[WEB4LIB] Re: "check shelves"

K.G. Schneider kgs at bluehighways.com
Sun Jul 18 13:45:59 EDT 2004

> The trend of thinking, at least in the three times I've been in
> discussions about an on-stacks status code (present employer excluded),
> is that "Available" makes a promise that the patron will find the item
> on the stacks.  "Check Shelves" is a weaker social contract that the
> patron will likely find the item on the shelves, but we can't promise
> it (it may be on in a reshelving area, on a reading table, misshelved,
> etc.).
> (By the way, my current employer uses the phrase "Not Checked Out",
> which is more of a statement of fact rather than a suggestion as to its
> availability.)

Yes, it was rather a pop-off to bring this up without explaining that I too
have participated in these discussions, of a day, and that the farther I get
from working with ILS's the odder some of these discussions and decisions
seem I understand about the weaker social contract, etc.... been there, done
that, got the t-shirt.

I just feel that "Check Shelves" is more than a tad wishy-washy and (as a
family member said yesterday) very irritating if you're using the catalog
from home, or even quite frankly from inside the library.  I also don't like
using an imperative, at least not with users. I have never been an advocate
of "Available," at least with respect to books, but in many situations when
I'm using an OPAC, "Check Shelves" might as well be "Touch Your Toes and

"Probably available, give 'er a go" is what we really mean, except in those
cases where we mean "Who Knows" or "Not My Problem" or "Dream On." 

I think "Not Checked Out" is truthful, and hedges the bet nicely, without
suggesting too much or bossing around the user with meaningless imperatives
(since we appear to be agreed that we aren't truly able to say if the book
is "available"). 

Karen G. Schneider
kgs at bluehighways.com

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