Every Book in its Place
You may be surprised to learn that a great deal of work goes into maintaining the neat shelves of books that fill an academic library. Any library with open stacks, that is bookshelves that patrons can freely browse and use without staff mediation, must use a number of processes to keep those books tidy, in order, and ready to use.
One of these processes is “shelf reading”, in which staff members move along the shelves book by book making sure they are in call number order according to the printed labels on their spines. For decades, library staff and student assistants have performed this work manually, using only their eyes and hands to check each call number and move errant books to the correct location.
Now, however, thanks to cloud technology and mobile devices, we have a new tool in our arsenal to make this process easier and more efficient. This tool is Digby, a mobile app that pairs with the library’s central management system. Digby shows the staff member a list of books as they should appear on the shelf, and the user moves along the shelf confirming each book is in order or correcting its location if it’s misshelved. And, because Digby shows us the books’ ideal order, it is easy for us to see if any books are missing or have missing or incorrect catalog records. This additional clean-up was nearly impossible to do in the past when we had to read the shelves manually.
The staff at Myrin Library began a new shelf reading project last summer with Digby at our side and hope to complete it in Summer 2023. In the meantime, if you happen to see a librarian in the stacks staring at a row of books, just know we are hard at work making the library collection more accessible and easier to use.