I’ll start with the ugly. This one gives my collection manager’s heart the flutters, and not in the good way. Even if the user could identify those volumes (with their call numbers pointing up, above eye level), how are they going to get them off the shelf?!
Now the bad. This isn’t good, but it doesn’t make me cry like those other shelves do. Sad books, unable to stand up, bindings getting damaged.
Here’s the good, just a few shelves off. See how much nicer that is? All the books upright, standing tall, spines and call numbers readable, easily accessible?
So what did we do? A small thing, really. We created an oversize collection for big, tall, heavy books. It’s still in progress, but it’s looking like this:
We talked about this project for a long time. Our stacks managers wanted to do it for purely workload/workflow reasons — it’s terrifyingly hard to shift a collection when the books don’t actually fit on the shelves, and the shelves are sized differently from stack to stack, range to range. No matter how much we sympathized with their plight, though, we’d never had an oversize collection at MPOW before, and creating a new fragmentary collection was a struggle for us, philosophically. We have a strong tradition — backed up by student feedback — of facilitating browsing throughout the collection, and we’ve resisted fragmenting the collection in order to preserve browseability. We debated ’round and ’round. Do our concerns about appropriate management of the collection trump our thoughts on user needs? Are users better served by one continuous call number run? Are they better served by materials that are more easily accessed because they’re housed appropriately? What’s the best thing to do in our library, with our users, our collections, our physical spaces?
In the end our communal opinions on how to balance the needs of the user with the needs of the collection led to the oversize collection. And I know that I feel confident about it, and am excited to see it finished.
Now, what to do about these?
Listening to: R.E.M. – Leaving New York