Goodbye Numbers, Hello Words:

Library Transitions Collection

We live in a "now" society. While we like to encourage people to come and hang out at the library, the reality is that for many the library is one stop in a day full of errands.

We're making some changes to our collection that will not only make it easier for you to find what you're looking for while you're here, but will improve the ability to browse.

You may have heard of the Dewey Decimal System, but do you really know what that is? Outside of librarians, not many people understand how to use it to find a book. In fact, those of us who work in libraries usually still rely on the online catalog to find what we're looking for. It can be complex and cumbersome for a quick pull, a subject browse, and general aisle surfing.

Soon that won't be the case anymore.

We're transitioning to a topic-driven collection, meaning that all of our non-fiction items in the Adult and Teen sections, and most items in the Children's department at both libraries will be organized alphabetically by current subject. Looking for an animal book? That's the first category alphabetically. Within that general topic, smaller groupings will be created – again organized alphabetically and clearly marked – that relate to animals. Examples of some of the topics you would find within the animal category are birds, pets, and training.

Previously when you were searching for books, you saw a Call Number on the label. It was a series of numbers and letters dictated by the Dewey Decimal System. Not anymore! Now those spine labels will have a series of words that will make more sense to the average user.

For example:
ANIMALS - this line gives you general topic as well as shelving location
WATER - this line adds a subtopic
WHALE - the third line narrows into a possible subtopic
Smith - the bottom line is often reserved for the Author's last name

"We work in words, not numbers," explained Children's Services Manager Beth Munk. "When we search Google, we type in a topic. When we use an index, we search for key words. But, mostly for me in the Children's Department, it's about ease of use. Kids will be able to find topics they are interested in...and they'll all be located together, not dotted throughout our collection. It's a simplification. An update."

This is a move that will build confidence in children, adults, and even staff members!

The process isn't even complete yet, and it's already coming in handy. Recently, a staff member who doesn't usually work in the Children's Department was asked to help a young child find a book. The child said she liked "princesses." Normally, this staff member would have needed to search the online catalog to find where some of the princess books were located – they would have been scattered through the collection and organized by the author's name. However, the staff member was able to go directly to the Princess section within Picture Books, and the child quickly selected a book to read. Looking for a Princess book – which normally might have taken 5 to 10 minutes to find the right one – was accomplished in under a minute. Not only will transitioning the collection to topics make it easier for staff to be more productive when assisting a patron, but patrons will be better able to find what they're looking for quickly, without stopping by to search the online catalog.

But that doesn't make the online catalog irrelevant.

"Every book still has an 'address,' which is its specific location," explained Library Director Katie Mullins.

She said the online catalog is used in the library now because it needs to be. Patrons and staff who may be unfamiliar with how the Dewey Decimal numbers translate into subjects need to find a specific book or topic, and rely on the catalog to get them to the right spot. The transition to the topic-driven collection could minimize the catalog's use within the library, but it will still be important to patrons, staff and even other libraries.

"We're using it to expand our reach," said Mullins. "The online catalog is with them in their homes, cars, and pockets through their computers and mobile devices. It's accessible to folks who have just heard about a new book and want to place it on hold right away. It's available to patrons and staff at more than 100 other Evergreen Indiana libraries who want to see what we offer, and need to request that our items be sent to their own library."

You may have noticed that our recent book sale was filled to overflowing with additional items. That's because we've been clearing off the shelves to prepare for the reorganization, and weeding the collection so that we can remove outdated materials and add new items.

"Our library is taking steps to be relevant now and in the future," said Tech Services Supervisor Anita Brown. "The opportunity to take an in-depth look at our collection is a good thing. During the weeding process, it has been surprising to see what is no longer circulating. Many items might circulate more often in the new system, being placed with similar topics."

This process will be ongoing for awhile, so we hope that you will bear with us as we make the transition. Ironically, items may be more difficult to locate as they're moving from one location to another, but just check in with a staff member if you have trouble finding what you're looking for.