This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol6", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
In the lending department the system to be adopted, the numerical strength of the staff, and the general arrangement of place require attention, this being the department where the public and the librarians come into direct business relations.
The issuing and receiving of books loaned is effected by different systems, which we may class under the following designations, namely - "Issuing over counter," "Open Access," "Indicator," and " Card Catalogue."
The "Issuing over counter" system may be used in small libraries, or where a great number of assistants are employed. The person requiring a book merely hands over a list to the attendant, who then goes to the shelves and selects the first copy which is not loaned, enters the same in the library book, stamps the date, etc., and delivers to the borrower. This system is being fast superseded by one of the others.
The " Open Access " is that in which the public have access to the book-shelves, and the work of recording the loan is carried out by a librarian seated at a central desk, or by assistants at tables placed conveniently near to the door. This system is largely en vogue in America, as also in some of our leading libraries, and, it is believed, will be soon generally adopted. For this arrangement careful supervision has to be considered, and the librarian's desk so placed that he commands as great a view of the shelves as possible, for which a good plan is that of radiating cases with centre desk, whilst the best arrangement is that of alcoves, in which the shelves are placed against the walls with short projecting cases every 4 or 5 feet apart. The centre of room is devoted to desks, flat tables, etc., an arrangement which is perfect in its control, but is guilty of a great prodigality of space.
The "Indicator" system involves the same method of working as that of " Issuing over counter," with the exception that the Indicator, as the word implies, indicates whether the book required is obtainable or not, so saving the time of the attendant, whilst the system of entry is simpler and more reliable. The indicator itself consists of a light wood-framed glazed case, which stands on the counter (Fig. 115), one or more in number according to the size of library. These cases are so arranged as to leave spaces to form issue desks. The principle is that each book has allotted to it a small tin pan or wood block, with its number painted at both ends. This is done in different colours, generally blue at one end, indicating that the book is in the library, whilst if the other end, coloured red, is exposed on the public side of counter the borrower knows that the book is out on loan. These pans are placed on thin tin shelves which run longitudinally in the indicator case. There are different forms of indicators, which vary in space occupied, the " Cotgreave" taking 15 inches running space per 1000 books, whilst the "Libraco" requires 30 inches per 1000. In the tin pan is a booklet or card which bears the borrower's name, and on it the number of book and date of issue are entered. To show clearly when a book has become overdue a thin slip of tin is placed at one end of pan (Fig. 116), a different colour being used for each week. The counter would be 2 feet 6 inches wide and not more than 2 feet 9 inches high, and is generally fitted with a drawer immediately beneath the counter top with one or.two shelves below. It will be Clearly seen that in a library containing a large number of books the length of counter required to carry these indicators would be considerable. To lessen this it is a general custom to provide indicators for the fiction class only, scientific and other books being obtainable by merely asking for them.
The "Card catalogue" cannot, strictly speaking, be called a system distinctly apart from those before mentioned, as it can be used by itself or in conjunction with the others; but it certainly is most useful in reference libraries, where any persons wishing to find all the different works obtainable on a special subject can easily do so by this means. In an ordinary library worked under the indicator system the card catalogue, apart from other advantages, easily forms the basis for a printed catalogue. Some idea of the importance of the system may be obtained by the fact that this is the special feature of the Concilium Bibliographicum at Zurick, whose aim it is to form a perfect index of all works on scientific subjects, so that where previously a search for such information would occupy weeks, now with these cards a list of the works required would be obtained in a few seconds. This association has a number of regular subscribers, and as new books are published so cards are issued.
The system is very simple, occupies little space, and recent additions can be catalogued without any disturbance to the existing arrangement. It consists of a cabinet containing a number or drawers or card trays, in which are placed cards (one card for each book). Each tray is made to hold 1000 cards, - which are 4 by 2 1/2 inches, - and is fitted with a brass rod running along its length on to which division guides (Fig. 117), lettered or numbered, are fixed. The rod is made flat, so that on its being turned the guide can be easily released. On the card is written the book number in the top left-hand corner, with the author's name and title on the lines following, and the rest is ruled with spaces to record the borrower's number and date of issue.