Friday, January 15, 2010

The public library

As an unemployed person, I spend a lot of time in the library... and as an unemployed librarian, I find the public library in Leiden to be comforting and familiar. It's very clean, well laid out and has a well organized collection. All books are bound in hardcover, all fiction books have fun little stickers indicating their genre.

 At the New York Public Library, we placed genres on separate shelves which would lead to confusion and annoyance with multiple shelf searches. With all fiction together, be it crime, mystery, or "erotiek," browsing is more interesting and you only have to know the alphabet, not the genre of the book that you are searching for.
I like that.

Also, it's comforting to know that the reshelving cart is universally the favorite spot for patron browsing despite being filled with haphazardly arranged books ready to be sorted.

Here's the English language fiction collection:

UNcomfortingly familiar as at the NYPL, different patrons have staked out territory amongst the shelves. The English language collection is often inhabited by a large smelly man who takes off his shoes and dries his overclothes on one heater while sitting in front of the other heater. Ahhh. Just like the New York Public Library! It takes me back to the time when I worked at the reference desk and spent 80% of my time asking people to get dressed, wake up, stop eating cake, and/or stop looking at porn with the sound on.

But enough of that and back to browsing.
I came across this neat idea as originally posted on the excellent blog,
Museum 2.0 and because at least half the people who read my posts are librarians (or relatives) I thought I should share.
How to Design from Virtual Metaphor to Real Experience
highlights the Haarlem Oost project, where the "reshelving cart," which is so universally interesting, was labeled with tags so that patrons could give an opinion while returning a book. The books are placed on open shelves for browsing by other patrons under those tags, such as (I imagine) Awful! or Don't read this crappy book! or Wonderful! or Good to read before bed!
This project ultimately failed,
What could kill an elegant, High Value Participatory Project,
because the staff was not properly trained or involved in the project.
Ahh, now that reminds me again of the NYPL.

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