From the catalogs of babes

{March 19, 2010}   fun stuff for a Friday

I don’t know about you, but after my last few posts, I need some cheering up, so I thought I’d share a few fun things I’ve stumbled across recently.

1. This awesome postcard a fellow cataloger sent me in the mail:

Dewey Decimal Updates on Topics of National Security


2. These awesome endpapers I found in a book I was cataloging:

Nancy Gonzales handbags

Look closely: they’re not books, but handbags!

3. This awesome Facebook post, which totally made me smile when I saw it:

Art Center wants to hear from you

Sometimes it’s the little things.

The other day I heard and ad on the radio that caught my ear: apparently Emergen-C “makes you feel so good you’ll want to reinvent the Dewey Decimal System.” Wanna hear it, too?

  1. Go here:
  2. Scratch your head and wonder why people still love to use Flash.
  3. Click on “Good Ads” in the left side column.
  4. Under where it says “Radio Spots,” click on “Librarians.”
  5. Laugh!
  6. Ponder a bit about how designing this site with Flash has all but eliminated any chances Emergen-C might have had for that ad to go viral because of the inability to access a direct link.
  7. Laugh some more!

Can I get a round of Emergen-C for all the catalogers out there? It’s on me.

{October 7, 2009}   “The Dewey Dilemma”

Library Journal posted a great article the other day profiling libraries migrating away from DDC to alternative classification systems. I found it pretty fair and balanced and definitely worth the read. Check it out if you have a minute.

{September 10, 2009}   forever in blue jeans
mama jeans daddy jeans sissy jeans baby jeans

photo by aphasiafilms on flickr

 While I understand the DDC editorial committee’s explanation, I’d still class the Jean Genies: Travelling Pants project under the number for “jeans” in my library. Call me a rebel, but in a fashion library we don’t get a lot of patrons browsing the 021.7 section. We do, however, have lots of students interested in denim and jeans and what people are doing with those products.

It might be against the rules, but I’d rather class a material where it will get the most access and use over a “correct” classification that renders the material essentially invisible.

{August 29, 2009}   free to a good home

I haven’t been posting much, but rest assured I’m working on some big stuff. In the meatime, perhaps I can tide you over with the lure of free (as in beer, not as in kittens) stuff!

I happen to have a copy of Mary Mortimer’s Learn Dewey Decimal Classification (Edition 21) free for the taking. Be aware that this is for an older edition of the DDC. Our library moved up to DDC22 a while back, which included some significant changes in key subject areas of our school, so we won’t be using this book as training material anymore. It’s outdated for us, but I know there are plenty of libraries out there who haven’t upgraded, or perhaps it would be good practice for an MLS student. Heck, if you wanted to cut it up and make art projects out of it, I’d probably be okay with that, too. It’s got a barcode and a spine label, but other than that, it’s in good shape and hasn’t been written in.

Leave a comment if you’re interested. If I get overwhelmed with comments from interested parties, I’ll do a random drawing or something. Maybe I’ll make you all write haiku about fashion cataloging and pick my favorite. Or not.

Mostly when I talk about our school, the library and its specialties, I talk about fashion. But we’re not just a one-trick pony–we offer other majors besides fashion design and the obligatory apparel- and textile-related topics. We also offer degrees and certificates in graphic design, visual communications, digital media and interior design.

Let’s talk about interior design, shall we? Obviously, we get quite a few requests for books and materials on “interior design,” which is only logical considering that is the name of the program major and how the department refers to itself. However, the Library of Congress seems to disagree:

Interior design
USE  Interior decoration  [R

Which is okay, except that since it’s not the term our patrons use, most of them would not think to search under the heading “interior decoration.” It wouldn’t be too big of a deal if our ILS supported see and see also references, so I can’t foist all the blame on LC for that one. However, interior design!=interior decoration. If anything, I’d say the latter might be a subset of the former. To cover non-decorative topics like space planning, we’d need to also search “Interior architecture”–a phrase which I have never heard any of our library patrons use. So even with the seereference, the LCSH isn’t all that accurate.

But Dewey…now that’s a house of a different color. DDC has a separate classifications for interior architecture and interior decoration: 729 vs. 747.

                 Design and decoration of structures and accessories

Class here interior architecture (the art or practice of planning and supervising the design and execution of architectural interiors and their furnishings)

Class design and decoration of structures and accessories of specific types of buildings in 725-728 .

For interior decoration , see 747 .

See Manual at 729  .

Referring to the manual at 729 gives us this:

Use 729 only for general works that focus specifically on architectural design. Use 690 for works that treat construction alone, and use 721 for works that treat design and construction together. Use 729 for works on decoration only when the subject is being treated as an aspect of architectural decoration rather than as an art object in itself, e.g., the use of murals as architectural decoration 729.4 , but comprehensive works on murals 751.73 .
             Interior decoration

Design and decorative treatment of interior furnishings

Class here interior decoration of residential buildings

Class interior architecture (interior design) in 729 ;

Class textile arts and handicrafts in 746 ;

Class interior decoration of specific types of residential buildings in 747.88 .

For furniture and accessories , see 749 .

Yes, I understand that 729 is for interior design of structures, i.e., where the walls go. 747 is for decoration, like what colors to paint those walls. There are no inherent problems with LCH or DDC for the variety of topics in interior design. Our patrons are saying “tomato,” and libraries are saying “tomahto.” Patrons are saying “interior design” and libraries are saying “interior decoration” and “interior architecture.” It doesn’t seem like such a difficult situation, but imagine you’re a student searching the catalog for books on interior design and getting no results. I suppose we could spend a lot of time teaching them how these intricate, subtle differences work, but why? It’s not how the subject is referred to in their classes, and it’s not how the topics are handled in the interior design industry, out there in the working world. Why spend time teaching them something that’s not going to benefit any other aspect of their studies or future career?  I’m sure LCSH and Dewey are speaking the language of some users somewhere, but they’re certainly not speaking the language of ours.

Today the head librarian comes up to me. Apparently one of the staff members was looking for two books about footwear and could not find either one. The head librarian showed me the catalog records.



The head librarian is concerned (and rightfully so) that something about the call numbers may be incorrect. 658, being a number used for business management, seems an unlikely number for foot wear books. I agree that it seems odd, although it is possible that the books are about managing a footwear business, and I can’t really tell for certain from the record alone (although I have suspicions that they’re not, due to the pattern-making references). In the back of my head, I seem to recall previously using a number in the 600’s for manufacturing footwear, but it wouldn’t have been 658.

So I do a little research and I discover that there is indeed a number in the 600’s for manufacturing footwear–685. Holy dyslexia, Batman. I go the the 685 shelf and ta-da! The books are there. The spine labels were correct, but the records were not. Once again, those books were essentially lost.

Between misshelving, lack of shelf-reading, incorrect interpretations of shelf order, and mislabeling, it’s a miracle we can find anything in this library at all. Some of it I can understand–we try to encourage patrons to not reshelve materials, but it’s not very effective, and that and our jam-packed bookshelves accounts for quite a few books out of order. But something like this, what happened? And how can I even begin to puzzle out where it went wrong along the way so I can fix it? Usually in these cases, it’s a simple typographic error, but in this instance, the spine label was correct and the record was wrong. Perhaps the person who added the holdings mis-typed, but then the corresponding spine label should have had the typo as well. I’ve been wondering if it was my error, and my fingers got sloppy (hey, it’s been known to happen to the best of us), but that still doesn’t answer how the label ended up correct. The idea of multiple errors, while not impossible, seems unlikely. (See Occam’s Razor.)

Obviously I fix item I or other staff members encounter and bring to my attention. But that’s piecemeal. I know the first place to fix this should be before the materials make it out onto the floor, and believe me, that’s something I want to tackle as soon as I can. But even if that reduces the problem, there will still be a certain percentage of errors. In addition to performing a complete system analysis to discover when and where breakdowns in cataloging & processing occur, I want to know: Once the books get out of the workroom and into the stacks, is there any global way of finding and correcting errors? You can’t fix this by shelf reading or running reports–the first won’t tell you if the catalog is wrong, and the second won’t tell you if the label is wrong.  But short of giving an employee a list of every book and manually checking each item one by one, what else can be done?

I feel sure that our library must be anomalous with our high amounts of such errors, but on the off chance that anyone else out there has had a serious issue with catalog record/spine label discrepancies, what did you do? Are there any other, more efficient ways of tackling this issue besides manually auditing the entire collection?

On the recommendation of EPC, we plan to post the sewing and clothing sections of 646 shortly for outside comment.

I, of course,  am very interested in taking a look at the proposed revisions to the 646 schedule, which coveres “sewing, clothing, [and] managemnt of personal and family life.” As a fashion design school, 646 is a significant section of our collection, especially sewing and patternmaking. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to figure out where this information will be posted, when it will be posted, or even how to find out or be notified when and where it will be posted. I left a comment on the blog so hopefully someone will let me know when and how I can access and contribute. I would be kicking myself (and possibly some others) if I let such an appropriate opportunity pass me by.

Too bad I wasn’t hired.

Rangeview Library District is “Breaking up with Dewey”

{March 10, 2009}   your patrons, or yourself?

Last week (or was it the week before? I lose track) I attended an awesome webinar sponsored by Infopeople called “The Deweyless Library: An Innovative Approach.” Now, I’m not normally big on webinars. In my experience, they’re fairly one-sided, and often so dumbed down to a lowest-common-denominator level that I find I don’t get much out of them that I don’t already know. But heck, it was free, and I’ve been dying to hear about any follow up on Maricopa County’s migration to BISAC classification. The presenter, Marshall Shore, talked about the decisions and processes of implementing a non-Dewey classification system at a new public library branch.

Now, I’ve made a few anti-DDC posts in this blog. I won’t deny it. But, as I’ve said before: I like the Dewey Decimal System. I think it’s an example of brilliant design, with its repeating patterns and subdivisions. I admire it very much, despite its known flaws, and I fantasize about someday being smart enough to develop a classification system half as well-designed. However, I’ve been the recipent of a few comments (both on- and off-line) that seem to interpret my stance on this as being some sort of anti-DDC Nazi.

I’m not. What I am obessed about is using the right classification system for the job, whatever the job may be. And what I appreciated the most about Shore’s presentation was that he, too, was focused on finding the right system that would work for his patrons and his libraries. He wasn’t out to get rid of the DDC just to get rid of it–he was out to improve user experience in the library.

He talked a little bit about the library as a “third place,” and using that idea as a motivational factor to improve patron experience. I appreciated that he took a survey of the participants, asking them whether they thought their libraries were or should be considered “third places.” I was pleasantly surprised to see that not everyone thought they should be. The library where I work, for example, is part of a college, and rather than functioning as a community center, is designed to function more as a “second place”–where students come to get work done. Ideally, I’d love it if we could incorporate elements of the “third place,” but our first priority is to support the school’s curriculum and the information literacy of our patrons. (That’s straight out of our mission statement, btw.)

Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that there are all different types of libraries. Some are work centers, some are community centers, many are a mix of both, and more. Libraries have different missions, different needs, and different patrons, and so each library should evaluate its situation and determine how to best serve its users, classification systems included. If the DDC works for your library, great! If LCC works, awesome! If you work with the library collection of some random historical society and find that people respond best to filing the materials chronologically by date, then why not?  But if you’re using a classification system despite your patrons, then who are you really serving? Your patrons, or yourself?

I have to give props to this webinar, especially regarding attendee participation. There were about 75 people logged on to attend, and I was delighted to “see” some familar names, including some blog readers (hi Gina!), as well as co-workers.  Besides overwhelming the presenter with questions, I loved that spontaneous discussion broke out in the chat box among attendees–I’ve never had that happen in a webinar before. Another interactive survey by Shore asked people what they would do to improve patron experience at their libraries. Of course there were the standard copy-cat answers of “we’ll go Dewey-less just like you did!” which bothers me just as much as the resistance to doing away with Dewey. I mean, let’s think about it: if you’re moving away from DDC just because it’s the “hip & cool” new thing to do, it’s equally as problematic, imo. You’re still ignoring the potential needs and wants of your patrons.

One of the survey responses fascinated me so much that I had to inqure among the attendees who posted it. The contributor talked about designing a visual classification system for use in their library. It turns out she was the library manager of the new Home Gardens branch of the Riverside County Library System, and they are in the process of creating a classification system that relies on images rather than words. Of course I was instantly intrigued, as I think the use of a visual classification system in our arts-focused library has a great deal of potential. So I sent her an email and she was kind enough to respond with some more information about the project. I love the fact that she is actively seeking out potential ILS software that will actually display the image as the “call number” rather than substituting a word like [TRAVEL] or [FICTION]. She also pointed out that the visual symbols serve to eliminate language barriers when there is a large multi-lingual patron deomgraphic (which hadn’t even occurred to me but I think is brilliant). But my favoritest part: when they can’t decide what section a book should be classed in, they ask the patrons. That’s right. They take a survey of 3 or 4 average patrons and ask them what section they would look under if they were looking for that title. It doesn’t get much more user-centric than that! The classification system is still in the works, as they build a new branch, but I can’t wait to see it in action. I am totally trying to weasel a tour.

I talk a lot about the DDC because I know a lot about the DDC. I will always, always love it (wouldn’t get it tattooed on me otherwise) and I’d actually be pretty stoked to work on it (if I wouldn’t have to work for OCLC to make that happen…) But in the end, it doesn’t matter if that’s what I love, or what works best for me. It matters what my patrons love, and what works best for them.

et cetera