We were intrigued, so we went to our local library to see how it works. The Head of Circulation, Mr. Roy G. Biv, was very willing to meet with us to discuss the changes. "We had so many patrons asking us if we remembered that book with the blue cover," Mr. Biv said. "We realized that maybe we were using the wrong organizing system. If people remember colors best, maybe we should be shelving that way. So, we reshelved the whole fiction collection by color and size."
The result was a major success!
Here's what they learned:
- People are intimidated by the alphabet. They may know the alphabet song, but to single out a specific letter and what order it is in can be overwhelming.
- Making the change to color and size (something everyone can easily spot and understand), has made the library feel more welcoming.
- Browsing by color had a calming effect on patrons, adding a feeling of order to the chaos of so many books to choose from.
- Patrons were more willing to give new books a try because the cover was in their favorite color, hence increasing checkouts.
It did take a while to get librarians on board with the changes, but they were converted when they saw the upsides:
- Technical Services is cataloging materials 20% faster with this simplified process.
- Reference is happy: Patrons are no longer wandering around the library lost and frustrated. The color coding is easy for them to understand, empowering them to be self efficient.
- Displays are now really easy to do. Grabbing one book from each section creates a beautiful rainbow that'll make your patrons smile.
- Since children all know their colors by the age of 3, they were empowered to find a book all on their own.
- YA Literature circulation went up! Teens were super excited about the size groupings. Many reluctant readers began pulling out the small books and found themselves working up to the larger ones.
- Library Pages' efficiency increased 150%. It turns out, shelving by color is so much easier than shelving by call numbers. A misshelved book is easily spotted a mile away.
There were definitely a few challenges to this new system:
- Shelving by size can be tricky. They recommend shelving the oversized books at the bottom to prevent injuries if the books fall over.
- Be prepared for some internal debates about the tricky colors like mauve... Is it purple or pink?
- Patrons who are color blind may find this system difficult.
- And patrons who can't remember what the cover looks like will need to reference the OPAC to find what section it is in. (But the OPAC displays covers, so it is only a minor inconvenience.)
- Mr. Biv does recommend buying every version of the book if they publish different covers. You never know which cover your patrons will be looking for.
"No system is perfect," Mr. Biv conceded, "but this new system has stopped patrons asking us, "Do you know that book with the blue cover?" We do; it is in the blue section."
With the success of the Aesthetics System, Mr. Biv's staff has been motivated to change the nonfiction collection. Stay tuned for our next article titled, "Ditch Dewey, Try Pictographs!"
Happy April Fool's Day!