After we hacked Dewey in our nonfiction, students requested that we break fiction up by genres. We had so many students asking for mystery books and horror books that we knew we had to make the change for them.
The process was incredibly daunting, but we wanted to give our students what they were asking for, so we gave them: horror, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, romance, and survival (which is really our “dystopian worlds” collection).
We made the change in our fiction collection over the summer of 2013. We started with weeding. And then we went through the collection and pulled any books we thought would go into one of our genres. We kept about half of our fiction collection as is: alphabetical by author filed under “Fiction.” We relabeled our genre books, added the call number prefix in the OPAC, created signs, shifted and reshelved our entire collection in order to shelve genres together.
We spent time defining the genres. Where would Silence of the Lambs go? Horror or mystery? Are all zombies filed under horror? What about Warm Bodies? Horror or romance or survival? It helped to say things like: all ghost stories and zombies will be part of horror and then be flexible about your definitions! We defined time travel books as science fiction, however, when we got to Outlander and The Time Traveler’s Wife we had a doubt. Should they actually be shelved in romance? Who was more likely to read those titles? These are all decisions you will have to make based on your readers, reading culture, and current practice.
We recently pulled the classics out of our fiction collection and moved them next to our Poetry and Shakespeare shelves. We had some rules for pulling classics. We talked to teachers and students about what made something a classic book. We defined classics as having both popular and critical success. We decided right away that the author had to be dead. While we all agreed The Color Purple by Alice Walker could be considered a classic but when she publishes her next novel, is it an instant classic? Is everything she wrote a classic? We didn’t want to have those debates. So we added to our definition the idea that a classic book has had popular and critical success over time.
Librarians ask why we don’t have a historic fiction collection. Our students are not requesting this and currently do not do a lot of reading in that genre. We do consider adding an “urban,” “comedy,” “sports,” or “adventure” section next. Although the more genres we add, the more crossover we will get. We made the decision to shelve titles (even multiple copies) in one area (not in multiple genres) however we may consider changing this rule soon. John Green books, for example, could be in multiple spots within genres, but should we split his books up? The Fault in Our Stars and An Abundance of Katherines in romance and everything else in fiction? Or should we put Paper Towns in mystery? We find students want to read everything an author writes, so we currently want to shelve authors’ works together.
We have also recently been talking about creating a “sports” section but shelving them with the nonfiction sports book display. Yikes! This seems scary to me, but I see it work in elementary school libraries (you might have all of the Halloween books shelved together whether they are fiction or nonfiction). We will keep you posted.
Overall circulation has not changed much however, student satisfaction and empowerment has gone up! We did have an initial bump in fiction circulation when we made the change but there are a number of factors impacting our numbers: standardized testing (we do Freshmen and Sophomore NWEA testing in September and October now), faculty changes (we had 3 new English teachers in 2 years), frozen budgets, school enrollment is down, etc. All of the things that impact a typical school library year-to-year.
Essentially we changed the way students browse for fiction books in our library. We all have to do what we think is best for the students in our school.