Aug. 11th, 2016

jadesfire: Gif of the 10th Doctor [text] When in doubt, go to the library (When in doubt)
A lot of the time as a librarian, I feel a little like a cross between a nursery school teacher (don't touch that, put that back, look what a mess you've made), a customer service assistant (let me open that for you, let me give you directions, no of course that's not a silly question) and an administrator (so. much. paperwork.)

However, on days when I actually get to do some hardcore librarianing, I sometimes remember why a) I don't do it very much and b) I kind of love it.

For a few years now, we've had a section called 'Librarian's choice', which is basically our miscellaneous section. The classification scheme we use throughout the library is home-grown, so I don't have an authoritative manual to refer to - I am the authority! - and I can't look at what other libraries have done with books like "Why the humanities matter" and "Geek Warriors". Plus, they're fun titles, and I like having a section of cool, weird and interdisciplinary stuff. That's all fine. But the section had got a bit overgrown, and I decided to move some things out from it into the rough categories they match. No classification scheme is ever perfect, so I figured I'd make do.

Oh boy. I should really learn to leave well enough alone. Because now I'm looking at books like "The Cosmic Web" and thinking 'okay, so that's roughly physics'. Except Physics has only been a subject here for 3 years, and the section was created by raiding the 'Applied Mathematics' category of Maths. So when I want a rough idea of a number for this book, I search for cosmology, and find that they're spread between Maths, Physics, Philosophy and a few other locations.

Okay, I think. Maybe I can just pull the books from those locations and put them together in the physics section. Except I then realise that our physics section can't do that, because everything is classified under N/[author's name]. Which, as we also do in Philosophy, is a terrible way to run a middle-sized library section. I mean, there are a couple of hundred books in Physics, and double that in Philosophy. Author name is fine up to about 100 books, where you can see them all in one go, but if one author on Cosmology is called Adams, and another is Williams, those books are going to be two bookcases apart. That's mad. Which is when I remember that this problem has been driving me mad in Philosophy all year, and I promised myself I'd do something about it.

So it turns out my little 'get these two shelves sorted out' project is about to balloon into 'reclassify two major part of the library so they MAKE SOME SENSE'. Which also means I need to re-do our classification guidance.

Oh yes. The Classification Guidance. Which is a folder of typewritten (I kid you not) sheets, split up by file dividers so old that half the tabs have fallen off. They're simply awful, hard to read, difficult to follow and covered in hand-written notes where we shoe-horned in a new section for books that didn't fit anywhere else. It's at times like these that I understand why we had a whole module at library school on cataloguing and classifying. No scheme is ever perfect, but you'd think with a home grown one, it would at least match the collection. Except it turns out that academic subjects have changed somewhat since 1972, and shockingly, the scheme they came up with back then doesn't quite work for us now.

Reclassifying stuff is an awful lot of work on the theory side. And then you have the process side, which involves re-doing the shelfmark on the catalogue, re-labelling the books and changing the shelfmark written on the title page.

On the plus side, my Miscellaneous section (which IS and WILL REMAIN ordered by author) looks great now, and is a fun section to browse. On the downside, I need to go buy roller-tippex (which doesn't have any drying time), file dividers, and to spend the rest of the day assessing which sections need an overhaul.

10 years ago, when my mother wanted a new shelf for some books, she ended up having the entirety of downstairs redecorated. I'm starting to see where I get it from...

ETA: Working my way through the typed sheets, I have just found when the Italian scheme was last updated. 9.12.87. O.O

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