Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Ministry of Reshelving

I spent some time this morning talking to K. Matthew Dames (executive editor of CopyCense), with whom I'm doing several workshops in 2006, and our conversation transitioned to the future of libraries and then meandered from there. Libraries struggle constantly -- if they are honest -- with what their users will want and will use. What users want and what libraries have traditionally provided can be quite different. We all struggle with how to bridge that gap.

I mentioned this project on the phone this morning and then realized that I had not mentioned it in my blog. Here Jane McGonigal, with some friends, had launched a reshelving project. The idea is to go to a bookstore and reshelve the book 1984 to where you think it belongs. There is a whole methodology outlined in her blog posting (as well as the suggestion of helping bookstore staff members by reshelving out of place materials and placing them in their proper spots).

Librarians and bookstore owners have set ideas -- based on the Library of Congress cataloguing -- of where a book should go, but is that where the reader/user expects to find it? The Ministry of Reshelving is using its efforts to show us that the traditional categories don't fit everyone's ideas.

Dames pointed out this is a version of the tagging that people have been doing with blog postings and other items. In other words, creating their own -- hopefully more useful -- categories.

Rather than being incensed by this effort (which you might be), step back and think about what our users really want. How do they want information categorized? What would make sense to them? What services do they want? How can we get them to use the information that we have?

BTW Dames has a posting that ties into this idea of providing services to attract users entitled "MICs, The Library Mashup, & The Next Level."

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