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Without accurate reshelving of resources effective library operation would be impossible for library staff and clients. It is an essential job which is time consuming and which requires motivated staff to be done well. Practical and psychological ways to improve the performance of staff and ease of access by clients are reviewed

Shelving is the `motor' of the library providing a mechanism for the easy retrieval of items. Without accurate shelving, library operations would be tiresome and almost impossible. It is

* an essential job

* time consuming

* sometimes boring to perform

Problems with shelving

The shelving procedures common in today's libraries present problems to library staff and users alike.

Problems faced by library staff

* shelving provides little job satisfaction

* it can be boring

* double runners caused by inaccurate shelving by staff and customers cause frustration

* lack of space on shelves

* can cause muscle fatigue (especially back pain) from lifting, pulling and pushing heavy books and trolleys

* shelving requires extended periods of intense concentration

* difficulty in shelving fiction material by authors entire name with four letter spine labels

* perception of library shelvers as the lowest in the library staff hierarchy

* trolleys that are too big to use effectively in small aisles

* no place to put books that do not fit on shelves

Problems faced by library users

* few places to leave books while looking for others

* crowded aisles

* many have to carry heavy books

* shelves too high or too low for easy use

* difficulty in retrieving books from tightly packed shelves

* can be difficult to browse for new, popular and classic books

Four focus areas for shelving improvement

Shelving time

Shelving speed comes with practice. However there are a few things that could be done to make the life of shelvers easier and improve shelving times.

* reduce trip distance between shelving collection point and the shelves

* improve legibility of book spine labels

* if possible increase the number of books on display to save time finding correct positions on shelf.

* install visual cues to help shelvers remember where in the library particular books and materials belong

* provide more shelving to reduce book congestion

Shelving accuracy

* small breaks for shelving staff after long periods of concentration

* more clearly labeled spines

* consistent placement of spine labels eg bottom of spine and/or bottom left comer of front cover

* better and more regular shelf checking sessions

* `return unwanted books / library materials here' benches so the users do not have to shelve books that they have removed from the shelves, or public education of how to return books to correct place on shelf

Shelving job satisfaction

Poor job satisfaction is a problem for shelving staff. Users often perceive shelving as easy and may be surprised that staff are paid to do it. Another unavoidable problem is that `a shelver's work is never done'. The repetitiveness of shelving also makes it boring. Senior library staff can combat most of these problems psychologically by

* reinforcement of the importance of shelving to shelving staff by senior library staff

* reinforcement of the value of shelvers to the library by senior library staff

* give shelving staff the opportunity to work together to reduce boredom. It is not uncommon for shelving staff to talk to no one for hours while shelving

* play music in the library

* give shelvers the opportunity to play a bigger role in the operation and decision making process of the library. This will let shelving staff know that their input and contribution is valued

* senior library staff to occasionally help with the shelving

Shelving / library ease of use

The ease of use of shelving outcomes for users will improve with better practice from shelving staff. Other ways in which users can more easily retrieve wanted items from the shelves are from the better layout and decoration of the library. An interior designer and an ergonomics expert could provide the best solutions but following are some ideas and relevant points.(*) The quantity of some of the items suggested and the various layouts suggested would need to be suited to each library and its available floor space

* more room between shelves

* more shelves

* clear and uncluttered pedestrian thoroughfares

* visual cues to help users establish a memory trace (remind customers of the location of previously visited areas of the library). This can be done through a number of imaginative ways including colour coding the walls, carpets, shelves, spine labels, ceilings. An example is for the carpet in the adult nonfiction area to be light blue, the carpet in the adult fiction section to be yellow, thoroughfare carpets to be white.

The location of memorable pictures, sculpture and, or, decorations at key points in the library such as at the end of long lines of sight eg at the end of corridors and thoroughfares.

Memory traces can also be enhanced by manipulating any of the other design elements including line, form, texture and even smell. The design would need to be tastefully done so it emphasised the building's purpose, the library image, and was practical

* clear and legible signing

* more permeable shelving (maximum number of entry and exit points) reduces the need for people to squeeze past each other to access different points in the shelves

* maximise the number of books in people's cones of vision. Junior and picture book shelves to be located within children's cones of vision

* no books to located out of the reach of the 5th percentile of women without the inclusion of steps or similar aids

* all spaces to be able to accommodate the turning and movement of wheel chairs

* the overall layout to be clearly understood by visitors

* clearly labeled entry and exit points

* easily removable and/or dismantable shelves and other library furniture to provide robust spaces for irregular activities such children's play areas, space for community meetings or functions, visiting orchestras. The idea is for space to be easily and quickly created to accommodate other functions and users

* the purchase of more user book trolleys, baskets, comfortable seating, desks and movable steps to reach high shelves

* the adoption of some of the methods used in commercial video libraries such as new release, popular and classic sections

(*) Editor's note: An Australian company with considerable library expertise in this area is Movecorp Australia tel(02)92477233 fax(02)92477231

Anthony Power is a casual library assistant at the Nambour branch of the Maroochy Shire Library Service where he has worked since he was seventeen. Anthony has a Bachelor of Built Environment degree, majoring in urban and regional planning, from Queensland University of Technology (QUT). He is presently undertaking a postgraduate diploma in urban and regional planning at QUT. Address: 64 Mapleton Road Nambour Qld 4560 tel/fax(07)54762117
COPYRIGHT 1999 Auslib Press Party Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Author:Power, Anthony
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 1999

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