Posted tagged ‘special collections’

The Making of a Collection

April 29, 2009

We’re going to have a comics/graphic novels collection outside of the horrors of Dewey at last.  But what do we call it?  We need something to distinguish the collection that will fit on a spine label and which will clearly define the collection.  So, comic or some variation of graphic novel (graphic, GR, GN).

There’s no consensus on this out there.  We checked other libraries and found every option used somewhere, plus some we didn’t consider (i.e. manga).  And thus onto the debate.  In the end comics won, thanks to the arguement that all graphic novels are comics, but not all comics are graphic novels.  We wanted to include comic strips in the collection, and so that edged the debate in one direction, though not without a little bit of a fight.  Graphic novel sounds better and the term is arguably more descriptive of the format.

There’s not exactly a right answer here, which just goes to show how inaccurate libraries can be.

The Battle for Shelf Order

April 3, 2009

For whatever reason this turned out to be the week for bothering co-workers.  The biggest battle that ensued is worth a bit of discussion here.  We’ve been trying to break up a few of our special collections in the hopes of simplifying searches for patrons.  One of the bigger projects within this was to combine our vital records collections (separate by state + Frech Canadian records) into a single collection sorted naturally by call #.  Don’t ask me why this wasn’t done in the first place.

So this left us with a decent amount of reshelving to be done, which then led to the debate.  My view was that they should be shelved in order to make all items equally findable.  The other side was to leave them where they were, which had been optimized over the last few years such that more frequently used collections were in more accessible locations (i.e. ends of aisles).

Now that’s a fair point, and for a smaller collection (say my personal one) I’d be all for that.  But this doesn’t scale at all, and definitely feel that everytime you make an exception to how the collection is organized it becomes just a little bit more confusing and the entire system that’s in place becomes a little bit more meaningless.  Make too many exceptions and you reach a tipping point and none of the organization of the collection will appear to make any sense.


February 2, 2009

I realize this site is rapidly decending into being nothing more than Tim Spalding fan service, but I can’t help it if the man’s opinions tend to mirror my own.  His latest blog post is a bit on libraries, social networks, and homophily.  The post is in direct response to a Guardian article

The relevant bit is that library catalogs can contribute to this problem, and I’m going to extend that to the physical layout of our collections as well.  Very few patrons like to browse anymore.  By and large people expect to be able to come in, find the one book/subject they’re interested in, grab the relevant title and walk out.  To use Tim’s word, this system removes serendipity from the process.

Our catalog is designed to cater this behavior, and there are plenty of librarians out there taking the next step.  This is one of the reasons special collections can tick me off.  There are certainly reasons why a few of them (local interest) can be a good idea, but much of the time it just limits browsing further and ensures that some of your mid-list titles (or those that defy easy catagorization) will never be discovered.

“Special” Collections

December 2, 2008

OK, I appologize for using finger quotes in the title.  

So, on special collections and cataloging.  I hate them with a passion.  I get why we have them (some of the time), but what it means for me is that for a relatively small number of items we’ve decided that the rules of cataloging do not apply.

Want to shelve items by title instead of author, we can do that.  Want to place books in the order they were received, we can do that too.  But we can’t make it make any logical sense!  I’m in the unfortunate predicament of having inherited about 2 dozen of these, and we’re currently consider a new one.  And in every case it make more problems (from the cataloging perspective) than it solves.  We have to figure out what should be included, how patrons should find items when meaningful call numbers are removed, how to gather circulation statistics in order to prove that these materials should continue to be treated differently.  

They just don’t work!

Q & A

November 24, 2008

For something a little different, a user question from Daniel:

Why do libraries group graphic novels/comics in trade paperback all in one category, rather than have them delineated into categories similar to – if not within – those of the rest of the library. What I mean is, why not put something non-fiction, say a memoir like Blankets, or Fun Home, in the non-fiction/memoir section, instead of simply alongside other comics. Is it simply something to do with ISBNs, or along those lines? I ask because I have always wondered this, and think that such a categorization of comics would be beneficial in the long run to their growth in libraries and academia. Not all, but much of what is in a library seems to be organized by content, not form; besides that, it just seems silly to have to wade through a bunch of superhero junk to find the great, literary-quality graphic novels (and I say that as a huge reader and weekly purchaser of said-superhero-junk). Anyway, thanks for your time!

First of all Daniel, thank you for asking, this is actually a huge pet peeve of mine.  I actually wrote a paper back in my cataloging class arguing that no one has figured out how to handle comic correctly.  That was 4 years ago and not much has changed in that time.  Basically the problem is that cataloging practices change at a pace that could perhaps best be described as glacial, especially in regards to call numbers and subject headings.  And comics are a form that are relatively new and annoyingly unfamiliar to many in the profession so problems happen.

On to the long answer.  I work with Dewey at my library and I’m most familiar with it, so I’ll use that as the example.  The Dewey Decimal system was not designed with much room for future expansion and all newer subjects had to be shoehorned into it somewhere, and not all of these have been done well.  The books on computers are particularly awful, getting forced into the early 000’s, pretty much just because there was unused space there.  

Comics are another of these, but in this case they’re also done a disservice by the library of congress subject headings.  All comics get labeled as “comic books, strips, etc…”, and if that’s assigned to a book then it’s bound to be assigned the respective call number while undergoing its CIP (cataloging in publication) entry by the library of congress.  Libraries are not bound to use this information at all, but pretty much everyone takes it under advisement, and many have their books automatically labeled by the distributors they use, who all use CIP data.

So that’s the call number side of things, but still leaves the arguement about the best way to group these items.  My own take is actually to continue keeping all comics/graphic novels in a single location, because a lot of patrons do single them out and because they lend themselves to slightly different cataloging practices (i.e. shelve spider-man by titles instead of author), but to treat that collection as one which can be subdivided into fiction and the various non-fiction numbers (i.e. comics/920/Thompson for Blankets).  But I have thus far failed to convince anyone at my own library that that’s the way to go so make of it what you will.

So there, a long answer and not a terribly good one, but I hope it helps to show how libraries can occasionally fail to work.  But at least it’s a problem we’re aware of and which many are fighting to resolve.

Formats and Dewey

June 23, 2008

My recent stint in collection development has hit some snags.  The materials I was allowed to order have forced us to reexamine some of our collection practices, and the whole thing has spiraled into far more work than anyone thought it would be.

The problems revolve around our dvd and graphic novel collections.  In the case of DVD’s (which all fit on a single shelf previously) we had them separated into features (placed with our a/v materials) and non-fiction (shelved with the books).  Our graphic novels on the other hand were shelved as a special collection within our YA department.  Neither of these collection policies scaled well.  With the videos we’re running up against non-fiction features (the John Adams miniseries) and Shakespeare adaptations that could go either way, and thus the system breaks.

With the graphic novels the issues are a combination of age appropriateness concerns, what to do with non-fiction books, and what to do with all the art collections of comic artists I purchased (I’m actually regretting that a little now).  The art books are the real problem here, as we don’t have any other ones in YA, so there’s a debate raging now about whether or not they should go in the adult collection instead.

Now I know the easy solution to both of these issues is to stop taking the half measures with both collections and just have separate sections by material type alone.  I would love to be able to do that, but I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.  So in the meantime we have to continue making things up everytime we find an exception to a rule, which is going to happen frequently the way things are.

I’m done venting for now.

End of an Era

May 16, 2008

Today is going to be a special day for me.  I get to go to work and break apart a particularly irksome special collection.  This is one that was organized in such a way and so long ago that no one currently working at the library can remember why it exists in its current state.  What’s particularly bad this time around is that by simply following how things ought to be in Dewey, the collection would be organized in a far better way (yeah that’s pretty rare).

So today after some lengthy discussions on how patron’s search for materials and if anyone still browses the non-fiction shelves I finally get to fix this travesty.  And how do I celebrate the occasion?  I nearly cut off a finger while slicing my morning bagel, making what I have to do just that little bit more difficult (along with trying to type this post without using so many “t’s”.