6/22/12

What Constitutes Adult? Organizing Libraries the Stupid Way.

"A library's function is to give the public in the quickest and cheapeast way information, inspiration, and recreation. If a better way than the book can be found, we should use it."   
-Melvil Dewey

Libraries in general are "smart" institutions, right? After all, they carry books, which are universally associated with intelligence. In fact, they carry so many books, and so many types of books, that organization becomes a hassle. For non-fiction, Dewey Decimal works fantastically. Unless one is entirely clueless about the system, in which case Dewey seems less about organizing books and more about hiding books from you.

But the system that I have a problem with involves fiction- the separation of "Young Adult" fiction from "Juvenile" and "Adult" fiction, not to mention the "Large Print" fiction that contains books from both YA and Adult fiction yet seems to be part of the YA section, and the "Paperback" section in the Juvenile section which seems to contain J, YA, and Adult fiction, yet there are paperbacks on the normal fiction shelves... It's a mess. 


Disregarding the utterly confusing "Large Print" and "Paperback" sections (how large does the print have to be to be considered Large Print?), we're still left with the three main classes of fiction based on content- J, YA, and Adult. What defines each section? Well, J books have minimal sex, YA books have highly enthusiastic pseudo-sex, and Adult books have normal sex. Is that really all? Okay, perhaps non-sexual books with considerable violence are shelved in YA, along with your "advanced" Hemingway and Bradbury and Dickens. But, it seems that the emotional content of these books aren't taken into consideration, and sometimes, the author's intended audience is ignored. 

I suppose that we are just returning to our root desire- to reproduce. Our curse words are sex or sexual-orientation related. Virginity has been redefined. But should this really affect our claim to intelligence- the written word? Should we be so enamored with attempting to hide the unpleasant truth from young eyes, and then gradually easing youngsters into the experience that we should organize books along the lines of sex? It's bad enough that some YA novels have become almost pornographic. And some Adult novels are pornographic. But should the literate actually succumb to this sexual mania? I mean, an simple act of defiance for all of intelligence would be to organize our libraries in a more logical manner.

So how should libraries actually be organized? It's impossible to set a proper age group for any novel, so we should give up trying. An age-oriented organization leads to some ridiculous situations- Kingsolver's The Bean Trees is shelved in YA, while its sequel, Pigs in Heaven, is shelved in Adult fiction because of some extra sex. Dan Brown's novels- the most  pseudo-intelligent "literature" ever created- are shelved in the Adult section while Hemingway and Dickens can be found in YA. Anyway, it's massively annoying to look for a book in all three fiction sections because you're not sure where it's shelved. 

What I propose (bash it all you want in comments):
-All fiction should be shelved together. This may seem extreme, but this prevents improper age-related shelving. There shouldn't be any silly genre-related shelving either; that historical fiction you're reading could easily be regarded as "adventure" as well. This shelving would allow people to find the book they want without going through all three sections, and potentially never finding it.

-Books should be labeled like blog posts; all of the genres they encompass and the amount of sex should be labeled on the spine. The entire point in the current age-related shelving is to allow certain age groups to find new books that are supposedly suitable for them. Well, since we're shelving everything together, we can no longer do this via shelving, but we can still label individual books based on genre and supposed age-suitability. You know those little "sci-fi" tags and "verse novel" labels on the spines of some books? Yes, I'm talking about extending those to all books.


-Paperback and Large Print should be eliminated. You know, one good thing about libraries is that you can see and even browse the book that you're going to check out. So, you can see how large the print is or whether the book is bound in paper! There's probably reasons why Large Print and Paperback sections exist; please inform me. But for now, I say that such segregation just really sucks.

-Age suitability (and labeling) should be based, yes, on sex, but also on the book's content; books with meaning that cannot easily be deciphered by young readers should be labeled for older youngsters, because reading a book that goes way over your head is sure to discourage further reading.

Personally, I think that this way of organization would make book-searching and just browsing so much easier and more enjoyable. And it would symbolize that literate community's disapproval and nonacceptance of the sex-based society. I see it as a win-win. I'm possibly wrong. What do you think?

*The first long post in a long time; this feels goodKZWGFPZQ235J 

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