Books, Collection Development, Collection Revamp, School Libraries

Feeling vindicated

I know that there’s been very little blogging here the first half of the academic year.  In part it’s because of a massive project we’ve been working on for the past two years that needed to be finished by the start of Winter Break.  Well… ok, part one of the project needed to be finished.  There are still two more parts, with a final end goal of June 2021.  I’ll explain about them later.

Let’s start with this tweet and my response:

When many librarians were getting their cardigans in a twist over the idea of doing away with Dewey, I didn’t understand the fuss.  After all, isn’t DDC simply a numeric representation of a subject heading?  Ok, sometimes it’s a very complicated, very specific subject heading, but still. What’s so sacred about 398.2 over Folktales?

Still, we’re a school so we need to use a system that our students will be finding elsewhere.  We could use LC but that would confuse our younger students more than DDC does.  The problem is that the numbers are assigned by humans, and humans are fallible.  We found that biographies of Marcus Garvey were in several different sections, depending on the person looking at the synopsis provided.  And then there’s The President’s Position series, cataloged into both the 900s and the 300s, asking librarians to choose where it all belongs.  There are other books, like the one about a Chinese convert to Christianity who, being persecuted in China, comes to the US – but before that, was a leader in the Tienanmen Square uprising.  My students won’t care as much about the religious aspect as they will about the Tienanmen one.

Over the past two years we’ve slowly gone through the collection and had conversations about where certain books belong.  Sometimes we’ve moved them to entirely new sections of the collection.  Sometimes we had to reorganize a section because previous cataloging had either expanded or truncated them so that books weren’t necessarily next to each other when they needed to be.  At the same time, we’ve looked at the age of the books and figured out if we needed to update or replace them.

Was it worth it?  We’ve seen students finding better resources because the collection now flows.  Just last month, three students told me that they didn’t know that we’d had so many books on their topics – few of the books were new, but the way we now shelved them meant it was easier for them to find.  And now we know what gaps there are in the collection and can start filling them.  Of course, we also know how many books we have that duplicate others (as in, how many biographies of [world leader] do we really need?), and that’s part of the next phase.

This fall I attended NELA’s conference and one of the sessions was about something very similar.  Turns out, Brookline PL is doing the same, leaving me feeling rather achy from all the books we moved but also really validated.


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