Monday, February 2, 2015

Heresy or a Valid Exercise of Discretion?

New Books Shelfie
We got three boxes of new books at the school library today and more are on their way.  I'm so excited.  But the arrival of new books always poses a problem for me.

For younger readers
For older readers
When we order books from our approved vendor for the school library they come "shelf-ready."  That is, they come with bar codes and spine labels with the call number allegedly assigned to our specifications.  But there are always some books that we feel are easy readers that were given the prefix F (fiction) instead of E (easy).  As the "librarian," I feel comfortable changing those.
But what about books that come with a call number that I feel will relegate the book to the status of buried treasure, where no one will find it?  What about the Guiness World Records, which the students LOVE, but will never find under its 031 call number? That one they can at least ask for by name.  But what about a book like Brown Girl Dreaming?  Most of them have never heard of the book or Jacqueline Woodson.  They are certainly not going to ask for it or for books by or about her and will never find it in the biography section, which is how it came coded to us (and how it's shelved at the NYPL). Why isn't it shelved in poetry? Even there, it's unlikely to be found.  Sure, I can promote it, put it on a display, but once it's time to change the display, it disappears again into the recesses of the biography or poetry sections.

What about Brave Girl, which had a call number in the 300s, for labor history?  I changed it to biography, but still... I can't imagine any of our students have heard of Clara Lemlich!

What about this book on women in Congress?  It came to us with a call number of 320.08, which is, by all rights, where it belongs.  But no one - no one - will find it there.  What about the 900s for history?  I haven't decided on this one yet...

And why, why, why did Smile come to us with a call number in the 700s?  This one was an easy call - it will get a G for graphic novel (as it does in the NYPL).

To me, the most important thing is that these books are where students will not just find them if they are looking for them but will come across them as they browse. Those serendipitous discoveries are the best, right? But if no one even browses the shelves housing books in the 0-499 range, hiding under the school library's empty fish tank (long story), no one will ever find them.  And so, throwing caution to the wind, I renumber and reshelve them.

P.S. About this post's title: you can tell I used to be a lawyer, right?

1 comment:

  1. By all means, reshelve. On a related note, I have a problem with the whole formula for "just right books" or leveled books. Kids don't get into books because they're the right level. If kids are compelled, they will read above grade level... and perhaps improve their reading skills. Or sophisticated readers might want to read a rockin' picture book once-in-awhile, or revisit an old favorite. Our jobs as teachers and librarians and bibliophiles is to know our students and their reading tastes and habits, know the books, and guide kids to a good match. Reshelving for that serendipitous find certainly fits this bill.