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July 14, 2007

The decline of western civilization

Or so it will seem for some, based on this NYT story about a public library abandoning Dewey classification. If that hasn't convinced you, there's always the earlier much-blogged NYT story about how cool today's young librarians are. Pick your poison.

Those of you who were at ALA have probably heard all about the no-Dewey Arizona public library, and discussed it to death in DC. But for those who are latecomers to the discussion, let me ask - Is it really so terrible? How else are you going to find out if grouping the materials works better than Dewey classification in public libraries, or even just in this particular public library.

If it doesn't work well and the library goes on to try something else, or goes back to Dewey, we've still learned something. And I'd bet the average library patron on the street couldn't care less what library-significant number we put on the books spine. Outside of a library, does anyone know the correct order for shelving books when you get down to the cutter level? Generally the shelvers all have a different theory of how it's done, and my experience is that in most libraries you end up in the general area looking for a particular book or browsing anyway.

And yes, all of us untrustworthy folks now over 30 were cool once, too. We didn't wear our hair in buns, shunned sensible shoes, and never shushed ourselves or anyone else. We embraced technology and empowered the user. And we still couldn't outrun the power of the librarian stereotype. ("You don't look like a librarian." "Actually, I do. This is what librarians look like these days.")

So my reaction? Extreme jealousy. A generation of librarians finally broke out and got good PR in the bargain. More power to them! Now, if we can just outrun the stereotypes about boomer librarians and the evils of library directors*, we'd really be shaking up the profession.

*Obvious disclaimer that I am not disinterested and unbiased in my assessment should be inserted here.

Posted by janeblum at July 14, 2007 12:42 PM

Comments

Jane, I completely agree with you. Sounds interesting for sure, and if it doesn't work, well then we learned that the tried and true really is the way to go for now. I too express some jealousy at a whole library really trying something significantly different without knowing what's going to happen. Now...what's going on with the NYTimes and all the library articles...(not that I'm complaining!)

Posted by: theodora.bakker@gmail.com at July 18, 2007 04:53 PM

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