My Not So Representative, Representative Book Data

As I began to prepare to catalog my books, I realized that my passions for fiction and fantasy would not be properly represented by the collection of texts that I have present in my college apartment. The biggest problem that I had with this process was that yes, the books that I had most recently used or decided to bring to college with me would be included and are a great representation of class material, course topics, and slight recreational material, the books did not reflect my interests as a reader. I mean this in the sense in which one would take my data to recommend a purchase for me in the future and nine times out of ten, the book recommended would not be one that I would actually like to read. 

Relating this personal experience of mine with book history and it’s processes, I really wondered how accurate some representations were of different book data. I feel like things can be even more easily corrupted by a misrepresentation as it so easily happened to my data.  I have books, they are mine, they are at my residence, they are books that I choose to use; all factual things. But those facts should not infer that those books are books that I find interesting unless specified. This book data process really shows that just because you have a group of facts, doesn’t always make them true together. 

From a general view, I expected the processing of my books to be tedious and very time consuming. Alas, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the process did take a little bit of time but was pretty fluid and did not take as long as I had initially perceived. The most difficult part for me would have been discovering the Dewey decimal number, current/first edition, and also determining what to count as “the final page” when determining page totals. Out of the three,the Dewey decimal number was the most consistent problem. I noticed from my data sheet that the most recent edition, or recently published texts had an easy to find/interpret Dewey decimal number, where as the books that were older or older editions either had a different location for the number or didn’t have one at all. 

From this observation, I  wondered how prevalent the Dewey decimal number was to those other than librarians and who used them in contrast to the role of the Dewey decimal number today and the reader as well as the librarian. From my observations, I would like to assume that the Dewey decimal number plays a larger role in the life of the reader than it did in the past and also that the book publishing process was altered to represent that change by the more unified Dewey decimal number.

In conclusion, I originally approached this assignment with the expectation that it would be about me, and would represent or not represent my tastes as a reader. I did not, however, anticipate that the project would allow me to think more critically about the book data collection process as well as trends and patterns with the Dewey decimal numbers in books. I really have a better grasp of how things sort of work in the coding process and came to the gist that things aren’t always as they seem to be, which isn’t a new topic, but one that I’m able to see better as it has happened to me.

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2 thoughts on “My Not So Representative, Representative Book Data

  1. I also had many problems finding the Dewey decimal and found the same pattern as well. The newer books were much more consistent in where/how the number was listed. As you mention and wonder as well, I’m curious as to how this reflects the importance of the number during different periods of times. Maybe the location is different for different genres, perhaps the information that’s listed (publication date, city, etc) has also become more standardized and/or more important over time. I’m not sure. This assignment has made me much more aware of the information a book provides us with and I find myself asking many more questions.

  2. I like your questions about the inclusion of Dewey Decimal numbers. You’ve made me very curious, too, about how they were introduced to publication information and why there is such inconsistent use of them, while ISBNs (for instance) are widely used. This seems like a good question for a reference librarian!

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