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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Helpful Complaints

Well, it was bound to happen.  Yesterday I walked into the lower library to find a colleague in distress.  When I asked her if she needed some help finding books, I think she uttered something like, "I hate this new system."  My eyebrows shot up in disbelief.  Really?  I had never heard anything like that before. I downplayed my surprise and sincerely asked, "What do you mean?" (Because in all seriousness, it's this kind of honesty that we hope for from all of our users so that we can improve Metis to better serve everyone, not just the students.) 

To answer my question, my very literate colleague added, "It was easier when you just searched by the author's last name."   

Hmm?  Sometimes, I thought.  But what if you don't know who the author is?  And then it dawned on me that this was her first visit to our library since her leave of absence last year.  She had never attended any of our 5 to 10 minute introductions that explained Metis.

Gesturing toward the computer, I asked, "May I show you how to use the catalog?"  We typed in the title of the first book and found it exactly where she had been looking based on her intuition.  We proceeded to type in the next two titles and it turned out that we actually don't have them in our collection.  Her fourth request had an "ask" logo on top of the image in the catalog which means that there is some special circumstance going on, and the browser should ask the librarian about it.  Did my colleague leave the library totally satisfied?  Probably not since she walked away with only one book when hoping for four.  But we'd be hard pressed to blame it on Metis. 

Before implementing Metis last year, we promised our administrators that if our new system did not work well for everyone, we would promptly resurrect Dewey.  We truly welcome questions, concerns, recommendations and even criticism, if it helps to enhance our community's library experience. Yesterday's exchange was definitely helpful.  We will look into the two missing books to see if we should add them to our collection.  Unfortunately, her fourth book is out of print so we can't do much about that. (Amazon doesn't even have a copy.)  And lastly, with pleasure, I will continue to show anybody who wants to learn, how to use the computer catalog to search for books using Metis.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Addressing the "Dewey Dilemma"

My colleague received an email sent by a college professor, in which she expressed valid concerns that echoed frequently asked questions regarding the “Dewey Dilemma.” She wondered how our creation of Metis could possibly be worth the time and effort when ultimately, all we have done is created a “parallel dimension” of Dewey. 

We understand how daunting it is to think of adopting a brand new system that replaces Dewey.  Really.  We do.  But Metis is far more than Dewey “without the numbers.”

Metis is an investment: an investment of time, energy, labor, sweat and yes, sometimes tears.  But ultimately it continues to be an investment that pays off on a daily basis.

Last week for instance, a second grade teacher dashed into our library with about 45 seconds before our Kindergarten class was scheduled to arrive.  She asked, “Is this a bad time?  I need to find some books on voting.”   Before Metis, I would have suggested that she come back in 45 minutes or at the end of the day in order to not disrupt the expected class.  I no longer had to do that.  Instead, I welcomed her and simply pointed to the  “Community” section and said to look under Government.  Within minutes she returned to the checkout desk, and handed me 3 books (one fiction, two non-fiction)  exclaiming, “Wow!  It’s so organized in there.  Thank you.”

If our library collection were still arranged using The Dewey Decimal System, this quest for multiple books on voting would have taken much more time, and in all likelihood, required assistance from a librarian. This kind of independent, and successful searching for books happens every day, by teachers and students alike.  So to us, the four librarians here at Ethical Culture, the last thing Metis has been, is a waste of time. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wonderful conversation on Twitter

In a Twitter chat on October 11th, the four of us joined SLJ experts and dozens of other thoughtful library professionals to chat about leaving Dewey and making an alternative system. So many great ideas and comments!

We are taking some time to review the questions we discussed and will expand on our answers (beyond the 140 characters). Check for the FAQ on our website, soon.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chat with us!

School Library Journal will be hosting a Twitter Chat on October 11 at 9:00 p.m. (Eastern).

Join us to discuss reasons for staying with or leaving Dewey, questions about Metis, concerns about student learning, ideas about better signage...or just say "hi."

Tweet you soon, #sljdewey !

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.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Labels have arrived

Our Category Labels are here!

Come take a look and pre-order what you need for your library.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Our Article in October Issue of SLJ

We are very excited about the latest issue of SLJ. It features an article by the four of us about Metis: why, what and how. You can find it at Are Dewey's Days Numbered?