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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Genre-fying My School Library, part one

Last year, the library team and I undertook two massive projects. The second (packing, moving, then unpacking the entire collection) could've been accomplished without the first and all the headaches it caused. But, as anyone who knows me will tell you, why make things easy on myself?

The first task was reorganizing the library collection. Really, just the fiction collection. I'd noticed that only the "popular" books were moving, the Twilights, the Uglies, the Hunger Games. All good in their own rights and ways, but my kids were missing older titles that were easily as good. All the displays and book talks in the world weren't going to move some of these books with my kids. Because the way to find them didn't make a lot of sense to them.

GASP! Oh the horror! The basic fiction shelving rules didn't make sense to them? They'd been taught these things from the beginning of time (or 1st grade, whichever came first) and they still didn't understand how to use it. I know, I know.....this made me a little sick to my librarian stomach.

So, I questioned some kids. "When you walk into a room full of books, how do you know where to find what you're looking for?"  Almost every student said "I look for the ___________ section." (Insert your favorite genre.) One kid (out of about 150 that I asked) told me he used the OPAC and then clarified his answer by telling me that was just for research projects. My tried and true method for finding books and understanding of how libraries worked didn't work for my students.

I'm teaching kids who rarely, if ever, set foot inside a library for reasons other than needing book test points until they get to high school. Then, it's because there is a research paper that requires lots of work in the non-fiction section. The majority don't appear to read for pleasure. I say "appear" because I don't know if they're getting books elsewhere, I just know they aren't getting them from me.

But they have been inside a book store. They know that if they walk into the major-named bookstore in the next city over and hang a left at the information counter, they'll hit the young adult section. They don't know what "young adult" means necessarily, but they know it's where they want to be. Except for my die hard graphic novel fans, who will make a right at the first aisle and go straight until they hit the back wall. Obviously, I've been there a few times.

Believe me, upending my fiction section wasn't an easy decision. I know it doesn't match our county library system's arrangement. I know it will clash with what they see in college, never mind that many (most?) colleges and universities are LC and not DDC. I know it doesn't match what they saw in kindergarten through eighth grade. I take comfort in the orderly arrangement of fiction shelves, from A to Z, with Mary Higgins Clark just a shelf away from Arthur C. Clarke. I feel better knowing my Westerfelds (Scott) are between my Weltys (Eudora) and my Wilders (Laura Ingalls) and not in 3 different sections. Part of the reason I'm a librarian is because of the consistent orderliness of the system.

But, this library and its arrangement isn't about what makes me happy or my ease of use. It's about my students. Sure, there are some staff members thrown into the mix, but my students outnumber my staff by nearly 12 to 1. This should've been a no-brainer, but it still took me 3 months to decide to do it. The why was easy, even if it left me with a little inner librarian conflict. Then I had to figure out the how.

2 thoughts:

Tammy Jo Burns said...

I did the same thing with my library and I think you have very eloquently "hit the nail on the head." I'm looking forward to your second part to see if how you did it is any way similar to how I did.

naomibates said...

I am definitely going to be working on this...thanks for your insight, and I agree with Tammy Jo! Can't wait for your second post : )

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