Small victories, or, classification geekery.

In my workplace, we had some staffing changes due to my manager going on maternity leave and her post being filled by one of my colleagues. This has meant that the role of collections librarian has been vacant for a few weeks and will remain so for the time being until they find a replacement. Whilst I think this was stressful for everyone, I did find it a bit exciting as I saw it as an opportunity to improve my skills by taking on some additional responsibilities outside my usual remit.

The main responsibility I took over, along with my other colleague who is the reader services librarian, is dealing with all our new books when they arrive. We get our books ‘shelf ready’ from our supplier, which means they do most of the processing and add a shelfmark. This means our supplier classifies our books for us. For the most part, checking these is very simply and the majority are correct. However, they don’t always get it quite right. As such, I’ve had to deepen my understanding of our classification scheme, especially as Oxford University operate a ‘local’ policy which means although we use a classification scheme that is internationally used, we make a few alterations to how we file things that might sometimes depart from what Library of Congress would do.

Nerdy as this is, I find it makes me feel like a ‘proper’ librarian when I get to do stuff like this, and my colleague and I often reserve working on this for times when we need a pick me up as we both really enjoy doing it. I think it’s really important in your job to feel like you’re doing something useful, and it’s incredibly rewarding when you realise you ‘get’ something you once found incredibly complex. I shall refer here to a small anecdote about a particular ‘success’ we had with classifying, as even the smallest victories can really alter your mood.

One of the new books that arrived was a collection of Beckett Novellas. The suplier had filed it in the PQ Library of Congress sequence, but we file all our Beckett in PR. We knew to change it to our number for Beckett but we weren’t sure about which cutter we would need to use. Our inkling was to go for .A6 as this refers to selected works, but we weren’t sure so we went out to consult what was already on our shelves. As we expected, most of the Beckett selections used .A6 as the cutter, but we then noticed one which was essentially the same book we were working on, but from a different publisher and the selections were in a different order, filed at .A15. we were pretty sure this was wrong, so we made a note to relabel it then ran it by the collections librarian, now acting as deputy, who confirmed we were indeed correct.

Okay, so that probably isn’t that interesting but for us it was a bit of a high-five moment. It’s nice having your competency validated, and in light of recent goings on in the world, I really needed the boost.


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