I had considered genre shelving, but rejected it as not being as relevant in elementary school.
I think I was wrong.
In one hallway encounter at a conference I thought about it in an entirely new way.
Because of this 2-minute conversation I’m now preparing to begin a genre-shelving trial in my library and with two other librarians from other districts. I say trial because we are doing it for 3 months and then I’ll revert my fiction section back to its original state.
I’ve gotten a few strange looks when I share this because it’s a lot of work to go through to put it back in three months. But, I have a feeling the data will be spectacular and will really show one way or the other that impact genre shelving can have at the elementary level.
I’m not talking about Ditching Dewey. I believe it’s a poorly chosen term for school librarians that are considering alternate shelving patterns. For one, most libraries start genre shelving with their fiction collection. There’s nothing related to Dewey-ditching there. We already pull the fiction section out from the DDS; sub-dividing even further isn’t really a great change. Many librarians already try to shelve similar topics together in nonfiction such as choosing for trains go in the 300s or 620s. These two numbers seem to be the largest culprits of call number changes. Community advancements and man’s use of technology overlap in so many ways. Some libraries have completely tried an alternate shelving arrangement and that’s fine. I think the term Ditching Dewey is intimidating to some librarians who are considering genre shelving.
I’m doing a trial for several reasons. At this point, I’m not allowed to permanently rearrange my collection. In a large district the ramifications can be significant. Students are accessing our catalogs at different levels and seeing a range of call numbers. How should our call numbers be structured? Will students struggle transferring between schools at the same level or moving up levels if genre shelving is done differently in each? Would it make a difference if I put my Scary book section first on the shelf, followed by Sports fiction, followed by Humorous fiction and another school used a different order?
Questions like these may seem insignificant, but they are worth asking especially when our catalog will reflect all of these changes. Doing a trial as action research is a great compromise because it will provide data our district can use to go forward. I intend to provide evidence through student surveys, circulation data, and staff feedback.
Here’s how the trial will work. Some of the parts I’m confident with and others I’m crossing my fingers!
I’m going through the collection one shelf at a time and color coding the books. This is time consuming. It took me 15 minutes to do each shelf I worked on this week. Some shelves will go faster as series books will likely go to the the same genre. Our library assistant can very capably help with these areas. But for two of the shelves I worked on this week there were a lot of individual decisions to make.
After the color coding is finished or significantly in progress I’m going to take the books off the first bank of shelves in my fiction section. Then I’ll go through the rest of the collection in alphabetical order and place the Historical Fiction books on the shelves that I just emptied.
I have no desire to take all of my books off the shelf and sort them into piles. As I get to each new bank of shelves, I’ll take off what is left on it and transfer the books for the next genre. As I get to the end of my current fiction section and the last of the genres I should have all of the books placed back on the shelves. I’m crossing my fingers that the books off the shelf at any one time are manageable.
Each book is getting color coded. I want to be able to reshelve the books quickly. I don’t want this to impact our day-to-day operations in a negative way once the trial has started. I expect there to be work on both ends, but want to limit the maintenance during the trial. Each book is getting a colored bookmark cut from cardstock or construction paper. I’m going to ask (and beg) the students to leave the bookmarks with the books. I know that books will be returned without them so we’re going to double color code. Each book will receive a matching post-it tucked into the back cover. We can quickly add a new bookmark at check-in if needed with this back up plan. I hope.
I have heard stories of debates. Which section should this go in? Or that?
For me, it’s a three-month trial. Will it matter in the long run? Not really. I’ll make a quick choice and move on. If I think I made a mistake, I’ll change it later. I’m not stickering the books so it will be fine.
When the books are in their new location then I’ll scan each section into a text file. I’ll upload the file to my catalog and change the prefix on the call number. This will also double as inventory for the fiction section this year–a bonus!
I firmly believe the catalog should match the shelf and match the book so that patrons can find the books they need and the staff can shelve the books easily. I’m going to change all the call number prefixes and then switch them back at the end. This will probably be the quickest step of the whole process! I’m going to use an entire word as the prefix. I’m not printing spine labels and there are no significant character lengths in the record. I’m going to use Sports_Fiction, Humorous_Fiction, etc.
This is just the first step. I’ll keep you posted as my project continues!