The project continues and is still evolving. Often, between the time that a category is created and the time that the collection for that category is removed from the shelf to be rendered Dewey-Free, we find ourselves making a handful of changes to the proposed subcategories, abbreviations, and in-category arrangements to make the theoretical and the real meet halfway. For example, until you print an abbreviation on a spine label, one never notices how an innocently created truncation can immediately turn into something borderline offensive. The most important lesson we have learned from all of our efforts is to realize that nothing is mistakes will be made so the need for corrections will always be a possibility. The hope is to make this system the best possible way for our patrons to interact with our collection, so any change that gets us closed to meeting that goal is a change for the better, even if we have to remove some labels and do extra grunt work to get there.
We’re moving along and our excitement is building. We’ve since completed Weddings and Sports & Recreation. Our biography collection is currently integrated into the regular non-fiction collection, but we decided to separate biography into its own entity, with the exception of US presidents, others TBD.
I’m a fan of specific instructions. For those of you who also appreciate specifics, I’d like to mention a few lessons we’ve learned and outline our process.
We began with the decision to make the switch. This decision was made before I had the pleasure of joining the library and had me excited from the start. I think this idea of making the decision is worth noting. I feel it’s important to establish Dewey- Free as a commitment. This process isn’t easy, but knowing that everyone truly believes in making the switch solidifies and strengthens our commitment.
We established a basic structure of categories and subcategories. This was done by looking at the groups used by BISAC, various controlled vocabulary sets, and our collection. We felt that at the heart of this project, we must be true to our collections and our user base. “What will a user ask for?” has become a bit of a Mantra.
Next we developed a system of abbreviations for the categories. We decided to have 4 lines on each label. The first being HNF to establish that it is Non –Fiction, the next two lines establish the Category and Subcategory, and the fourth (bottom) line is the “cutter.” We’ve been using the Author or Editor’s last name. This is simply to establish shelf order. This fourth line is open to change depending on the situation.
On to the Catalog. Sharon has changed the record to show the “call number” as well as specific location information, and the old Dewey number. This allows users to search the OPAC using the Dewey number if that’s what they’re used to. She’s tackling this one section at a time. So far, the sections (or categories) have been pretty small so when she’s done, we’re able to re-shelve the items in a new temporary location (with plenty of signs).
We’re up to our fourth revision of the categories. I’ve learned that page numbers help, as well as dating the revision. Also, having a white board handy is highly suggested. Many of the categories require a great deal of collaboration and flexibility.
The library has started the conversion process by picking a few of the slightly easier non-fiction categories: Computers and Technology; Pets; and True Crime. It has been a great place to jump off from, since we were both able to agree on a clear set of subdivisions for each category and because it made us take a hard look at our collection. Who would have thought that a public library would have a shortage of books on cats?
For the Dewey fans out there - don't worry. The catalog will still allow searches of Dewey Decimal Classification via the MARC record. We have used a notes field in our ILS to list the location of each title via its hierarchy. For example, Thunderstruck by Erik Larson is labeled as such (in addition to a listing of relevant subjects, Library of Congress information, etc.):
- LOCATION --True crime -- Murder
Soon we can start building an interactive map to aid in locating materials, an idea which we owe to the trailblazing Frankfort Public Library District in Illinois. Shelves are also being labeled with white-on-black label tape akin to many Barnes and Noble stores.
Many mistakes are being made, many decisions are getting harder to come to, but the results so far are making everyone more eager to continue.
The Henry County Public Library is about to start its own attempt to change the physical shelving of our adult non-fiction materials from a Dewey Decimal Classification based model to one more closely resembling the model of a typical bookstore. Our patrons have voiced a demand for a natural language based shelving system and we believe we can accomplish the task while still honoring the visions of Dr. Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (namely "Save the Time of the Reader") and Michael Gorman (namely "Honor the past and create the future"). We believe that, by utilizing the shelving flexibility allowed by the bookstore model while better harnessing the search capabilities of the modern library catalog, we can retain the usefulness instituted by Dewey and improve the library experience for our patron base.
We plan on utilizing this blog to document our experiences and to allow others to trace our steps toward what we believe will be an improvement on the typical library experience. The Henry County Public Library is going Dewey free.