I once worked in a library where, despite a gigantic REFERENCE sign prominently located by the front entrance, patrons were constantly coming to circulation to ask where the reference desk was. Actually, patrons asked us about everything–often without looking at the prominently located floor plan or just about any sign in the building. (“We’re librarians,” my boss once said, with more than a little snark–“We like to put everything on little signs and then complain when no one reads them.”)
I’ve been thinking about signage and organization a lot lately, because my students seem to have a really hard time finding anything in my library. And I don’t just mean the Stephen King novels, which until recently were inexplicably shelved in the periodicals room.
Part of the problem is that I never got the chance to really give library orientations at the beginning of the year, and part of the problem is a funky layout (Stephen wasn’t the only one languishing in the periodicals room) that I haven’t quite gotten around to completely remedying.
But a bigger issue, I think, is the way my students want to find books. They’re browsers, and wanderers, and amblers. They stroll along the fiction shelves, and then end up coming back to the circulation desk and asking, “Do you have any books about…?” Or genre questions (“Where’s the science fiction?”), which are making me seriously reconsider the way our fiction is shelved–alphabetical by author, regardless of genre.
So how do you organize your collection? Are you still using strictly Dewey or LC call numbers, or do you operate more thematically? Do you separate popular genres out from fiction at large? Do you have a distinct location for graphic novels? What about non-fiction graphic titles? Are your shelf labels and signs exasperated-librarian-tiny, or supermarket-aisle-huge?