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Libraries Imitate Bookstores, Bookstores Imitate Libraries

Comments (6)
  1. Nancy Ellis says:

    I agree with your views on the community involvement of libraries. But I’d be leery of giving up the Dewey system entirely, probably because I am simply so used to it. Our county library system has added the use of tags, brought over from librarything, and I find it helpful for myself, though I haven’t heard any comments from our patrons. And I had to laugh about patrons becoming customers! I waitressed for years and years before starting work as a librarian and still occasionally refer to our patrons as customers… and sometimes will say “thank you for coming!” as part of my good-bye.
    I do believe in treating our patrons as though they were customers: good service, smiles, graciousness under fire; we certainly want them returning!

    1. Matt Singleton says:

      I agree Nancy. Sorry if I gave the impression I was all for libraries abandoning Dewey. I’m a fan of the Dewey Decimal system, and feel that, while it can be supplemented with other schema, like the tags you mentioned, I wouldn’t want libraries to abandon more structured systems.

      1. Adrianne says:

        Yes – the library where I work (unnamed as – foolishly – we’re not allowed to speak about the library unless vetted by the PR office) abandoned (to an extent) Dewey for a few years… then switched back. People were having the same difficulty finding books that they have in bookstores. This book fits in multiple genres/this book is written by one person, translated by another, and reinterpreted from the translation by a third/what the heck category is this book? – saying “the books are by genre and then by author” is not as simple as “this book has a number saying exactly where it is.” The catalog search has tags etc., but there’s no more “business section” (if it’s about business history, is it there or in history?), no more “African-American books section” (why segregate? Just because a book on judicial theory was written by someone black doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of being shelved with judicial theory books written by someone white), etc. Those are just a few of the problems we were facing constantly (and that I regularly face myself in bookstores); the return to Dewey (not massively difficult, as the old stickers hadn’t been removed from most of the spines, so just new books had to be modified) was greeted with relief. Of course, as with most large public libraries, biographies and fiction are pulled out of dewey, and other changes are made, but that’s standard.

  2. Rakibul says:

    yap… agree with nancy.. library industry !

  3. McQuaid says:

    There is a lot true in what you say, mate. It’s been amusing to see bookstores providing ‘library tables’ and good lighting so people can sit around and read the books. (Interestingly, this is paid for by publishers, whose books, once read and bent by customers, are sent back to the publisher for a full refund as they are no longer fit to be called ‘new’. I wonder, can you sample their e-books?) Libraries invite ‘customers’ (no longer ‘patrons’) to bring a lunch along and watch the soccer game on the big screen. Some libraries have installed televisions so that they can pander to illiterates (they show cartoons at one branch I know). Very soon, librarians will be called ‘reading associates’, since there is a move to downgrade the professional rep. of librarians: Public libraries seem to be turning scholars into clerks to satisfy a recent hunger to beat up on public service workers. Whatever. We are all Wisconsin. Here’s the bad news:
    Librarians deduced, a long time ago, that there was a margin in providing ‘universal’ rules of access for their collections. (Dewey, LC, Ranganathan, etc.)But those standards are giving way to new, maybe ill conceived systems. And Controlled language is no longer a basic requirement of storing and retrieving materials, and so, the standards are up for grabs.
    And, since our model for librarianship in Canada is currently innovations perpetrated in a semi-literate community in northern California, Canadian libraries have begun dumbing down the retrieval systems used for access to collections. One North of Toronto Public Library has created their own Classification system, based on the idea that their public is too dumb to understand Dewey. *(They may be right.) So, libraries are dumbed down to the level of a Chapters (or, more to the point, a Barnes and Noble, the US version of mega-bookstore).
    I find it kind of interesting that as our population becomes more educated, they are apparently less and less able to find materials in libraries. Maybe there is something in the water. Or the schools.

    Here’s the rub: Bookstores are a dying institution: they lose tens of millions of dollars per year. and libraries are following them – sleepwalking – perhaps into the grave. (surely not the grave…)

  4. George says:

    In my discussions with librarians about the Dewey Decimal System they find it awkward and dated and all seemed in agreement it was only surviving because many necessary add-ons and adaptations have been made.

    I believe libraries are necessary and should be supported but it would take forever for a bureaucracy to become a real “people place” (even with all the financial resources they may blithely waste in their efforts).

    Yes, there will always be people to take advantage of so called “free space” to gather (but aren’t we people already paying for that free space that is competing with us) but a privately owned books store will always be capable of trumping a government building and government employees in credibility, responsiveness and hospitality – because their whole existence depends upon those factors.

    There is no government pension waiting for independent booksellers who have gambled everything they own on their dream and have no bureaucrat or union assuring them an income even when they do bust their butts every moment of every day to find more ways to be of service to their communities.

    Any comparisons between libraries and independent book stores seems incongruous … and maybe even cruel.

    I understand why librarians might admire and aspire to provide the services of independent books stores operators – but I doubt the reverse is true … even though they might envy your security, pensions and vacation packages (which, again, they are helping to pay for).

    That might explain why librarians will be around long after booksellers are extinct.

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