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31 May 2007


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Liz B

I'm puzzled about this one, also. So, instead of signs with Dewey, use signs with the names of the subjects. Which many libraries are doing.

One of the comments about this I read was along the lines of "but in a library gardening books can be in x, y and z places." And I'm thinking, but at your library you control the Dewey. If you think the gardening books should all be in x instead of y, do it. And I'm sure we can think of a similar instance for a bookstore, where one book contains many subjects so the person has to go looking for them outside the subject area.

It'll be interesting to see the reports on this down the road.

Kelly Fineman

This sounds remarkably like a response to inadequate shelvers, who don't understand that 811 comes before 811.08 comes before 811.081, etc. To say nothing of needing to know the alphabet. Heavens, expecting people to know both numbers and letters is insane! What? Kindergartners learn their numbers and letters? Then truly, how hard can it be for adults to sort it out? Yeesh.

This will undoubtedly lead to them throwing the gardening books into the gardening section at random, rather than by author's surname, thereby slowing down book retrieval still further. Ack.

Brian Mandabach

Even relatively big bookstores don't have nearly the numbers of a decent library, and it can be hard to find books in non-fiction. I'd rather have a number so I know where the books are supposed to be.


What could be easier... go to the computer, look up a title, subject, or author. It spits out a number like "817.3321 G". Then it's off to the shelves, grab the book from its appropriate spot, and off to the checkout. Why fool around with success?

Bookstores are fundamentally different than libraries. (1) As mentioned above, libraries usually have LOTS more books than a bookstore. (2) And bookstores are not designed to help you find the book you want but rather to sell you books. Wandering around looking for the book you want is desirable in a bookstore because it forces you to look at books you didn't go into the bookstore for and perhaps get you to buy those books. Walking out with 20 books under your arm is a good thing for a bookstore but not a good thing for a library. (3) I go to a bookstore to find something (but I'm not sure what book) for Uncle Al's birthday but unless I am incredibly cheap as well as trusting, I am not going to give Uncle Al a book that he must return in 14 days.

And finally, when is the next Nancy Drew review coming?


Idiocy. I saw we crush them, drive them before us, and enjoy the lamentations of their patrons.

Okay, maybe that was just a bit harsh. I do get tired of the faulty "library should be like Barnes and Noble" model.


Shudder. That would be fine if you wanted to browse, but...despite its faults, Dewey's there for a reason. Or LOC, or whatever.

"Walking out with 20 books under your arm is a good thing for a bookstore but not a good thing for a library." Tom, why is this not a good thing? If you're saying "that's too few! check out more!" then I'm with you. We operate under the 'more circs, more money from the county' formula, so I love the people checking out big stacks.


So, for those of you who have worked in bookstores....how many times have you heard the questions Where is your non-fiction section (when they mean true crime)? Where are your paper backs?

Finding books in a book store, where it is arranged by "subject" is NOT easier than finding books in a library. A library has a precise system. It's based on counting. It's not hard. In a book store they do stupid things like put biographies under what the person is famous for (Borders did this), Voodoo doll kits in religion, the History of Absinthe in cooking. While cataloging has it's faults, atleast with a Dewey number in hand you're not wandering around going "I wonder where they thought Haunted Vermont should go? Folklore? Vermont? New Age?"

Librarians Daughter

wow. this hurts. especially since I lived so long in Pima County (the stupidity hits close to home)... Dewey is so basic and helpful, it's guided me all my life through so many libraries (as opposed to being an army brat, i was a library brat, following my mom from the NYPL to various libraries throughout the US. fun! nothing more comfortable than a library corner!). well, let's keep on dumbing it down for america, who knows where we'll end up (books arranged by jacket color?)...


They are also missing that every bookstore has separate regional sections that don't exist in other bookstores. For example, where I worked in AK every single book that had anything to do about AK went into the AK section. In Florida there wouldn't be an AK section - so books on Mt McKinley would go in a mountaineering section, books on gold mining in Nome would go in a general history section and so on. One of the most frustrating things about going from one bookstore to another is that their nonfic always seems to be shelved differently.

I think Powells is the only comparable place to use when thinking of libraries vs bookstores. And as organized as Powells is, I still get frustrated in there and books do end up in multiple places. Linda Greenlaw's book (Lobster Island?) was in maritime history and also in New England travel and maybe in Women's lit also. I don't know - I remember I got help finding it and we just went to the section that was closest. They might be doing this to catch browsers but it's not as easy as Dewey.

It will be interesting to see how it turns out.


Somebody slap me for the apostrophe typo...
Colleen, you just reminded me of something that drove me absolutely BONKERS while working at the Monkey, and a serious annoyance with some bookstores - multiple shelving locations. A store bothers with a simplified shelf coding system, only to decide that some books will be shelved in up to THREE locations. It might be in Picture Books. It might be in Folktales. It might be in Judaism. Then again, it might even be in Overstock. You don't know! So, instead of checking one, maybe two places, you're running all over the damn store trying to find one stupid copy of a book. Do the customers know about this? No. It would drive them just as batty.


What I really want to know is why you hate the word Signage?

Emily H.

Whenever I'm confronted with the 646.7s, (not to mention the, what is it, 158s?) I'm awfully sympathetic to those who'd just as soon do away with Dewey.

Me? I dream of browsable 'virtual shelves' wherein books are labeled by tags, and there's some sort of giant computer brain shelving robot to retrieve the physical book once you've figured out which one you want... but that's not happening any time soon.


"We operate under the 'more circs, more money from the county' formula, so I love the people checking out big stacks."

But I thought a library was supposed to help people read books? If Joe has 20 books out, and Joan and Rich and Irene each want one of those 20 books, isn't that a bad thing? Joe is not reading all 20 books at the same time is he? I would think that a library would want you take out only those books you intend on reading in the next week or two and come back for more when you are finished with those. That way everyone gets a chance to read the book they want. If everyone takes out more books then they could possibly read by the due date then that's a lot of books just sitting in a chair and not being read. And if it really is that more books in circulation the better, why not let everyone take their books out for 2 years? In fact, wouldn't it be better if they never returned them?


Why doesn't the library just admit that they don't want to spend the money to have the books shelved properly and that they think their patrons won't care? This seems like the same kind of cost cutting measure as the one that says, "toddlers don't care if the books are in alphabetical order, let's just put the picture books in groups by the first letter of the author's last name and let them browse. It's what they do anyway." If the patrons let them do this, then the patrons get the library they deserve.

Er. Now that I ranted. I guess that if I were the patron and you asked me, "budget for new books? or budget for shelving?" there wouldn't be an easy answer to come up with.

Emily H; no robots there, but I like the Library of Congress. because the stacks are closed, they do all the heavy lifting for you. Search for your books by subject and librarians find them, fetch them, and deliver them to you. of course, not everyone has the library of congress a few metro stops away.


Re: Tom's questions. This is how it works at my library (and I'd assume, most libraries): if a person has a book out -- say, the newest Oprah pick -- and someone else wants it, the second person tells the librarian who then puts it on hold for them. That flags the book, making it unable to be renewed, and when the first person returns it, we call the second. When there are a certain amount of holds on a book, we order another copy. Some libraries have a shorter borrowing period for new books and bestsellers.

As for the 20-books-at-a-time-thing, it depends on the person, their habits and situation. Lots of people take up just one or two books at a time. But we also have parents who regularly take out thirty or forty children's books at a time. Homeschooling families have a longer circulation period, and they usually take out more at a time than the average patron. Retirees, people on vacation, people who don't have to work -- they take out piles and piles of books at a time. And then there are people like me, who have the Bigger Eyes Than Stomach Syndrome (or in this case, Time, I guess) and regularly have at least twenty books out. Whether or not everyone reads every single book they take out, I don't know. (Judging from my track record, I seriously doubt it!) But again, there is the holds system, so if someone has something that someone else wants, it's usually easy to get it back.

Except videos and DVDs (4 per family, please), we don't limit checkouts -- we tell people they can take home "as many items as you can keep track of". But our circulation software has an automatic cap at 30 items (which we override), so I'd assume that some libraries have borrowing limits.

Again, at our library, the circulation stats count how many items circulate, not how many items are out. If one item goes out for two years, that's one circulation. If one item goes out to four different people over the course of two years, that's four circulations. Higher circulation statistics do make it easier for us to get funding from the town, because it helps to prove that the library is being used. At least, that's my understanding of it. As I've said before, I'm just a peon.


My local library has a 14-day limit on new books but they also limit the number of these books you can take out at a time (3, if I remember correctly).

To get back to the bookstore vs library question... I would hope that people became librarians because they wanted to promote reading and not just so they could game the system to get more funding. Bookstores want people to buy books... reading them is incidental.


Yeah, I think it's quite common for libraries to place a limit on new books/bestsellers.

Libraries wouldn't be able to promote reading if there was no money to buy books. Being concerned about funding/understanding the importance of it isn't necessarily the same thing as 'gaming the system'. Annual Appeal/all of the other fundraising we do throughout the year is easily my least favorite part of the job, but without it, none of the fun stuff (recommending books, running my book group, ILLs, etc.) would be possible.

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