Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To Dewey or not to Dewey . . .

We are seriously rethinking our use of Dewey in the Horowhenua Library Trust libraries. We know that there are a number of 'rationalized Dewey' systems being used around the place eg putting all gardening books together rather than having them in a number of different places ie 635.9 + 728s + those 600 numbers, the trains in the 620s and 380s etc. For years we have been kind of doing it anyway on a very minor scale with our countries and history books but maybe its time to extend it into more areas.

Living Rooms
We are also giving thought to breaking the non fiction down into sub collections and shelving them in distinct groupings, called living rooms at Palmerston North Library NZ. We wonder too whether we should do a bit of both, given that we have a district collection which may be at Levin (with room for a bunch living rooms) but could equally be at Foxton (with room for only 2 or 3 living rooms) and Shannon with room only for a standard running sequence.
I saved this link in the New York Times a while back, about Harry Courtright, director of the 15-branch Maricopa County Library District, who came up with the idea of a Dewey-less library and uses living rooms. The plan took root two years ago after annual surveys of the district’s constituency found that most people came to browse, without a specific title in mind. This happens in our libraries too . . . in fact I sometimes wonder whether we invest way too much time on our cataloguing at the expense of other activities (I am of the quick and dirty school of cataloguing!)
“The younger generation today is wired differently than people in my generation,” said Mr. Courtright, 69. “What that tells me is we as librarians have to look at how we present materials that we have for them the way they want it.”

Open Shelves Classification
It was interesting too to read of Tim Spalding at LibraryThing who is calling for librarians to help him develop an open source alternative to Dewey. He is looking for bunch of librarians willing to take leadership on the project, much in the same way that Jimmy Wales is 'in charge' of Wikipedia:
"I hereby invite you to help build the Open Shelves Classification (OSC), a free, “humble,” modern, open-source, crowd-sourced replacement for the Dewey Decimal System."
While the motivation behind this project appears to be to break away from the formality and control of the OCLC structure, which I'm not convinced about, some interesting possibilities may arise from this initiative.

All this thinking leads onto the issue of spine labelling; how do we accommodate the differing needs of the 3 libraries who share the collection? While visiting Woodands Public Library in Singapore last week while attending the Bridging Worlds conference (totally inspirational conference) we saw the Colormarq colour coded spine labelling system. (Thats it in the photo at the start of this post) Talking to the sales rep today he tells me that 15 million items are being managed with the system in Singapore and that Taiwan have recently converted their collection simultaneously with implementing an RFID system. (and thats another post all on its own..)
The Colourmarq system looks very cool and I am surprised that so few libraries are using it in the Asia Pacific region. Its not outrageously expensive, about $NZ1 a book all up, but this is partly offset by not having to buy barcodes, spine labelling tape (whic is ruinously expensive) and logo stickers. Would be interested in hearing anyone with an opinion on the system.

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