AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
This article is an attempt to develop Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology into an analytical tool for examining tire relationships between the height of the bookshelves and the behavior of library readers in utilizing books within a library. The tool would contain a database to store book-use information and some GIS maps to represent bookshelves. Upon analyzing the data stored in the database, different frequencies of book use across bookshelf layers are displayed on the maps. The tool would provide a wonderful means of visualization through which analysts can quickly realize the spatial distribution of books used in a library. This article reveals that readers tend to pull books out of the bookshelf layers that are easily reachable by human eyes and hands, and thus opens some issues for librarians to reconsider the management of library collections.
Several years ago, when working as a library assistant reshelving books in a university library, the author noted that the majority of books used inside the library were from the mid-range layers of bookshelves. That is, by proportion, few books pulled out by library readers were from the top or bottom layers. Books on the layers that were easily reachable by readers were frequently utilized. Such a book-use distribution pattern made the job of reshelving books easy, but created some inquiries: how could book locations influence the choices of readers in selecting books? If this was not an isolated observation, it must have exposed an interesting phenomenon that librarians needed to pay attention to. Then, by finding out the reasons, librarians might become capable of guiding, to some extent, users' selectiveness on library books by deliberately arranging collections at designated heights on bookshelves.
A research study was designed to develop Geographical Information Systems (GIS) into an analytical tool to examine former casual observations by the author. The study was conducted in the MacKimmie Library at the University of Calgary. This paper highlights the results of the study that aimed at assessing the behavior of library readers in pulling out books from bookshelves. These books, when not checked out, are categorized as "pickup books" because they are usually discarded inside a library after use and then picked up by library assistants for reshelving. Like many other libraries, the MacKimmie Library does not encourage readers to reshelve books themselves.
ArcView, a GIS software, was selected to develop the tool for this study because GIS has the functions of dynamically analyzing and displaying spatial data. The research on library readers pulling out books involves the measurements of bookshelf heights, and thus deals with spatial coordinates. With the capability of presenting bookshelves in different views on maps, GIS is able to provide readers with an easy understanding of the analytical results in visual forms, which make any textual descriptions wordy. At the same time, some GIS products are available now in most academic libraries, thus giving developers convenient access to use.
When library users decide to check books out of a library, these books are what they think of as useful. People are usually hesitant to carry home books that are of little or uncertain use, not only because of the limit on the number of check-out books, but also because of the physical work required for carrying them. Moreover, some items, such as periodicals and multimedia materials, are either designated as "reference only" or have a very short loan period. It is reasonable to believe that users carefully select what they want from library collections and keep these books for handy use outside the library.
By contrast, in-library book use represents a different category of library readers' behavior. There are two general categories of in-library book use: readers bringing their own books into a library for use, and readers pulling out books from bookshelves inside a library. The former is commonly seen when students study textbooks for examinations (not the topic of this study), while the latter is a little more complex. (1)
As library users approach bookshelves to extract books, they may or may not have a definite target. When coming with call numbers, people will deliberately draw the books they want for reading, photocopying, or referencing. However, there are times when users only wander in bookshelf aisles of desired collections, uncertain about singling out specific books. They …