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.


  1. Ms Simms, I am loving all the work you have shown. Your ideas are a life saver. Your sharing is so encouraging.
    Please tell me how you did your vertical labels .
    Thank you.

    1. Thanks, I'm pleased to be able to help. The spine labels are generated by my library management system, Access-it. For info about the pictures on them, see my post from 31 Jan 2014

  2. Thank you so very much for taking the time to respond, and once again share valuable information.

    I wish you well!!