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Who Really Likes Dewey, Anyway?

Just a thought in passing before I begin. As is probably obvious to a lot of you, I get some of my blog fodder from LIS News (as well as Library Stuff, Library Link of the Day, my favorite newsy Twopointopian, and of course my lovely readers). Lately, I’ve been wondering what is up with posts like this one. Several by this guy have been "cross posted" to his own blog. W, as the kids today say, TF? LIS News is for LIS news, not for exploitation by some librarian desperate to draw attention to his blog. If you want people to read your blog, write something worth reading. If you have some LIS news to share, post it to LIS news. How hard is this? Sheesh , have a little respect for the readers. Plus, do we really want libraries partnering with Ben and Jerry’s? Aren’t librarians heavy enough already? I just find that sad.

So on to Dewey, or the lack thereof. The Library Journal – the best library news magazine in the whole bloody world! ® – reported that the Rangeview Library District in Somewhere, CO is dropping Dewey Classification in favor of something called the WordThink system. Someone outside Colorado apparently thinks this is interesting news, or I wouldn’t be commenting on it. I’m just not sure who does.

According to the local news story about it (via Library Stuff), "Rangeview Library District Pam Sandlian Smith" [sic] said Rangeview is the "is the first district in the U.S. to dump Dewey," but of course one branch of the Maricopa County Library System dropped Dewey two years ago. Everybody wants to be first at something, I guess.

I don’t see why it matters one way or another, as long as I don’t have to find anything in that library, but the arguments for dropping Dewey amuse me. "’For years, we’ve had focus groups and people consistently tell us, "I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how this library works," ‘ Sandlian Smith said. ‘So we decided to turn things upside down, and so far it seems to work well.’"

This tells me that there are a lot of morons living in the Rangeview district, or that the librarians need to work more on the "information literacy." Their new system has 45 categories. Dewey has ten. Which seems easiest? I’m suspicious of that anecdotal evidence anyway, because if the DDC is an intellectual challenge to someone, how likely is it the person even knows how to read? The fiction and biographies are almost always separated out of Dewey anyway, and maybe that’s to protect everyone else from the mouthbreathers gorging themselves on their steady diet of romances and Princess Di biographies.

"Garsh, Edna, there’s a number on the side of this book! What could that mean? For the life of me, I can’t figure it out!" "Don’t worry about it, Maynard, just quit spittin’ tobaccy in the libary!"

The librarians dropping Dewey like to say the new system is more "user friendly," but user friendly is a relative term. If your users are knuckleheads who rarely need to find a specific book, then, yes, the bookstore system is more "user friendly." If your users are people of reasonable intelligence or above who can take the 67 seconds required to master Dewey and sometimes want to quickly locate a specific book, it’s not more user friendly. Simple as that.

This local news article seems as badly written as the last one I commented upon. Check out this leap in logic. "The Dewey system has ardent supporters." Oooh, ardent supporters! And the supporting quote? "’I guess I can’t entirely see the reason for switching over to anything else,’ said K.R. Roberto, serials and electronic-resources librarian at the University of Denver. ‘This idea of grouping items by subject matter, it’s already being done, it’s just numerically.’" "Can’t entirely see the reason." Yep, Roberto sure sounds like an "ardent supporter" to me!

I’m not sure Dewey really does have any ardent supporters. Let’s face it, Dewey sucks. That’s why most academic libraries – you know, the ones with lots of books – dropped it decades ago for LC. Once you get up to a half million books or so across a lot of subjects, Dewey is just a big pain. For libraries with less than a half million or so books, what does it really matter? They don’t have enough books to bother about organizing, anyway. Just toss the genre fiction into a big pile for the addicts, and have the librarians remember where the rest of the books are. That always worked in my house.

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Comments

  1. Dances With Books says:

    That is the key term: “If your users are people of reasonable intelligence or above who can take the 67 seconds required to master Dewey. . .” Assuming that library users have reasonable intelligence may be a bit much. We know they can barely read (evidence is found in all the signs they fail to read telling them things like take your phone call out to the lobby), so asking them to figure Dewey, which indeed is not really hard, is just too much. Let’s just dumb down the library for them some more. What else is new?

  2. fs8fc says:

    We have to make the library just like a book store, right?

    We don’t want patrons to find what they want, we want them to check out something so that out statistics go up.

    It is all about MONEY ! MONEY! MONEY!

  3. Matt says:

    It’s just another fad. Unfortunately, it’s a fad that will be expensive to reverse later. I think a nice browsing section, such as the type most PLs have for new books are a nice feature. However, it is also important to be able to find the books later. I’ve worked in bookstores. They approach books like they were any other commodity. Shoes for instance. They don’t care about content or retrievability, they care about lining their pockets.

    And if you want the library to remain open, it is about money and stats.

  4. infogoddess says:

    I am so glad to see that I wasn’t the only one appalled by this story – The Denver Post carried a front-page above-the-fold story on this and library leaders all over the state seem to be turning handsprings -too bad they get more publicity for this rather than the loss of funds for public libraries and resultant closures

  5. Matt says:

    After thinking about it, I want to make things harder to find. Maybe a maze and arcane chanting with clues hidden in paintings. hmmm… could be a real money maker. The Davinci library, maybe.

  6. e7585 says:

    This whole argument begs the question, just whom are we making the searching for easier?

    If it is overweight house fraus in their green stretch pants looking for the latest bodice ripper, we could just have trained monkeys shovel books out into a trough along with a selection of cheap chocolates.

    If it is for serious academic research, we need to hire an MLS librarian with a PhD and working knowledge of five languages and pay them piles of money to take six months to carefully craft a MARC record that is perfect in every way.

  7. Richard says:

    The Word/Think system sounds like the Think system employed by Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man.” The students don’t actually read music; they think the melody, and then they play their instruments in hopes of something muscial coming out. Or, as Robert Preston intoned, “Think, boys. Think!”

  8. annoyed library worker says:

    So is LC classification (which our system here has used since the 1960′s) like, chopped liver? or some kind of Dewey subset?

  9. Chickelittle says:

    I’m all in favor of dropping Dewey and putting BISAC subject headings from the Book Industry Study Group in its place. These headings are much more intuitive and more user friendly, and yes, more like a bookstore browsing layout. The extra good thing about BISAC is that it would allow a direct vertical technology link between publisher and library. The publisher could create the Onix record with the BISAC subject heading and then transfer it directly to the library for import. No more expensive OCLC! It would allow books to be processed cheaper, faster, and put them in the hands of our users faster. Which is what this is about….I think….

  10. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    In my experience, book store organization sucks because, by and large the folks who work in them neither know anything or give a damn. Browsing in fiction, I find the collection of poetry I wanted several months ago; browsing in history, I find a fictional account of the Normandy landings. The foolishness never ends at my Barnes & Noble and I am … a trained Liberrian Perfessional. Dewey sucks big time and, to my everylasting sorrow, it’s the system we use here. But at least things tend to be grouped where they should be and I can’t say the same for local bookstores.

  11. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    In my experience, book store organization sucks because, by and large the folks who work in them neither know anything or give a damn. Browsing in fiction, I find the collection of poetry I wanted several months ago; browsing in history, I find a fictional account of the Normandy landings. The foolishness never ends at my Barnes & Noble and I am … a trained Liberrian Perfessional. Dewey sucks big time and, to my everylasting sorrow, it’s the system we use here. But at least things tend to be grouped where they should be and I can’t say the same for local bookstores.

  12. Chickenlittle says:

    NotMariantheLibrarian, “book store organization sucks because, by and large the folks who work in them neither know anything or give a damn”, take a look at the BISAC subject headings on the Book Industry Study Group’s website and let me know what you think. If a library was organized that way it would be better for everything and vertically integrated with the publisher!

  13. Bob Thompson says:

    I’ve been to the library in Maricopa–actually they’ve now gone Deweyless in 4 branches–and it has been a huge success. It may not work everywhere, but it sure works in Arizona!

  14. Dr. Pepper says:

    I once applied to public libraries (from an academic). In all my interviews they were all concerned that I was using LC and they were using DDC…seriously how hard is it to learn a new system ? :-) This may be a stress-factor from the previous post about librarian stress LOL

  15. another f-ing librarian says:

    dewey definitely sucks. but bookstores’ ‘organization’ sucks a whole lot more. since their purpose is to prevent readers from buying what they want or need in order to distract them to the shiny delicious new james patterson shelved at eye-level on the first bookcase in the store. or on a conspicuous endcap. this, so mr. patterson’s publisher gets its money’s worth on the premium paid to the bookstore for that ‘real estate’. does this mean that libraries can make publishers pay for prominent display of their titles? it’d sure beat hell out of having to think of a new display. “who’s paying us this month? penguin putnam? guess i’ll be doing a display of the ‘prey’ books…” maybe all of the publishers can go in on the purchase of better endcap shelving for libraries.

  16. hcfhb says:

    Who cares how public libraries classify their books? They are in the business of entertaining us so as long as we can find the Dance Dance Revolution section and the free porn computer section, we will be happy.

  17. DementedLibrarian says:

    I’m all for going Deweyless in libraries, especially if our patrons are 1) too stupid to get Dewey, 2)too lazy to find it on their own, or 3)too busy to do it. And I’m sorry but the book store sucks because the staff sucks. Their organization is pretty good-if they have the staff to do it correctly. BISAC, if done correctly by trained librarians, would work. Maybe I’m one of the lucky few but the B&N I go to is organized rather well and staff know enough to find a book when I ask for it. Librarians care so we could do it.

  18. Friendly Neighborhood Librarian says:

    Maynard? Edna? Really? It sounds to me like you should stick to classifying people.

  19. Chickenlittle says:

    DementedLibrarian, I agree, we could utilize the non-commercialized aspects of bookstore organization via BISAC. The words “bookstore” seem to strike fear in the hearts of some librarians because they think they would need to implement the same commercial practices that bookstores utilize, not true! And as I said the technological advantages would be many!

  20. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “W, as the kids today say, TF? LIS News is for LIS news, not for exploitation by some librarian desperate to draw attention to his blog. If you want people to read your blog, write something worth reading. If you have some LIS news to share, post it to LIS news. How hard is this? Sheesh , have a little respect for the readers.

    This is Exactly how I feel about some of the people @ LIS News…especially “effinglibrarian”!

    Talk about self-sustaining, and non-library related, he might as well just hang out with the “Librarians Who Say Mofo”

  21. the.effing.librarian says:

    “especially “effinglibrarian”!”
    it feels so good to be loved. I think you forget that I’m hilarious.
    but back to the post: America just isn’t good with numbers.
    Dewey is just mostly numbers. But look at the economic mess the country is in; it’s obvious that America doesn’t get numbers.
    “Four percent interest for the first six months then it goes to prime rate plus twelve percent. That sounds good to me.”
    “A million dollar bail-out? A billion? A trillion? Gee, I don’t know. Take what you think is right.”
    So if keeping Dewey means America’s got to learn numbers, well, then, I’m against it.

  22. smart-mouth says:

    Interesting that this discussion started about about classification and people brought subject analysis into it. (They’re related but they aren’t the same, but most people here are smart enough to know that.) I’m sure BISAC has its uses but…no cross references? Come on! The BISAC list says “If you can’t find the code you’re looking for:
    Please go back and review other Major Subjects to find an alternate code or use our feedback form to suggest revisions to the next version of the list.” WTF? If you can’t guess how they say it, you have to just go back and look at the list? No cross references? Other vocabularies and thesauri in use for subject analysis have cross-references. No cross references is about as un-user-friendly as the stuff that the anti-cataloging mobsters froth about to each other at their LITA pitchfork-and-torch sessions at ALA.

  23. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    I’ve looked at the BISAC headings – my question is: why the heck would libraries want “to be vertically integrated with the publisher”? Who published what doesn’t come up often when students at our university are looking for materials.

    And the book industry calling the shots? I think libraries are supposed to be the alternative to book stores. We’re here to educate in academic libraries. If they don’t know Dewey, we learn ‘em!

  24. booksRus says:

    I teach second graders how to use DDC so they can get around our librarian’s rules and check out nonfiction. Our librarian may not think so, but they are smart enough to learn it and use it to get the books they want and they’re only 8 years old!

  25. Kim says:

    Library users don’t need to care about or learn Dewey in order to use Dewey. All they have to do is look up what they want in a simple online catalog like Horizon, know that number = non fiction, no number = fiction, then follow the signs to the number of the desired non fiction material. How hard is that? Dewey is easy to learn and makes it relatively possible to find a specific book; that is if some helpful patron hasn’t reshelved it wherever. But really it’s to make the librarian’s job easier since the average public library user would rather not bother.

  26. cf57f says:

    Face it, DDC is junk, LC is junk, … Libraries in general are junk.

    Face it, if you can’t find it on Amazon and buy it, or find some other source on the Internet, it isn’t worth owning or doing.

    Libraries are DEAD!

  27. Matt says:

    cf57f, I guess the crowds of people in here everyday haven’t heard that. Our circ. goes up every year as do visits.

  28. Kim says:

    Matt, the same is true in my library. I’d be open to moving away from Dewey if I could see that it would be better for library users and we’d still be able to find a specific book. As far as classifications go, however, I don’t see how it would work with fiction to group like bookstores, especially with children’s materials.

  29. Techserving You says:

    I have found that one result of amazon (which I love in my personal life, because I love to own my books) is to increase acquisitions requests from patrons (which in my case are students, faculty, and staff.) Students doing a research project don’t even bother to search our catalog to see what relevant sources we have. Instead, they bring me lists of books they found on amazon (including all the books from the “you may also be interested in…” lists, etc..) In my particular case, we have piles of money, so we rarely turn down requests, even when we already have plenty of recent relevant sources. But, it is getting to the point where people are realizing that the kids’ research skills are really suffering, and we are going to stop honoring such requests. (I know some people will now ask why library research skills are necessary, if students can just find relevant books on amazon. I hope I really don’t have to answer that question, and if I do, the questioner has clearly never conducted even remotely high-level research.) In response to another poster – LC classification seems even more complicated to the average public library user, and even to new college students, since it is rarely what they have used before they got to college. Public libraries are certainly not going to switch to it – I think it’s pretty much solely used in academic libraries.

  30. Techserving You says:

    Oh yeah, my point about amazon was not just that it is diminishing students’ research skills, but also that the patrons do not want to BUY from amazon themselves – they use it as an easy tool to identify books and then ask us to buy them for them (this includes faculty and staff who want fiction.)

  31. Dr. Pepper says:

    People just give you wish lists? Am I the only one who finds what I need (amazon being one of the sources) and then hop on to the catalog to find it? Or if my academic or local PL doesn’t have it use the ILL? Lazyness :-)

  32. Techserving You says:

    Yeah… when it comes to faculty and staff, they often want specific items but almost never bother to check the catalog. Students… the requests are usually for research papers. And I’m talking about students who are supposedly the ‘best and brightest.’ Rather than perform the keyword and subject searches that would needed to be performed in order to find the relevant items we already own, they do a quick search on amazon and ask for those. Originally the thought was that these requests would be few and far between, and if there is a demand for these titles now, future students would also be able to use the books, so why not just buy them. But this is now the general MO of many students – they’re not doing the research to track down relevant sources, and the titles they do request end up duplicating information… that is, the 7 books on X topic each contain much the same information. Originally we naively thought that the kids had actually done research elsewhere and each book would contain some key piece of information for them, but now we understand what’s really going on.

  33. I Like Books says:

    I like Dewey, too.

    I’m sorry. But my branch library has less than half a million volumes. And when I’ve searched LC collections, I find books on the same subject in two distant locations.

    I didn’t know bookstores even had a system. I thought they just put stuff wherever it fit. But as long as it’s in alphabetical or numerical order, and there is a catalog that tells me which number to look for, I’m sure it’s all good.

  34. _RLA_ says:

    NotMarianTheLibrarian commented:

    “In my experience, book store organization sucks because, by and large the folks who work in them neither know anything or give a damn. Browsing in fiction, I find the collection of poetry I wanted several months ago; browsing in history, I find a fictional account of the Normandy landings. The foolishness never ends at my Barnes & Noble (…) But at least things tend to be grouped where they should be and I can’t say the same for local bookstores.”

    I know this is going to shock the hell out of you, but just like library patrons, Barnes and Noble customers tend not to care where they put books when they’re finished looking at them, and just like library pages, Barnes and Noble shelvers can occasionally put a book in the wrong spot.

    As a former B&N employee, I can tell you that at the three stores where I was employed all of the managers and lead booksellers had at least Bachelor degrees, most of them in Literature, History, or Philosophy. If the workers at your B&N are actually as ignorant as you think they are, perhaps you should move out of the back hills of Kentucky.

  35. anonymous says:

    re: But, it is getting to the point where people are realizing that the kids’ research skills are really suffering, and we are going to stop honoring such requests.<<

    Sounds to me like the kids’ research skills are top-notch. It’s your opac and collection practices that need some work.

  36. Whawha says:

    Uh – no – they aren’t, at least not in an academic sense.

  37. Cynica says:

    The amount of thought being put into these Dewey Decimal System replacements is pathetic. Plus the item is cataloged for free. Who’s got money to waste on original cataloging via some other scheme or reinventing the wheel.

    Future ALA Library Directors of the Year – that’s who.

  38. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    To cf57f – people have been saying libraries are dying/dead/moribund all 25+ years of my liberrian working life. It isn’t going to happen.

    And _RLA_ – I don’t live in KY. I live in a major metropolitan area that has seen its independent booksellers driven out of business by the cheaper to operate B&N/Borders models. The independent booksellers really did care about their stock, knew what they were doing, and knew boatloads more than any chain bookstore employee I’ve ever met. Far better operations and service IMHO.

  39. cf57f says:

    “To cf57f – people have been saying libraries are dying/dead/moribund all 25+ years of my liberrian working life. It isn’t going to happen.”

    Last one out, please turn out the lights and leave the server running.

  40. Techserving You says:

    I started to type something in response to anonymous who said (seriously, I think) that the kids’ research skills are top-notch and it’s our OPAC and collection practices that need work. Then I decided that that comment was so stupid it’s not even worth a response.

  41. Matt says:

    First, there wouldn’t be a B&N in the back-hills of anywhere. Second, the independent bookstore where I used to live called the librarian all the time for help finding books online. They couldn’t navigate Amazon or the Internet in general by themselves.

  42. BISAC user says:

    Smart-mouth: BISAC does have cross references. Plenty of them, and carefully maintained. Searchable, too, if you view the list in Excel or Word. But that version isn’t available for public view; you must be a member of BISG to get that version. Of course, I’m a fence-rider; I don’t think Dewey has held up well, but I would think that libraries would have to do extensive tweaking to make BISAC work really well for them. I wonder, too, how they deal with the yearly updates to the headings, which are sometimes major…

  43. don't slam the back country says:

    “First, there wouldn’t be a B&N in the back-hills of anywhere.”

    That’s only because B&N doesn’t tend to go for those markets, not because the people who live in what you call “back-hills” don’t read or because a big bookstore isn’t viable in the back country. There are plenty “back-hills” Borders stores, for instance (Ashland, KY; Bluefield, WV; Mount Hope (Beckley area), WV; Parkersburg, WV, et. al.)

  44. hsks8 says:

    how quaint.

    Books are so 19th century.

    Soon, people will be flocking to libraries to view the staff like they go to Pennsylvania to gawk at the Amish.

    Yup.

    ‘Tis true brother, ’tis true.

    Better freshen up that bun for the tourists get here.

  45. dork says:

    hsks8 – LOL, that was funny!

  46. Matt says:

    Don’t Slam the back Hills: I wasn’t slamming them. We don’t have B&N or Borders here (Have to make do with Hastings and Walden)but we have plenty of readers. It was NotMarian slamming them and I was answering her.

  47. Matt says:

    Only a non-literate (not illiterate but non-reader by choice) would think like hsks8. It’s always people who don’t like reading anyway that sound the death knell of books. Real readers ignore them.

  48. hsks8 says:

    “Only a non-literate (not illiterate but non-reader by choice) would think like hsks8. It’s always people who don’t like reading anyway that sound the death knell of books. Real readers ignore them.”

    I said books are quaint.

    And will be replaced by something much more efficient and cost effective. Especially to under served areas that don’t have noble, martini be-sotted MLS liberians telling them what they should be reading.

    Maybe you need to loosen that bun so you can read words and ‘cipher some meaning from them.

  49. marty says:

    Maybe this library is trying to make it easier for the 70% of people who don’t want to talk to a grouchy annoyed librarian in order to find things.

    I know if a librarian treated me like an illiterate overweight hausfrau when I asked for help with Dewey, I wouldn’t have any interest in supporting library funding. I just want to find the books, not get a lecture on the merits of an arcane numerical classification system.

    I, too, have been to the libraries in Maricopa County and I loved the BISAC classification. It was much easier to find what I needed.

  50. 3e53f says:

    “It was much easier to find what I needed.”

    At least you hope you found what you needed.

  51. marty says:

    It’s just like a grouchy annoyed librarian to try and tell me that I didn’t really find what I needed.

  52. smart-mouth says:

    The choice of classification scheme is dependent on the size of the collection, among other things. If the collection is small enough, any potential crappiness of the system is mitigated or does not become evident. You can arrange about 1000 volumes anyway you want and still find stuff. You can classify about 10,000 volumes by some idiotic system and the idiocy will not be as apparent as it will be at 50,000 volumes. So stop squawking that some classification system is better because it worked in such-and-such library until you make clear how big that library’s collection is. It’s meaningless to evaluate any classification system until you think about the size issue. Sheesh, didn’t you take a cataloging and classification class? Oh, wait, all LIS classes vacuous and idiotic. Sorry, this blog established that before. I forgot.

  53. Matt says:

    -said books are quaint. And will be replaced by something much more efficient and cost effective.- They’ve been saying that for years too. -Maybe you need to loosen that bun so you can read words and ‘cipher some meaning from them- Hair too short for a bun and beard too short to braid.

  54. smart-mouth says:

    Books have been efficient and cost-effective since the development of machine-printing and wood pulp paper in the mid-nineteenth century. Calculate the cost of some book in terms of the number of hours of minimum wage work required to earn its cost. Then calculate the cost to acquire access to some allegedly already-existing digital copy. When you have done that for a large body of textual works and can present the evidence, then your yammering self-righteous unsubtantiated crap about books being replaced might deserve attention.

  55. Stephen says:

    LC works fine in my large university library. I don’t think I would recommend abandoning Dewey in a public library though, at least not one that has been around for awhile. It would bring more chaos and probably more expenses at a time when libraries around the country are facing major budget crises.

  56. erbt2 says:

    Stop being duped by the biblio-industrial complex.

    Information wants to be free.

  57. squawker says:

    “Information wants to be free.”

    Most of it already is, thanks to real librarians (no thanks to twopointopians)

    [there, I took the bait. Are ya happy?]

  58. shs38 says:

    “Most of it already is, thanks to real librarians (no thanks to twopointopians)”

    Thanks. Now I don’t have to pay any tax dollars to support your libraries. That helps me out a lot. Plus, if I get bored, I can come on down and get some freebies at the library.

  59. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    I really hate the long strings of numbers one finds after the decimal in Dewey, but we have to live with it. There’s no inclination to move to LC in my library, not to mention no funds.

    And Dewey is just part of the problem. This is going to offend some, but library systems seem to exist to please librarians, not our patrons who want and are accustomed to an Amazon experience. ExLibris/SirsiDynix/etc. are so damn complex, they are useless to the average library user. I help lots of students locate books in the OPAC and walk them to the shelf to find the books they want. By the time they ask for help, they tend to be fed up with our super-expensive infinitely customizable (really??) OPAC.

  60. squawker says:

    “Thanks. Now I don’t have to pay any tax dollars to support your libraries.”

    They’re not my libraries, nitwit. They’re yours.

  61. 25h2s says:

    “They’re not my libraries, nitwit. They’re yours.”

    Then let me have a voice in what is being purchased for MY library.

    Get rid of the crap and only buy what I deem as necessary.

  62. sqawker says:

    It’s not *just* yours, but you’re included.

    Each person can have a say in what their library buys but none of them (including you) gets to monopolize the decision. So settle the f**k down. Now how about stopping the smart-a** comments and getting the f**k into your library and getting whatever book you want.

  63. 25h2s says:

    My apologies. I am sorry I bothered you.

    And I am sorry I bothered the librarians in my library by making suggestions and told to “ssssshhhhhh” we are professionals and KNOW what to buy.

    I will silently pay my tax dollars for Danielle Steele’s summer home.

    You were right and I was wrong. Sorry.

  64. Techserving You says:

    It is true that most OPACs are now very different from what the user experiences anywhere else on the internet. In some ways, the functionality is better (depending on what sort of information you’re trying to track down), but the students need to learn how to perform searches. (This is, of course, not rocket science, but it’s not ‘intuitive’.) Innovative has come out with a new OPAC product called Encore, which brings together the best of the “amazon” world, and the traditional OPAC. Test it out on UNH’s library website. (academics>library.) Part of the problem with most traditional OPACs, as I see it (and this continues to be a problem even when you create a more functional interface on top of the old structure) is that they are still based on MARC and LC subject headings. Until you change the underlying structure patrons are still going to have to learn keyword and subject searching. I don’t think MARC and LCSH ‘please’ that many librarians anymore… it’s just that changing the existing system (at least across all libraries) would be such an overwhelmingly time-consuming and expensive task that it’s not going to happen any time soon.

  65. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    And our catalogers are terrified of losing their jobs, Techserving You. They had to take a reference class or two – I think they could, with some handholding, be transitioned to reference desk and liaison work. But they go ballistic when I mention how God-awful our students find the OPAC – the technology is certainly benefiting them. ;)

  66. Techserving You says:

    Well the other thing is that even assuming we’re going to continue with all things cataloging as they are right now, most vendors now offer cataloging. The quality varies but some even offer extremely customized cataloging. Some of the biggest and best libraries are outsourcing now. Try suggesting that to your catalogers!

  67. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Oh Techserving You! I like our catalogers but not enough for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation! The outsourcing option would give them a severe fit of the vapors.

    And Bulat? I have no idea how to respond to your comment. It isn’t even Greek to me.

  68. Dr. Pepper says:

    LOL @notMarionTheLibrarian. Sometimes when I write in a different script (Greek or cyrilic) I get those crazy accented characters if the system can’t support it :-) It might be Greek ;-)

  69. Dr. Pepper says:

    Random thought….
    So…

    if bibliodata (cataloguing) is offered by the vendor…no need for cataloguers.

    if the reference desk is now the ‘IT help desk with some reference assistant’ and we don’t need reference librarians…

    if acquisitions is now a business process….

    What do we need librarians for?

    Just a rhetorical question – I don’t have an answer

  70. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    Ok honestly can someone give me 5 differences between a recently designed OPAC and Amazon. Or is it just that the students/people are just lazy. I think what is confusing people is actually having to get the book. With Amazon you say yes pay your bill and it hopefully shows up at your door. With a library you actually get a call number and walk over there to get it. I am willing to bet if a person was given an Amazon warehouse guide or however they track the orders, they would be just as frustrated. Maybe we should redesign the libraries and include a fitness center

  71. Techserving You says:

    Well, I think that the vast majority of libraries – even very wealthy ones – still do not have OPACs that have an option to enter search terms in just one field, as amazon does. Instead, patrons/students have to select Title, Author (which are self-explanatory, of course, but not usually helpful if you don’t already know exactly what book you want) Keyword, or Subject (and sometimes other options) before searching. Keyword and subject are actually not self-explanatory. What field would the keywords be in? How am I supposed to know that the subject is a controlled vocabulary? Some students find those options – particularly subject, when they enter something that is so ‘wrong’ that the OPAC doesn’t prompt them with the ‘right’ subject – to be very confusing. Yet, you have to use those options to do any sort of research where you don’t know what the library has on your topic. (Basic bibliographic instruction should help but the students usually zone out.)

  72. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    If libraries cannot adapt to expectations of users, there is no hope for us. The Amazon model is, in my opinion, where we need to go. Do we exist for ourselves or our users? I think the latter. Lots of students, having been shown how to navigate the God-awful OPAC, find locating the books a breeze, despite the Dewey numbers.

    I see the value in controlled vocabulary. Maybe 1 in 50 students can. I see it over and over again – students would rather sort through 100 iffy citations than learn how to do their research more effectively and sort through 15 extremely relevant citations. My skin thickened a long time ago – if they want to slave away at research, that’s their problem and it’s their time. I spend my time teaching them tricks to reduce their 100+ hits to a more reasonable number – limit to scholarly (gotta explain that to lots of them), limit to full text, limit to English, etc.

  73. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    ok so the only thing we got is the students have to a: figure out if what type of search they are doing but Amazon just spits it out for them. b: students are forced to actually learn the subjects of their field of study. I am waiting for 3 more.

  74. Dewey Rocks says:

    Simple, flexible, familiar, logical. If more librarians actually worked with the books in the collections they might appreciate Dewey a little more. Changing is for folks who know nothing about opportunity costs – if you have time to reconsider your system and the resources to change it, you need to redirect your energies to something useful or give the money back to the taxpayers and quit being a vampire…..Stress level rising! Librarianship so difficult! Underpaid! Nonfulfilling! By definition, you are all surplus labor. The Chinese were onto something when they made all the professionals go dig ditches for a few years. I taunt heckle all of the stressed librarians out there, find a real job and quit trying to become a victim!

  75. Werfel says:

    Looks like PostModern Librarian was right. Going to the shelves and finding the book is the problem, not Dewey.

    I’d bet that most of these libraries going without Dewey either have a new director or a director determined to make a name for him or herself at all costs. Said director goes to a conference or a meeting or reads an article and has an “idea”, comes back determined to do some “leadering”. As a staff person – either you get “on board” or else. Very little discussion follows, the decision is made. It’s not really about serving the public, that’s just the excuse to implement radical change. Of course the director won’t have to actually implement the change – that will be some poor minions job.

  76. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Werfel, I like your “leadering”! I always think of it in terms of my “avoiding stepping in the management.” The best supervisors I ever had were incredibly low-key and believed in the abilities of their employees. Alas, those are few and far between – idiots/morons/dopes who rose above their level of incompetence are the norm.