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!
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?