"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

29 October 2013


"Mrs. F, where are the scary books?"
"Miss Libarry Teacher, where's the Percy Jackson books?"
"I read all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books; what should I read next?"
"Where are the love stories?"

For the first two months of school, I fielded these types of questions all day long.  For the kids looking for a specific title, I was able to point them in the right direction.  But when a kid wants a genre of book or a book similar to his/her favorite series, I had more difficulty.  It wasn't hard to come up with a read-alike, but it was hard to point the student to the shelf containing all the read-alikes.

Thus I decided that the fiction section in my middle school library needed to be divided by genre.  I started by reading everything Mrs. Readerpants had to say on the subject. And I paid close attention to both my collection and my students.  After I finished planning, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

I decided to divide our fiction into eleven genres plus one section for the graphic novels/manga. I have approximately 2,000 titles in the fiction section, so this was going to be a large task, but not an impossible one.  I created genre categories as well as color codes for each genre:

  • Historical Fiction (Dark Green)
  • Fantasy (White)
  • Mystery (Purple)
  • Realistic Fiction (Orange)
  • Humor (Yellow)
  • Romance/Chick Lit (Pink)
  • Adventure (Red)
  • Science Fiction (Light Blue)
  • Paranormal (Dark Blue)
  • Mythology (Light Green)
  • Horror/Scary (Black)
  • Graphic Novels/Manga (Bright Pink)

Then I took the books to my desk, one cart-full at a time.  Each book had to be individually scanned, changed in the computer, and tagged with a color-coding sticker on the spine.  I changed the call numbers to reflect the new genres; for example, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was changed from F ROW to F FAN ROWLING.  Keeping the fiction designation allows all the fiction to still be grouped together in my catalog, but the genre classification allows my patrons to find the books in the correct location. This was a long process, and I have a small library, so I can imagine it would be a much bigger task in a larger library. 

Most of the books were easy to genre-fy.  Some books I had to look up on Goodreads to see other people's categories and get an idea of where they should go.  If a book fit in multiple genres, I put it where I thought my students would be most likely to look for it.  As I completed each cart, I adjusted the shelves so that the genres were placed together.  This meant I shifted books a lot, but it was good for me to be able to see how the genres would all fit on my shelves.

I have wooden bookshelves and they are attached to my walls, so I couldn't rearrange the shelving itself, but I was able to dedicate a certain number of shelves to each genre.  I ended up giving each genre its own vertical bookshelf, except that Mystery shares with Scary books and Mythology and Paranormal share a shelf.  This is because of my two biggest genres: historical fiction and fantasy both needed two vertical shelves each to fit all the books.  I am now considering dividing both of those sections into subsections.  I would split fantasy into high/low fantasy (because kids who like Harry Potter will not necessarily gravitate toward Redwall), and I am considering dividing the historical fiction by broad time periods or just pulling particular topics into their own area (World War II and the colonial period, for example, have a lot of books each).

It took me approximately one week, working on my own, to genrify all of my fiction and graphic novels.  I still have to genrify any books that have been checked out during this process, but that is a much smaller project that can be completed as the books are returned to the library.  I have signage up in each section that identifies the genre (in English and Spanish).  The signs contain pictures that represent that genre, and the lettering on each sign matches the color codes for that particular genre.  Already I have noticed a difference in the way my students look for books, and many books that have not moved at all this year are now circulating. It's too soon to tell what difference this will make in my circulation statistics, but the comments from students and teachers alike make the hard work worthwhile.

"Wow, the library is so much nicer this year."
"I can actually find the books I like to read."
"It's so much more organized; I like our library."

If you are considering dividing your fiction section by genre and you have questions for me, feel free to comment on this post and I can reply to you via email.  I am also willing to share the signage I created; I can send you a PDF copy of that document upon request.


Shelli said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm planning on genre-fying my middle school collection this year. How did you decide on your genres? I was considering surveying my students, but I don't know if that will lead to too many genres.

Jenni Frencham said...

I based my genres on those used by Mrs. Readerpants (readerpants.com), the general genres I use when discussing books with students, as well as the genres of books that are popular and/or abundant in our library.