Monday, September 24, 2012

Library signage

After all of the hoopla about libraries converting to BISAC bookstore categories instead of using the Dewey Decimal System, a trip to Barnes and Noble one day last week made me wonder if it's really the categories that matter, or if it's all about the signage.
Here's some recent signage at Barnes and Noble:

Here's what the library signage in my local library looks like:

Which do you think is understood best by the people who step into those institutions?
I've referred to library cataloging as "the secret language of twins," understood by a small in-crowd and completely unknown to others. This library signage is even worse than that; it's as if the library decided to encrypt its subject access, and won't let the users have the key. There is no copy of DDC in the library for users to consult. (I know this because I looked for it.) You can get to a place on the shelf by doing a search in the catalog, but you can't find out what the numbers mean, and there is no natural language translation given in the library, other than "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction" over the doors to the main shelf areas.

How could this possibly be seen as functional?


Anonymous said...

Burn all the libraries! burn them down to the ground for their ancient arrogant ways!

notl33t said...

secret code?

Karen Coyle said...

notl33t -

1) The Wikipedia list of DDC classes only covers the first 3 (pre-decimal) digits. Further breakdown is not publicly available.
2) Even that information is not shown to library users as they navigate the stacks.

I'd like to be able to walk through the stacks with a device that can read the numbers and tell me what they mean. That would be ideal. But even without that magic, a sign like "European history" would be a lot better than "940".

Suzi W. said...

Tysons-Pimmit library (Fairfax County, VA) at one time (still?) had a loose leaf binder where you could look up things alphabetically. This was before I was a librarian, and I was surprised to see that Dreams could be in two different Dewey areas. I have often thought that it was a great idea and one to replicate, though have never followed through.