The ABCs


From the time a child is born, parents and caregivers do their best to teach the child all of the things that will prepare them to head off into the world of academia.

First, a child is encouraged to say their first word. Some say, “Mama.” Some say, “Dada.” Others say, “puppy” or “light,” but that first word is magical no matter what it may be.

Once a child has mastered the art of speaking, it is then time to learn 123s and ABCs. Parents and caregivers walk around counting everything from M&M’s to cars driving down the street to the young learner. In turn, the little one is absorbing all of this new knowledge and loving making the one-to-one correlation.

Once numbers are mastered, it is time to learn the ABCs. Every adult has heard a child sing their ABCs, A-B-C-D, and so on to my most favorite part of, LMNOP, which often comes out as M and M and P.

Caregivers painstakingly work through the teaching of the alphabet with making sure that the child knows that A comes before B which comes before C and so on all the way to Z. It takes a lot of practice to master these very important skills, but in the end, all of the time taken leads up to the very important moment to go out and put their knowledge to work at school.

I am sure you are wondering, how does all of this tie to the library? Don’t worry, I am getting there. Upon entering school, the child takes that foundation of knowledge they have learned and learns new skills to apply. For instance, think about the alphabet that the child worked so hard to learn. The child knows that A comes before B which comes before C and so on and now at school is learning that this knowledge can be applied to learning how to alphabetize words.

Ah ha, there it is. Alphabetizing is the tie in to the library! When a patron visits the library one of the first questions asked is, “How are the books organized?” To answer this question, they are in alphabetical order. Yes, the books are separated into Fiction, Non-Fiction, Biographies and in the children’s room Easy Readers, but all of the books can be located in their respective sections in alphabetical order.

First, books are shelved alphabetically by the author’s last name and then alphabetically by the title of the book. By keeping the books shelved alphabetically, the ease of finding a book on the shelf is much easier. Therefore, if you are looking for a particular title of a book, you know that the title will be found on the shelf alphabetically first by the author and then by the title.

One of the most popular statements made by patrons who visit the library to the employees is, “I fixed your books in the series. They were all mixed up and not in numerical order.” Thank you, but NO thank you. Yes, I understand that as readers, books in a series are best read in numerical order, but as a keeper of the books, the library books are organized strictly alphabetically.

So the next time you come into the library and feel compelled to organize the books in a series numerically, stop and remember that the library organizes the shelves alphabetically. Chances are, the next time you visit the library, the books that you have painstakingly taken the time to organize numerically will be put back in alphabetical order by myself or by one of my co-workers.


Kelly Rodenbaugh is the youth services manager at the Mifflin County Library. She is currently reading “Expelled,” by James Patterson and Emily Raymond.