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

Reference Question of the Week – 2/5/12

   February 11th, 2012

Non-Fiction DVDs Have Moved signI freely admit to being entertained by immature things, but the sheer unexpectedness of this discovery will hopefully make everyone laugh.

A few weeks ago, my library decided to revamp our DVD collection: the "fiction" DVDs were split into separate sections for Feature Films and for TV Series, and all the non-fiction DVDs were interfiled, by Dewey, with the non-fiction books.

This has elicited mixed reactions from patrons, as they adjust to looking for documentaries and exercise videos in a new place. However, interfiling with the non-fiction books also sort of put me in charge of them - or rather, since Reference is now the closest desk to them, we're the ones who get asked why we don't have DVDs on particular topics.

So something new for me in the last week or so has been to fill some of the holes in our non-fiction DVD collection by finding DVDs to purchase on the specific subjects patrons had asked for. That's what I was doing this week - looking for videos on massage therapy, prenatal yoga, travel (we definitely do not have enough travel DVDs) - when I stumbled across something odd.

I was searching on Amazon, and had found a few good prenatal yoga DVDs. Great. So I started looking for DVDs on massage therapy, but wasn't having as much luck. I broadened my search to just massage, and was mildly surprised (although I suppose I shouldn't have been) to see all manner of "sensual massage" DVDs. Interesting, but not what I was looking for.

Amazon's default sorting method is by Relevance, so I thought if I tried something else - Average Customer Review or Most Popular - I'd find DVDs that our patrons might be interested in. The Average Customer Review sorting was productive. Then I switched to sort by Most Popular, and that's when I learned the most popular massage video on Amazon is:

Pure Nude Yoga - Zen Garden Goddess

And a little further down on the list was:

Pure Nude Yoga - Worship the Sun

One of the greatest things about being a librarian is that you learn something new every day. I had no idea nude yoga existed, nor that it was available as an on-demand video download from Amazon, nor nor that it would be Amazon's most popular "massage" video.

Although I'm sure this would also be popular with my patrons, this did not make the selection cut for the library.

More on Interfiling DVDs and Books
Incidentally, for those interested, we made this change to our DVD collection to try to make it easier for people browsing for movies to watch. All of the television series and anime DVDs got a TV Series sticker, and are now on different shelves, separate from the feature films. We have a lot of TV shows, so this greatly reduces the number of DVDs someone has to look through just to find a good movie to watch that evening.

The comments I've heard so far regarding the non-fiction DVDs (aside from the fact that people had memorized where their favorites were) is that it's now more difficult for someone who wants to browse documentaries. As a result, we may pull all the documentary DVDs - the ones you can watch for entertainment or edutainment - and create a "Documentaries" section by the Feature Films and TV Series DVDs. On the other hand, the people looking for exercise or travel DVDs have really liked having all the related books in the same place, so those will probably stay. This will take some fine-tuning, but eventually I'm sure we can reach the happy medium.

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16 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 2/5/12”

  1. Pete Schult Says:

    A friend of mine had a somewhat similar browsing experience to yours. She’s a Unix programmer who finds it easier to Google man pages for commands than to use the man command (so Google “man ls” instead of typing “man ls” at the shell prompt). Well, one day she needed to get at some details of the touch command, and was rather surprised at what Google returned to the query “man touch”.

    To Google’s credit, the man page she was looking for was the first on the list.

  2. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    Interesting. My library has been doing some similar experiments, to the point of creating a display of exercise books and videos.

    I don’t really like media interfiling, because I found it irritating as a library patron. I can see how it could work well for some subjects, though. Are you going to have signage in the documentary area directing people to where the exercise and travel videos are?

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Pete: Ha, another good illustration of why porn filters will never be reliable.

    @The Librarian: we had a long discussion about it, because we could all see both sides. It definitely makes sense for some subjects, I think, and for the others we’ll figure out something better. I do think whatever we do will be signed in appropriate places (although signs are only so effective [especially with a questionable apostrophe]) – it’s just a matter of finding the line between what to interfile and what not to.

    I like the mixed media display idea – that’s a good way to ease people into thinking in multiple formats. I once did a “here’s a movie and here’s the book it was based on” mixed display, which people seemed to like. But the DVDs went out much more than the books did.

  4. Christina Says:

    LOL on the Amazon results! We interfiled our nonfiction DVDs when I first started working at my library, 10 years ago, but within a year had moved them out to a separate Nonfiction DVD section. We found that patrons really wanted to be able to browse DVDs, even the nonfiction ones, and they didn’t like having them so spread out and “hidden” among the books. I think people still “shop by format” and come in either for a book or for a DVD. We always point out both formats when we answer ref questions on things like travel. We also now have quite a large selection of nonfic DVDs. But we’ve always had the fiction TV series separated from both nonfic DVD and Fiction DVD (movies); I can’t imagine having tv and movies together, that would be frustrating. We recently sorted our feature films into genre sections, like a videostore, so now we have Horror and Drama and Musical, etc. each in their own alphabetical section. That’s been very well-received, although we have to help people find specific titles via the catalog when they can’t figure out which genre it’s likely to be in.

  5. The Importance of Literary Devices in Non-Fiction Books | 3Nu.net Says:

    […] Non-Fiction DVDs Moved Image by herzogbr My library recently interfiled all of our non-fiction DVDs in with the non-fiction books. This has met with mixed results – read more on my website. […]

  6. Noreen Says:

    My library interfiled non-fiction DVDs about three years ago — for about three weeks. The outcry was immediate and loud, and so we changed it all back.

  7. Anne Says:

    For the love of Dewey. Get that apostrophe off that sign! DVDs without the extraneous apostrophe is just as understandable as with.

    Yours –
    Grammar Nazi 🙂

  8. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Anne: I know, I know – I didn’t make the sign. Coworkers; what are you going to do?

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  12. Redwood City Library: Downtown Branch – 2/4/2013 | Library Excursionist Says:

    […] across all media types.  I became interested in this type of interfiling after reading a Swiss Army Librarian‘s post on the subject, but had never seen it in-person.  While the Redwood City library […]

  13. Emma Says:

    Just curious: Have you, like many of the commenters, ended up re-separating the nonfiction DVDs from books?

  14. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Emma: where we stand now is with a divided collection – we un-interfiled anything we considered a “documentary” (a non-fiction video someone might watch for entertainment or pleasure), labeled them as such, and put them in a Documentary section near the rest of the feature film DVDs. But we kept interfiled anything we felt was “instructional” – how to play the guitar-type DVDs stayed with the related books, travel DVDs stayed with the travel books, exercise DVDs all with the exercise books, etc. It is definitely a case-by-case subjective decision, but it seemed to make sense. And, so far, has been successful, despite the slight awkwardness of dividing a media collection.

  15. Emma Says:

    Thanks for the update! I’m impressed that you take the time to watch the old posts for comments.

  16. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Emma: well, it’s easier than it looks – WordPress emails me every time someone leave a comment, regardless of how old the post is. I’m glad the software makes me look like I’m on top of things, but it’s worth it because just because posts are older doesn’t mean they’re no longer relevant.