My wife tells me lots of stories of patrons at the public library. Many of which do not surprise me in the least given the number of librarians I’ve spoken to over the years any my own experience at a public library reference desk. Most of these stories I also don’t share as that’s not really something that fits into this blog. However, last night she shared this one that just got me thinking.
Patrons (mostly “older” according to her) are coming in ask asking “Where’s your browse shelf?” At first the staff just couldn’t figure out what the patrons were asking for. The new books display maybe? When asked to clarify what they were looking for the patrons would say “The web site told me the book was on the “browse shelf”.
Here’s what’s happening: recently the library upgraded to a consortial catalog using Koha. One of the features of Koha is the ability to “browse” the shelf that the book is on to see what books would be shelved around it. I asked my wife if it was mostly for fiction that this was happening and she said yes so I looked up a fiction title to see what the patrons see:
Check out the call number field. In this case the call number is “McCammon” as the book is fiction and then there’s the link that activates the “browse shelf” display. The patrons are reading it as the call number is “McCammon” which is kept on the “browse shelf”. (Non-fiction titles display a more “traditional/recognizable” call number which doesn’t seem to make them think the item is stored on the “browse shelf”.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that the library or even Koha got something wrong per se, but something isn’t right if patrons aren’t understanding what’s being displayed for them. My current theory is that is “browse shelf” was rephrased as “browse the shelf” the problem would be, if not eliminated, at least significantly reduced. What do you think?