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Friday, October 5, 2012


Last week I took my 3 girls to our local public library for some new reading. My 4 year old happily deposited herself on the floor with a basket of paperback Berenstain Bear books. My 7 year old went off to find something new in the series section. And my 10 year old wanted Smile by Raina Telgemeier, so she walked over to the Graphic section. Two minutes later she came back to me and said she couldn't find the book. So, we walked over together looking for the letter "T" and scanning the shelves.
No luck.
We went over to the computer catalog to look up the book and found that its call number is "J GRAPHIC 617.46 T" in some branches or "GRAPHIC 617.465 T" in others. Alright, close enough, I thought, and we headed back over to the Graphic section to find the non-fiction.
No luck.
Having no choice at this point we walk over to the librarian's desk to ask for help. "Oh, yeah," she says, "that's actually in the non-fiction section."

WHAT?!? Who thought that putting a graphic memoir in Dentistry was a good idea? But more than that, who is actually going to be able to find that book? Not only because the cataloging is not intuitive but because the call number makes no sense in relation to where the book is actually shelved.

Over on LM_Net there has been a rousing discussion about the pros and cons of trying alternate classification systems. One of the arguments against alternatives, is that children can walk into any library and find a book in the same place. Well, that might be but it seems at NYPL it depends on the branch you're in. Let alone if you happen to be in Queens where it would be under "617.64 T" or in Brooklyn where you'd find it in "J FIC TELGEMEIER." Some might argue that this is an exception, but it's not. Maybe we've gotten so used to "tweaking" Dewey that we don't even realize how different it is from place to place.

1 comment:

OneHappyMama said...

I have long been frustrated by the occasional random logic that we seem to find on the verso pages of the books we catalog... Why are fire fighters so far away from policemen? Why are books about space shuttles not with our books from outer space? If I want to put all of the 39 Clues books together, even though they are written by different authors, why not? We teach our children to logically categorize their world, and then divide it back up again using long numbers with decimals in them... This librarian may just be ready for a change...