Bryan Adams, more a nightclub in Basingstoke. Anyway, in the past few years, with occasional help, I've converted two-thirds of the remaining books to Dewey. And now exam term is upon us, now the students have descended on the library faster than well-respected actors would back away from offers to star in the 50 Shades film and are showing no signs of leaving without explicitly donut-centred bribery, the project is entering a ten-week cessation. Which makes this a good opportunity to reflect (*eye roll*) on how it's gone so far--or, in other words, to write down what I wish I'd known before I began.
Plan. But ensure the plan has a caveat allowing you to ignore the plan altogether. Wait, no, all except the caveat. Bit meta.
As far as I'm aware, any preparation for the project was limited to "Deweyfy the library, y'all", so playing it by ear has been a theme. With no time frame identifed, nor any decisions made about the order in which subjects would be tackled, the only unspoken rule was to minimise disruption to the students. And by heck have there been times when I wish there'd been A Plan to refer back to. So, for example, I've only recently decided the direction of the new sequence (should we put big numbers at the top or the bottom of the library?), and not only does that feel a bit belated but it's meant that my thought processes have regularly borne too many similarities to the numbers bit on Countdown for my liking.
For the most part, the lack of plan has been vaguely liberating and I don't think it's particularly hindered progress. To get all management-speaky for a sec, it's meant that the project is primarily tactical not strategic; decisions could be made based on what's happening right now rather than some unknown point in the past or future; timely, practical solutions to the unanticipated, unanticipatable, pass-me-the-gins problems I didn't know I'd face could be found and, more to the point, adapted (i.e. ignored or forgotten) when they ceased to be timely or practical. Like what to do with new books: straight to Dewey, or into the old scheme? Like what to do when reclassified books end up in sections that don't exist yet. (Or didn't exist. Honestly, the philosophical dilemmas I've faced.) Yet the more that's in Dewey, the less troublesome these problems, the less frequently they arise. Not having a plan sounds dangerous, but it didn't mean that logic and reason were chucked out the window (though admittedly they've been separated and put in different places). On the other hand, the plan I wish had existed would've allowed for common sense to take over when the tactics needed a shift. Best of all the worlds. See, with the philosophy.
Reclassification is only 10% of reclassification.
The few seconds that's actually reclassification are quite good fun. Relatively speaking. You figure out the new call number, and by figure out, I mean 'copy what another library did', because duplication of effort is bad, right? You can't really avoid occasionally looking at the books, which tends to mean you get to know the stock really well. And this means that, wearing Sensible Hat, you can identify gaps in the collection. Without Sensible Hat, you can pretend to the students that you're made of magic when they ask you questions.
The other 90% is made of Stuff That Will Annoy You. The catalogue record has to be altered which, inevitably, involves noticing how bad the catalogue record is. So you've got to change it/resist the urge to change it/resist the urge to complain on Twitter that the 008 is different from the 260 and they're both wrong. You've got to take off the old labels, which is a challenge in itself, because Past Librarians used glue from the planet Bloody Stubborn and then covered the books in clingfilm's genetically mutated evil cousin. Then there's new labels and all that processing stuff and even with my
You'll need supplies.
I don't just mean a sneaky hipflask in your filing cabinet and an emergency emergency chocolate stash (though, to be clear, I mean this). But I also mean a map of the library, a calculator, and a tape measure. Oh, and a torch, hard hat, spirit level and a couple of rowers. Because reclassification means book moves. And because trying not to cause disruption means getting things back on shelves in their new order faster than you can say Blue Monday it means LOTS of book moves. Pretty much, in fact, all the time.
It's all kinds of book moves, too, from shifting 12,000 books up a bit to squeeze in two shelves of syntactical grammar books, moving 4,000 books down a floor for art and architecture, and edging ten shelves up a bit so the Spanish drama doesn't get out of sequence. I never particularly anticipated that I'd be dealing with the idiosyncrasies of two systems at the same time. So while we used to have a clearly defined Geography section, Dewey sneers in the face of Geography, like a sneery thing. Like Cyril Sneer. And now we don't. We used to put linguistics and languages together. Dewey divided, conquered, and sneered some more, and as a result I moved several thousand books up one floor and the music section got a new home.
Think about the users.
I'm hoping this goes without saying. But I've definitely learned something about how we think about our users and how we communicate changes in the library to them. We can obviously feel pretty sure the change to Dewey is in users' best interests--it's certainly not just for my own amusement--that we know best because we are profeshnuls, the truth is that it ISN'T. It's in the best interests of future students, because they'll have a library where the books on Riemann geometry (or Chaucer, or cell biology, or museum studies) are next to each other rather than all over the show. They'll have a library with a class scheme that's better for serendipitous finding of cool, relevant things, or more consistent with what they'll find elsewhere. To our current users, this is just a bit of a hassle. They don't give two hoots what scheme we use. Maybe it's that micro/macro thing. Being able to justify why we're doing what we're doing, then, is all pretty irrelevant.
Instead, the kind of communication I've found most effective is way more basic. It's the visible, not the philosophical. It's signs. "Yes, I know your geology books were here last week, and now this is economics, but geology is just behind you" (well, this, but pithier). It's being aware of how changes will affect them and being willing to go to the shelves with them and help them get their heads round it. It's about putting off the really disruptive stuff until they've all toddled off on their hols. It's talking to them about it, and listening to what they say.
I'm pretty certain that like, um, snowflakes(?), no two reclassification projects are the same, and it's difficult to assess its impact or advantages because, well, it's not finished yet, and I'm maybe feeling slightly defensive about it because hindsight's still an elusive dream. In the past few years I've got unreasonably cross with glue, and I've stabbed myself with a scalpel at least a dozen times, and I've been covered in dying book more times than I care to remember, and I've learned that Dewey's as far from perfect as Edinburgh is from tropical and balmy, and I've developed an inability to separate my appreciation for ebooks from the fact that they don't have labels. But I've also picked up some completely invaluable knowledge about the library and its collection and, yes, about classification as well. So while I might not be dead keen to do this again, it's not been all bad. And given that it's a reclassification project, that's probably the best you could expect.