Spine Labels and De-Dewefication
We all have traditional library practices we hold dear. For some people it's being able to offer classical literature to the reading public. For me it's knowing that our customers can ask us almost anything and expect a good and solid answer. But we also have sacred cows -- things we never question and hold onto far longer than we should. For me, the two items below are sacred cows I would like to see changed. Please remember that I am speaking from a public library perspective, and your opinion may (almost certainly) differ.
1. Why do we place author-name spine labels on hardcover books when staff and customers can find the same books without the labels? How much do we spend each year to make and place (and replace) these labels -- not just sticker cost but staff time? I like genre labels, but author labels?
For example, of these books waiting to be shelved only one has a spine label. Are spine labels needed on the other two?
2. Is Dewey still serving us well in non-fiction? If you have genre labels on fiction books, why not have subject labels on non-fiction books and then simply shelve your materials by subject area (and by author within each subject area)? Imagine having all the computer books in one place, the baby name books with parenting, and Plato and Aristotle and Nietzsche all in one area called philosophy. Too radical?
Are we really keeping our "collections organized so that [our] users can easily locate the resources they need"? Perhaps very large facilities can justify Dewey. But does Dewey classification best serve buildings under thirty or forty-thousand square feet?
Are we spending too much time trying to force our users to utilize Dewey -- and losing too many users despite our effort? If we really want to make our users comfortable and serve them well (and allow them to serve themselves well) then perhaps some of us need to reexamine our shelving and labeling methods.
Certainly there are many arguments against subject-based non-fiction shelving (notice I did not say bookstore-style shelving). When you scale to very large collections -- say several thousand titles on flowers -- then you probably want a more rigid structure. But if you have collections on that scale then you probably also fall outside 90% of today's public libraries.