Friday, September 29, 2017

The mysterious problem with shelving

I am not accustomed to airing my petty grievances on this blog. Or, I am not accustomed to doing anything other than airing my petty grievances on this blog. I forget which. I don't know why my staff can't keep me up on this, it's infuriating!

So let's talk about shelving. Shelving is like petty grievances personified. But today's petty grievance is going to be backed up by math, so you're going to love it. After all, aren't you always asking:

"How come more of your blog posts aren't about math?"

You aren't?

I'm pretty sure...

Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Right, so, to the problem:

There are five levels of shelves for our library books. When I shelve, as I did earlier this afternoon, these five are the shelves I shelve onto. But these shelves are not equal. I will rate them for you on a scale of one to ten with ten meaning they are delightful to shelve onto and one meaning they are a hideous torture to shelve onto.

The top shelf is a five. 
Not that nice to shelve on, but tolerable. The problem is that one can't get leverage up there to move the books around and squeeze a new one on. It's all a bit of a strain, especially with larger books. I'm looking at you non-fiction books.

The second to top shelf is a shelf paradise. It is a ten. 
If all shelving were on that level I would never complain about shelving, or drag my feet, or stand up there writing blog posts. I would shelve shelve shelve with a blissful smile on my face and a song in my heart. Well, maybe not always, but certainly like ten percent of the time.

The third shelf is an eight. 
Very nice but a bit below ideal height.

The fourth shelf is a four. 
It is at an awkward height, but with some careful contortions it is possible to shelve on it without back-dangerous bending or squatting.

The fifth shelf doesn't get a number because it is evil. 
It is too evil for a number. It is the proof that there are malignant forces at work in the Universe.

Twenty percent of all books to be shelved should be on that hideous bottom shelf, or probably less because since it's such a miserable, hideous shelf, fewer patrons browse from it and fewer books are checked out from it. That's just pure math.

And so there is no explanation for why 62 percent of all books to be shelved go on that stupid bottom shelf.

What on earth am I supposed to believe about the nature of the universe?


  1. Close to total agreement on the ranking of shelves, though I might be a little easier on the top one.

    In my library visits I try to give a shout-out to those that avoid the bottom shelf altogether--there are some. However, there are others that shelve seven-high, which means it's probably time for some serious weeding. Or perhaps a larger library.

    I'd award a half point to bottom shelves that are tilted so that at least the call numbers can be read without contortions.

    Just for fun, I went to my blog and counted the number of libraries (out of 470) for which I mentioned "bottom shelf": 20. If you have a minute, take a look at what I wrote about the shelves in Escanaba.

  2. Oh, yeah, I might have been a bit hard on that top shelf. I had been shelving some heavy non fic, I'm sure we could add a couple points in fiction.

    Tilted shelves sound like a good idea. I read your escanaba post and some others- really like your blog- so interesting! But I wonder if tilted shelves have a bigger footprint and lessen the number of possible shelves on a floor.

    And even though I dislike many things about shelving, I still think libraries should be crammed with books. Weeding makes me woozy and I don't trust many librarians with it.

  3. I don't believe the tilted bottom shelves have a bigger footprint; the ones I'm thinking of are just like regular shelves, but ... tilted. You might lost an inch or so in height.

    And I agree on weeding. My first job at a library (after-school page when I was in high school) involved weeding. In those days, there were no "friends of the library" booksales. Weeding meant tearing covers off and destroying pages. "We're weeding this, and therefore it must never be read again!" Scarred me for life.


If you were wondering, yes, you should comment. Not only does it remind me that I must write in intelligible English because someone is actually reading what I write, but it is also a pleasure for me since I am interested in anything you have to say.

I respond to pretty much every comment. It's like a free personalized blog post!

One last detail: If you are commenting on a post more than two weeks old I have to go in and approve it. It's sort of a spam protection device. Also, rarely, a comment will go to spam on its own. Give either of those a day or two and your comment will show up on the blog.