NYPL Reading Room switches from home-grown classification to LC

The New York Times ran an editorial today praising the NYPL Main Reading Room for reclassifying its materials from the Billings system (created by a former director) to Library of Congress classification. There is a fair bit of musing about library classification, not something you normally see on the newspaper editorial page.


I'd like to see an article about replacing the LCSH with user-supplied tags just to see the reaction of the grey-hairs.(sputtering) "Bbbbbbut, what about those patrons who neeeeeeeeeeeeed subject headings and are commmmmmmmmmmmfortable with them?!?!??!?!???!!"Yes, well all the users who are you are SOL.Hatred of the LCSH.

I used to work with a woman who was so wedded to the idea of SHs and formal thesauri you couldn't separate them with a 2X4.If we were looking to buy a database that had no controlled vocabulary or no search function for the SH scheme she would say "Well, I think some of our patrons really like them and we should ... " which is the equivalent of asking your doctor questions about "your friend's" venerial disease. To wit, a massive, flaming, obvious pulsating lie.She would also champion the prominent placement of things like ISBN searches and subject searches on the front page of the OPAC. Cuz that's what the younguns are clamoring for.You just wanted to hit her with a chair.

I accidentally ate your post while trying to moderate it up. Sorry, about that. Could you repost it?

Heh, looks like you had a design problem then!I can't remember everything I said, but here's a condensed version of it...The LCCN and even the DDCS is great for us professionals. Librarians make a big deal about how they can catalog and pigeonhole everything. And if we, as professionals, were doing these things simply for other professionals that behavior would be fine. But we don't. We do these things, supposedly, for our patrons. Librarians have long held a philosophy of "let me show you how to find things for yourself."Now think about that. Think really hard. Say you go to a Home Depot and you need home networking equipment. You walk up to a orange apron and ask, "Where's the home networking stuff?" and they reply "Let me show you how to find that for yourself." Really, what would you do? I think most people would be confused at best and pissed off at the worst. Many will think things like, "Well screw this. Next time I'll go to Lowe's. At least when I ask for something there, they just tell me where it is."User applied tags make plenty of sense and I'd love to see them placed in the library, even as a feature in an OPAC. We slap cryptic cataloging information on everything and then we expect everyone else to learn it. Folks that's like expecting your customers to learn the layout of your store so you don't have to waste your supposedly precious time showing them where things are. Say a patron comes in looking for an astronomy book. They've not been in a library in some time and they're just a little intimidated by the place. They inquire as to where the astronomy books are and we, rather proudly, proclaim they're in the 520s with the other astronomy books. Or worse yet, they're over in the QB44.3.S34 section. Meanwhile the patron wonders why they aren't kept under A for Astronomy. Some patrons will understand the concept behind Dewey, most couldn't care less about LCCN.Our cataloging systems barely makes sense to us sometimes, and yet we expect patrons to learn it or at least pick up some kind of reference card which still doesn't tell them where anything is. But with some simple user applied tags, someone can find a copy of A Brief History of Time because they did a search for a book about physics written by a scientist confined to a wheelchair who speaks with a computer voice. Librarians would only catalog the title, author, and subject info. Meanwhile, the patron who knew little about the book except that it was written by some scientist in a wheelchair who uses a computer to speak could still find it, even though librarians would never catalog that information.If it's our mission to help people find information, then why not allow those who've already found it the ability to draw a map? That way, those who have been there can lead the way.

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