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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Genre-fying My School Library, Part Two

So...I made the decision to genre-fy the place.

First, I had to decide what genres I would do. A couple were obvious--Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Horror/Suspense. Those seem to fly off my shelves regardless of their placement. I also decided to pull Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, and what I deemed "Supernatural" (this is your Twilights, and other ghost/zombie/vampire type fiction.). Those worked for me. I didn't do a "chick lit" or "guys read" section because, as someone who reads anything and everything regardless of girl/boy tendencies, I don't want to box books in to a "boy" or "girl" section. The more available or accessible the name of the section, the more likely I'd be to get people reading it, boys and/or girls. I ordered genre stickers from Demco and then started the technical work.

My district has Follett Destiny for it's library software. My favorite upgrade over Follett's Circ/Cat (other than being able to access Destiny on any web-enabled computer) is the report functions. Many of the pre-fab or moderately editable reports are perfect for the job they were created to do. But there isn't one that searches only subject headings on its own.

Destiny has a "report builder" option for that need. My assistant and I went in and built one report that we altered in one of the steps for each genre. (If you want me to send you an export of my horror/suspense parameters, I'll be glad to.) Basically, we told it to give us a list by author with title, call number, and copy info on it. The key came in telling Destiny to limit the report to subject headings containing the genre I was looking for. At that point, Destiny searched in the 650 tags for "historical fiction" (on the first run through).

So...we pulled all the books on that list. My student workers were sent out with the list, book trucks, and highlighters (to mark off which ones they found). They came to hate the yellow historical fiction stickers that we taped onto every book spine. Each class period's slave workers would moan about the yellow stickers.

Then they found a new reason to hate me. I took each book, looked up the individual copy in Destiny and changed the call number for the copy. I DID NOT touch the MARC record, so the 082 tag was left alone. That meant changing the spine labels on all the copies. My students learned of a new kind of library hell--matching books and spine labels.

I changed the copy call numbers for 2 reasons. The first was because I really was going to shelve these books in a separate place than in the fiction section so leaving "FIC" on there didn't make sense. The second was because I'd never be able to find the book once it was shelved without a hint.

Then, we did it for the other 5 genres. There were several days that I sprung for pizza for the lunch class or brought donuts in the morning to make up for being so evil. I even made my famous breakfast casserole a time or two, trying to change their opinions of me.

Seriously, though, it was tedious and time-consuming. Once all the sections had been pulled, stickered, updated, and reshelved, we did a book by book walk through of what was left in general fiction, just to make sure we hadn't left anything behind. Typically, the ones that weren't caught the first time had been checked out or had incomplete MARC records (which I quickly, quickly fixed).

We did run into a few special cases. I can't remember which book it was that had 650 tags for science fiction when it rather clearly wasn't. So I edited that one. Other books, as we all know, fit really well into 2 different genres. And, of course, students who will not read fantasy books but love historical fiction would never even see books that crossed the genres. In those cases, I secretly hoped there were 2 copies in my collection so it could be in both places. For the books that didn't have a second copy, I added them to my shopping list.

I want to note here that I didn't touch my non-fiction section. I think it's important to still find things by their numbers and those numbers should start with 001 and travel over to 999 (with a separate 92 section). When I do displays on topics (sports, paranormal, classics) I pull from both parts of the library, but I never mix them on the shelves.

I have to admit, I was worried about that first fiction order after the shift. I completely thought I'd have to spend days on every order before I could shelve a single book from it. I've since learned that some vendors are willing to help you out, with a little extra leg work on the front end. If I'm willing to create separate lists (an historical fiction list, a fantasy list, etc.) when I place an order, they'll make sure that all the copy information AND the spine labels are to my new specs.

It took the entire spring semester to get it all sorted out, and I'm still finding books that aren't in the right genres. Just today, I discovered we'd completely skipped over H.G. Wells when looking for science fiction books. I'm looking at some other options for additional pull-outs, too--maybe a "Best Books for the College Bound" section or "adventure" books.

All the work, and the headaches, are totally worth it. My circulation is up. My students are talking about all these cool books we have and when did we get them (umm.....years ago). It's awesome.

10 thoughts:

Naomi said...

This is such invaluable information! Thank you so much for sharing. I'll be ordering genre stickers next semester and starting on it. This is PERFECT....

Jen said...

Thanks, Naomi! And I meant what I said about offering my template for the Destiny report (if that's what you're running). I've given it out a couple times today.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for providing this reference! I am planning to make the switch to genre groupings in the fiction section this spring/summer, and it is such a comfort to have a guide to follow. I would very much appreciate if you would send me the template you used. I also have Destiny.
Thank you once again!

Unknown said...

Thanks for so many details on your switch! I have a few questions:
1. It sounds like you still have books left over in the "fiction" section. What do you call that section - or what do you tell kids about it? Is it still shelved by FIC Author name? I'm guessing what's mostly left there is realistic fiction & classics?
2. Do you alphabetize the books in the genres? (that may be a silly question)

Jen said...


1...yes, I still have a "fiction" section that doesn't fit neatly into any one or two genres. It is mostly realistic fiction and classics and the students know it's just the "fiction" section. Nothing fancy.

2...I didn't take any other liberties with the Dewey other than replacing FIC with FAN or whatever else was needed. The books are still alpha by author.


Jai-Cheri Young said...

Thanks for the details. I'm taking baby steps in this direction by labeling the genres with the Demco stickers but keeping the books shelved together. I'm hoping the labels and a few lessons on the genres will help the kids find the books that they'll love.

I'll probably pick your brain for ideas as I move forward.

saltybluelady said...

I like your blog. and your blog layout. and your coffee stains. I really like your coffee stains.

I am also subscribed.

So. here we are. blogging.

Oh, and I'm sure your library looks lovely. And, not that your organization isn't helping, but circulation could also be up because of the windows. It helps to be able to SEE when you are in a library. Just saying, AISD, just saying...

Debbie Reese said...

Found you via your post this morning to LM_NET.

Did you create "African American Literature" and so on for books by African American authors? Or, are they grouped within a larger label such as "Ethnic Writers" or something like that?

I'm assuming you have Sherman Alexie's book TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN... where is it shelved?

The Lively Reader said...

My question is would another librarian be able to come into your library and easily continue this system. I am worried about creating collections that are organized in a way that may be confusing to those who will eventually replace us. I also am concerned about the number of books that cross genres - it is not financially possible to buy two copies all the time. What do you think of genre displays and genre spine labels within a traditional FICTION section? I am truly open minded about this- just have these concerns.

Jen said...

I think it's a fairly easy system to continue. I've had a long-term sub (actually, the woman who was librarian in this library before me) and she had no trouble following what I'd done and processing new titles for each section. (and she was OLD SCHOOL. Like, REALLY.)

For books that cross-genres, I don't always have the financial means to purchase a second copy either. My "system" has been kind of simple--I pick which section it goes to based on the first subject heading listed in the MARC record. I kind of figure that if that's the first thing listed, it must be fairly predominant. (for books that I haven't read yet myself).

A couple of elementary libraries are using genre spine labels in their traditional fiction sections, and I'm all for that with them. I only asked that they use the same labels I did, so there would be continuity for the students. At the elementary level, kids aren't just learning to read, they're learning what the LIKE to read, so separate sections wouldn't appeal to me for them. I still do genre displays (or author displays for those who can't pick a genre and stay there *grin*), but I like the option of being able to send my sci-fi kids to one area and they get to see LOTS of great books in one place, rather than having them get frustrated as they shelf read my classic fiction section looking for something.

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