Sunday, 17 January 2016

How do you catalogue

a specialist subject?
I am the "librarian" for our Handknitters' Guild. In other words the guild has a collection of books and someone has to look after them. "Cat knows about books," came the cry when the old librarian left.
I agreed because I believe that, if you belong to an organisation, you should contribute.
The books were in a government issue cupboard not intended for books. They were in "sort of alphabetical order". There was a borrowing system by which you wrote your name in a book along with the name of the book you had borrowed. You crossed your name off when you returned the book.
Yes. All highly unsatisfactory.
Things would, I told them, have to change. People looked rather startled. The system worked didn't it? Why change it? 
I asked them whether they could find information? No, not really. It was all right if they knew which book they wanted but not if they wanted "a book about...". 
"Like it is in the library then," someone suggested. I pointed out that wouldn't work either. The DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification) number for knitting is 746.43 and you add more to that as you get more specialised. Specialist libraries need something else.
We would, I told them, use another system. I have used it before. You can use it for any specialist library. It is used for the Toy Libraries. I  used it for a major collection of psychological test material. It's simple. It's easy to use.  People will be able to find things. 
And, while we are at it, there will be a new borrowing system. Books go missing too easily. Most people are honest but there is something about books which causes them to go astray. Particularly if someone has been knitting something from them. 
It has taken a while - mostly because I couldn't always get to meetings last year. A bit more work today and we will have a proper catalogue. 
It works too. At the meeting yesterday someone asked me if we "had any books about..." and I could say "Yes. All the books in this section."
The response was, "Wow!"
She would never have found them in quite the same way when they were scattered in alphabetical order.
It all needs fine tuning. We still have to get the new borrowing system up and running. It will happen.
And then perhaps....if people can find information they will use it?


Judy Edmonds said...

I've catalogued two 'special' libraries in my time (in the dim distant past I was a trained librarian), so I can imagine how you did it. I've also worked in three other special libraries that were already set up and catalogued when I arrived. I hope your members appreciate your work!

catdownunder said...

Thank you Judy - as you know most of them won't. But, I can look at it and know that I can find information and one or two others will appreciate being able to do that.