We're taking a bit of a breather while the world rearranges its underpants. Meanwhile, the other blog is here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Anglo-Saxon attitudes

Argh! Children's Librarians, together with Local Studies Librarians, chafe at the restrictions of Mr. Dewey and go in for their own bespoke classification systems because they're "special".

Back in the days when we had a Cataloguer, she lost the battle with Local Studies who opted for a non-decimal classification scheme. None of the standard taxonomies suited them so they invented their own. From scratch. There was a committee made up of all the male librarians in the service (do we need any editorial comment here?) and they got to work. Sort of, as only old-school male librarians could. What makes the scheme particularly interesting and difficult to use is that two of the librarians weren't on speaking terms (they shared an office and had been sulking for the previous six months about a filing cabinet).They proceeded to have a fiercely-contested duel of erudition, each trying to out-do the other in the complexity and intricacy of their part of the schedule. In the end, the chap doing the ecclesiasticals used the natural advantages of the subject to defeat the chap doing the sports section. If you don't know your apse from your elder you'll never guess the code number.

That isn't the topic of this log. Children's library catalogues is. At a time when we're seriously looking at starting to download MARC21 catalogue records I find out that the children's non-fiction isn't an old version of DDC after all. I was trying to map some of the key homework topics, existing numbers against new, so that we could have some idea of the scale of dislocation of stock that would be involved if we didn't hire someone to re-classify the bought-in records. I suddenly realised that the numbers didn't make sense. Especially once I realised that the whole of human endeavour from the Ice Age to the Norman Conquest was one class number while Richard III merited one of his own.

I mentioned this to Jimmy Huddersfield when I bumped into him this lunchtime. He explained: "The Children's Librarians wouldn't let the Cataloguer use the same schedule as the rest of the stock. She suggested that if that was too complicated then she could use the schools Dewey schedule. Didn't suit. Oh no. The Children's Librarians insisted on inventing their own: a 'cut-down version' of the 16th edition of Dewey as they were more comfortable with that edition because one of them had spent a couple of days looking at it at library school. The rest of us were already on 18th edition, but it looked a bit complicated. Any subject they didn't like, or didn't understand they fudged, forgot, or threw into a 'miscellaneous' pot. You should have seen the disgust on her face when she was presented with the table of numbers." He grinned evilly: "Have a look at the science section."

I did when I came back.

There'll be some serious reshelving if we go MARC21.

1 comment:

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

I'm speechless. Hopelessly over my head here. Out of my intellectual depth(s). I think you should go run the Vatican Library, and put to rights centuries of misfiles, hidden manuscripts, and sacred tomes. In Latin, no less!