Sunday, April 25, 2010

Got My Library Mojo Working

So this is what happened: A patron came into the Library while I was behind the circ desk. She looked at me, smiled and asked “Where do I find books on gardening?” I returned the simile and said “635 non-fiction.” She looked at me and said, “Wow.” I smiled and shrugged my shoulders.

As a librarian I get asked lots of questions about books and authors. Reader recommendation is one of the areas you study when you go to Library School. Graduate level courses on how to tell someone what they might want to read. A fair number of those questions are about how to find a book on a particular subject or genre. Sometimes this requires that I help find a very specific book. And that means a foray into the stacks. Just about every person I know who works in a library loves to do this. Over time you realize that it’s a good idea to know a couple of things prior to beginning the search. Like where the staging area is for the books before they are shelved. And if there is a spot where the newer books are displayed. And it also helps to know that a biography might have “B” or “921” on the spine and in either case the book is probably shelved with the 921s. So you learn the different places to check. Oh yes, and just because it’s a LP book that doesn’t always mean it will end up in the Large Print collection, but that is the first place I’d look.

So how was I able to help the patron with her question about the location of gardening books so quickly?

I like every other librarian I know doesn’t spend their spare time memorizing Dewey Decimal Numbers. Although on the first day of Library School orientation the Dean of the Department did ask my cohort collectively what our favorite Dewey Decimal Number was individually. At the time I didn’t have one. In fact, at the time I couldn’t think of a single Dewey Decimal Number at all. So, I did what any student does: I sunk back into my chair, avoided eye-contact and didn’t raise my hand. I’m sure Dr. Aversa looked directly at me, but mercifully she didn’t ask me to speak. But it’s all good now. Now, I do have a favorite number. In fact, I have two: 641 & 921.

So, how did I know the number for gardening so quickly that morning? Did I have my librarian mojo working overtime that day? Was I in a library groove and knew I could do no wrong? No, it wasn’t either of those things. What happened was that just the day before I had been looking for books on gardening for myself. And I had been glancing through the books while eating breakfast that morning. And I tend to leave my truck keys on the table right next to the library books I check out. So when I grabbed my keys that morning the spine of the gardening books with the 635 had been one of the last things I had seen prior to going to work. The library gods are fickle. Sometimes they smile on you and you’re just happy to be that lucky. Maybe I’ll go buy a lottery ticket.

See you at the Library,


  1. I learned where all the books were and their numbers by shelving. Yes, Joyce Meagher made sure all of us did that job. I too loved to help people find books. Glad you enjoy your job!

  2. My mother earned her MLS degree while I was in middle school. I don't remember much about her being in graduate school except for the fact that she made flash cards to memorize the Dewey Decimal System. And I agree w/you Marilyn, shelving is the best way to learn what is in all the collections.