June 8, 2009 1:33 PM   Subscribe

The Rangeview Library District in Adams County, Colorado, has become the first library system in the US to drop the Dewey Decimial System in favor an in-house, word-based cataloging system. Termed "WordThink", the replacement is based on BISAC, "a retail-based standard for organizing materials[, s]imilar to what you might see in a bookstore." Library Journal's treatment of the switch.
posted by 7segment (47 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think you mean BISAC not BICAS. Mod fix?
posted by mattbucher at 1:38 PM on June 8, 2009

The Rangeview Library District in Adams County, Colorado, has become the first library system in the US to drop the Dewey Decimial System

No love for the Library of Congress classification?
posted by ALongDecember at 1:39 PM on June 8, 2009

If getting rid of the Dewey system will lead to a corresponding drop in the number of awful, Dewey-based puns librarians make, I am fully in favour of it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I haven't seen a library that used the Dewey system in something like twenty-five years. They've all been on the LoC system.
posted by octothorpe at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I came in here all excited about linking to this, then noticed the title of the post. Foiled again.
posted by jbickers at 1:41 PM on June 8, 2009

When the Dewey Decimal System is outlawed, only outlaws will use the Dewey Decimal System.
posted by exogenous at 1:42 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

*ahem* re: the title,
posted by indiebass at 1:42 PM on June 8, 2009

Next, they're going to add a cafe.
posted by box at 1:43 PM on June 8, 2009

In mimicking retail establishments, will they also drop the classic in favor of a small cardboard Penguin's Classics stand by the New Releases?
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:46 PM on June 8, 2009

Does this mean that, like in a bookstore, there will be a "political science" section that won't have any political science but will instead be full of bloviations from Limbaugh and Franken, and any actual political science held by the library will be scattered to the four winds under "science" and "history" and even, if there are too many scary symbols, "mathematics"?

And that the economics section will be full of THINK YOURSELF RICH, STUPID books while actual books about economics are likewise peppered almost randomly throughout the library?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:53 PM on June 8, 2009 [8 favorites]

"Dewey translates well overseas for print and electronic formats, said Joan Mitchell, editor in chief, Dewey Decimal Classification for the Online Computer Library Center in Ohio. "I spend a lot of time talking to users around the world, and we are looking at developing Dewey in all different formats. It's very exciting."

I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall when they introduce the Religion sub-classifications in, say, Pakistan.
posted by CaseyB at 1:54 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't get it. I looked up books in the Rangeview catalog [sexy home page using drupal!] and I got dewye numbers with the items which I assume helps me find the book within the category it's placed with on the shelf?

Ahhhh, I get it, when I look for a book at the Perl Mack branch it has the section and when I look up the same book at other branches it has a call number. Well that's going to be a fine bit of mess until it all gets sorted.

I still can't help but wonder

- how can you tell if a book is missing from the shelf?
- for large categories are you going to have to browse a shelf or two to see if your book is in or is everything subdivided by author or something?
- if we can do this, why is the damned catalog still so terrifically ugly?

It's about time we realized that classification systems make sense to librarians and much less so to patrons and with the advent of technology there's a lot more that we could be doing to make our collections findable. However, with a category based catalog [which seems okay otehrwise] it seems like it would be even more difficult to ILL with other libraries and/or integrate non-book (i.e. electronic) items in with the print materials. In the short time this will mean that patrons from that branch will be learning a system that no other libraries are using -- sort of how I felt when going from the world of public libraries to the world of academic libraries who are almost exclusively LoC -- which seems like it will disadvantage them. On the other hand, you have to start someplace.
posted by jessamyn at 1:57 PM on June 8, 2009 [7 favorites]

Oops mattbucher, thanks for catching that. I've emailed them (on preview, thx mods!).

Regarding DDS vs. LoC, as an academian I had always favored the latter, until a librarian friend spent a good couple hours convincing me otherwise. I'll concede her points on extensibility and, once you've learned it, intracategory refinement.

As for the new system, it rather terrifies me, although I haven't seen it in action yet. I'd like to link to some cogent critiques, but the librarian-blogosphere hasn't warmed up their shitcannons yet. In the mean time, very curious what the community here has to say.
posted by 7segment at 1:57 PM on June 8, 2009

Will this get the librarians involved excommunicated or something?
posted by graventy at 1:57 PM on June 8, 2009

I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall when they introduce the Religion sub-classifications in, say, Pakistan.

Universal Decimal Classification would be a better bet for that library.
posted by metaquarry at 1:59 PM on June 8, 2009

Actually, they're not the first to drop the Dewey Decimal System. In 2007, the Gilbert library in Maricopa County, Arizona was first (covered previously). The Prelinger Library, though not a public library, was the first to adopt a thematic system (previously) in 2004. Maybe the distinction is because they're the first "system" (with 6 branches and a book-mobile) to use an alternative system?
posted by filthy light thief at 2:04 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

has become the first library system in the US to drop the Dewey Decimial System in favor an in-house, word-based cataloging system.

They're not the first to do so.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:04 PM on June 8, 2009

posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:05 PM on June 8, 2009

The Dewey Decimal System... what a scam that was.

Boy, that Dewey guy really cleaned up on that deal.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:09 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

As a user of BISAC, I'm not sure this is an improvement. For example, BISAC has no codes for things like women's studies, or Latin American studies, and is completely useless for anything interdisciplinary. As it's a standard built for book commerce, it seems using it in a library is a bit of a misapplication. The needs of commerce are very different than the needs of a service oriented institution so for that reason the granularity of European History codes is pretty pathetic compared to the granularity available for books on Dieting or Christianity.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:11 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

You guys are right, I could have phrased that better. What I meant to convey was:

1) they're the first to implement the change system-wide
2) they took pains to emphasize that they're moving to a "word-based" system, although I don't really know what that means (the Post article lists an example for Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl as being HISTORY US20TH. As far as I can tell this just exacerbates jessamyn's first point above.
posted by 7segment at 2:12 PM on June 8, 2009

Dewey took Manila
and soon after invented the decimal system
that keeps libraries from collapsing even unto this day.
A lot of mothers immediately started naming their male offspring 'Dewey'
which made him queasy. He was already having second thoughts about imperialism.
In his dreams he saw library books with milky numbers
on their spines floating in Manila Bay.
Soon even words like 'vanilla' or 'mantilla' would cause him to vomit.
The sight of a manila envelope precipitated him
into his study, where all day, with the blinds drawn,
he would press fingers against temples, muttering 'What have I done?'
all the while. Then, gradually, he began feeling a bit better.
The world hadn't ended. He'd go for walks in his old neighborhood,
marveling at the changes there, or at the lack of them. 'If one is
to go down in history, it is better to do so for two things
rather than one,' he would stammer, none too meaningfully.

One day his wife took him aside
in her boudoir, pulling the black lace mantilla from her head
and across her bare breasts until his head was entangled in it.
'Honey, what am I supposed to say?' 'Say nothing, you big boob.
Just be glad you got away with it and are famous.' 'Speaking of
boobs ..' 'Now you're getting the idea. Go file those books
on those shelves over there. Come back only when you're finished.'

(John Ashbery, 'Memories of Imperialism')
posted by verstegan at 2:28 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

jessamyn: "
I still can't help but wonder

- how can you tell if a book is missing from the shelf?

RFID? Are libraries looking at that, at least for their staff doing inventory if not the patrons looking for an item?
posted by Science! at 2:41 PM on June 8, 2009

I absolutely hate the way bookstores disorganize tomes. How can anyone that has ever been to a Borders or Barnes and Noble think what they do with their books is any sort of system that makes it easier to find what you are looking for.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 2:42 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by elder18 at 2:42 PM on June 8, 2009

Regarding DDS vs. LoC, as an academian I had always favored the latter, until a librarian friend spent a good couple hours convincing me otherwise.

As an academic, it doesn't make much difference to me whether I look in the 328.73's or the JK1's and 2's.

Seems like it would be simpler to keep Dewey but replace the signs so that they also include words, and to include little sticker-outer signs within broader areas to denote the shift from one subdivision to another. Again, with call numbers and some reasonable words.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:51 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

RFID is nice, but I looked at what it would take, on a very handwaving level.

Remember, RFID is, in some way, like yelling "HEY WHO IS OUT THERE?" and receiving back a chorus of (hopefully) unique IDs back as an echo. It's not really GPS.

You would need at least four RFID readers which would also report back signal strength to locate (triangulate, or really tetrahedralate??) the location of a given tag on a shelf. You could knock one off by using a moving cart, but my guess is that it would not really count for much given how many readers you might need in a practical sense to locate books in space.

Alternatively, along with the compact shelving you could mount Big Ass Readers in the ceiling. Maybe once an hour they could howl out "HEY WHO IS OUT THERE?" and get back replies, then the answers could be coordinated. B.A.R.s could work for one another, so as long as they were strong enough and appropriately staggered. They would also need to be placed wherever a book might be. They end up in bathrooms, they appear in elevators, they are squirreled away in locked faculty carrels, etc. RFID is not amazingly long range, and many of those shelves are metal, so you'd need a heck of a lot of coverage — far more than the access points you've got for WiFi.

My guess is that this would be an expensive proposition. The cart would be cheaper, but it would require a bit more engineering and you'd "miss" books as they might move from floor to floor, versus the snapshot afforded by the howling B.A.R.s. It's an interesting problem, but it is one of those problems that requires a lot of money to solve.
posted by adipocere at 2:55 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

I absolutely hate the way bookstores disorganize tomes. How can anyone that has ever been to a Borders or Barnes and Noble think what they do with their books is any sort of system that makes it easier to find what you are looking for.

Well, at least they don't run around at Borders making awful Dewey-based puns all day, like librarians do.
posted by blucevalo at 3:07 PM on June 8, 2009

posted by FishBike at 3:12 PM on June 8, 2009

The catalogue is ugly because that's how Horizon ships (all the Horizon systems I've worked with have looked more or less like that). Blame SirsiDynix and (presumably) the lack of budget space to bring on systems people with the skills and time to make something nicer. I honestly don't know how much flexibility there is for tweaking in the system--that's not my thing.

My impression from poking around in BISAC:
    It's a very simple system which allows for two layers of description. No more, no less. Convenient for a bookstore, in which how things appear (and in what numbers) is influenced by how much the publisher is willing to pay a premium to have something featured. It also makes it less likely (in theory) that something will wind up mis-catalogued, as the decision tree is shallow.
    Other than that, it's sorted by author last name, which is also handy for people looking for the latest book by author X. That starts happening at the same depth of description you'd find in DDC or LoC. The number codes in BISAC are hidden from the end user, which is probably less confusing for them, but have fun finding a specific volume. That's BISAC in a nutshell from my impression, really: it's a grouping system, not a locating system.
Honestly, for a small-ish collection, it works fine. But as much as it would save on cataloguing expenses, it doesn't have the granularity you need for a research collection or an existing big library which has a backl catalogue they're holding on to.

It's also hellish for "finders". Me, I'm a finder. "Browsers" will love it, but I f***ing hate that. If I'm at a bookshelf, it's because I'm trying to find something specific.

On preview:
RFID? Are libraries looking at that, at least for their staff doing inventory if not the patrons looking for an item?

Of course, ever since the tech became available on a wide scale. A quick poke in the LibraryLit database for kw="RFID" turns up 75 hits starting from 2003. LISA has 160, starting with 1999. (holds out hand) Now, just let me increase your property taxes by x% so I can implement the staff hours needed to process the collection and put in the infrastructure.

In the long run, RFID could make mind-numbing tasks like shelf-reading a job measured in hours instead of months with a hand-held reader (and I'll lose my zen time). In theory, you could even get rid of circulation. Everything/one, on a long enough time scale, can be automated.

On preview the 2nd:
As an academic, it doesn't make much difference to me whether I look in the 328.73's or the JK1's and 2's.

LoC handles huge collections better. Nobody wants to deal with 18-digit dewey call numbers, especially not the people who have to shelve them. And don't laugh on the 18-digit thing--when my dad did his MLIS in the states 40 years ago, the academic library in question had dewey numbers that went all the way down the spine and wrapped onto the cover (or so he tells me).
posted by Decimask at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

The catalogue is ugly because that's how Horizon ships

Yeah sorry, more of a joke to my librarian homies than a real question. The catalog is ugly because Sirsi-Dynix basically doesn't care what you think, I think is the real answer.
posted by jessamyn at 3:20 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

I figured you were kidding. You are MeFi's ur-librarian after all. ;o)
posted by Decimask at 3:27 PM on June 8, 2009

RFID? Sure, but can I get out of a negative budget situation before we start spending money on something that is still in the category of "might be nice, not yet necessary though"? And yes, it's true that libraries have been looking at RFID for years---usually enviously as they know it won't be happening anytime soon.

As for DDC versus LC vs BISAC, I have to say that I still find Dewey baffling as hell. And LC has some weird blips and odd moments and weirdly racist or sexist language. But at least I can usually find things--collocation is something that both LC and DDC tend to do well.

I was at Barnes and Noble on Saturday, just kind of moseying around to see what was new from my favorite authors. Well, I was *trying* find my fave authors, anyway, as things had been sliced and diced (New, Bestsellers, Bargains, Closeouts, etc) so much that I couldn't really find anything. Except manga. Lots and lots of manga. Say what you will about your local library (and there is plenty to say--let me tell you about how many books walk out the door at my 'biggest research library in the US' and never come back. Let me tell you about sending new books off to storage because the old books are kept in virtual perpetuity and there's no more room. &c), but at least browsing is usually fairly accomplishable.

Oh, and Sirsi-Dynix? Ugly as hell, but functional. One of the local public libraries here uses Sirsi, the other uses CarlWeb (which I've frankly barely heard of---III, Sirsi, offshoots of OCLC, and homegrown are what I'm familiar with). I gave up on the library using Carl, and I certainly blame the piss poor ILS for part of my decision to move on. I can only imagine how opaque the catalog is to those without specialized training.
posted by librarylis at 3:34 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

This whole thing is a battle between 18th century technologies. Tagging of items so they can be easily found is what RFID does. Just put RFID readers in all the shelving, RFID tag all the books. Then keyword-index them (Amazon and Google have already done this for a lot of books still in print, or some uni students can be paid to do it, with a librarian supervising, over the course of a week or so), add the keywords to the pre-existing indexing system whether it be Dewey, BISAC, LoC or book size and cover art color.

Scan the covers and spines to add to the database as you go, and then all a customer needs to do is use the database to find the exact location of the book. I'm visualizing being shown a map of the library with the shelf that it's currently on clearly indicated, a "You Are Here" marker, and a picture of the book. If the library wants to get ambitious they could put a row of LEDs on each shelf to indicate books that have been searched for within the last ten minutes or so.

One of the features that distinguish a library from a bookstore is book return; a library, in theory, gets its books back, which means they have to be replaced on the shelves. (Bookstores have to replace sold stock, and both have to deal with books rearranged by customers.) All of these systems use an added keyword, for example the Dewey number, to facilitate the quick sorting. (On that point, use of a color and icon scheme for the call number labels helps users and staff a lot.) But tag and index the collection properly, and it really doesn't matter with what system the physical objects themselves are organized. There could be no system at all, although it's preferable that related (however you define it) books be grouped together so that people can find other books that they're likely to want to read.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:39 PM on June 8, 2009

I've been involved with a modernizing of a library for a small, private school, and this switch seems extremely odd to me (my wife is the new, sole librarian for the school). Basically, the books are currently arranged via Dewey, and then fiction is divided into two sections - middle school aged and elementary aged (and there's definitely gray area in those divisions, Harry Potter for example).

Now, mind you neither my wife or I are trained in anything about libraries - standards, best practices, etc. It's only a part time job for her, and the school can't afford someone who actually has a library science degree. We've tried our best to learn what we can quickly and make the best decision we could based on what we could learn. But this school's library didn't even have a card catalog - the previous librarian had it "all in her head" due to her being a librarian there for so long, she knew where all the books were, so I guess we couldn't do too much wrong in our decisions.

So we have the task of making all decisions for the modernization, and we looked at RFID, bar codes, etc. We didn't go with RFID - it can be expensive. Granted, this school's library only has around 10K-15K books, but it seemed to be around $1 a book for an RFID solution compared to just getting bar codes made. RFID can help with mis-shelved books by scanning shelving as you walk by, and in the type of shelving in the article it might help further with finding books. It is also great for auto-checkin, or self-checkout by patrons. But the barcode solution for us was very inexpensive (around $150 for about 10,000 professionally printed barcode labels).

Frankly I *hate* locating books in a retailer with their type of classification and nearly always ask for help when it isn't something simple like "go to fantasy section and find book." Every section is organized slightly differently - for example, in one section it may be shelved alpha by author, in another it may be alpha by subject (like in autobiographies). And like others have stated, how do you know exactly where a book should go unless you do use a numbering system to create an ordered library. It actually makes me think of a section of books in the library we're working on that holds books for kindergarten and first grade - it's nearly impossible for the kids to keep books in order, and kids that young don't really look for specific books and choose by cover. So the books are just marked with the first letter of the author's last name instead of a real call number, and it's really just a mix of all "M" books or "B" books - so if you asked me to find "Hop on Pop" by Seuss, it'll take a bit to flip through the "S" books if the spine is too small to show the title from the edge.

So this gets to my next point, and that is the *real* issue in my eyes are kids these days aren't being taught classification systems like I was in school. I learned Dewey in elementary, and we actually had a library "class" where we learned and got tested on it, and not just library time where you go and pick out a book to check out and that's it. Then, in middle school, we had mini-fieldtrips to the small town's local college campus to learn Library of Congress classification, and again it was a classtime on learning it. Granted, I can't rattle off what each 100's section of Dewey corresponds to for topics...but I have a very good understanding on how it works and I know that if I want books on a certain topic, I know that all books within that call number range will be what I'm looking for. The kids that come into this school's library have no clue about Dewey or that there is in fact order to the shelving. There's even posters along the walls showing what each major Dewey subject is, and the kids still are like "Where are religion books?" or "Where are books on animals?" My wife has taken to not answering directly or walking them right to the section, but instead pointing to the posters and asking which one their topic fits into, then guiding them to the right shelf.

To me, a strict classification like Dewey does facilitate browsing. If I'm in a retail bookstore and am looking for a book about origami, I don't give a shit about books regarding pencil drawing, or flower arranging, or other crafts. I'm there for origami. With Dewey, I get them right there next to each other in the 730's...and if I did care about other art/paper crafts, I can just look 10-20 call numbers in either direction. Plus, to me, a library primarily represents sources for research (especially in regards to non-fiction). Pleasure reading comes in a close second, but once you understand either Dewey or LoC, it's easy to find books.
posted by JibberJabber at 3:51 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Holy crap, was that a UHF "Conan the Librarian" reference??
posted by edheil at 3:57 PM on June 8, 2009

Library fun facts: the Dewey Decimal System replaced the earlier Huey and Louie Decimal Systems.
Warning: Comment may not be entirely factual.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:02 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

aeschenkarnos, I wish I could respond to your comment directly, but I don't know enough about how RFID actually works to do so. The big barrier is still budgets: even bringing in economies of scale, JibberJabber's example of $1/book might be cut to $0.50. A big academic library with 1,000,000+ volumes is looking at 1/2 a million dollars just for the stickers. Then you have to quarantine segments of the collection while you sticker them, and pay all the staff to do it. Then there's the 1-3% of the collection that's circulating at any given time.*

* Number pulled out of my ass.

Must run, bus to catch--need to sift through the J 398.'s for versions of Cinderella. BBL. Hopefully a techie can do a little more re: tech constraints of RFID.
posted by Decimask at 4:12 PM on June 8, 2009

Tagging of items so they can be easily found is what RFID does. Just put RFID readers in all the shelving, RFID tag all the books.

I'm in the process of automating a rural library. Just buying barcode stickers for the books cost us nearly a grand. RFID costs are dropping but you're still looking at anywhere from 35 cents per book to a dollar or more for specialized stuff. Add to this that a lot of the RFID systems are still closed source [meaning you get really shitty vendor lock-in] and you're really making some big decisions going the RFID route. It's just not cost effective for smaller libraries who don't have an entire tracking system that uses it and benefits from it (like King County WA for example). Add to this that there are privacy concerns [can someone use a reader to figure out what book I've got in my backpack? how much of a big deal is that] and very little spare manpower to staff these projects and its' really not so simple.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love something like this, but we have to sort of work from the "play it as it lays" direction meaning that libraries have existing systems, sunk costs into implementing them and training up staff to use them (many of whom are not real quick studies) and maintaining the hardware to run them. An RFID, coverflow online catalog solves some problems and creates others and it's not clear it's solving an overarching problem that would be worth the massive inrastructure changes that would have to happen in order to get this working.

I realize that you're working from a best-case scenario, but realistically the interdependence of most library systems and their reliance on vendors for a lot of their data -- did you know that many libraries don't OWN the records that link to items in their catalog? I know, appalling right -- pretty much rules out quick changes, and it's still a ways away from where we are now.
posted by jessamyn at 4:21 PM on June 8, 2009

There are a couple of things that Dewey does really, really badly. It probably does "self-help" worst of all. (Psychology around 158, relationships somewhere in the early 300s unless it's books on dating which are in 646 with the hair and makeup books.) I don't know that BISAC is a huge improvement, but it strikes me as an experiment that's worth trying.

There are entire fields of knowledge, like computing, that did not exist during Dewey's lifetime. If we were building a classification system from scratch, I don't think it would look much like DDC, although there's a lot about DDC that's really cool.

I am skeptical about whether there's enough granularity in BISAC to make books easy to find within large categories (like, say, 20th century American history) in large libraries.
posted by Jeanne at 6:59 PM on June 8, 2009

Actually, they're not the first

I believe it is first public library system (county) to drop Dewey. The AZ example was a single branch location (I think).

First a single library. Then an entire county. Next up: an entire state?
posted by stbalbach at 8:04 PM on June 8, 2009

So ... what's the advantage of the BISAC system over LoC? It seems like LoC would be the logical choice if you wanted to move away from Dewey; every college and university library I've been into in the last decade has used it, it's reasonably well-understood by the public (at least as well as Dewey is these days), and there's information on where every book should be shelved printed on the copyright page (the CIP block). That means no arguing over where a book "should" be, and no chance of two copies of one title ending up under one category and another copy ending up under another.

It just seems odd for a library to not take advantage of the existing infrastructure and use LoC, and instead to go out on their own (at least among libraries) and use a system designed for Barnes and Noble.

I guess on one hand I don't know enough to really criticize, but it seems on the surface to be an odd choice.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:03 PM on June 8, 2009

My library (in Canada) is going to be moving to Bibliocommons in the next year or so. It still uses Dewey but patrons can tag items in the collection which should make a huge difference in quickly finding the type of material that interests you (and eliminating a lot of the problems created by Dewey's often archaic classifications).
posted by stinkycheese at 10:50 PM on June 8, 2009

Here's a couple of good pieces about Bibliocommons.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:56 PM on June 8, 2009

Well, at least they don't run around at Borders making awful Dewey-based puns all day, like librarians do.

Librarians run around at Borders all day? I never would have guessed that one.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 7:50 AM on June 9, 2009

Yes, DDC is definately set up for librarians to use but "WordThink" (what a bizarre Orwellian name) only appears more patron/customer/member friendly. I can see it maybe working in the cooking section but not in the social science or history section. Canadian history in my public libray is close to a thousand feet of shelving with quite detailed subject classification. And i don't see how it will handle the ever present problem of Biographies. Currently, most public libraries no longer use 921 in DDC and instead integrate biographies into sections where the person did their life work. So, looking up information about the telephone gives the the Dewey for telephones and biographies of Alexander Graham Bell. Looking up the curling leads to the sporting section where the rules of the sport are beside a biography of Sandra Schmirler. In a large libray how will the limit of two words handle sections like entertainers? (On browsing their catalogue they have a biography section so the call number is BIOGRAPHY [LAST NAME OF PERSON THAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT]).

We have RFID at my library and currently it is working quite well for circulation (albeit with A LOT more staff time than originally planned, the same amount of circulation hours are needed to maintain service comparable to pre-RFID). I would love to have some type of handheld RFID-finder in the stacks.

Add to this that there are privacy concerns [can someone use a reader to figure out what book I've got in my backpack?
At least in my library, the RFID tag only contains the barcode number. The database linking the barcode to the record is staff-only accessible (it is not available through the OPAC). Anyways, in my library a huge number of barcode only link to a record that basically says "Paperback Book". No title/authour/subject information is availabe even to staff. Yeah, that isn't too popular, nor does it serve patron's needs very well.
posted by saucysault at 8:01 AM on June 9, 2009

Better them than me.

I'm all for re-thinking Dewey, but Borders-level confusion is not the way. Indeed, it strikes me as so obviously not the way, that I'm a little baffled by its current vogue. Reasonable parties can disagree, though, as we seem so keen to forget in nearly every sphere these days. I wish them good luck, though I doubt they'll get it. Unless the good luck they seek is a horde of confused patrons (you can call them patrons, it's ok; turns out that you can apply customer-service principles to a group of people you don't even call customers. But I digress.) and handful of mentions in American Libraries and Library Journal.

I have to wonder how much money they spent on this. I'd hate to think they did this instead of implementing SOPAC and/or LibraryThing for Libraries and/or Scriblio and/or AquaBrowser, etc., etc., etc.

As for the Dewey-vs.-LoC debate, you'll find most academic libraries use LC and most public libraries use Dewey. There's a reason for this. Dewey facilitates browsing and serendipitous finding in a broader way than LC, while LC creates pockets of works useful to very specific, very focused academic work better. It's also why we can't stop arguing about it; parties used to either system find theirs suits their work better. This is a feature, not a bug.
posted by willpie at 2:01 PM on June 11, 2009

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