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Shelves are empty, but not because of missing or stolen books. The reading room at the New York Public Library is letting go of the outdated ordering system created by John Shaw Billings, the library system's director from 1896 (the year after it was founded)until his death in 1913, and replacing it with a system people might actually understand.
The current system is used only by the New York Public Library. Its greatest drawback is that no one but the system's librarians really understands it. They are switching to a classification system parallel to that used by the Library of Congress [dividing all knowledge among 21 classes, each signified by a letter]. New York Times reports.