Thursday, February 2, 2012

Is Dewey dying out?

Well, this post is for my librarian friends/ readers.  I found this article entitled "The Dewey Dilemna"  in Library Journal--it's from 2009 so it's been around a while.  I didn't realize this was as big of a controversy at all, and I'm still trying to process the information in my head.

Basically, the article talks about libraries moving away from the Dewey Decimal system and using a system called BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications).  This is the system used by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc to classify books for sale.  It isn't as detailed as Dewey but consumers are more used to it and find it more user friendly.  This system classes books into 52 broad categories with several sub categories.  The article says "it fuses the functions of subject headings with classification". But the main point is people find it easier to navigate than using Dewey. 

I'm a bit torn here.  I'm all about customer service and making libraries accessible to the public.  But I'm quite frankly getting very tired of libraries being pushed to follow book store models.  Genre shelving, dropping Dewey, adding coffee bars--all these library trends are coming straight from bookstores (well, actually probably straight from Barnes and Noble).  I know we need to stay current and offer what people want.  But changing the way libraries classify books is just one too many changes for me.

I consider myself fairly current and I keep up with trends in the library/ publishing world.  I have  library Twitter and Facebook accounts.  We have digital signage; we display book trailers.  But why do we need to change an established system that has worked for a hundred years?  Why can't we do a better job of educating people on how the Dewey system works?  I studied the system of course in my cataloging class (many years ago...) but before that I learned the basics--through working as a shelver in my local public library. And before that as a child patron of the library, I knew where my favorite books were located and how to look for them on the catalog.  And if I couldn't find them, I knew to ask the librarian. 

One consultant quoted in the article says, "the issue isn't which system is superior; it's about the user's experience. When interviewing nonusers, [the consulatant] reports, “I heard over and over 'those numbers scare me,' 'I don't understand them,' 'they make me feel stupid.' The goal of having a BISAC-based scheme is to put customers at ease and help them become more self-sufficient and comfortable using the library.”

This paragraph from a library science professor is more along the lines of my opinion. 

Wayne Wiegand, professor of library and information studies and American studies at Florida State University, Tallahassee, says, “In general, bookstores do a better job of identifying newer titles relevant to their customers' interests, but that doesn't mean they understand those interests. They are mostly responding to a market demand.” While he thinks libraries should respond to what readers want rather than expecting readers to fit into the library's way of doing things, he takes a pragmatic view. “Dewey has faults but so does any other classification scheme.... To talk of changing classification systems at this time is unrealistic.”

So I would be interested in hearing from librarians...and teachers, too.....what do you do in your library?  Do you use genre shelving?  Do you use this book store model?  Am I being too old fashioned and unrealistic? 

No comments:

Post a Comment