How can Dewey help with signage?

I don’t know if some of you have been in a library lately (I know, who am I asking, right?) but have you checked out the signage at the end of the shelving?

Recently, I’ve noticed a practice of doing away with Dewey and opting for something else – NOTHING but a topic name.

I’m not against signage and topics. I think bright, simple, attractive signs should be everywhere – pointing patrons in a variety of directions on topics and themes and information. But why would we get rid of Dewey on the signage? Isn’t it important to know where one subject ends and another begins? What about not having to walk with your head tilted sideways throughout the shelves in order to find a title when a specific number will allow you to locate it immediately?

I find this interesting because so much of the literature indicates that patrons are known item searchers (and many aren’t browsers). Are we trying to make it harder for patrons to find items in an effort to force them to browse, or just trying to make it harder, plain and simple? The need for classification is supported by the number of patrons and staff who insist that the sort by call number feature is essential in the library catalogue for browsing, sorting and finding items – a feature often missed by discovery tools. This leads to the conclusion that call numbers also play an important role in physically locating an item.

When I was at ALA, I attended a breakfast focusing on DDC research and what’s happening with DDC. While there are many exciting things happening with DDC such as the release of DDC 23 in 2011 and WebDewey 2.0 (I am eagerly anticipating this), I was very excited to hear about the partnership between DDC and Patterson Free Public Library in New Jersey. They asked the question, “How can Dewey help with Signage?” Then, they set about finding an answer to this question.

In an effort to make items in the library more findable, and yes, even browseable, they have created signage in multiple languages (Spanish/English or English/French depending on your community) and have added QR codes. These QR codes, if you have a mobile phone, query the library OPAC based on the call numbers for that topic. Users can find related items, browse or find out if the item is even available without the need to physically browse until they realize it isn’t on the shelf or wait for staff assistance. When I heard this, I thought it was an excellent idea! While there are skeptics with respect to new technologies and the amount of patrons who use mobile phones, a new 2010 mobile access report certainly indicates that the need for these types of tools and the implementation of ideas such as this will become more important.

Now, if you have a chance, take a look at the end of your shelves and see what’s there. Is something missing? Can it be enhanced?

Cataloguers are responsible for providing access to our collections, but I’ve never believed that it’s just remote access – shouldn’t we also be collaborating and thinking of ways to improve access within the library?

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2 Comments

Filed under Access Issues, Dewey

2 responses to “How can Dewey help with signage?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention How can Dewey help with signage? « The Cataloguing Librarian -- Topsy.com

  2. Barbar

    I could never understand the trend of using subject signage instead of Dewey. Dewey, IMHO, is so simple to understand and zeroes in on exactly the book you’re looking for. Subject signage A) makes us look like a bookstore, and B) makes us seem rather patronizing, as if we’re “dumbing down” to make it easier for our patrons when after all, we’re just making it harder!

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