Most people recognize that a Library is the Heart-beat of a Community. Patrons interact with the friendly librarians at the Circulation Desk, the knowledgeable librarians at the Research Desk, and those who plan programs for senior citizens, teens, children, and toddlers. However, few people ever get to see “behind the scenes” where members of the technical services staff do the work that makes the library more people-friendly.
About three years ago, Lydia Main, Head of Technical Services, decided it was time to respond to patrons’ comments about the difficulties in using the call system to find various books. With the assistance of Jean LaChance, Circulation Coordinator, and volunteers Pat Reynolds and Athena Cone, she decided to commit to a project which would improve the labeling system even though it would require many hours of library staff work.
Each book in the library has a unique call number which is like an address. Located on the spine of books, the call number tells where the book is located. These call numbers help people find items on the shelves and help the staff know where to return books to the shelves.
Lydia then created for her committee instructions which would help them develop the new labels for the spine of each book. Under the old system, a spine label might just have the author’s name (Smith). With only that information, it would be very difficult for a person to know which author named Smith had written a particular book. The only way to find out was to remove each book on the shelf to take a look at the cover.
Under the refined system, the staff added the author’s first name (Smith, Nancy) and the first name of the title (Farewell), thus making it clearer which book a patron might wish to examine. For fiction, “Fantastic Fiction” https://www.fantasticfiction.com is the authority the library uses to make the spine labels.
For authors who have written books in a series, this refined system was especially helpful. In addition to the authors full name (Liu, Ken), they added a key word of the title of the Series (Dandelion), the number of the book in the series (#01), and finally the key word of the title (Grace) for The Grace of Kings.
These refinements resulted in all books of a series being together in proper rotation, so that they would easily be accessible to a patron. Whether a person is a Detective Reader, a Romance Reader, or a Fantasy Reader, the efficacy of these refinements will be immediately evident.
In this on-going project, the committee has finished updating the call no. labels of the Detective section. The committee is currently updating the Fiction and Biography sections. Since they began this project, they have re-labeled and re-shelved thousands of books. In the workroom behind the circulation desk, books that have been removed from a section are affixed with newly re-typed and refined labels. Then, these updated books are re-shelved in a more logical and efficient manner. Many libraries would not attempt this task because of the work hours involved. Nevertheless, Ms. Main thought it was vital to respond to the suggestions and frustrations of the readers.
When visiting the library, think about the extent of the work behind the scenes that must take place to make your visit productive. In the King of the Murgos by David Eddings, a character named Garion asks, “’Isn’t he just a librarian-somebody who looks after books?’ Another character replies, ‘That’s where all the rest of scholarship starts. All the books in the world won’t help you if they’re just piled up in a heap’.” Ms. Main and her committee understand the true meaning of this statement.
June M. Hoye
Board of Directors
East Lyme Library