Sunday, December 15, 2013

Football terms for shelving errors

I don't know when it started, using football terms to describe shelving issues. I've been here a long time and these terms were mysteriously in place when I began. Do clerks especially love football? Not that I've noticed. Some care about it, some don't. Football is pretty popular these days so we have a few people who are passionate about a team or play in a fantasy league, but most of us care very little about football, or not at all. Nevertheless all the phraseology we use about shelving errors is developed straight out of football terms. I have been unable to track down the source for this, but when we chatter on about shelving issues we use these terms freely, barely even conscious of their explicit football language.

Anyway, because I so enjoy giving you the inside view of the library life I thought I'd share a taste of our secret language of shelving.

1. Halfback. Means a book shoved half back, making the binding hard to see.

2. Fullback. Means a book shoved all the way back. The binding here will be impossible to see. Just to note, quarterback, as a term, is never used, though technically it's quite common, especially when dealing with unnecessary roughness (see below).

3. Unnecessary roughness. This is a general term for very uneven rows and a general lack of tidying of the rows while shelving.

4. Field Goal. Means a book misshelved in between two identical books.

5. Missed the open man. Means when there is a gap from when a book is removed from its correct location, but the item is reshelved, incorrectly, somewhere else leaving the gap to just sit there.

6. Offsides. This is one of the worst errors in terms of causing problems. It means when a book is shelved in advance of its proper position and a whole new series of shelving starts from that reference point, so, like, "A, B, C, D, E, B, C, D, E, F..."

7. Clipping. This means a book shelved with the bookend nestled into its pages.

Until I started writing these out I didn't realize how many there were. I'm stopping here so as not to bore you, but there are actually plenty more of these football shelving terms that we use! Some get a little technical. These will get you started should you decide to make a career of it.


  1. I've never heard any of these used, though I've seen all of them happen. The Sunday crew where I work, by the way, "read" all of the J Nonfiction shelves this afternoon, since it was a very quiet day. We are quite proud of ourselves.

    1. You are welcome to embrace them and use them, as they are quite descriptive and make all that boring complaining about shelving problems to your co-workers that much more brief, and over with that much quickly.


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