Yesterday was the beginning of a lengthy exercise, where we are re-cataloguing all of the books included in our donations. As always, Precious Blood is our pilot, and the findings about how they prefer to organize the books were fascinating and incredibly logical.
Take the book Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore – the internationally bestselling book on the city. It calls itself a biography. It could obviously also be considered history. Where did the girls want it? Under Religion/Culture. They said that if they were looking to read about Jerusalem, that is where they would look first. This library has to make sense to them, so that is where we place it.
In doing M & E, we are discovering that the girls do not like politics. This is evidenced in the politics section of the library, which save for a few avid readers, is gathering a thin layer of red African dust. Current Affairs however, is popular. And when I point out several books in that section which the girls love, that would also be considered politics, they are nonplussed. It’s the idea of reading politics that is boring to them. So we re-catagorize the books – the politics section is thinned out, as many of the books get new labeling – some go to business (a hugely popular section), others current affairs, others biography.
We also realize we were missing a huge section, even though the books were always there: AFRICA. African writers, African biographies, African History, African current affairs, African business. These books were all included in our donation, but were labelled according to their general subject. But there was a unanimous vote to pull them all together into their own shelves, under the broader headline of Africa. The same sentiment was expressed for the subjects of War, Female leaders, and Success.
A school library must be catered to the students that use it. Our primary purpose is to get the students reading books. How they want to browse the library is their prerogative. If it increases the circulation of the books, it is always the right decision. Working with the students we are setting up a system that is much more intuitive to them and their worldview.