The library is full of facts. But these facts are intermingled with stories, half-truths, legends, tales, aspirational facts, myths, facts we wish were true, tales and statistics.
They nestle into each other on our dewey decimalised shelves. In theory facts are to be found on the non-fiction shelves, however it is abundantly clear in this day and age that one person’s truth is another person’s fake news. Myths and legends are found in the non-fiction section, along with the Koran and the Bible, and the Samoan version of the Hungry Caterpillar.
A patron asked me today to direct her to the true stories section. She was very disappointed (read huffed at me that we were supposed to be helpful) when I said that there wasn’t just one single place to browse. I gave her the tour of the biographies (located in their own little section rather than being placed in their correct dewey decimal possie of 920s), true crime hiding in the 360s, stories about historical people which lingers over in the 900s, and the journey around the library went on. Apparently this was not what she wanted. She was hoping for a nice wee section of books that interested her.
It half crossed my mind to point out that if we created sections for everyone based on their interests we would be in a permanent state of chaos.
In the last month I have had people want to see the section of Australian books, books about diggers (fiction), books for children that were really written with adult vocabulary (as their wee blessings were ‘very advanced readers’) but that were appropriate and interesting for children, books for their six year old that needed big font with little pictures every second page and without boys in it (a fairly specific section which on a positive would not take up a lot of room).
I personally am looking forward to the idea of creating a section about the fiction stories of diggers. I wonder if I should put the section about bulldozers before or after it?
Anyway, this is distracting me from my contemplation of how the library stores its facts. Our library classifies books according to the dewey decimal system (which is pretty common across the public library world) but others have branched out and they use a categorisation system. This is how bookshops generally store their material- so you can put your travel books (900s in good ol’ dewey) beside the learning a language book (hanging out across the library in the 400s).
In fact some libraries have gone the next step and they…..wait for it, this is a biggie….they intermingle their fiction and non-fiction together (off the top of my head I think this is only school libraries that I remember reading about but still!!). I don’t know about you but my mind is blown by even imagining what, how, and most importantly why the heck they did it.
I mean how do you categorise fiction books? It might be a mystery set in Italy, the police are part of the story, it is set back in the 1800’s, Queen Victoria is the narrator, and it pivots around a camel (because surely there must be a great story involving all those set pieces just waiting to be written). Which piece of the story defines the category?
Anywho, enough babbling from me. Next time you are visiting your favourite library, have a look around and appreciate the fact that a whole lot of people have thought about the best way to put the collection out for you to meander your way through. No system is perfect but if they followed their own whims (or the whim of the patron) then you might have to look for The diary of a bookseller (by all accounts a great book) in the business book section (the author runs a bookstore) or possibly the house section (he visits large estates to buy their books) or maybe even the fashion section (one of his staff wears a ski-suit). The predictability of being able to find it in the biography section (in point of fact at our libraries you won’t find it on any shelf because there is currently 64 reserves for the seven copies that we own but the theory is sound) is well worth a little hoorah.
And today’s blog was unfortunately a stream of consciousness and brought to you by the wordpress daily prompt of “fact”.
It is brought to you by the letter B.
B is for what a bugger I am struggling to understand my assignment question. I am not 100% sure if it is correctly written/punctuated or if having six months off from study has shrunk my brain. Here is one of the tasks: “Identify the way of knowing suggested from article 2. Describe how this type of research acquired information by referring to the steps in the research outlined in reading 1.2.”
Study eh. It’s a barrel of laughs.
This sign was seen at San Francisco’s Kayo books (and I found it on Cory Doctorow’s flickr account, https://flic.kr/p/BZwW).