STYMIED, STULTIFIED, & STUPEFIED: Or, “What’s ‘alpha-numerical’ mean?”

As a library scientist, occasionally you take for granted a bedrock library science principle. Usually, to your detriment. Well, it can’t be helped.

Today, during inventory, an otherwise bright young man asks me the best approach to our 700-plus collection of Self-help books. “Well, the shelf list drawer for this material’s already in order. All that’s left is to put all the shelves in correct alpha-numerical order, and then match up the cards to the books.”


And the bright young man–who’s currently pursuing an undergraduate degree–asks: “And ‘alpha-numerical order would be–what, exactly?”

My fault. Of course it is! Assuming & presuming gets you results like this. It’s no way to run a railroad. I apologize to the youngster & define the term, to which he says “Oh! Of course! That was stupid!” I let him know that it was my stupidity of failing to cover basic terminology before inventory began that caused his confusion.

As we can see, even in correctional library management, ASS-U-ME applies.