Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jennifer LaGarde, this is for you....

So, recently on Facebook Jennifer LaGarde mentioned how she was considering rearranging her Media Center by genre. In turn, I encouraged her to do so as it was one of the best things I have ever done, that is after I recovered from the shock that I had actually done something before her. She then responded that I should write a blog entry about it, so here it is.

It actually all started on a car ride to Charlotte for the 2009 AASL Conference. My friend Sarah and I were discussing the concept of genre arrangement, and I indicated I just could not bring myself to actually do it until I knew someone who had done it. Well, I was surprised to learn that Sarah had rearranged her fiction by genre. After an extended amount of brain picking, I knew I was ready to undertake this challenge. Sarah's guidance was definitely very helpful, but I ended up tackling it in a little bit different way than she had done. I think anyone who undertakes this project really needs to find their own method.

I started by determining which sections I would have. The sections I determined would best fit our school were Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Fiction (this is the catch-all for everything else), Classics, Mystery, Sports, Science Fiction. Romance is really chick lit, but I just did not think I could call a section by that title. Books in this section deal with romance and friendships. Most of these sections really seem to meet our needs, but if I could go back I might add a section dedicated to humor.

After doing this, I ordered genre label stickers. The goal was to get all fiction books labeled with a genre sticker on the front cover for quick identification. As books were turned in, we placed genre labels on them to make dividing them up easier and it helps with reshelving now. During this time, I also started going through the fiction section starting with the As and placing these labels on the front. At the same time I was weeding and pulling fantasy books. Weeding during this time was massive. I got rid of a large number of books that were unused, hideous, etc. It was not safe to walk in the Media Center as I had big piles of books in the floor as I went. Wish I had taken pictures. I was throwing books into stacks as fast as I was pulling Fantasy. By pulling Fantasy first, I was clearing out our largest genre of books from the existing Fiction section, making everything else much more manageable.

Now I have to be honest, moving everything was time-consuming and some sections had to be relocated as I misjudged how large or small a group might be. However, this was the easy part. I changed all the spine labels on the books in each section and in the catalog and that process took an eternity. I had definitely lost the mojo and just had to fight through to finish that part of the project. Some of the schools in my county made this change after I did, but they elected not to change spine labels. Lesson that I learned during this part of the process--be sure to just add the prefix for the genre, do not delete the F for fiction. For analysis in programs like Titlewise having that F was critical. You can strip the genre prefix in Titlewise. I am so thankful I had a conversation with my Follett rep before I got too far into this part of the process. Changing the spine label was important to me to make sure items were reshelved appropriately. It is the most tedious part of the process, but well worth it to me.

Now that I have rearranged I can easily answer those students who ask "Where are the mysteries?". This also gave me a better idea of what students were reading and where I needed to add to my collection. My Romance section was small and I was able to build it up somewhat last year to provide more options for my girls. This collection still needs to be added to as most of the books stay checked out. At the start of this year I did experience something new with that section. One class of sixth graders had several boys that asked me for romance books. Believe it or not all those who asked actually checked out a book. I think they may have discovered they needed a little guidance in the love department. Fantasy also has a high volume of usage. Adventure does not get the attention it deserves, but at least I know what my students want. This has impacted what I purchase and feedback from students was very positive.

For those of you who have been thinking about this, I encourage you to take the plunge. For me this was incredibly worthwhile and beneficial for my students.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I switched my Nonfiction to Subject organization instead of Dewey and I have genre labels on all my fiction, but they are still in order of last name. Still deciding if I want to move them into genre. I figured one HUGE switch at a time:) I also have a category for Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction and Thrillers.

  2. Yes! I love it, Jennifer. I've been on the fence about this for a couple of years myself but have decided to get off my duff and do it this year. Like Tamara, I'm starting with non-fiction and moving to fiction. Although I no longer have an assistant, I have two faithful volunteers with whom I've discussed this at length. They were both on board right away saying, "no matter what we do, it's not like the kids could possibly be MORE confused!" :)

    Thanks so much for posting this. I can't wait to get started!

  3. I considered historical fiction, but so many of those could also fit into adventure. I have to admit I am scared of moving the non-fiction, not so much because of the process but the layout of my library. I just don't know if it is conducive to our current setup.

    I don't know how you are doing it without an assistant. I only have mine five hours a day and I am finding that incredibly challenging.

    Keep us posted on how it goes.

  4. Do you mind if I link to your post in a slide for the December TL Virtual Cafe Smackdown? Looked for your Twitter handle to ask you, but wasn't sure where to find it.

  5. I am looking for high schools that have done this reorganization of fiction. We are considering it, but I am torn. Does it really increase your fiction circulation? We already have genre stickers on the spines (which I instituted when I started 17 yrs. ago). I feel strongly that if we do organize by genre, that we would need to change the call numbers and add a prefix or suffix. We have Destiny, so from what you said, I should retain the FIC prefix. Where did you add the genre?

    I am currently in the process of relabeling the entire 800 section, changing the cutter to the Subject/author so that all the works by and criticisms about an author are filed together. This was a larger task than I had initially thought, so I am a little leery of tackling a new reorganization.

    I do like browsing factor, getting a better handle on what genres are being read and knowing which collections need to be built up.

  6. I added genre to the beginning of the call number so it would read


    It was one of the best moves I ever made!

  7. I did this a few years ago to my fiction section in the high school library where I work. Circulation improved, and the students love it!