Over the last couple of years, the desk in my home office has been bounded on the left by a large bookcase. That way, whenever I need to look something up I reach over and get it. This little library doesn’t follow any proper ordering scheme; I’ve placed the books I use most often within reach of my hands. Recent additions go on the edges, and they migrate towards the middle over time as I need them. You’d be surprised at how chaotic it is — but it works for me.

Alas, my reading needs have grown, and I’ve run out of space in the shelves. So over the holiday weekend I installed an identical bookcase on the right side of the desk. Now I’m bounded by two towers of books on either side. In preparation for the new case, I moved all the books out of the old one. Faced with a blank slate, I decided to bring some coherent order to the shelves. But now I can’t find things!

Over time I’d built a mental model of the old scheme, jumbled as it was. It’ll be a while before my mental model catches up to the physical reality of the new scheme — even though I designed it! Odd, that. The “correct” scheme is not necessarily the most immediately usable; habit trumps logic. A call for compassion and patience towards anyone facing an information architecture redesign.