Women in the Stacks at SLPL Central

One of the (oh so many) charms about Central Library is the depth and breadth of our collection - we have far more books than we are able to share on the shelving in our public rooms, and many of our older books are stored in the "Stacks," out of public view. For the most part, the books in the nonfiction Stacks are classified in the same manner as the books in the rooms, using the Dewey Decimal Classification System ("DDC") - so at, for example, call number 814.54 you can find the most recent edition of Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider, published earlier this year, in the Entertainment/Literature/Biography room across the Great Hall from Social Sciences at Central, while the copy of the book originally published in 1984 is held in the Stacks (actually, a look at the catalog yields the good new that both copies are checked out, as is the eBook, but the streaming audiobook is available, and highly recommended by this librarian).

Occasionally, however, a visit to the Stacks to fetch a book for a Library visitor will result in a cartoon-style double-take, while I ask myself "what are YOU doing here?" This has happened most frequently when I am visiting the small section of "my" Stacks located on the 3rd floor, where call numbers 370-399 share space with some of the titles from the Fine Arts room (the majority of the Social Sciences Stacks are on 2M, pictured below). While, perhaps, seeking older books on etiquette - maybe a 1940 copy of Emily Post's classic, found at call number 395 - or some folklore at call number 398, my attention is drawn to several shelves full of...women. Lots and lots of women, at call number 396, a number that is not found on the shelves of the Social Sciences room. Each time I run across them I think "huh - I need to learn more about this" and "that has the makings of a cool Women's History Month display." I am pleased to report that this year I both (a) learned more about it and (b) made the display pictured below, which for obvious reasons will be up well outside of March, the month dedicated to Women's History.

I have learned that 396 is one of several "retired" call numbers, set aside in an effort to modernize the Dewey System, which many view (like the man after which it is named) as problematic. 396 was used (until the 17th edition of the DDC came out in 1965) for books on "Women's Position and Treatment," where it was nestled between Etiquette (an appropriately womanly subject) and another retired number: 397 is where you would find books regarding (get this) "Outcast Studies." I am pleased to report that "women" are now, in general, integrated throughout the updated DDC. To cite an example, the 1963 edition of Betty Friedan's classic, The Feminine Mystique (50th Anniversary Edition), resides in the Stacks at 396 (when it is not on display in the Social Sciences Room), whereas later editions are found in the early 300s ("Social Science"): in 1974 it was cataloged at 301.412 (301 = "Sociology and Anthropology" - this and a 1997 edition are also in the Stacks), while the 50th anniversary edition is found at 305.420973 (305 = "Groups of People"). (For the convenience of those reading and cooped up at home, the linked copy is the eBook version available through the Library).

Here I will make a confession that I frequently share in the hopes that it will help others: before I was a librarian with the privilege of working in Central Library and exploring the Stacks, I would sometimes visit Central, look a book up in the catalog, go to where I knew I should find it, and then come up empty and skulk away, not wanting to admit that I didn't know my way around a library. Like many, I missed &/or misunderstood the "Stacks" reference in the catalog record (see right half of photo, above, under "Collection" - the left portion of the photo shows "my" Stacks on 2M, above Computer Commons and visible from the Locust St. atrium). I am now quick to promote what I like to call "treasures from the Stacks" by featuring them in displays, blog posts, and social media, and I am happy to go fetch something for a Library customer (though there is always the risk that I might get distracted and return with the book I went to retrieve in one hand along with an armful of other treasures that caught my eye). As you can see in the pictures of books to the right, above (some of which are classified as "reference" because of their age), and in the image below, there are some fascinating, gorgeous books to be found in the Stacks, whether in outdated call numbers like 396 or elsewhere, and I look forward to returning to Central and continuing to gush about these treasures in person (at whatever distance is determined to be appropriate). Be well, and see you at the Library! 

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