Covers and Spines - Valuable Real Estate

I am always bemused (sometimes to the point of tearing out my hair, so that could take me slightly beyond bemusement) by how little regard library and automation planners and apparatchiks give to the amazing real estate we know as book covers and spines. You get a cover and a spine to sell books to kids. It freaks me out to see how much of that libraries can cover to make the book anything from asinine to undecipherable.

Two hilarious and unfortunate barcode placements highlighted recently in Awful Library Books blog here and here are perfect examples of this practice. Automation folks say the barcode MUST go here and chaos and snickers result. Of course the argument also goes that if we put the barcode on the back, we'll lose the back jacket blurb.  I don't display the book backwards, though, so I harumphingly say, let the cover shine.

Full authors names on the spine are another bete noire of mine.  I have heard it blatted about that it helps shelvers by giving them the info they need to shelve correctly. I'll agree (although our college-aged shelvers seem to have no trouble dealing with three letters or less in shelving exactly alphabetically...could have something to do with their excellent predictive skills or more like, their ability to read the author's full name higher up on the spine where the publisher placed it so we could see the author's moniker) somewhat. But really,  kids looking at spine-out books get to see "The Secret"  or "A Series" or "My Friend" without seeing the whole title.  How do they choose?  My favorite spine label cover-up is for a multi-volume fiction series that displays the word "The" for each book - and no, it doesn't include the series volume on the spine label, so every book needs to be pulled out to find the desired title. How very un-fourth law of Ranganathan!

And save yourselves now and don't let me get started on endless dewey numbers in juvenile non-fiction collections.  Come on!  Except for mega - and I mean freakin' - big collections at large urban libraries, why are we extending dewey numbers beyond one decimal for kids?  They come in and want a dinosaur or lion or bug or horse or dog or truck book - and for 98% of the kids it's ANY book on this subject. They don't particularly want a certain NF author just a book on their passion. And they just want to find a book now. Long deweys mean they have to come to us (ah, it's a job security issue, not a cataloging one?) to unlock the mystery of the impossible long number. 

Libraries using a BISAC model or truncating Dewey and replacing the cutter line with a clearer indication of the subject (636.1 HORSE; 796 FOOTBALL or F; 599.7 LION or L) are my BFFs and heroes. And libraries honoring preschoolers by busting out big subject areas in the picture books into more friendly subjects that tots crave (princesses, concepts, "big teeth" dinosaurs, sharks and felines", transportation, celebrations, fairytales) have my undying gratitude and respect.

I say let the book covers and spines shine out.  Let kids find books easily by wise decisions in cataloging, processing and automation issues. Let those books be free!

Image: 'Finally got to make something with this+awesome+vintage+fabric' http://www.flickr.com/photos/63103685@N00/3023635136

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the bar code placement. Put it where it is least intrusive. I'm working on my juvenile non-fiction, grouping like animals together under one whole number (no decimals on the animals---a big work in progress). It's our library and we tailor it to fit our patrons' needs.