Saturday, February 25, 2017
What I've learned from ordering: 000s
As I've mentioned, at Small Town Library I order adult nonfiction for the Dewey Decimal 000s, 100s, and 700s. I've already written about what I've learned from ordering self-help and philosophy for the 100s and arts, crafts, and sports for the 700s, but I've been putting off the 000s.
The 000s are a weird area in the library. They, arguably more than any other class, show how dated the Dewey system is (you could make a pretty good argument for the religion or history sections too, though, among other options). Officially, the 000s are "Computer science, information & general works."
For my small public library, that means that 90% of the 000s are computer help books, things like iPhone 6 for Dummies and so forth. Then we have a small number of encyclopedias, books about libraries, and books about the news industry shoved between the computer books and the beginning of the philosophy section.
I started my work on the 000s by weeding very heavily. Computer books go out of date very quickly. One of the most useful pieces of advice I read about collection management was to remember that, although a 5-year-old device or operating system might still be in use, you probably don't need to have a book on it because that technology is not being presented to new users who are unfamiliar with it--if it's still in use, it's by people who have had it for a while.
This gave me a lot of space to order how-to books on the latest devices, and on programming languages. Our programming collection was weak when I arrived and I'd heard from my coworkers that patrons had pointed this out, so that and devices were what I focused on.
I cannot figure out the pattern of the 000s at all. The good news is that most of the things I bought have circulated well, but it's a complete mystery to me why the few that flopped were flops.
For example, here are the items I ordered about using different devices:
Why did the Android phones title circulate more than three times as much as anything else, including a book on the same device but a different brand, and a book on the same operating system but different device? Was it just random chance? Are Android phones really hard to use for some reason? Did some patron evangelize about it to all his friends? I have no idea.
The situation is similar with programming books. The book I bought on Drupal and the one on SQL are just sitting on the shelf, along with the ones on app development, but the two Java books are getting on like a house on fire. And, for some reason, the two books I bought on Photoshop went out a combined 13 times in their first 9 months.
I think the main thing I have learned is that you need time to master the 000s. Because the collection becomes outdated very quickly and thus weeding is heavy, you don’t have a lot of circulation history data to work with. And if you haven’t been weeding, you can’t use the demand for outdated titles to predict demand for current titles on the same subjects. You need time to talk to patrons and learn what they ask for, and time to make some acquisitions and see how well or poorly they do.
The one strong feeling I had about this collection turned out to be right. That was my belief that I should keep the collection to just computer books as much as possible. Anything else that fell into the 000s would not be very discoverable by browsing. The few things I bought that fit that description bore out my worry: Robert’s Rules of Order (which I bought because it is the system that governs our library board’s meetings), and The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market were big shelf-sitters. I can’t do anything for Robert’s, but I think I will try to convince my coworker to adopt the Market into her 800s (Literature and Writing), where I think it will get much more attention.
I also ordered the latest Guinness Book of World Records for the 000s, and it was borrowed immediately and never brought back. I run a report of items that are long overdue every few months, and when this one showed up on my list I ordered a new copy. That experience definitely influenced me to run that report more frequently. Losing the Guinness Book was bad enough (they’re expensive!), but what if it had been some blockbuster fiction title that our library had been missing for two months without me noticing?
Maybe I’ll revisit the 000s in another year and see if I’ve got a better handle on them. In the meantime, if you have any collection management tips, I would love to hear them!