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

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dewey, Hooey and Phooey

Mary had gone up to Lending to find something she wanted to borrow for the weekend. She came back rather a lot non-plussed, having found it, eventually. It had been reclassified and put on the shelves.

Or, more accurately, a different class number was typed onto a spine label and slapped onto the item in question. Anyone trying to find it using the information in the catalogue record would have been fifty-four feet out.

We've only had an electronic catalogue for twenty years. It's not something we're used to yet.

9 comments:

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Only 20 years? Oh it's early days yet....

Major D'Omo said...

You would like this. Here at the Memorial Library and Sauna (which has a limited subject range, but by design) not all the stock is openly available to the reading public. We used to call it 'closed access' - actually *we* still do.

Patrons fill out a nice little yellow slip of paper, which is deciphered, translated and annotated by the Reference Desk staff (bless) and which then is inserted into a plastic pig (container as seen in many Drive-in Banks on this side of the Pond) and whisked thro' the extensive vacuum tube system to the army of underground employees (two floors down) who pull the requested item off the rather extensive shelves and send it up in what you would recognize as a dumb-waiter. having worked here for nearly two years I finally requested a book today and what's more I received it.

I know you think we've all been supping too deeply of the Mandragora here in Sheboygan but you really should come over and see it. It would most assuredly reset your amazement levels but you could also see that even when you too are in Arcadia some things have weird spine labels - if they have any at all.

Gadjo Dilo said...

The old ways are always the best.

Can Bass 1 said...

What, pray, is an 'electronic catalogue'?

UBERMOUTH said...

Sounds like England!

The Topiary Cow said...

Cataloging is supposed to help you find the book, not disguise it under a coded number.

Argh.

Moo!

Kevin Musgrove said...

I envy the Major the vacuum tubes. We can boast a dumb waiter for our reserve stacks collections but vacuum tubes... wow. Especially as the MLA keeps banging on about libraries having floorwalkers. We could be like an outpost of Fortnum's.

Can Bass1: every public library (even us) in the country has its stock listed in a computerised database so that staff, and the public, can search it and find out what's available and where to find it. The system falls down when front line managers shift things around without bearing in mind that they also need to change the information in the catalogue to give people the chance of finding what they're looking for.

Ms. Cow: I've no problem with Dewey class numbers so long as they reflect the physical reality on the shelves. They should point you to the shelf you want, not hide the book from you.

Kevin Musgrove said...

I just knew I had an example of how not to do it.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I've just read the post that you referenced, Mr Kevin. “Bespoke non-decimal classification schemes” for special libraries. I think I like it. Yes, I do. You could use a different base instead of 10, like base 20 as used in ancient Gaelic, or complex numbers like the square root of -2. This would once again give libraries the mystique they had before the encampment of USB ports and blueberry muffins.