"GILBERT, Ariz. — Trying to build popularity, many public libraries across the country have been looking more like big chain bookstores, offering comfortable easy chairs, coffee bars and displays of the latest best sellers.
But the new library in this growing Phoenix suburb has gone a step further. It is one of the first in the nation to have abandoned the Dewey Decimal System of classifying books, in favor of an approach similar to that at Barnes & Noble, say, where books are shelved in “neighborhoods” based on subject matter.
It was Harry Courtright, director of the 15-branch Maricopa County Library District, who came up with the idea of a Dewey-less library. The plan took root two years ago after annual surveys of the district’s constituency found that most people came to browse, without a specific title in mind.
“The younger generation today is wired differently than people in my generation,” said Mr. Courtright, 69. “What that tells me is we as librarians have to look at how we present materials that we have for them the way they want it.”
So at the 24,000-square-foot Perry Branch, there is not a hint of a card catalog. (Mr. Courtright says most people do not know what the numbers mean anyway.) Visitors may instead search for books using an automated computer system, which classifies them by subject and author. Up to 50 items can be taken out, in a manner similar to self-checkout at a supermarket. And reference materials are just a click away in the computer databases.
Further, though the branch is part of a new high school, the atmosphere is not of a kind generally associated with much research. At its center are not books, or computers, or even a reference desk, but rather a cluster of pastel-colored couches and chairs. And while even chain bookstores still put out classics like “Jane Eyre,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Moby Dick” for summer display, at Perry such books have taken a back seat to Paris Hilton’s “Confessions of an Heiress,” a children’s book by the New York Yankee catcher Jorge Posada and Chris Gardner’s “Pursuit of Happyness.”
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Check out the NY Times article about Arizon's non-dewey library here.
Posted by Nancy Dowd at 8:29 AM