Friday, 29 February 2008

On the move

I loathe supermarkets. If at all possible I avoid them - either the nice supermarket delivery man brings things to me, or I survive on whatever my local shop stocks. I particularly hate supermarkets when I visit and find that everything has been moved around and I can't find anything. I trail up and down the aisles getting more and more cross and muttering madly about supermarkets and their nasty habits.

So you may be surprised to find, when you visit the library, that we've moved stuff round. Why do we do that?

Two reasons. The most pressing is that we're trying to fit quart into a pint pot, or almost 6000 books where we used to have under 5000. We've got rid of our current journals display, we've put as many older journals as possible in our store, and the book stock has crept round on to the start of the journals shelves.
It annoys us too - we go running to the shelf where we know a particular book lives, only to find that it is now two shelves up, one shelf down, on the next bay, or - worst of all - has actually moved to the next aisle. The positive side of this is that we really look at the books on the shelves and discover exciting things we had forgotten we had - or some real horrors that are whipped off the shelves to be got rid of.

The second reason is also to do with fit. In the old days there were medical libraries, full of medical books, arranged using the National Library of Medicine (NLM) classification scheme. Its emphasis is on diagnosing and treating the bits of people that go wrong, so books are arranged by bits of people and age group - knees, elbows, abdomens, minds, women's stuff, young people, old people.

As libraries have become multidisciplinary it has become ever harder to squeeze books into the classification scheme. Social issues aren't illnesses, neither are performance management, mentoring, poverty, career development or any of the other topics we now stock. We've outgrown NLM and are moving to the Wessex scheme, which looks rather similar, but has extra bits to accommodate those areas of health that aren't just about fixing the bits of us that go wrong. So some topics will be moving not just from one shelf to another, but right across the library.
The library is small. You're not going to get lost if you decide just to mooch along the shelves looking for what you want. You might even find books you didn't know we had. Use the little yellow tags on the shelves that point to key topics (obesity, poverty, leadership) and the book guide on the end of the bookcases. Or ask the library team - we're here to help.

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