Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lunchtime musings

I'm on my lunch break after two very busy hours at the reference desk... I worked the shift alone because most of my colleagues are away at ALA Midwinter in Seattle. It continues to surprise me when students approach the desk asking where our "fiction section" is, or where we keep books by popular novelists. This morning I helped students find books by Terry Goodkind, Margaret George, Janet Evanovich... and a few more. I'm generally pleased to get these questions, as they let me use my readers' advisory knowledge on the job rather than as the side-thing it normally is.

As it happens, my library does purchase novels for recreational reading, so I was able to help the folks who asked. But apart from our Bestsellers (brand new hardcover fiction) and our Read and Relax collection (new paperbacks), we don't have a "fiction section." All of the other novels are mixed in with other works of literature and shelved by Library of Congress call number in the stacks. However, most academic libraries don't have budget lines for popular fiction (and ours is fairly small), so I'm not sure where this expectation comes from. Do students expect all types of libraries to have the same types of books? I'm honestly curious. When you go to a university library, do you think you'll find a section for popular reading? Would you hope to find one there?

I'm still only 2/3 done with the Rutherfurd, so the mention of Margaret George above is all the historical fiction content this post has for now.


  1. Anonymous2:06 PM

    No, I wouldn't expect to find fiction in a university/college library. That said, I haven't worked in an academic library very recently so I don't know if students expect fiction to be there now (since they have to pay tuition fees). In the past, I have never been asked for the fiction section in an academic context.

  2. Anonymous4:54 PM

    I've been surprised to find how much historical fiction, old and new, that is in the university library I frequent. I've found some old Margaret Campbell Barnes and Hilda Lewis novels there, and they have Margaret George's and Philippa Gregory's novels as well, for instance. They also have some UK editions of books that I don't think have been published here, like the novel about Emma Hamilton (can't remember the name or author). Most of these are up in the P's, not shelved in a popular fiction collection.

  3. Anonymous5:06 PM

    Lol, I'm still surprised I did find Maurice Druon and Alfred Duggan in our university library. But there doesn't seem to be a distinguishable rule what books are bought - fe. they have Cornwell's Arthur books but no Sharpe.

    And they have a lot of Donizetti opera CDS but little Verdi. *shakes head*

  4. I haven't been in a university library in years. But when I was at Auburn University 25 years ago, they did have newer fiction in one room in the basement. Pretty much everything else was LC catalogued, but I loved being able to browse through those stacks of fiction all in one room. As I recall, all the children's fiction was shelved together in one area on the third floor, but I think they were still grouped by LC#.

  5. I'm surprised, I just did a search for Druon and the library has 7 of his. One's in French, and one's in the children's section (we have an education library, but everything there is in Dewey, almost). We have a bunch of Duggan, too. What do you know.

    About Cornwell, we have some Sharpe plus all of the Uhtred series. I think those were bought on my suggestion. :)

  6. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Why of course,Sarah, what a silly question! : ) And by the same token, public libraries are supposed to have all the textbooks that local colleges and universities do as well. Don't mind me, but working in a public library, this is a continual expectation, and makes me wonder if most of the populace really thinks that all libraries are generally the same in terms of what their collections hold. Wonder if any sort of study/survey has ever been done; would be rather revealing I bet. --Mike

  7. Hi Mike, come to think of it, I get asked questions all the time about college textbooks, too. We don't buy them, as a rule, and why would we - not only are they extremely expensive, but they'd get checked out by one person and kept for the whole semester, which wouldn't help the class much. Some schools buy them all and keep them on reserve, but we don't have that kind of money...

    The type of survey you mentioned would be very interesting. This is something a little different, but I did recently answer a survey about recreational reading in academic libraries, done by someone at Indiana, and the resulting article's going to appear in an upcoming issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly.