That's How the Light Gets In

Shelving Books

Lawrence Memorial LIbrary

I am permitted to be helpful in ninety minute increments at the Lawrence Memorial Library. But just Thursdays. For some reason it was decided that I would begin with the shelving of books, as if the shelving of books might be considered relatively harmless. They didn't even give me an alphabet test. 

If I were the Library Quing (work that out), I would require all volunteers, seasoned book shelvers included, to submit to random alphabet tests. A random alphabet test would go something like this:

Library Quing:    Quick! The letter S! Which letters come before and after in the holy order of the Alphabet?

Helpless Volunteer:    abcdefghijklmnopqrstu... R and T!

Library Quing:    Bzzzzzzz! Too long! Plus I saw your lips moving. Back to the book covering station! You may try again next week.


For what it's worth, I should never be permitted anywhere near the book covering station. Mistakes were made, plus I used seven times the recommended strips of library tape per cover and I have no defense other than I really wanted the bastard to STAY ON THE BOOK. Dammit.

The jacket was on upside down.


So. Shelving it was and without a test of any sort (can she even read?). I arranged all the books according to genre and author which turned out to be a mistake. The only things on the jacket spine, aside from what the publisher intended, are a big capital 'F' for fiction and the first four letters of the author's last name.

All fiction goes together. Yes. Even Mystery.

I'll explain. The Lawrence Memorial Library is very small. See the freestanding shelves labeled 'Fiction' (one has a big clock)? There are two more to the right of the clock and that's that. There is a YA section and the Children's Library is downstairs. There are a number of smaller sections, like New Books, and Other Stuff, but there are only 10,000 books in total. I think that, along with the clock, might be the source of its charm.

It's part of an interlibrary system with six other libraries which makes a huge difference in terms of available stock, but the pure pleasure of shelf perusal is a little limited. We do what we can with what we have. 


As with many libraries across the country (world? yikes!), the Dewey Decimal System has been eliminated with the exception of non-fiction. Can you even begin to imagine the chaos? Example:

Piper, John - Why I Love the Apostle Paul

- stacked to the left of -

Poynter, Dan - The Parachute Manual: A Technical Treatise on the Parachute (I've got a copy around here somewhere)

Sooooo.... easy to start in the 900s and work my way around the Fiction stacks to, 200s, I think. Anyway, it works.

Fiction should work too, especially with limited stacks unless you've curated an alarming number of collections. Louise Penny is a new one on me and she's got, like, a gazillion books in a series that really should be read in order. The titles do not contain numbers. If you're lucky, they're alphabetical, if you're really lucky, they're all in the same place, and if hell just froze over, some idiot sat on the floor and spent twenty minutes organizing them by publication date. If I hadn't been found out, Patterson was next. 

This library has a boat load of very prolific authors. James Patterson, not a personal favorite but somebody around here sure does love the man. Fair enough. However, he and Bill Clinton wrote a book titled Political Tribalism and Advice for Trump. Mr. Clinton's name is listed first. Hard stop. I don't care about Mr. Patterson when shelving books. I care about the C which comes well before P and also, I don't really want this shelved with Patterson's series. 

It's shelved with every other book that happens to have the word Patterson somewhere on the jacket. Under Fiction? Hard to say. This would not have happened (probably) if Mr. Dewey hadn't been archived. 


And you people who don't understand the alphabet? Please stop re-shelving books. Or, if you must, just stand there like the rest of us, muttering abcdefghiJ! It's J! Halleluiah! It's J!


Long Live the Library Quing!

...who forgives us our trespasses, for the most part, and allows us to touch ALL THE BOOKS, no matter where they're shelved.