I want to preface this by saying that genrefying a library isn’t a science or an art. It’s based on loose parameters and how a librarian personally wants to shelve and separate. This, more than anything, is what drives some librarians crazy because there isn’t a logical or standard sequence. But for those who have blazed this trail, it can be a very rewarding experience.
There is one person I’d like to thank for creating that spark in me, and that is Texas librarian Jennifer Turney (http://www.meanoldlibraryteacher.net/ ). I heard it from her first at a conference and couldn’t WAIT to get back and begin!
When I started this, I was wary but eager (such an oxymoron!) so I began with the one genre I thought was the biggest – supernatural. Then it was time to tackle the stacks and I went through them rather quickly and pulled as much as I could out. These were set on library tables that weren’t used for classes and wouldn’t impede traffic or teaching.
In Destiny, my library assistant and I began changing the spine labels so they looked like this:
The labels were then printed out by the dates they were created (there’s an option in Destiny, which is the system we use) and began stickering (is that a word?) over the previous spine labels. UH-OH… that became overwhelming and chaotic so the alternative was to work with just a table of books and print spine labels by barcode range. PERFECT….each student aide was given a table they were responsible for and re-labeling was quick work.
While the stickering was going on, I went back into the stacks and used a fine tooth comb to pull out more books that were overlooked. The first time I did this was by sight and familiarity. This time, it was book by book, sometimes pulling it out and reading the CIP with the subjects on them to double check. They got their own tables and the process continued.
Once the first genre was done and shelved, I fell in love with the concept (I had to see it, not just read about it….makes a HUGE difference!) Then I sat down and wrote all of the genres I’d like to see happen based on which types of books I’d seen come in and out through the years:
Historical Fiction (HIS)
Guy Reads (GUY)
Girls Reads (GLR)
Science Fiction (SCI)
Novels in Verse (NIV)
Real Life Reads (RLR)
Working one genre at a time, I did the same process over and over again until they were all done. The time frame on this? Months….sometimes I wanted to scream and cry when I came into work to see the mountains of books still waiting to be shelved, but in hindsight I realized that I had to go through some obstacles to learn ways around them.
Now, when a bulk set of books come in from a vendor, I go straight to the catalog and re-print out spine labels. It’s become a second hat.
So, onto FAQs, why don’t we?
1. How did you decide which genres to use?
I did this through personal experience of reading and booktalking a lot of these titles as well as reading reviews. There are other sources that helped guide me, including the subject headings for the book, which can be found on LOC, Titlewave and the CIP in the books.
2. Why did you want to genrefy?
TBH, this grew out of irritation at looking up a book in the catalog for a student, and then helping them find it in the stacks because they couldn’t….yes even in the fiction section. Kids are kids, regardless if they’re looking for a book in 1st grade or as a senior in high school. Plus, genrefying was beginning to trend, and I wanted to give it a chance before I dispelled it as being a fly-by-night idea (which it isn’t…more libraries are coming over to the “dark side”). The difference was AMAZING! Now kids know exactly where to go and since the sections are smaller, they can find what they’re looking for faster.
3. What if a book belongs in more than one genre?
That’s going to be a personal call you make for yourself. There isn’t a handbook on this, so you get to become the creator of it. A lot of books found in Real Life Reads can also be part of the Guy Reads and Girl Reads sections. I decided most of the darker, more serious reads would be in the RLR, which helped delineate them from the other aforementioned sections. Also, if I have multiple copies of a book, I have been known to put them into different genre sections to get more circulation from them as well as meet the needs of readers of a particular genre (ie some fantasy books by Terry Brooks are in two different genres – FAN and ADC)
4. What about new books that come in? How do you determine where they go?
I never buy a book unless I’ve read a review, which helps jog my memory when I pick up a new book. If my memory gets a little cloudy, I go straight to the CIP to read the summary and look at the subjects to guide me. If there isn’t a CIP I read the inset and look online to verify subjects. Doing this so many times, I realized that I could also select them by covers too. If I see a pink cover with a guy and girl holding hands walking in the sunset…yep. That’s a girl book. A dragon is usually a dead giveaway as well as black covers with bloodthirsty vampires. Dystopia covers are getting easier to discern as well. It seems like they all have characters standing strong on the edge of a precipice looking over a world of destruction they now call home. And then there is the author him or herself. But I definitely stick with the first way, which has more logic and authority behind it.
5. Are there any benefits of genrefying?
The obvious is that the patrons find titles easier and circulation has spiked. There are other little things I realized later: A) I did a LOT of weeding in the process, which helped free up some shelf space. B) It gave me a chance to look at all of the genres and see which ones I needed to buy more titles for so I could even out the collection; C) I could put series in order and replace whichever ones were missing; D) Made me even more aware of books I overlooked that I needed to do a reading re-visit on and how many I DID know, which made me happy!; E) It helped me with “if you liked this book, then you’ll like this one…” scenario; F) It opened readers of a particular genre up to reading “outside the lines” and finding themselves reading from more than one genre
6. What about signage?
Again, that’s a personal choice. I created Wordle signs to put on the shelves and then bought cardboard letters we glittered to place on solid ends of the shelves. The sky’s the limit with this one….
7. Any other advice?
Always leave a shelf empty for each genre.
Know that this is an ongoing process (I’ll admit, I still have a section in the stacks I have to go through and finish. Interestingly, these don’t get a lot of circulation…)
If you ever think of moving to a different library, leave information of your genrefication process with the new librarian so they can make sense of it all
Only do this if YOU want to, not because everyone else does it. It’s a commitment that’ll last the duration of your career in a particular library. Embrace the change if you want to, NEVER if you feel you have to