Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Doing it without Dewey: A Perry Branch Library Tour

The Back Story

The Perry branch library of the Maricopa County Library District, is a joint-use facility with the Chandler Unified School District and is located in the Town of Gilbert. This arrangement alone, for joint-use libraries, is a first to have three different government entities run one library.

The library has its grand opening on Tuesday July 10, 2007, but has been open since June 7th. It received a great deal of attention from the Arizona Republic article on May 30th that highlighted the change. Library Journal followed up with an article providing more detail, as well as School Library Journal. NPR followed up with an interview with Marshall Shore, adult services coordinator for the Maricopa County Library District. It began a maelstrom of comments from bloggers and on publib.

Some Stats

The library is open 10am to 8pm Monday through Thursday, and 10-5 on Friday and Saturday. They are open to the school from 7am to 10am only.

Maricopa County Library District uses Polaris ILS and PAMS Computer Time Management Software from 3M.

Joint-use library explanation
This is the second joint-use library in the Maricopa County Library District, the first being the North Valley Regional Library in Anthem.

Public Libraries are increasingly using this technique in order to keep up with demand. There is no mandate for a county or city to build a new library because they have reached a certain population threshold, a school does. A public library can be built faster and cheaper using this model using an IGA(Intergovernmental Agreement).

The IGA dictates how everyone gets along and who does what. It also determines what happens if the joint-use is dissolved. Who gets what books? who gets the computers? Sort of what happens in a divorce and the IGA is the prenuptial agreement. The school often builds the library and costs are split 50/50 with the library agency. Operations are performed entirely by public library staff with often a school liaison that ensures school rules are enforced on library property.

Often the crux of the issue with this relationship is one of responsibility. The school acts as the parent while the child is in school, the library has no such responsibility. This is where policies collide since one needs to restrict and one wants to provide access.

The best articles on Joint-use Libraries are available here:

ALA's site

And the Wisconsin Check-list

Library Staff
Librarians (MLS)
1 branch manager
1 youth librarian
1 teen librarian (acts as school liaison and school librarian)
1 Adult Reference Librarian
Librarians (Non-MLS)
1 circulation supervisor
1 librarian
Library Support Staff
2 Library Assistants
5 library Pages
13 library staff in all (I may have made errors, but I believe I have this information correct)

The New Classification System

The library will categorize all of its materials like a bookstore, using the BISAC system (Book Industry Study Group) Subject headings. There are 50 different categories, of which, each is broken down into several different sub-categories:


Each subject area has almost 100 sub-genres each. This system, in a sense, can provide just as much detail as the Dewey Decimal System with the full book industry making decisions on how books are categorized rather than a librarian system. Also, all the non-fiction is interfiled so Young Adult and Juvenile are with the general non-fiction. Young Adult is indicated by a big Y on the spine label and Juvenile is indicated by a big J on the spine label.

Our Tour guides

Jennifer Miele, the branch manager, was kind enough to provide a tour for myself and my library staff. We appreciated her taking the time to visit with us in lieu of her very busy schedule. School starts up in Chandler on July 23rd. We also were fortunate enough to meet with Marshall Shore himself, who was there checking on how things were going.

Our library is opening a new branch library that is joint-use. We are not planning to go without Dewey, but many of the concepts this branch is adopting can be used for any library.

The Tour

The first thing we noticed in the tour was how open the library was. The Perry branch has the exact layout of the Basha Branch of the Chandler Public Library System.

First impression

When you first walk in(left picture is straight ahead, the right picture show part of the children's section)

Service Spaces
Five 3M self-check stations, the service desk sits equidistant from the public entrance and the school entrance, near the school entrance sits a row of 40 computers for access)

(the far left picture shows how open the section is, most of the shelving is on wheels, the top row of all shelves have books that face out, all the DVDs face out)

The shelves state the Book Industry subject on the side, my understanding is that the signs will be on the top of each shelf. You can see the big FICTION sign all the way across the building.

You can see from one end of the library to the other from any part of the library. Center picture shows children's section and 100 person community room through the double doors. Self-check units being used on the right.

Cool Tech Toys

A tablet PC provided by Polaris. It's called the inventory manager and has the full Polaris ILS on it. You can check-out, check-in, and check inventory. The far right picture shows the self-check-in station, again a 3m product. Set-back here is that you can only return one book at a time. The book is placed on the conveyer belt, checked-in, and pushed to the "Willy Wonka" machine.

A table displays best-sellers and new books. A plasma tv screen displays library news and program updates.

On the left, the periodical room with four study rooms on the far left. They won't have many periodicals until January because Ebsco only cycles the magazines January to December. New subscriptions are not sent out until January. The middle pictures shows the large bank of computers. The far right shows the service desk. (almost hidden)

The Teen room, six computers, comfy chairs, and a very cool (but didn't appear to be too functional) bookshelf.

How books are shelved

This is the fun part. All the spine labels for non-fiction only indicate the subject area that they go in. So if it is a Psychology book, the spine says Psychology. The books are then shelved by title order. So a page would take the book, go to the psychology section and shelve the book where the title is.
The money shot

(if you want to see all of the pictures, click here)
Analysis: What works and doesn't work for this system

What works

The 50 subject headings work for a small popular collection library. The Perry library houses 27,000 items and their capacity is 30,000. Therefore, they are not planning to get any bigger. Furthermore, the non-fiction collection is also relatively small. As Marshall Shore states in his interview, on a small scale this works, for a bigger collection, it requires more fine tuning. That fine tuning would be housed in the many sub-genres provided by the BISAC (as stated there are about 100 for each category, leaving a possible 5,000 possible categories). The emphasis at this library was to keep the big 50 and to not touch it. I can tell from the tour that many of the librarians were itching to sub-genre, but were instructed not to. This is a smart move as I think the patron reaction to it is very critical to the success of this plan. The point of it is to make it intuitive, History is History not 979, no system is required of patrons. The best line during our visit came from a grandmother there with her grandson:

Grandmother: "What's Dewey?"

Staff Member: "It is the category system most libraries use to organize their books."

Grandmother (looking puzzled): "Oh, why do they do that?"

For a patron, they just want to find a book, in a small collection, the 50 subject headings work. However, if you need the exact book, you need to know the title to find it. In the back room, there is a possible lightening of the load as the dewey decimal number is removed, instead, the book industry decides where it goes and it is displayed on the spine label and in the MARC record. MARC accuracy needs to be maintained, but with bigger subject headings, less definition is required. The bigger the collection, the more sub-genres, the more complicated things become.

What doesn't work

Some set-backs would be the collection size. For a smaller collection, 50 subject headings work, but a library would have to break it down if they decided to change course and provide a strength in a particular collection, or if they became bigger.

For instance, if I wanted to find the book The Civil War by Geffrey C. Ward I would look in History and look for titles beginning with C. What if I wanted to find all the books on the Civil War library had? I would have to go over to the catalog, search for Civil War books, then scan the entire History section to find three or four books. If I wanted Civil War books in a Dewey Library, I could find all of them in 973.7. If I wanted to find them in a BISAC library, I would go over to history then search by title.

By contrast, Brady's Civil War , A new birth of freedom : Abraham Lincoln and the coming of the Civil War, The whirlwind of war : voices of the storm, 1861-1865, and April 1865 : the month that saved America, would all be in 973.7, the same section. In a BISAC library, I would have to walk over the entire length of the section to retrieve the books. Furthermore, serendipity is lost since the same books are not in the same section. This patron may not find Lincoln's men : how President Lincoln became father to an army and a nation, when looking for the books. In a dewey library, they would see it right away.

However, a patron who doesn't know Dewey, wouldn't be able to find the dewey section. They would have to learn the system first, then they could go right over. Often I will take a patron to a section of Dewey if they are looking for books in general on the topic to the section since I know Dewey.

Furthermore, if the BISAC library had that section sub-genred, they would find Civil War books in the Civil War section. I don't know a bookstore that doesn't have it sub-genred. So a BISAC library would have to unfurl the sub-genred section after a certain threshold. How many books are too many to scan in one section? That is what Perry Library will find out.


Guy Gadbois said...

Thanks for the detailed review!

Anonymous said...

Wow, the Dewey system is so hard to understand! I'm glad they got rid of it at this library. Now if only they could do the same for other confusing methods of organization like numbered streets and addresses. I suggest we just put houses into special categories; it'd be so easier to find places. When someone tells me to go to 10th street, I can never find it. It would be more convenient to put all the red houses on one block and all those with garages on another.

This is just a case of someone re-inventing the wheel. If people are too lazy to overcome their ignorance to understanding a simple and convenient metric system like Dewey, they don't deserve to even be in a library.

Anonymous said...

i'd have to agree there.

Anonymous said...

You know, I don't need to know or understand the nuances of the structure behind my accountant's business and I'd be bored if he tried to tell me. I just want him to get me the best tax return.
Most librarians and cataloguers love Dewey. To the general public, it's a jumble of numbers. Our library now shelves by genre (not 50!!) and uses Dewey within the genre and our non fiction loans have skyrocketed. People looking for ideas for their garden didn't know to go to 1. plants, then 2. gardens, then 3. design, then 4. architecture.
Now they know to go to "home and garden" and..it's all there!!