”
The Deweys do have to be seen to be
believed. There’s the library administrative staff mannequin,
juggling many hats. Ace Hardware’s “Helpful Hardware Man” is
there, tool belt at the ready. A tie-dyed mannequin promotes
Wild Roots, while the Giesche Shoes mannequin is surrounded by
an attractive array of fashion foot gear.
Imagination is much on display.
Michaelangelo’s is a sandwich shop, but the mannequin is a work
of art, as befits the namesake of the famed Italian painter. The
mannequin holds a palette not of paints, but of deli fixings.
Propped on the easel is a finished sandwich. The mannequin for
AG Edwards is holding a literal nest egg, while girls of all
ages will love the boa-bedecked figure from It’s a Girl Thing.
Mannequins from Cocoa Bean, Graham’s Chocolate and Olive Mill
all involve appropriate culinary themes, while the figure from
Geneva Care Center leans on a walker. Wool & Co.’s dudette is
dressed in knitted finery, with tiny balls of yard and little
needles adding a realistic touch. There’s even a little lamb.
The Kris Kringle House mannequin wears a Christmas ornament as a
purse, while the Irish Sisters keep warm in Irish sweaters.
Western Avenue School’s mannequin includes
its trademark ducks and the figure is even painted to resemble
one of the school’s feathered friends. Mill Creek Elementary
School’s entry is a fun-loving “Disco Dewey,” with wild glasses
and glitter platform shoes.
Each dude offers a Dewey number. And it
might not be the number you’d think of first. For example, the
AG Edwards number isn’t for finances, as one might assume for an
investment firm. No, with Dewey carrying that all-important nest
egg, he’s classified as ... an egg. Librarians want to help
patrons learn about the system plus, for those already in the
know, to ask questions about why dudes were classified as they
were, Bartels said.
Two life-sized dudes — one on each level —
are attracting attention as well. The big dudes will wear new
duds each week, to go along with the week’s trivia theme.
(“Famous People” ends today, to be followed by “Sports” from
Monday through March 19.) Ron Pauli of the reference department
promised that the second-floor dude would be sporting all manner
of game paraphernalia. “It’ll be a pretty interesting outfit,”
The display and parade put a face to a
system not well understand by many. “It makes it so much fun,”
said children’s librarian Ellen Rivers.
And those mannequins? The schools will get
theirs back. But if you’ve taken a shine to a special Dewey, he
or she can be yours. The dudes will be auctioned off on April
20, with proceeds benefiting the library’s new foundation.
In the meantime, questions await. For
example, I still need to find out what the E.B. in EB White’s
name stands for. I know, I know ... ask a librarian.