Battle between good and evil? Or maybe it’s good and better.

28 Nov

My library made a big change at the start of October.  I’m just now writing about it because I’ve had a chance to see it in action and get some feedback.  We did something really out-of-the-box, inasmuch as it’s not something most librarians think about.

We reshelved all our books.  In program-specific categories.  Out of the order of LOC.

Yes, we did.  All the medical books are now on one shelf, cosmetology books on another.  I can hear you: “wait,” you say, “the classification system does that for you, so you don’t need to do that!”  We did.  It needed to happen because books about hair styling cancer patients is with medical books and not cosmetology.  The LOC system failed us, and it failed our students.  Instead, we used our discretion to reshelve books according to the program they’re most relevant for.  It’s a decision not made lightly.

The reasoning was that our students get intimidated by the shelves.  If I’m lucky, I see a student browsing the shelves once a week.  That’s one student per week, not once a week per students.  More often, they come up and ask where books on X are; logically it followed, to me, that we should put X where they can find it on their own and more browsing would happen that way.  Our students don’t like browsing when it’s something they’re uninterested in.  Relevant programs were grouped near each other, and the students seem to like how it’s broken down.

I know, the LOC and Dewey systems are designed to encourage organic research and enquiry.  But they’re not doing that in our library.  That purpose, in those systems, is geared toward “pure” research, where a researcher wonders about a certain angle or impact their topic might have, and it’s generally close to the materials they’re using.  Our students do reference papers, not pure research, and, like high school patrons, they aren’t interested in pure research.  They’re here to get in, out, and done.

We re-evaluated the needs of our student population and adjusted accordingly, something I like to think Dewey would approve of.


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