Drawing from rare archival materials researched over a period of 15 years, preeminent Dewey historian Wayne Wiegand has produced the first frank and comprehensive biography of the man behind the Dewey Decimal Classification System and scores of other enduring achievements. Tracing Dewey's life and influences that shaped it, "Irrepressible Reformer" explores Dewey's ingenious enterprise as a library innovator, New York State education official, and business and resort operator - as well as those aspects many found arrogant, manipulative, immoral and bigoted. The library world's most famous figure, Dewey (1851-1931) copyrighted his Decimal Classification System in 1876 as a young man at Amherst College. After many editions, it is used today in more than 100,000 libraries worldwide. Organiser and first executive officer of the American Library Association, he is credited as the father of library education and of librarianship as a profession. In his myriad activities in education, spelling and metric reform, state politics and hostelry, Dewey crossed paths with Andrew Carnegie, Teddy Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, and other giants of his era.
As New York State Regents Secretary, Dewey was a turn-of-the-century educational reformer ahead of his time in certification and extended learning. Wiegand gives a full account of this period, which ended in a public dipsute over Dewey's exclusionary treatment of Jews. "Irrepressible Reformer" explores Dewey's further troubles with anti-Semitism and sexual harassment as he built the Lake Placid Club in New York into a $15 million property. "Irrepressible Reformer" suffers none of the restraints of previous "kinder, gentler" biographical treatments, as it reveals the enigmatic Dewey "warts and all". Yet, the prize-winning author provides richer background on Dewey's positive achievements than any work to date. A profound character study that reads like a novel, "Irrepressible Reformer" should long serve students and researchers in librarianship, education, New York State history and American reform movements.