Thursday, October 12, 2006

Patrons and Library Organization II

Continuing on the theme of library organization, I had a person stop by and ask me, “The dentistry section is on the second floor, right?”

I had to stop him and ask for more information because I wasn’t sure what floor the dentistry books are on and even if I did know, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t find what he wanted by browsing.

He said he was looking for books on “tooth eruption”, specifically the “mechanics of tooth eruption”. I tried a keyword search in the catalogue (suspecting that it wasn’t a MeSH term), but came up with only a conference proceedings from 1976.

He said he could find online information himself, so there was no need to look up journal articles. However, to find which section of the library has books with information on “tooth eruption” I did a search in PubMed and limited it to English and humans. It turned out the subject heading I needed was “orthodontics”. I did a catalogue subject search on orthodontics and found the section he needed to be in to find information on tooth eruption.

Not a terribly complicated bit of searching, but a good reminder of how our users think the library is organized, and the importance of questioning patrons until we have enough information to know what they’re really asking.

I’m not criticizing browsing. At the institution where I worked previously, we had a small, but interesting English language collection. I never bothered with the catalogue, which was clunky, but would often browse the collection because I knew generally where everything was. However, periodically the staff would re-arrange everything and I had to re-program my mental map.


Blogger Chris B. IHSLA President said...

I think that is an example of a great catch. It is also a skill that is difficult to teach -- continuing a conversation to get the needed information --- great job!

1:38 p.m.  

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