A journey to a browsable library

I’d never really been happy with how books were organized in libraries. Why was it that nobody, except the librarian, could ever easily find anything? Yes, the books were organized and by using the catalog you could get a number to track the book down on a shelf. But, what if you didn’t have the right search terms, or if you just wanted to browse a genre? Why was it easy to find a good book at the bookstore but not so easy in the library?

The students and faculty in our school had questions…

“Do we have any Science Fiction books”

“Are there Short Stories my class can borrow”

“I love this book, do we have more just like it”

which led me to believe that they too, were frustrated with the way the books were organized in our library. Shouldn’t a library be set up to best serve its patrons, not to best serve the librarian shelving the books?

The following article spurred me on

Are Dewey’s Days Numbered?: Libraries Nationwide Are Ditching the Old Classification System

and attending the AASL Conference session, Ditching Dewey: Genrefication in your Library,  solidified my decision to organize the fiction collection by genre.

Ditching Dewey: Hot Topic in Hartford | AASL 2013

The remainder of this blog post will share our  Journey to a Browsable Library – the Genrefication of Fiction

The Beginning

I was nervous to share this genrefication idea with the Middle School Librarian and Assistant Librarian, after all what I was suggesting wouldn’t happen over night, but they jumped on board without hesitation. I was thrilled!  With all the debate over the issue, I couldn’t believe they didn’t need any convincing, so before anyone could second guess themselves we had our first meeting.

Meeting One genres

The goal? Make a plan – where do we begin? We decided to start with genres, once we knew our genres we could assign books. Easy, right? Wrong! After 45 minutes we had somewhat agreed on 10 genres. Why 10? For some reason, 10 just sounded good at the time. We then printed out shelf lists for the MS and US fiction sections and put them in binders. We gave ourselves a month to assign each book a genre.

Original Genre List: Scific/Fantasy, Comedy/Humor, Action/Adventure, Realistic, Mystery/Thriller, Historical Fiction, Western, Sports, Graphic Novel, Love/Romance

What really happened… Firstly, 10 genres was not enough – we had to expand, but could we agree? Secondly, a month was simply not realistic; there were thousands of books in each collection, and the US collection hadn’t been weeding in 14 years!

Second attempt at Genre List: We separated Science Fiction and Fantasy (two completely different genres), got rid of Westerns (this could go with action adventure), separated mystery from suspense/thriller novels, and created categories for Classics and also Contemporary / World.

This time we were happy again, but not for long…

What is a Classic? classic

I challenge you to come up with an answer that more than one person completely agrees with. The debate continues here in the library, I’ve consulted with anyone who will listen. My current feeling is to add these titles (whatever they are) to a vague Literature category

Genre Busters!

What to do with all those books that don’t easily fit in a genre. The books that aren’t written for teens but are sometimes read by teens (or their teachers). These books are realistic (for lack of a better genre)  but due to an absence of teenage characters, we wanted to give them a separate genre. I’ve been given many suggestions: Literature, Human section, Contemporary, Adult – but none seem to fit. The dilemma continues.

Genres Finalized

After weeks of deliberating we settled on our genres. We ordered tinted color label protectors from Demco to help color code the genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Comedy & Humor, Action & Adventure, Realistic Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Historical Fiction, Sports Fiction, Relationships & Romance, Literary Fiction, Multicultural, and Graphic Novels g

We added additional labels on the book spines to identify Short Stories and books written in Verse within each genre.




We now have a cleaner collection!!! Yes, we did loads and loads of weeding, but analyzing the collection allowed us to find (and if needed fix or weed) titles that were miscataloged, and incomplete series (sometimes we only had #3 or #6, did we ever own the complete series?). And by going through the collection to add the new color labels, shelf reading happened. You know that thing you never have time for.  I fully realize how unimportant this may sound to non-librarians, but for my librarian friends you know how AWESOME this is. I’m talking double high-fives, break out the champagne soda celebration!! I know, I know, this will not last, but for the moment we will enjoy knowing that the books (even if only for a few hours) were all in order.


Just days after we finished adding the short story stickers we had three 10th grade English classes visit. Their assignment? To find and read a short story! The books were ready but where were the signs?

Time to improvise! Within minutes Traci, our Assistant Librarian, created this


and the students LOVED it. The sign was simple and to the  point.

All the SHORT STORIES clearly marked shortstory

and they were browsable by GENRE.






The Full Story




4 thoughts on “Genrefication

  1. Pingback: A journey to a browsable library | libraryoddsandsods

  2. Pingback: The Journey Continues… | libraryoddsandsods

  3. Pingback: Reason to Celebrate | libraryoddsandsods

  4. Pingback: Success! | libraryoddsandsods

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