A title meant to be ambiguous, or, Marian’s Curse

Librarians. 90% of the time, when we disclose our profession, the response is, “Oh! So you know the Dewey Decimal System.”

Well, no. Like many librarians, I don’t know the Dewey Decimal System, beyond knowing it places topics into a numerical scheme so that items on similar subjects are in physical proximity to each other. That is what all classification systems do. Or most. Some classify via issuing agency regardless of subject matter (like government documents), or strictly chronologically (item #2 on the shelf was issued/received right after item #1, etc.) There are other schemes. In all cases now, a computer helps us find what we need within them.

What librarians have, outside of some of those who do cataloging full time, is not memorization of the details of a system, but the ability to assess a body of information and figure out how best to help users find the information they need.

If you think that what librarians do is look for books in the stacks, guided by their superior Dewey knowledge, no wonder you think the profession must be dying—another comment heard in the “So you’re a librarian” conversation. If what you think librarians do is select, organize, teach about, and advocate for robust, unfettered, and uncensored access to an ever morphing type and amount of information, then you will understand that they are doing now the same thing they’ve been doing for over a century.

So try THIS system!

I am reading Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, a title I found on a list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. The book is a head trip, and I recommend it if you like incredibly self-referential, Escherian novels–if not, best stay away. Calvino lists (or you list, depending on one’s interpretation) the following sections of a bookstore that he/you visit(s). I am tempted to reorganize my goodreads shelves in this way:
Books You Haven’t Read
Books You Needn’t Read
Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading
Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written
Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered
Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback
Books You Can Borrow From Somebody
Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You’ve Read Them, Too
Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages
Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success
Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment
Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case
Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer
Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves
Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread
Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them

About Verla

Wordfreak. Retired private investigator and Spanish court interpreter. Erstwhile librarian. Texan by birth, cheesehead by upbringing, latina by soul, in New Mexico by choice. Lover of things purple. Passionate participant in the Librivox audiobook recording project. We record books that are in the public domain in the U.S. The recordings are then placed in the public domain themselves.
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