Wednesday, June 3, 2009

CLA Annual Conference Day 3: farewell to Melvil, and hello to furious minute-taking

I'm looking at my notes and thinking, where did this day go? Why is there a mysterious gap in the PM? Oh, right. I was giving my session.

My day started late (thank you, Megan, for being at the Hospitality desk early so I could get that swim in!) and when I arrived, we had an extra volunteer (hooray!) so I quickly dashed off to a session I really wanted to see, "C3: Replacing Dewey for Better Customer Service," with Markham Public Libraries. As it was already in progress, I sat on the floor, bagel with peanut butter, coffee, notebook and pen in hand (bagel fell on dress, because that's what ALWAYS has to happen the day you are presenting). Luckily, I was in excellent company, discovering Darla (from yesterday's session about Halifax Public Libraries) and Lora on either side of me (yay for floor networking!)

So, down with Dewey. I think Debbie was saying (I couldn't see any more than the tops of heads, so forgive me!) that after 120-odd years, we haven't yet managed to educate the public about DDC. For instance, Markham stopped in on a local conference of engineers, and asked them the #s for Canadian history and cookbooks; no one could identify them. Markham decideed they needed to think like a customer, developed a new, bookstore-style category system, and abolished call #s more than 4 digits long (kept Cutters, though). More on the details below, but feedback showed that people thought that the new organisation of the collection (adult non-fic only at first, then juv. non-fic) made browsing easy, made finding items faster, and was well-labelled and intuitive. A 2009 customer service survey compared Thornhill Branch (still Dewey-ing) with Markham Village (C3-ing) and showed that at Thornhill, 87% of people found what they needed, compared to 100% at Markham Village. When asked, "is it easy to find items in the non-fiction collection?" 78% of respondents in Thornhill said yes, compared to 96% of respondents in Markham Village. Pages (for non-librarians suffering through these library-heavy posts, that's what we call staff who shelve the books) stated they were more confident in assisting patrons, observing that they could at least navigate patrons to the right place in non-fic, and then they could get a librarian to assist further.

I think there's a lot to discuss here, about best serving our patrons and about the difference between a public and, say, an academic library. As Pat, a Markham Village circulation supervisor, and Dewey lover ("I dream in Dewey"), put it, "There is no reason for a public library to go to 16 decimal points." Damn straight.

Not convinced? More stats. Most larger public libraries now print up something we mostly call a "pull list" every day (sometimes more than once a day). The pull list is a list of items put on request by patrons, which pages then pull from the shelves to put on hold for them (still with me? Sorry you asked yet?). On average, it took 4.6 minutes in Markham Village for pages to complete searches for pull list items, whereas it took Thorhill pages an average of 16 minutes (if you're a scientist, and really want to know, they ran 4 separate tests and averaged out). In case you're checking, that's a 346% productivity gain. Think what library staff could do with that time! They could tidy and stage the branch before opening, fill displays, .... For shelving items, they also did 4 tests and averaged, but I didn't manage to right down the average before they went to the next slide. Suffice it to say, the first three tests took Thornhill 115, 115, and 85 minutes to complete (time reflects time it takes to shelve an entire sorted book truck), and Markham Village did the same size truck, this time unsorted, in 25, 21, and 15 minutes.

When Markham Village started looking at applying C3 to children's non-fiction, they had some work to do, and also some fabulously helpful changes to make. ALL THE CINDERELLAS ARE TOGETHER. How smart is that? Instead of 398.2, then filed by author. Seriously, people just want Cinderella. Where lots of work came into the equation was with super-specific children's non-fiction titles, such as I want to be a cowboy, or Joey has pink eye (says Lora, "poor Joey!).

Incidentally, they made Joey up, Lora! I could only find this record, which is nevertheless a good example of how item records are different with C3.

My notes abruptly stop there, because I left the session early to check on Hospitality Desk staffing. I remember MPL staff also discussed staff reluctance, Tech Services concerns (they dedicated a team for a few weeks - Lora, do you remember how many weeks - to the project), and that they are discussing copyrighting the C3 categorisation system.

Throughout the presentation, they did little pop quiz questions about Dewey, to see if we knew some of the more complicated numbers. It was rather humbling! One was, I think, something like: 941.0850924. Ya, try it. Not so easy, eh?

I held down the fort at Hospitality for awhile after that session (lots of people wanted to get to The Bay), helped Padma (one of the lovely speaker's for Terri's session, "Bringing Your Library’s “Cool” to the Information Community") find Terri (they had never met. I used Facebook to show Padma a picture of Terri. It was a fun use of Facebook for Reference, sort of. Also, Padma was lovely and charming, and I'm sorry I didn't make it to her session), dashed off to my own session, then lurked in the hallway for awhile being braindead.

My day ended taking the minutes for the CLTA AGM. A representative from ALA, Mary Ghikas, spoke about how Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOLUSA) and the Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA) merged to become an expanded division within ALA, now called the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF). We need to get rid of some acronyms. Lina, you had a good idea for that.... Anyway, CLTA Vice-President Betty Thomas spoke about the financials and plans for 2009, including more outreach, communications and marketing. I knew I had to leave early, so I handed over minute-taking duties, and just as I was trying to slip out unobtrusively, Jan thanked me personally for helping (I also do the CLTALK newsletter), which was very kind and sweet of her, not to mention not necessary! But very much appreciated.

Then I went off into the metro by myself, which fills me with joy to be home and out on my own in my city, and cavorted with friends.

Speaking of cavorting with friends, I am now off to meet a dear friend and her 2-month old daughter, so I will recklessly not proofread this for a third time. Ha!


  1. I believe the tech services had 6 weeks to be ready for the launch! This presentation was fantastic. I had one of those "why haven't we already done this?!" moments that comes with all successful innovations. We all know the power of our displays at this point so why aren't we displaying/merchandising the rest of the collection. Nice to seeing you on the floor and thanks for looking into Joey. Incidentally, the acronym issue and the Dewey dissery seem somehow related now. Hooray for friendly labels!

  2. What? You nevert attended myI was sure I saw you there!
    Terri T