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A Few Tips for Senator Storm

In libraries, for instance, I advocated for protecting the book budget but advocated against spending to buy television sit-coms, such as Seinfeld. Also, as a long-term strategy, I advocated for abandoning the Dewey Decimal System (DDS) and advocated for a more user-friendly method such as that used by any national book chain. The harsh reality is libraries are experiencing drastic cuts; the DDS is labor intensive in addition to being user-unfriendly, particularly so for literacy-challenged people. Other libraries across the nation have abandoned the DDS, and we should, too.

It seems to bother you that the Tampa Tribune latched on to your comments about libraries, but that’s because you made it so easy to do so.

First, most of us who actually work in this field refer to it as DDC. So if you want to look like you know what you’re talking about — and not as if you just Googled up an acronym from Wikipedia — don’t use “DDS.”

Second, I agree that for some collections of a certain size, there are other methods of organization that can work. But if there is anything that underscores how little you know about library management, it’s that in the middle of a budget crisis, reclassifying an entire library collection might not be an administrator’s first priority — or anywhere on the list. It’s not like you can flip a switch and relabel those books — not just on their spines but in the catalog as well. It’s a daunting task and it sorta explains why Dewey is ingrained in libraries — because libraries like to give people bang for the buck, and that generally means that reclassifying hundreds of thousands of books is right up there with needlepointing covers for the self-check machines.

Think about what you’re saying. Do you really think that when libraries are experiencing blockbuster usage despite severe budget cuts, when the value of libraries has never been clearer, and when library resources — not just books, but computers and people — are stretched to the absolute limit (and then beyond) as we assist the working poor, the unemployed, jobseekers, and the rest of society, you really think it’s a priority to reorganize books?

Why does that remind me of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?

You also don’t get that many if not most libraries buy materials shelf-ready — already classified. That means it doesn’t cost any more to use Dewey than it does to use BISAC headings (used in bookstores) or any other classification system.

I only know of one library that is actively and intentionally using BISAC. It’s a success, but they did it with a brand-new opening-day collection for a small library.

As for wading into what libraries purchase, may I suggest — you being in South Florida and all — you not start with a television series featuring obviously Jewish lead characters? Just a hint.  Also, it’s hard to understand what you do think is worthy for libraries to collect. No sit-coms would mean no television classics such as I Love Lucy.

When it comes to selection decisions, overall, I suggest you not go there. You risk looking dumb.

If you want to come up with good ideas for libraries, here’s an idea: talk to the people who work there. We have a lot of good ideas, not all of them consonant with conventional wisdom. But if you’re looking to target wasteful spending, try to find something less ridiculous than how libraries organize books.

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