One of the best things about attending an international conference is that you get to meet people that you would probably never have come across otherwise. And that’s exactly what happened at IFLA. After spending some time at the ‘Cocktail evening’ with some lovely librarians from the Legislative Assembly of Ontario we made arrangements to visit them at their library in Toronto.
Books at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
It was great to get a behind the scenes tour of a government library; it offered so much more than a simple ‘tourist visit’. It’s interesting because the Government Librarians were discussing the same issues that concern us in public libraries. For example, how to keep attracting users to visit the physical building when more and more of the resources are appearing online…I guess we’re all under increasing pressure to create desirable destinations for our users to visit.
Latin grammar book from 1400s
We also got a chance to have a look in their ‘vault’ and I got to flick through a book that was written in 1425, which was a real treat. Afterwards we had some time to chat with some of the cheeriest cataloguers I’ve ever met and I think we’ve made a couple of friends for life, which is great!
So, there you have it…a visit to a government library turns out to be one of the highlights of our trip – who’d have thought it?
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One of my favourite things to do on holiday is to visit public libraries; some people might think that’s a bit sad but I look at it as keeping up to date with everything that’s going on internationally.
On this trip I visited Toronto Public Library’s Central Branch, which occupies a very convenient space on York Street, not far from the main shopping district in Toronto. It boasts a style of architecture and interior design that I think (and I’m no expert!) was very popular in the late 1970s. If I’m honest, it was actually really nice to visit a library that hadn’t been completely re-designed to look like a bookshop – it looked and felt like a library ought to and I loved it!
Toronto Public Library - Central Branch
We visited on a weekday morning and were surprised by how busy it was. And not just on the ground floor where the café was situated, but on every floor.
I was visiting with somebody who didn’t have the first clue about Dewey Decimal Classification and this really made me re-think how we catalogue books in our libraries. Sure, my friend was able to stand in line to find out from a very helpful librarian the location of the book he was looking for…but this highlighted to me just how unfriendly Dewey is to users with no concept of how the system works.
I’ve had several discussions / arguments since then with other librarians about whether or not we should be organising book stock to make it easier for staff or for users to locate books. It seems some people feel quite strongly about maintaining systems such as Dewey but I’m just not sure anymore, especially after experiencing first hand the many obstacles my friend had to overcome just to locate one book…
…maybe we should just hand out compact versions of RFIDs to each user as they enter our libraries?
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