or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



Organizing Books By Subjects, Part II

   April 30th, 2009

edu subject booksWhen it comes to reorganizing books by subject, it turns out that getting it all looking pretty on paper is the easy part.

After everything was documented, the first subject we decided to pull out of Dewey order and shelve separately were the test preparation books and college directories (shelved in Dewey 378). We chose this subject to be our first "stand-alone" section because it met a few criteria:

  • Contained enough books so that it wouldn't get lost being on its own
  • Popular enough so we would see quickly how patrons reacted to not using Dewey
  • Specific enough that it didn't really relate to the Dewey numbers around it, and so wouldn't lose context by shelving them separately

We decided to refer to these books as "Education," so all the call numbers would start with EDU. After that, the call numbers would be grouped by type of book (TEST or COLLEGE), and then further specified SAT, ACT, GRE, etc. We're still finessing how to label the college directories, but I think we'll end up with COLLEGE (or maybe SCHOOL?) followed by the type of school: 4-YEAR, GRADUATE, MEDICAL, etc.

Putting it all together, here are a few sample call numbers (including the year makes patron browsing and staff weeding very easy):

All of this seemed obvious, but we ran into our first trouble deciding what to do with books above and below college level. We decided to include any elementary or high school books (such as MCAS test prep, The handbook of private schools and other directories), and also graduate professional schools like Law and Medical schools.

What we did not include, even though we had them shelved in the 378's with education books, were the career tests, like the civil servant exam, NCLEX-LPN, TOFEL, Miller Analogies, etc. We decided to reclassify these into the Dewey 331.702 area, so they'd be next to the career directories.

Having stand-alone shelves for a single subject also means we can put other resources there, too. On top of these shelves we've put financial aid applications and workbooks, course catalogs from local colleges, New England Journal of Higher Education, and signs and bookmarks promoting our online education resources. We're also going to interfile our reference books, too, with prominent REFERENCE stickers on them - we'll see how that goes over.

We're still in the process of recataloging the EDU books, but so far, feedback has been mostly positive. The only complaint I've heard is that the new location (we put them next to the Young Adult section, thinking teens would be the heaviest users of college books) is further away from the Reference Desk than the regular Dewey shelves, so it's a longer walk.

I'm not sure which subject we'll tackle next. Doing this section-by-section is slow, but I think it'll work for us. However, in a recent conversation with a librarian at a nearby library, I learned that they are going to go all-out and redo their entire library bookstore-style. They've developed a list of 21 "neighborhoods" in which to group the books, and although I don't have many details, I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.




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5 Responses to “Organizing Books By Subjects, Part II”

  1. Aubrey Says:

    We did the same thing an an Air Force library where I worked. Using EDU, then the 3 or 4 letter code for the type of test, followed by the subject area where applicable. This worked great for us because it put these high-demand items in one location. Patrons and staff alike loved this change.

  2. Deb Hanson Says:

    Please keep posting about your progress – I am very interested to see how it goes with patrons. I want to do this so much in my school library!!!

  3. Margaret Barthe Says:

    Is there any way you could provide the list of 21 “neighborhoods” mentioned as subject areas/location areas in the end of this article?
    It would be a great place to start in planning to rearrange the library…
    Thanks.

  4. Browny Says:

    Great article! Thanks for the info. :)

  5. ursula Says:

    I think you are all wonderful! I really enjoy these blog sites and hope that the discussion of opinions will continue to help improve our world on an international level.