Thursday, 24 April 2014

Genre Shelving - the (almost) finished product

Original Plan

My original plan was to roll out new genres at the rate of one every three weeks until I finally had all ten set up at the end of 30 weeks or so.  There were a few problems with this plan.  First, as we processed new books it didn't make sense not to put them straight into their rightful genre, regardless of whether we had "launched" that genre or not.  This meant that there were a few books that had different stickers and my student librarians weren't sure what to do with them.  The main problem however was that it was taking too long and I wanted to see it happen sooner!

Revised Plan

In the last couple of weeks of term I decided to get stuff done!  I started walking past the shelves and picking out the books that had really obvious genres.  I took them home and stickered and taped them and then changed their genres on the catalogue.  By the last day I had done 738 of the 1300 fiction books and was ready to go.  On Tuesday  I went in and, with the aid of a few helpless children I roped in to my dastardly plan, we rearranged all the fiction shelves.  Here is what we did...

We removed all the books that had genre stickers and put 
them on the floor under their genre headings.

We put all the books currently without genre labels in one place 
(a very visual to-do list).

Then we put the books back on the shelves in their own genres.

We have two bays on either side of the main fiction wall.  These hold our humour and horror genres.  Fantasy is a big section and I left two empty bays underneath as I know there are more books to come. 

It took less than two hours to do the rearranging and I am really happy that we will start Term 2 with all the genres in their own sections.  I have decided to do a genre challenge where I challenge our older students to a) write down what genre their favourite book is in, b) read a book in that genre by a different author and c) read a book from a completely different genre.  If they complete the challenge within a month they get to go into the draw for prizes.  Hopefully that will encourage teachers to start a conversation about the different genres.

I'm also in the process of creating some online quizzes to do for a fun way to find out "What's my genre?".  I have found a cool new tool to use to make the quizzes and will be sharing that in my next post.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Genre Shelving - the pros and cons so far

First off, here are my lovely new science fiction and humour sections.  I don't think I'll have them next to each other permanently but it will do for now.  

And this week we launched the horror section and decorated it up a bit.

A comment on one of my earlier posts on genre-fication made me realise I hadn't listed the ten genres I chose for our library.  So here you go: fantasy, science fiction, adventure, mystery, humour, animals, historical fiction, realistic fiction, horror and sport.  I think if you have fantasy and realistic fiction as genres then you are never going to be without a genre for a book to go into.

And now on to the things I've discovered about the project so far:


  • I LOVE the stats I can get on each of the genres.  By making each genre a "collection" in my catalogue I am able to run statistics showing me each genre's most popular books.  It makes it far easier, for example, to find the most popular horror books when my normal fiction statistics would be dominated by humour books.  
  • I can also see how many books I have in each genre and how many are issued at any one time.  This will be really helpful for my purchasing decisions.
  • Each launch of a new genre section gives it prominence and promotes discussion among students and teachers.
  • It has tied in nicely with my book club, as we have a challenge to read three books from each genre as it is launched.


  • The biggest problem is finding a genre for each book when some books don't fit nicely into just one.  I know some schools use multiple genres but I prefer to keep it simple (for the students, but not for me!).
  • For each book that we already own I have to choose a genre for it, scan the book, change the book's collection to the right genre, and tape a genre sticker to the spine of the book.  This takes a lot of time, even if the taping can be done by parent helpers and I can change the genre on batches of books at the same time.
  • I want it done FASTER!  I want it finished but I don't have the time for it to happen any sooner.
So, the pros outweigh the cons, which is good because there is still a lot of work to be done. 

In terms of dealing with the problem of deciding on one genre for each book I have a system of sorts.  Some books are easy to categorise, either because I have read them or because the title says "Things that go bump in the night" or the blurb talks about "Jane enters a tennis tournament, can she win?".  For the more difficult books I check the subject headings and also have a look on GoodReads.  The genres other people have assigned to a book can be helpful.  I do find though, that not everyone is shelving using the same genres and people seem to get sci fi and fantasy confused (or maybe they don't use a sci fi category), so I don't necessarily pick the most popular shelf.

The hardest book to pick a genre for so far?  The Apothecary by Maile Meloy.  Set in 1952 it includes magical transformations, espionage and a race to stop a hydrogen bomb.  Subject headings include "Magic - Fiction", "Adventure Stories" and  "Historical Fiction". Goodreads members have listed it as fantasy, historical fiction, adventure and mystery.  With so many possible genres to choose from it did my head in, and eventually I chose adventure, only because it didn't seem right to put it in historical fiction when there were strong elements of fantasy, or to put it fantasy when there were so many historical touches.  This is where "didn't seem right" and personal gut feeling has to come in and I agree that it doesn't seem as clear as it should be but I still think the end result is worth it.  In fact, I will probably take some fantasy books home to tape over the holidays just to hurry the process along a bit.  Patience not being one of my virtues.