Dewey Signs

I’ve used the same Dewey signs for a few years that I Photoshopped and posted on the walls. But, as I’ve said recently, I’m a lot tired of printing, laminating and posting. In fact, I never even laminated my current signs last year because I didn’t really want to put them up, but I needed some sort of simple reference for students. There are too many poster-sized posters on my walls for any kind of signage to be effective. I took my current signs down.

I like displaying Dewey numbers because they make great reference points. I could label all of the sections with “community,” “fairy tales,” “weather,” etc., but I think this can be misleading to a student who might be looking for a book about the Titanic or gemstones in some of those smaller, but no less popular sections. I like the numbers because it is how they appear in the online catalog, which my students love to use, and it’s a quick reference for me to say “In the 600s, third shelf by your knees.” (I use a lot of body parts to refer to shelf height!)

That’s all a really long winded way to say that I was ready for something new, but I didn’t know what. I don’t really care for any of the signs I see in library catalogs. They’re too large and too wordy for my environment. I just want the simple numbers. Above my Fiction and Everybody sections are large plastic display signs hanging from the ceiling. I thought I would start with that concept and hang something….

I measured the distance from the ceiling to where I wanted the numbers aligned. About a meter. And I still had no clue what I wanted to do. So I drove home. (What was I doing at work on a summer day anyway?!)

As I was heading to the craft store for other supplies I thought, “what will be about a meter long that I can cut into narrow panels and hang?”

The best thing that’s about a meter long?

A meter stick.


I bought foam at the craft store and yard sticks at the home improvement store. Plus some spray paint in the fashionable color of vampires: black.

I thought I might be breaking some kind of ordinance by spray painting in front of my apartment building, but what’s a little black paint on the grass when most of it is dead anyway? It took less than ten minutes total to paint the sticks.

I printed out numbers in a hopefully attractive font (Marker Felt from, traced onto foam, and started to cut.

The cutting was really the longest part of the process. It took me two hours to cut the 33 numbers. If zero didn’t have a hole in it, it would have been faster! (If you’re doing the math at home…I had 33 numbers because I did 500 twice–my section turns a corner.)

The rest was fast and simple: hot glue on the numbers and drill a hole at the top of each stick.

I took them to school to hang and found that hanging them just didn’t work. I’m allowed to hang things from my ceiling and capable of it, but they were just too close to heads and did not look quite right.

Instead, I used one Command Strip Picture Hanger strip at the top of each and attached them to the wall. I had to move a few of my posters out of the way, but my walls are starting to look a lot cleaner.  They are all up at the same level across the wall except for the 100s and 200s which all fit on the same shelf, so I staggered them.

The total cost for the project was less than $20. The results? Worth SO much more!


  1. Fantastic idea! Do you have other pictures? I’d love to see what your library looks like. I’ve been tweaking mine for 3 years!

  2. I’m just wondering how this has worked out? I really like the idea but the kids tend to not look up even to the top of a shelf…I am looking for some way to make it easier to find things and like you I don’t care for what is in the catalogs. I really enjoy your blog by the way!!!

    • Kathryn,

      My Dewey signs really do work! Not that I’ve ever heard a kid say “I need a book from the 700s today.” But I think they are better able to find the sections when they look books up in the catalog. And I can say “go to the 600 and they’re on the shelf by your knees.” I’m definitely glad I made them!

  3. Thank you! I think I will go today and get busy making these! I really appreciate your blog!

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