Why I Google instead of using the library…

The reason why I go online instead of the library...

I found this new library addition, aptly titled “Access Denied“, from the UB Library homepage.

Figuring that it’d be useful for my dissertation, I got the book location by taking down the Library of Congress classification code (Thx to Alex & Bridget, that’s NOT the dewey decimal!), went to bookshelf on 3rd floor, but I ended up not finding it.

Went back to office, got on my Mac, messaged ublibrarian10 on AIM, gave all the details, and the response was to check new additions shelf.

At lunch time, I went down to reference librarian desk, and asked where the new additions shelf was. The shelf was located near the elevator, and after five minutes of perusing the short shelf, I still couldn’t find it.

Throughout this time, the book still showed as available online. How I couldn’t find it, as strategically as I possibly could, showed the downright failure of locating physical objects even in an archival environment.

I think it’s time we built some form of in-building pseudo GPS using the Library of Congress classification system (in place of latitude/longitude co-ordinates) and RFID technology for real-time book location. Gezzz…

UPDATE: Singapore librarian blogger, RamblingLibrarian, shares his thoughts on my story, sharing his thoughts on problem areas as well as strengths of our UB library.

  • http://php-princess.net Daynah

    At least you’re using the library. :) I work at one and I don’t use it as much as I should.

    Your library’s website is nice. I like how they used tables for all the catalog search options. And the new additions with bookjacks… very cool. :)

    Daynahs last blog post..Crazy Mouth Daynah!

  • http://alex.halavais.net Alex H.

    That, sir, is no Dewey Decimal System!

    Arphiding library books is pretty much inevitable. Which means you’ll have to start microwaving your library books (like in Little Brother) or carrying a shielded bag to avoid people tracking your reading habits.

    Alex H.s last blog post..The Omnivore’s 100

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Daynah: Thanks! Despite the perennial problem of locating physical material, I’m proud of our library… the web site is quite accessible especially for international students as this news article explains, as well as how the librarians could be reached via Facebook and over AIM.

    Alex: Ah, it’s actually the Library of Congress Classification System (how silly of me!). I recently wrote about my biometric passport and the recommendation of giving it a cushioned whack of the hammer rather than microwaving, since it would be less damaging. I’m recommending a non-intrusive method, a software-based solution which averages out the LOC classification system over the map of shelves in the library… in essence, to replicate how bookstores like Barnes & Nobles put a red dot on the shelf where you book is suppose to be. Relative accuracy without needing to know classification systems meant typically for experts (i.e. librarians).

  • Heather

    Kevin,
    Does google tell you where the book is? ;) I’ve long dreamed of a homing device for missing books. Back in college, working as a page at UB’s Health Sciences Library, it was frequently my job to find missing books, such as the one you were looking for. Perhaps someone was just using it that day, somewhere in the library?

  • http://alex.halavais.net Alex H.

    Ah, gotcha!

    Actually, that wouldn’t be too hard to do. Lots of libraries already let you see what is nearby on the shelf, though that’s just using the LC. Mapping LC to actual shelf would be doable, though it might be tricky when it comes to acquisitions.

    Really, give it a decade and more US libraries will give up open shelving, and you’ll order the book to your office door, or to the front desk. Backend will be centralized picking facilities.

    Faculty and TAs could already do that when I was at Buffalo, and our distance students get books FedExed to them from the library.

    Alex H.s last blog post..The Omnivore’s 100

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Heather: To some extent, it does better: It either directs me to the book’s site, which often has sample chapters I could use. I can also sometimes locate the journal article which inspires the fuller book. All electronically read.

    Alex: In that case, Amazon should consider being the world’s universal library. ;)

  • http://ramblinglibrarian.blogspot.com Ivan Chew

    Hi Kevin, seems to me in the first instance, the real problem is because the item — being a new arrival — is placed at the New Arrivals shelf rather than where it’s supposed to be.

    If you were looking for this item maybe a month later, you’d probably have found it. Maybe the problem could be avoided if UB’s OPAC shows the item at the New Arrivals shelf (and then update the location once it’s placed at it’s permanent place). Or put a dummy-item at its physical place so inform users that it’s currently placed at New Arrivals.

    In the second instance (where you couldn’t find the New Arrivals shelf), it also seems like the directional signage of the physical library can be improved.

    Ivan Chews last blog post..Author Anita Desai at the National Library

  • Ligaya

    Hi Kevin… Interesting post! As mentioned by one of the other commentators, special locations for items such as new books should be indicated in the OPAC.

    We switched over to a new OPAC a few years ago and have been struggling with customization ever since. I will bring this to the attention of the Web Usability group to see if we can do anything about this.

    Comments such as these about the UB Libraries website and catalog are always welcome btw.

    And as a librarian, the silver lining to this story is you technically *didn’t* use Google to discover a new book–you used our website :)

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Ivan: Thanks for re-blogging your thoughts about it.

    Ligaya: Indeed, there are definitely positives and negatives from this scenario. UB library’s online presence is outstanding from my experience with libraries, but it’s simply the age old problem of locating physical materials that needs to be re-think-ed.