WHY DO IT?
- Make the library a safe and welcoming place for all students, not just the high end users.
- Make books easy to find, both for research and for pleasure reading.
- Have a more modern system in place than the Dewey Decimal system, which as invented in 1876.
I spent three years building this system from scratch because the other "book store" models that I could find just didn't go far enough - our library is completely integrated and highly intuitive for the students - similar to how they are already searching online at sites like Amazon. Since I never closed the doors to the students, I was able to watch and see how they responded to the changes and keep going according to what I discovered.
The big question that I kept at the front of my mind was "How would the students look for this?" The DDS made the kids go to multiple locations, and frankly, today's consumers are used to everything being in one place and easy to find - not an arbitrary number system. This would explain why despite students being trained by their elementary and middle school librarians in DDS grades K-8, when I get them as 9th graders they still can't tell you what the DDS is or how it works. The numbers simply aren't meaningful. (There is a video under "Monarch Method light" that explains what a "needle in the haystack" approach looking for books under the DDS can be for students.)
Yes, of course they can look them up in the catalog, but that doesn't eliminate the need to go to multiple locations, plus I don't find kids search the catalog - they just want to browse the shelves. Another problem with DDS is that it words fine for the "high end" users (kids who like to read, know author names, will spend time looking for books, etc.), but it is totally frustrating for the other two thirds of your kids who are either indifferent readers or hate to read. DDS discourages kids from browsing, so they have learned to just give up if they don't absolutely need to ask for help. The Monarch Method is different in that we encourage people to browse the shelves and allow them to find things easily and as a result, they end up checking out more books than they anticipated. So, the kid who hasn't been in a library in many years can be as successful as a "high end" user, without asking for help, simply by browsing a section in which they are interested. From a practical standpoint, I am one librarian in a school of more than 1,700 students, so I simply can not provide one-on-one support to every student. The Monarch Method is the closest thing to me being there for every kid, every time.
Finally, my personal belief is that my library is first a safe and welcoming place for the kids - before it is a library or a school - it is a safe and welcoming place. I try to make sure students feel that before they even set foot inside the door. By allowing students to be successful through casual browsing, it's just another way I'm showing that ALL the Monarch students are important, not just the "A" students, and that I, as your school librarian, honestly want you to be in this space and I want to give you the support you need.
REsearch and data
I can see this system really works for the kids because of the qualitative feedback (overwhelming positive and comments like they are confounded that every library isn't set up this way) and the quantitative data:
1. My circulation numbers have actually doubled in four years (while we were making all these changes) which is not typical of most libraries. Also, remember I'm just basing this on the physical books we check out as we don't track the 150 titles on e-books that we have available on Nooks or ipads.
2. Even though we don't have the largest school population, we continue to have the highest checkout rate of the district high schools.
3. From a slightly different perspective: my library usage was more than 65,000 visitors last school year which continues the 10 year trend of usage going up every year since I started as the MHS librarian. The first year I was here, we recorded 23,000 visits and that seemed like a lot. So, even though we've been making these changes, the students still feel like the library is a welcoming place and available place for them.
Looking for a book on the Atomic bomb (keep in mind that all of these are "correct locations" - it depends where the cataloger assigned them):
- American History (WWII)
- World History (WWII)
- Could be anywhere - found alphabetically under author's last name.
You get a complete list of all books that deal with the Atom Bomb and you simply go through them looking for the genre you'd like - e.g. fiction, non-fiction, biographies/memoirs.
People can browse the section they are interested in, and there they will find fiction, non-fiction, biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs all together under that topic. You can tell easily which genre it is by the color of the spine label:
- Fiction - Orange
- Non-Fiction - Clear
- Biography - Dark Blue
- Autobiography / Memoir - Light Blue
The reason we split the biographies by color is that some teachers in my school only want the students reading memoir/autobiographies for certain assignments, not biographies.