Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Can you tell me where the section is for..."

We get this question often at the InfoHelp desk. People come into the library hoping that we have a layout like a bookshop and there's just this whole shelf full of the books they want to find - conveniently labelled "criminology" or "nursing" or "statistics" or "biographies".

Some people seem really annoyed when we have to ask some questions and look things up in our catalogue, rather than just saying "all of the biographies are located in the south-west corner of the library - right next to the books about World War Two."

This isn't quite the way we're structured, though. Our physical resources are in Dewey Decimal order, which means that, yes, there is an area where you will find a lot of books on the same subject - but it's probably a fairly large area, and you are probably not interested in looking through everything we have there.

That's why we ask you questions at the desk: so we can help you narrow your search to the most useful areas and point out when the books you want might be in more than one place.

Take nursing, for example. If you asked "Where's the nursing section?", we could probably tell you that it's up in 610.73... but there are thousands of books starting in that section. If you were after ethics in nursing, the books you wanted to see wouldn't start until 610.73069, and you would also find useful books in the 300s and the 100s.

So, we ask you: "What is it about nursing that you want to know?" It's not because we want to slow you down - it's because we want to help you spend less time looking at the shelves and more time finding what you need.

So the next time you come into the library and ask us for a "biographies", please understand if we follow that with "what kind of biographies?" It will help us help you.

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