Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What's another hat?

Recently I took on the added duties of supply ordering for my entire department, an alleged temporary move due to a staffing change elsewhere that I'm beginning to suspect may turn out to be permanent. This would not be an unwelcome development, as it adds some complexity to my job and allows me to finally attend to the material needs of the Reading Room without jumping through a series of bureaucratic hoops.

For instance, we finally acquired some alphabetical dividers for our 10-Day Hold Shelf, after my having agitated for them since I took on the position a year and a half ago. Granted, it was taking us a while to figure out exactly what we needed, but as I've mentioned previously here it is amazing how little you can take for granted when it comes to a library patron's experience of your space and his/her abilities to navigate it.

Even when something about the library - such as the alphabetical arrangement of our self-service hold shelves - seems completely intuitive, one must always bear in mind that our perceptions of what is clear and what is not have been warped by being in the library for a goodly portion of our waking hours. Habit and intuition are not one and the same, and any organizing principle based on the former is doomed to cause more problems than it addresses.

We've come a long way with our hold shelf system since the Reading Room's inception several years ago, moving from a completely opaque scheme where patrons were arbitrarily assigned shelves (each with its own barcode for charging items out to!) to one where our library users could feel comfortable making sense of without compromising the privacy of our patrons and the anonymity of our books. But inevitably we would find people stymied by the lack of adequate signage on the 10-Day Hold Shelf.

Well now we've invested in some nice double-wide alphabetic dividers that can be seen clear across our cavernous Reading Room, so short of hiring a bunch of helper monkeys to assist our most befuddled patrons I think we've done all we can do. Hmmm. I wonder what billing code I'd use to purchase a helper monkey...

Of course what would be really cool would be to have a hold shelf that worked like the wine rack at Aureole in the Las Vegas hotel resort Mandalay Bay, where "wine angels" in harnesses fly up and down to retrieve bottles of wine from the four-story tall glass and steel structure.

Book angels, anyone?

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