Melvil Dewey and the Winter Olympics

I have always enjoyed the Winter Olympics. I enjoy the grace of figure skating, the thrill of the Alpine events, and the absolute insanity of bobsledding and luge. As a library student, it was a pleasant surprise to find a strong connection between the Winter Olympics and Melvil Dewey, developer of the Dewey Decimal System.

Dewey founded a camp in New York for librarians, scholars, and social workers. The club? The Lake Placid Club. Dewey’s son Godfrey took charge of expanding the sporting venues. By the time of the selection of the site of the 1932 Winter Olympics, no other place could compare. Since that time, Lake Placid has been a world-class center for winter athletes. Lake Placid was also the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice.”

Dewey was not without criticism for his handling of the Lake Placid Club. Although originally founded as a resort for those of more modest means, it was not an egalitarian club. The club excluded anyone to whom any member had an objection. This resulted in the exclusion of Jews and other minorities. In 1905, Dewey was forced to resign his post as New York state librarian at least in part because of the club’s exclusionary practices.

Dewey died in December 1931, just weeks before the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.


  1. “Melvil Dewey” on American National Biography Online.
  2. Small Town, Big Dreams: Lake Placid’s Olympic Story.”
Posted: February 12, 2010.

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