As any librarian knows shelving and organising of books take a large part of the basics of the job and of any library. Over the past few years we’ve been playing around quite a lot with the idea of shelving and ordering and specifically the role this plays alongside non fiction and student searching in a school library. We’ve been quite revolutionary in our designs but the theory we’ve always held to is that any organisation needs to meet the needs of the students in your own school.
In a school the needs of the user are different to that of a public library and I have delved deeper into these ideas in different posts but the main point is that schools should not be tied to a public library model but to reflect the differing needs of their students who all (fundamentally) have the same needs, unlike the users of a public library.
Due to the fact we’ve been looking so much at shelving I’ve started to form lots of different opinions around the idea of shelving. As we all know shelving is only ever truly realiable as soon as the books have been shelved correctly. As the first book gets taken off the shelf the ‘trust’ in the ordering of the shelf becomes questionable as we are not sure if the peruser of the book has placed the book they were looking at in the correct position. This is the reason why shelving forms such a basic practise in any library.
Luckily students don’t read too much into this and are probably not aware of it at all. However it has had me questioning and thinking about how users do access and look for specific content. As mentioned a lot of my research had previously been around non fiction so instead I’ve been thinking recently about fiction.
Libraries, in general, organise fiction via alphabetical order of the authors surname. This makes sense and makes it easy to move from one place to another and still find what you want. However as we have seen with non fiction this isn’t necessarily the easiest or best model. Some schools organise fiction based on genre. This brings about lots of slightly different problems though. What about books that have multiple genres? Do you put it under the main genre or different copies of the same book into the different genre sections?
The way we’ve normally organised our fiction has been through the alphabetical system and then a mixture of smaller collections. So we’ve had separate shelves on award winners, author or series focus, firsts in a series, humour more recently a mindfulness section as well as a lgbt one. This has worked well and as we have such good knowledge of our stock we can highlight to users where exactly books could be even if they may appear under a number of different types. For me such a knowledge of stock in a school library is fundamental. We work so much with it we should know at a drop of a hat where a book could well be.
But all of this organisation still feels a bit 2d to me rather than a higher definition version of what could potentially be possible. As mentioned before we need to reflect our systems dependant on how students want to access it. The question then becomes how do they access other content?
If you take a look at the list of popular content organisers for teens in 2015 it is no surprise to see they are driven almost solely by social media. Facebook takes pole position with teens also heading to Twitter, snapchat and other similar platforms to access information. So if this is the case is there anything in utilising how these work into the organisation of a library?
Obviously there seems to be more likelihood in these being tied closer to the non fiction collection as they are all being used to access information/knowledge than a fiction collection but could there also be something in the way the information is organised within these platforms that might help us?
If you take a look at how Apples App Store or androids Play Store organise their content it gives a little clue into how people and especially teens are searching for content. Within these systems there is a mixture of organisation going on. At the top there is content organised by genre with specific collections cropping up to tie into special events etc. For instance logging in today there is a collection of content related to the earth and conservation. Further down there is content highlighted as being new, then most popular content is drawn out into a collection and finally at the bottom of the page is content that is specific to the user based on previous downloads and search requests.
From the organisation of genre down to most popular these make perfect sense. These are the things that we try to do in our library and I would hope in most libraries. Have these smaller collections highlight things that are popular to other users (peer reccomendations) and topics tied into real life events (popular culture etc but ‘of the moment’ so in the forefront of people’s minds). But it is the final section that I like the most and feel has the most potential.
Content that is specific to the user based on what they have already accessed or searched for. This is exactly how Facebook makes it timeline work and how Twitter has begun to organise content on your feed. Although it is a complicated ever changing algorithm the fundamental is that by looking at the people you are friends with, or follow, it organises the content you see based on how much/often you interact with them. Scores are given to comments on photos/statuses and even how much time you spend looking at someone’s profile and these scores highlight the users you would probably want to see the most of.
So how can we use this and bring it into a library? We couldn’t have a separate shelf for each of our users that changes on a daily basis.
But are there other things we could learn. There are platforms that we can utilise that do emerging similar or at least give us the potential to. For instance MicroLibrarian allows us to set up recommended reading lists for students that they can access through the app. This brings a recommendation to them which could well be based on their interests etc. Although this is a great tool the only downside is that you would have to continually update your list (as facebooks algorithm does) to keep it up to date.
One thing we are currently trying to attempt is to use this idea alongside the things we are already doing to make a more 3dimensional shelving profile for our students. We already have a self developed program that tracks users reading ages, interest ages, genre preferences and many other pieces of data and we are beginning to tie this into our (again self developed) management system where books are put onto the system with fields including as to a band of interest ages, genres and a readability age. We also have it tie into books already issued looking at authors and genres and the readability ages of these books to then automatically select recommendations based on all this criteria ordering the most relevant books at the top. Students can then access these ‘shelves’ through the iPads in the library. By no means is this a scheme of any sorts. Students do not need to read these books however it does introduce them, like the App Store to personalised content for them.
Ideally this would also be linked to the eBook collection where books could be downloaded straight from this recommendation list.
The more you think about the more potential there is to move into a 3 dimensional model for shelving. All it takes is some imagination and the possibilities truly are endless. Instead of just you usual alphabetical ordering system a personalised, individual, ready made shelf for each student could be possible to further advance reading for pleasure beyond the ordinary.