Catching the child's eye – Deccan Herald

When I noticed that December 10 is the birthday of Melvil Dewey, who developed the Dewey Decimal System (DDS), the most widely used system of classifying books today, I immediately jumped into this column, to write about arranging books!
My obsession with this topic is new — my co-author Anuradha Jagalur and I ran into several kinds of classification while doing the research for our book Spaceship to the Universe: The Story of Libraries. Along with the DDS, and the Colon Classification System developed by S R Ranganathan, the Father of Library Science in India, we encountered (and wrote about) many unique ways in which libraries catalog books — right from ancient libraries to modern children’s libraries.
When cataloguing and arranging books in children’s libraries, the important thing is that children should easily find the books they are looking for.
Now I’m sure we all have our favourite ways of arranging our books on our little bookshelves. Fiction/nonfiction. By subject/theme/topics. Read/to-be-read. Boring/not boring. Favourite/less favourite/least favourite/give away. Books I own/borrowed books/library books. By language. Alphabetically — by author name, or by title name. By size. By colour — a while ago, there was an Instagram trend of pictures of bookshelves with books arranged by colour. Eye-poppingly beautiful but practical? I doubt it.
When it comes to children’s books, there are other practical considerations. Lower shelves vs upper shelves, for instance. Favourite well-thumbed books in a more accessible place. Heavier books in places where it is easy for kids to slide them in and out without hurting themselves. So much more practical than the boring by author name or title arrangement!
Also, it helps to arrange books with their covers facing out — because, let’s face it, we all, and especially children, judge books by their covers. For this, placing books in bins/tubs work better than placing books on shelves with their spines facing us.
And sorting books by themes is much better than sorting by reading level — this can help the child pick up any book that catches her eye so that she is not confined to the reading level considered suitable for her!
Okay so perhaps we can’t emulate all libraries — a Norwegian children’s library has drones and the Russian State Children’s Library, the largest children’s library in the world, has robots that will guide you to the book you want.
But how about this? In the Garden Library for Refugees in Tel Aviv, Israel — the cataloguing is crowd-sourced. There are coloured stickers available corresponding to different emotions. Children read a book, and depending on how they find it — amusing, boring, exciting and so on, they place a sticker of the corresponding colour on the book, and then it is reshelved according to emotion. So when the next child wants a happy book, they know where to find books that have been rated “happy” by other readers!
My personal bookshelf might still be a confusing jumble, but now I’m always looking for interesting ways in which people arrange their books!
The author has written 12 books for children and can be reached at www.shruthi-rao.com
GobbledyBook is a fortnightly column that gives a peek into the wondrous world of children’s books. Hop on! Or as Alice did, plunge into the rabbit hole.
 
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