Series-ous Clutter

The last few days have not been easy. I’m struggling in a new space to articulate my vision for the collection of the library. I have a few issues regarding the way books have been cataloged and shelved. Nothing needs to be fixed in one day, but I need to be able to spell out steps to reach my goal.

I should really take pictures, shouldn’t I? Maybe next time I’ll remember….

-The catalog has been used to track inventory of professional and teaching resources in classrooms. Many of these books are in the catalog, but never get returned to the library.
-Books are in the wrong spot. Simple machines are in the early 500s instead of the 600s. Easy nonfiction books about animals were in the E section. These I have already pulled to be adjusted in the catalog. I’m not having that.
-Series books have all been pulled and stored in baskets or display boxes on top of the shelves. To me this looks cluttered and decreases the amount of space I have to display book covers outwardly or to highlight certain parts of the collection.
-At least 2-3 books per shelf have to be tipped sideways because they are too tall. I’m used to this only happening for less than 5 books in my entire collection.

I can understand each of these choices, but I don’t agree with any of them. I’m going to lay out a plan for correcting each of these over time so that when I meet with my administrators next week I have a better chance of moving forward.

Here’s my plan:
1. Nonfiction books need to be nonfiction books. These are getting corrected immediately. Previously, Kindergarten students were not allowed to check out nonfiction books. This is also getting corrected immediately. I don’t need any administrative support for this action.
2. I’m going to research some of the books, like simple machines, that are in the wrong section to see what is being done across the district. I’m going to student each Dewey section to see if there are other discrepancies. The ones I’ve noticed out of place are not going to be a problem short-term. It will be a long range project.
3. I’m going to start weeding right away. The collection has an average age of 1993, 18 years old (1995 with professional books included). The way some of the cataloging has been done may mean this figure is not accurate. There are at least 26 books per student, so even with heavy weeding there are enough books to support students’ needs.
4. Series books need to be shelved alphabetically by author, with the exception of multi-authored series such as the 39 Clues. The current practice makes books easy to find. But, I argue, series are easy to find in general and can be used to draw students to the shelves. They can practice locating books from the OPAC and finding them in the correct places on the shelves in easy independent practice. The challenge will be reorganizing the space to fit the series back in. There may not be enough physical space. We will also need to adjust the catalog records to indicate FIC instead of Series. I don’t think at this point I need to change stickers on spine labels. That can be done over the summer or later. I may need to advocate for funding to purchase additional shelving. I also need to examine the collection and weed outdated titles.
-I want to swap the E and F sections. This does depend on my Kinders. Currently the F section is surrounded by Dewey and the Es are alone. I think Kinders may navigate better if the Es are closest to Dewey and the Fs are alone. I need to measure linear shelf space and observe how the space functions over the next few months. This may be a snow day project.
-To get proper shelf spacing I will either need to decrease the collection or increase the shelf space. If I can draw up a plan and lay it out shelf by shelf I may be able to demonstrate the need for an additional shelf or two. I want to communicate this plan to my administrators and also lay out each additional step to show that purchasing a new shelf is the last option. There are other things we can do first to organize the collection.

I am curious to know: Are any of the practices that bother me common in other libraries? Am I trying to control too much? Are there other ideas I should consider? Steps I should take?


  1. From the moment I toured my library during my interview, I was extremely annoyed by the picture books that were on their sides (edges). I was convinced that if I did some kind of analysis, it would show that books without their spines showing got checked out less than those that had their spines showing. I knew I had to decrease my three tiers of pb shelving to two so that all books could stand upright. I did not get to it until my fourth year. A parent helped me go through the books and by weeding and shifting we did it! AHHHH!!!

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