Tag Archives: unshelved

Wait until I tell you about e-books

I love this. Like most Unshelved offerings it gets to the ‘good bits’ of an issue in 3 simple steps.  Do you have to work in libraries to appreciate Unshelved I wonder?

Pushed for time today – this, I am afraid is my post for the day. However, it signals an intention to get back to the subject of e-books. Hopefully during June.


Thinking time

Unshelved 31 January 2012

I love this. I’m lucky enough to be ‘allowed’ to have thinking time at MPOW – it’s part of our job and often leads to new and interesting things. It’s not necessarily sitting-still-thinking, it might be an informal discussion over coffee with a colleague gathering ideas, or reading a blog post, or talking about twitter, or bouncing an idea for a research project.

All of this ‘thinking’ time means I am better prepared when I talk with academics, I know more about library services and options and I’m a more informed library professional. This is good.


How often do we make compromises at work and at home, based on something like this?

Unshelved 17/6/2002

Principles are good and fine and I believe in them – in principle. I try not to squirm too much when I find myself compromising something I hold to be true in principle – because I also don’t believe in setting myself up to fail.

Perhaps flexibility is the word I’m searching for?

Gatekeeper or doorjamb?

There probably isn’t an LIS person out there who doesn’t subscribe to Unshelved.  It’s very public-library skewed but for the most part it picks up on stuff that affects us all in libraryland. It’s clever and oh so cynical – I love it.

Today’s Unshelved really spoke to me. Sometimes I feel like my role here at MPOW is as doorjamb.  That is, I have my metaphorical foot wedged firmly in the ‘door to information’ to stop the students slamming it shut without a second glance.  Much of what I do each day works on the principle of ‘if I build it will they come?’. If the gateway is wedged open, even just a little, I might get a few students who are interested enough to come in and find out what the library is all about (other than repeat borrowing of the text books because they can’t/won’t buy their own).

I am inspired to continue by a series of small victories (remembering we only have 250 students in total), such as:

  • the student who spends the afternoon in here every Thursday studying his business law text so he can use the law dictionary that I bought and put on reference to help him navigate through a complex subject in his third language
  • the two students who come in 2 mornings a week to sit and read the papers for half an hour.  I encourage the students to do as much reading in English as they can so I’m really happy for them to bring coffee in and flick through the papers reading the sports pages.
  • the lecturer who came and asked me for more information about a link I had sent the teaching staff to a business case studies website.  As they never reply when I send stuff out to them I was unsure if any of them ever read any of my emails!
  • the students who take the time and effort to understand (and follow) the very few library rules I have in place
  • the students who have come in to tell me they’ve enjoyed some of the links I put on the library website (that have nothing to do with libraries and everything to do with engaging with students)

So, for those people, the doorjamb is there, firmly wedged in place.  My brief when I started at MPOW was to get more students using the library and it’s services.  I’m getting there.

Doing a spot of gardening

Weeding. It’s a term all library folk know, even if it’s referred to in different organisations by another term. Such as culling. Or disposing. Or deselecting. Or ‘managing the collection’. You get the idea.

For as long as libraries have held books there has been the vexed question of what to do with them as they age, fall out of favour, become politically incorrect or just don’t fit the organisation’s purpose any longer.  Vexed because it seems a waste to get rid of ‘perfectly good books’ but also a waste to keep them on the shelves taking up valuable space year after year and not actually being used.  Of course, libraries now have to deal with this issue across many more media than just books – but it’s specifically the ‘traditional’ and tangible media such as books, DVDs, videos and other physical objects I’m talking about in this post.

The rationale behind the disposal or weeding section in a library’s collection development policy is to ensure the collection remains up to date, current and most importantly, meeting the needs of the library users.

In my prac placement at a NSW TAFE library, one of the projects I was given was to assess the collection in one particular subject area and make some decisions about what to keep and what really had to go and subsequently, recommend any acquisitions to then fill the gaps.  The subject area was childcare, the faculty had recently changed the courses so that some of the material in the library was no longer needed and much of it was potentially out of date.  Budget restraints meant that much of the AV material in this subject area was still on video (and the library provided facilities for students to watch these on site as most people don’t have access to VCR’s at home anymore).  The process of watching bits of these videos, studying the course outlines and recommended reading lists, liaising with faculty and building up a picture of what was contained in the collection was for me, a fascinating process. One 12 video series was packed off to the head of the faculty on campus to determine whether the material was still useable but most of it I was able to make decisions and recommendations on my own.

The issue of censorship and subjectivity comes into this a lot.  Just because the 80’s fashions in a particular video had me and the other staff in gales of laughter doesn’t mean the content isn’t sound.  However, I had to weigh up whether the material would have any credibility with our students, as they have grown up with digital media, good sound and sophisticated techniques.  All the solid content in the world is immaterial if the students dismiss it as old or boring at the opening credits. (One memorable video from the travel industry collection featured mustachioed men in short shorts and long socks playing deck tennis on a cruise liner and rendered the entire library staff helpless with laughter – it was all so very 1980’s!).

Sometimes making a decision about what stays and what goes feels perilously close to deciding who gets to read what, which starts to feel like censorship….  It’s all very well deciding that as a particular book was published in 1980 and has only been borrowed 3 times in the past 10 years that it’s probably no longer relevant to the collection but … what if… ?

This is the point at which it is good to remind oneself of the needs of the actual users of the library:

  • Perhaps that book relates to a subject that is no longer offered by the college? Easy – get rid of it!
  • Perhaps there’s 3 copies of later editions? Sure – toss it out!
  • Perhaps it’s aimed at a university level student and as such, isn’t really what TAFE (in this example) students are looking for? Well… maybe, but what about that one student who does want to go the extra mile – you know, the one who’s doing this course as a pathway to university… can I really deprive them of the chance to use this fabulous, albeit a bit old, resource?

And so the internal struggle starts up again….

There’s not really a straightforward answer. A good Collection Development Policy allows you to select and dispose somewhat dispassionately – after all, you are just following the rules. … I think. At MPOW, the library is on the move in the next 6 weeks or so.  It seems to me that ‘s a good time to do some weeding.

In closing, an excellent example of just what to DO with all those old videos that come off the shelves:


Yes, this is an uninspiring title for a blog post – but let’s face it, shelving is a pretty uninspiring topic.

A few weeks ago there was some discussion on my twitter stream about the use of paper signs in libraries (and probably signage in general as we all know no-one reads them).  I’m here to tell you no-one listens to me talk either! I have talked till I’m blue in the face about returning books to the returns box and asking students (and staff!) to hand books back to me after they’ve used them in the library.  I have put up signs, talked about in on the website, etc etc.  And still, I can’t keep the law books shelves in any sort of order.

Understand, this is a minor irritation here at MPOW as our law book collection is literally only about 50 or so books, but when Unshelved for today came across my desk, I just had to write this quick post.


A light hearted (but library related) post for a Sunday. My daily chuckle comes into my inbox from the team at Unshelved. If you’ve never looked at their cartoons, can I say I consider you are missing out. There is a recurring theme of cynicism that will ring a bell with many of us in libraryland, but essentially it is an irreverant look at the things we probably wish we could say.

Go on, have a giggle.