Dividing Categories | Newberry

Dividing Categories

The day is coming, I suppose, when we will simply scan the cover of a book and it will automatically be sorted into categories based on the Library of Congress subject headings. (Between thee and me, if you need a gentle laugh some time, take a look at the Library of Congress subject headings sometimes tucked in on the copyright page of a new book. Checking a book called Chance this week to find out whether it was math, philosophy, or how to (head), I found the only subject heading was “Chance”. On the other hand, I believe I’ve seen a novel assigned to “Private Detectives, Fictional—Female—Duluth, MN—Fiction”. Nothing or a double helping is their rule.)

Until then, we’ll continue to make this up as we go along. On Wednesday, we discussed those customers who would like us to cut back on the number of categories, so they can shop among thirty tables labeled simply “Fiction”.

But because this is a free country, we also get customers who are exasperated by the fact that we do not divide our categories still further. This is not unthinkable. Somewhere in my piles of files is a list of “Categories to Add When We Have 5,000 and More Boxes of Books”. But based on previous comments, these still wouldn’t provide relief for those people who have wanted to shop in

Harmonica Music: I have also been asked where my piccolo music is, and where I keep the ukulele music. It’s, um, all in the Music section, Cranberry Creamhorn. We don’t even separate vocal music from instrumental music. Surely all you want is the melody, anyhow. (I exempt the person who wanted to know where they’d find the sheet music for the version of O Holy Night their mother played on the piano: she wanted a particular accompaniment. She did NOT expect us to have a section called “Music Your Mother Played”, but she WAS a little miffed that we didn’t have Christmas music separated.)

Cheap Books: The number of people who expect us to sort all the books under five dollars to THIS end of the table, and all the books over twenty dollars to THAT end is rather astonishing. I DID like the lady who asked “Is there one place for all the books under two dollars?” and, on being told there was not, sighed, “What a waste of time!”

My Group: We currently have an African-American Studies category, and an American Indian Studies category. There is a Judaica section, and a Women’s Studies section. There is a special place for books on Chicago. This is not enough for the people who have asked for an Armenian Studies section, a category about life in California, and a Latina table. (This lady answered her own question: “Of course, it would be the same three books, over and over.”) I do not include those people who demand, “If you have a Women’s Studies section, where’s the Men’s Studies section?” They have another agenda.

Thrillers: Once upon a time, we were considered rather daring because we took the Horror novels out of Mystery. Since then, however, we have been beset by people who point out that we are committing a grave solecism by putting the likes of Tom Clancy and Lee Child IN. “Those aren’t mysteries; those are just suspense!” Still working on the logic of that. Someone suggested our sign should say “Mystey And Suspense.” “And Thrillers!” someone said, spoiling the fun.

Historical Fiction: People like to believe we have very little to do but sit and read the books before we sort them. What IS historical fiction, anyhow? Is it fiction deliberately set in the past, or would a book written in 1925 about contemporary events count as historical? What about a novel which jumps into the distant past when the Greek gods were deciding what to do with dragons but then jumps into the present for how a humanoid dragon and his human girlfriend deal with this? Since history runs both ways, what about a novel set in the future? And….

I see I am out of space and haven’t begun to deal yet with the people who want a separate table for cat books. They may have something there.

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