Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shelf Life

I try not to point fingers, everyone. I really do. Who am I to point a finger at anyone else for anything? Me, who watches "So You Think You Can Dance" and rewinds and watches the routines twice? Me, who is almost always the first one to leave a party? Me, who, at times, can't tell the difference between Toto and Loverboy?

HOWEVER. I just have to point this one out. It's too shocking. And I am warning you that if you are not a librarian, or don't use the library, this post may be the equivalent of three or four quaaludes being injected directly into your jugular. So be it. I just can't keep silent about this any longer. It's too unsettling.

I have a friend who lives in a ginormous metropolitan city. One of the top five largest cities in the U.S. I don't want to say which one, because, you know, I'm trying to be graceful within the confines of this conversation. Who cares if I am talking shit about something? I will have my pinky finger up and speak in a genteel manner even as I do so. So, she lives in this big city. And this city has a large, historic, well-established library system. And here's what she asked me.

Her: In your library system, how do you shelve your fiction?
Me: By author.
Her: And then what?
Me: Just by author.
Her: You know, at my library, they shelve the fiction by last name of the author only, and then by title.
Me: Say whaaaaa?

Are you all getting this? Do you understand the sheer wrongness of what's going down over there in that metropolis she's living in? Last name of author and then TITLE? Let me break this down for you.

Let's say that you read the novel called Selfish and Perverse and loooved it. And really, with a name like that, who wouldn't? So you figure, because you are smart this way, that maybe you'll like something by the same author. You mosey over the the fiction shelf and look for the author, Bob Smith. There's all the Smiths (minus Morrissey maybe, har har), together on the shelf. Only all the Bob Smiths are not together. Because first, the books have been shelved by last name. All the Smiths. Together. THEN, the books are shelved by TITLE. So Alice at Heart, by Deborah Smith would come first, then next to that would be Cry Wolf by Wilbur Smith, and then Deadly Grace by Taylor Smith, and so on like that. So all the Bob Smith books would not be right next to each other. Not collocated, as we librarians like to say. So in a yooge library, the Smiths might take up stacks of books, and if you just wanted all the Bob Smiths, you would have to browse every Smith book there.

I know librarians read this blog. I can hear you breathing out there. Tell me, have you ever heard of this shelving system before? And if, perchance, you work for this library system of which I speak (or another one that shelves this way), can you tell me why this is happening? Because that is not practical and that is not orderly. And as a librarian, I must have the practical and the orderly. At least when it comes to items on the shelf. When it comes to knowing the difference between Toto and Loverboy however, I can slide into the sloppy and the useless.

HEY. Non-librarian readers! STOP SNORING. As Stephanie Tanner used to say: how rude.

Kiss the rings, I'm out.
Librarian Girl

19 comments:

Claire said...

I thought that all libraries used either Dewey Decimal/Library of Congress but obviously not eh? That is one weird way of shelving. But you could create lots of mischief in there by messing them up to baffle the librarian bods, chuckle :o)

Isabelle Fetherston said...

I agree with you Pop Culture Librarian! My library groups fiction books by author (like Smith, Wilbur), then alphabetically by titles by that particular author. I can't imagine some poor patron trying to find books in a particular series if those books were spread through several bookcases.
Dizz, We do use the Dewey Decimal system - but only for the nonfiction books.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you--that's nuts. I remember one library I used to frequent that shelved by last name, first initial--a little better, but it sure made it hard to sort out the Elizabeth Peters from the Ellis Peters. (Especially when they all had those little "mystery" magnifying glass stickers.)

Anonymous said...

That shelving system is nonsense. Thumbs down.

In other news, I have the *exact same* So You Think You Can Dance viewing system as you! I even made my man come downstairs and watch the group dance (which I was watching for the 4th time) that Wade Robson choreographed to Busta last week. That is some goooooooood teevee.

cadiz12 said...

i'm not even a librarian and i think that's bizarre.

Katie Kiekhaefer said...

Yeah that's wacky... really wacky. Who thought that would be a good idea? (Ten bucks says they probably won an award for innovation and leadership in the field...)

Anonymous said...

Are they insane? Where's the logic?

Anonymous said...

What?! That makes no sense at all. At my library, we do it by author last name, with all titles by the same author grouped together, thus makign life so much easier for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I too shall add to the list of declarations of insanity on this one. What's a poor library customer/patron/guest/visitor-so-frequent-that -they-might-as-well-live-there to do with a system like that?

Anonymous said...

In junior high when I read around 8 books a week because I was a geek like that, I would choose books by author and read all their books and then rinse, lather, repeat. If I had run into this system, I would have sobbed and been convinced that this was more proof that the world did not like teenagers.

Now that I'm a librarian, I don't have time to read nearly as much (instead I'm busy getting a tan from my computer-monitor), and it seems that the *only* purpose of such a systems is to totally mess with patrons' heads; it's just plain wacky!

e-Lizabeth said...

Yikes, no, I cannot get behind that system at all.

And that's from someone who works in a library with a crazy-ass system that makes no sense to anyone. I don't even think it has a name...

Anonymous said...

This made me laugh out loud. Even as a non-librarian, I can see how right you are.

Is there a Head World Librarian? Maybe a Prime Minister Librarian? Because you should consider running. I see in this post the beginnings of a compelling platform.

Anonymous said...

I'm about to email several co-workers and direct them to read this... some here have library degrees and we all use libraries... but more importantly, I just heard a half-hour long indepth discussion in our break room all about So You Think You Can Dance... it's like coming home!

Anonymous said...

Insane.

I'd hate to be the one pulling reserves.

K

Desperate Housewife said...

That's retarded. I thought everyone used the Dewey Decimal thingey.

velocibadgergirl said...

Thought you might like this, even though it's only tangentially related: http://xkcd.com/c280.html.

The Kelly Green Rogue said...

ok my first thought is that you must have misunderstood her, that they shelve all the bob smiths togheter then by title. But you're thorough I cant' imagine you didn't inquire into this. so wth? I've never heard of anything like that, not at any library I've worked at and not at any library I was a patron of

Unknown said...

Yeah? Let me one up you. The library I work at just shelves the children's fiction by the three last letters of the author's name. And I work in a BIG library. And kid's authors are VERY prolific. Imagine if you go to the Smith section and the only rhyme or reason is that it starts with SMI. That is all the order your going to get. I tentatively brought this up at the last meeting and was told that it would take the shelvers too much time... Now, imagine the poor children who desperately want to find the sequel to their favourite author and have to wade hip deep into this chaos. It is perverse and criminal and the apologetic look on my face just isn't enough to compensate for the pain and suffering such disroder causes.

Unknown said...

Sorry for the double commenting but I just have to admit to my addiction to So you think you can dance. There must be some support group I can join...