Be quarrelsome : play devil’s advocate

QSometimes you need to turn everything you thought was “right” on its head to find the answer. You need to look at the other side of the argument, to ensure that you are actually doing what is best for your customers.

It might feel scary, and it might challenge everything you hold dear to your library, but without actually looking at what we do through another lens, how can you be sure that you are on the best path alongside your customers?

Opportunities are often found in the most unlikely places, and by continually questioning what we do, we open ourselves up to new & exciting possibilities, and we also clarify our purpose.

What if … we invested, promoted, encouraged, published, supported Open Access & Open Source?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we asked refugees to design our new Community Languages space?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we out-sourced our school holiday programmes?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we lowered all the top shelf so that it was accessible by anyone in a wheelchair?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we invited our students to become staff in our libraries?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we reduced our opening hours?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we stopped subscribing to digital products which weren’t user-friendly?

What if … we didn’t?

What if … we aligned everything we do with “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities“? **

What if … we didn’t?

What if … libraries cease to exit tomorrow?

What if … they don’t?

** RD Lankes. 2011. Atlas of New Librarianship MIT Press.
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5 thoughts on “Be quarrelsome : play devil’s advocate

  1. We recently stopped shelving non-fiction by Dewey in one of my libraries and the issues have gone up. Now we’re looking sideways at our fiction, to see if there is a better way of doing things. Thanks for all the thoughts – interesting stuff.

    • I’m really interested to see how the changes in the non-fiction go for your library Cath, I think it is a great initiative, and shows forward-thinking & customer-centric ideas. Browsability & findability & increasing connections between customers & collections – that’s #win #win in my book. I’d be keen to have some conversations about fiction too, as I think there’s so many other ways to make valuable connections for customers, improve reader’s advisory & overall, raise the usability of the fiction collection.

  2. The public library section of Waitakere Central Library lowered their shelves a while ago so that access was better for customers in wheelchairs and for shorter (in stature) customers. The feedback seems to be positive.

    The idea of not shelving non-fiction by Dewey is interesting. I can see it working in a public library where you don’t have a huge non-fiction collection. However, in academic libraries, where 95% of our resources are non-fiction, I think you need some form of numerical ordering system. However, maybe that’s my ‘we’ve always done it that way’ thinking coming into play. It would be interesting to talk to students about what they thought would work.

    • Hi Adrian. Pleased to hear the positive feedback about the shelving changes 😉 I always think that we need to re-evaluate what we’ve done, and try to do things differently if they aren’t working.

      Re: not shelving by non-fiction numerical order. I don’t think it’s a case of not having a numerical system, that can still be used. It’s more a shift in thinking about how we arrange the books on the shelves – co-location of materials. Instead of putting all the books in linear order using whatever system they library is using, it is a case of grouping different sequences together in a more “topical” way. Some public libraries call it a “living room” system.

      My view is that it would be great to talk with customers to find out what would work better for them. Shelving in a strictly linear order works (and libraries have been doing it since … forever), it’s orderly, it’s straightforward, but it may not always be the only option. For example, in some libraries using Library of Congress, the Architecture books might be filed at NA, whereas the Contruction/Engineering books are usually in the T section. What if instead of the students traipsing from Level 2 where the NZ books are, up to say Level six where the T section is, we were able to put those two areas together?

      It’s complicated, and it’s different, and it’s challenging, and it might not actually work, but it is worth exploring. And I definitely think it is worth talking to students + staff (your customer base) & finding out what they think of co-location of collections, instead of traipsing around the library.

  3. It’s similar with healthcare – The main medicine type books are in the 600s, but other books to do with patient care, communication etc. are in the 300s. One issue is how specific would you get? For example, because we teach the bulk of Unitec’s human healthcare courses at the Waitakere Campus library, our 610-618 section goes for about four rows. Way more than a public library.

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