When Washington Public Library staff move back into the renovated and expanded building once completed, they may consider a new way of organizing the library’s collections.

Library Director Nell Redhage got the idea after attending an American Library Association conference in June in New Orleans, La.

About 23,000 librarians from municipal and academic libraries and 1,500 vendors attended the conference, which offered hundreds of sessions on various library-related topics.

One session Redhage found relevant to Washington’s library was a discussion on rearranging collections “to make them more user-friendly,” she said.

There is currently a trend among libraries to organize materials in similar categories or neighborhoods rather than sorting items by the Dewey Decimal System.

The category or neighborhood organization method, sometimes referred to as “C3 — Customer Centred Classification,” allows libraries to make their collections easier to browse.

“It’s a little like a bookstore feel and it’s more accessible for patrons,” Redhage said, noting that about 60 to 80 percent of library users are browsers.

Redhage said if the Washington library were to implement such a system, it would most likely be a combination of the C3 and Dewey Decimal System.

“If you wanted to find something specific in the catalog, we would still include that Dewey number on that book,” Redhage said.

During the convention, when attendees were asked if the C3 or a similar system was used at their libraries, “half the room raised their hands,” Redhage said. “I didn’t realize so many libraries were already going through it.”

East Central College’s library is using a similar type of classification system.

Where it is being used, the C3 system is mostly used for nonfiction collections.

Fiction would still be shelved by genre at Washington’s library if it switched organization methods, Redhage noted.

Not Uniform

The categories used are not uniform across libraries.

“For instance, you could have a travel/neighborhood category and include not only travel guides and books but also audiovisual items and magazines related to travel,” Redhage said, “and within that neighborhood, you could have subdivided areas of the world and foreign language also could be included.”

Some other possible categories could be health/wellness or family/lifestyle.

Over the next few months, library staff will start brainstorming categories for the Washington library.

Redhage said the library board of trustees was receptive to organizing the collections in a new way.

“It’s an ideal time since we’re going into a new facility and we’re going to have to put (the collections) back on the shelves anyway,” she said.

The new shelves for the library will allow staff flexibility to switch to a new organization system easily since they can adjust the shelves to put books, magazines and audiovisual items in the same area “to accommodate different forms of media,” Redhage noted.