Posting to Autocat
>Julie Hankinson writes:
>>>Case in point: Books on the environment.
>>>Books on environmental theory are in GC. Books on environmental technology are in TD. Books on global warming are in QC. Books on solar, wind, etc. are in TK. Books on sustainable architecture are in TH. Do you know how confusing this is to patrons?
>Of course this is the nature of an interdisciplinary topic, to be scattered all over the Library.
>Sounds like the time for a pathfinder through the possible LC classes with a few pertinent examples. Unless you want to inspect and reclass everything as received. Sometimes you can do that in a small library.
In my experience, it is far too much to expect people to understand LC classification, and besides, as I tell the students in my information literacy classes, although browsing is a very pleasant activity and it is certainly much productive to spend your time browsing books in a library than it is to go off to a party and do drugs or beer bongs, nevertheless, browsing is one of the worst ways to find information. Ever since the Library at Alexandria, when catalogers saw a single papyrus with a work of Aristotle on politics, a work of Euclid on geometry along with excerpts from the Iliad, there was *no choice* except to create what we now call metadata records and put them into a separate catalog. Those lucky enough to be able to use an ancient library really liked the contents, but they liked the catalogs just as much. Therefore, ever since those ancient times, when someone is interested in, e.g. the writings of Euclid, they really can find them but they *must use* that catalog. The only other option would be to have massive numbers of duplicates shelved all over the place.
Later, in the 19th century when journals really started coming out, individual libraries tried to catalog each article of each journal issue but quickly found themselves overwhelmed. Poole took up the slack and created his index, which was quickly followed by many others. In this way, ever since the mid-19th century, if someone wants to know what articles are in all of the massive numbers of journals in a library collection, they have had to look into these indexes, which may or may not have cumulations. A real pain to be sure, but much better than not having any indexes at all and being forced to browse each issue of each journal on the shelves. People felt lucky to have these tools.
So to me, browsing has always been oversold. When you rely on it, you are guaranteed to miss a huge amount.
This is not to say that there is no purpose to browsing, since it does serve a very important purpose, but I’m not exactly sure in my own mind what that purpose is. To me, it is primarily psychological and is most useful in the beginning phases of research, when you are still figuring out your topic, what you are interested in, and so on. It is the most effective way I know of to just find something I want to read. Somehow, I think the quiet environment of a library; being surrounded by all kinds of mental creativity stored in the books; the tactile experience of touching them, all have a calming influence and can help you think.
In the new information environment, it may become extremely important to try to recreate this kind of environment online, but I wouldn’t have a clue how to do it. How do you create a virtual space on the web that is conducive to calmness and contemplation?
Somehow, Muzak doesn’t seem like part of the solution!