Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On the Creation of a New Section

It was one of those mornings where the phones were ringing long before the doors were even unlocked for business. I took a call from a young woman seeking a botany reference book. Nothing specific, which means having to physically scan the section, looking for what suited her request (basic, detailed, illustrations would be nice). I find two possibilities, one which seems perfect. I return to the phone, giving the caller a description. She doesn't want me to hold it for her, but will come in looking for it later if she's interested. I go to put the book back on the shelf, only to realize I can't, because the Gardening section is almost completely out of order.

So, I start to re-alphabetize (by author) the whole section.

While doing so, I notice other things - books that are shelved in the wrong section (in General Gardening but are about Landscaping) or perhaps labeled incorrectly (labeled as Vegetable Gardening, but is really more Garden Literature). I also start noticing a trend - one I'd casually noticed before but which had suddenly turned into Red Car Syndrome* - an abundance of books about growing food and raising chickens in urban environs, as well as guides for new homesteaders and memoirs from hobby farmers.

The more I think about this, I start recalling other similar titles I'd seen in other sections of the store, ranging from Memoir to Cooking to Nature. So, I propose to Jason that we merge them all into its own distinct section. We agree that if there's at least a dozen titles, it's probably a good idea.

So, the process begins of gathering up titles that seem to fit in the sort of section that addresses this new(ish) interest in self-sufficiency in small, urban spaces. Before each book can be relabeled, they need a category code, something to help booksellers shelve and then find sought-after books. They're all three letters and start with a letter that usually stands for the overarching subject (F for Fiction, I for Issues, etc.). We decide it should be peripheral to Gardening (G), but what should the other letters be and what should they stand for? We repeatedly brainstorm a few things but Sharon points out that Urban Farming, in Gardening would give us an acronym of GUF, which made Sharon giggle, so we couldn't not go with GUF.

Once that's settled, each book must be logged into the store's inventory database with its new code and then a label printed and put on the back of the book. Then, they are shelved all together in a happy new area all its own. Of course, this entire process takes all day since it's pretty detail-oriented and time-consuming, particularly when its done while also taking time out to help customers, answer phones, wrap books for gifts, etc.

The highlight of it all was when (and I am not making this up) at the end of the day, shortly before we closed, a young man came in and asked, "Where do you keep books on urban farming?" I smiled bigger than he probably expected so it might have seemed a little creepy, and led him to our brand new section.

What titles can you expect to find in GUF? Here's a sampling:

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter
The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen
Urban Homsteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by Rachel Kaplan
The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball
Mini-Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham
Homegrown & Handmade by Deborah Niemann
Your Farm in the City by Lisa Taylor

*Red Car Syndrome: When you own a red car, you notice all the red cars on the road and they seem to be everywhere.

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