Reader's Exchange

What would Ranganathan do?

This week, two activities necessitated caution on my part.  The first, easier one, stems from the fact that we're still applying RFID tags to nonfiction books.  Some are weighty reference volumes; my goal is to avoid slinging them on and off the high shelves too quickly so they don't clonk one of our gracious volunteers on the noggin.

The second issue is more intricate and involves Ben Bova's new book, The Hittite.  Do we shelve it in the fiction section or the science fiction area?

Bova cover artSounds like an easy question, right?  Bova, a prolific author of science fiction, has attracted many fans who will probably expect to find the newest Bova (once it's off the "New Fiction" display) with his other titles in Science Fiction/Fantasy.

However, The Hittite exhibits more characteristics of fiction.  A retelling of the legend of Troy, it comes across as historical fiction, not science fiction.  A cataloger and I aired the pros and cons of assigning it to SF or Fiction (where it's a better fit, content-wise).  Fiction readers who appreciate Bova's prose might then venture into his SF writing; meanwhile, the library catalog will still direct Bova aficionados to Fiction for this book.  We concurred that Fiction was the way to go.

S. R. Ranganathan's famous Five Laws of Library Science ran, like computer software, in the background of my mental processing throughout this discussion.  Say it with me, librarians!

  • 1. Books are for use.
  • 2. Every reader his (or her) book.
  • 3. Every book its reader.
  • 4. Save the time of the reader.
  • 5. The library is a growing organism.

That is, we try to provide resources (and not just books) in a manner enabling the greatest possible number of users to find and enjoy them. 

Dr. Ranganathan died in 1972.  I bet he would have liked RFID .


Patricia Brauer said:

I tend to agree both as a cataloger and a reader of science fiction who "follows" favorite authors. The new book shelf allows readers who might never have heard of an author to discovery him/her; Ben Bova fans will be on the lookout for anything by him and find him no matter where we locate his titles (it is easier if they are all in one place); the fiction collection as a final resting place for the title removes the ease of finding for the authors fans but allows the title to be discovered by the general fiction reader who may then turn into a fan.

I have one thought on the idea that this story is a retelling of an old classic and it should be in fiction therefore.  There are retelling of classic stories all over the place-- in picure books, juvenile, YA, westerns, romance. Each title has to be evaluated individually and RRPL has professional collection developers and catalogers who know their stuff and their local audience. They do a good job. I've even known books to be relocated because the first decision wasn't necessarily the most optimal. That being said-- there are somethings that just defy classification.

# April 27, 2010 1:17 PM
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