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Library Genrefication: The Do’s and Don’ts

School Library Genrefication
How many times have you heard, “Where are the scary books?” and “Do you have any books like the Hunger Games?” Or maybe "I want a fantasy animal adventure book!" We bet you can't count how many times!

Because of these types of questions, we know that students seek out new books by genre, not by specific authors or titles. Genrefication is designed to help students find the books they love. In a nutshell, genrefying is to arrange your library by category, subject, or genre to help students and teachers locate materials without difficulty.

We know you’ve been contemplating genrefication. We also know the reasons why you haven’t made the leap to genrefy your library–the task is too big, you don't have enough of the right resources, or you are uncertain of where to begin. Maybe you think you can’t do it.

You can. Here's how.

8 Do's and Don'ts of Genrefication

1| The Purpose For Genrefication

Don't Skip the Why
The first–and perhaps the most important–question to ask yourself is "Why do I want to genrefy my library?"

Genrefying a whole collection of 8,000 or more books is an enormous task. Regardless of any helping hands you may have, you'll still want to remember why you chose to genrefy when you're in the throes of rearranging your entire library.

Do Define Goals and Accomplishments
Before abandoning the Dewey Decimal, outline the goals you want to accomplish when you genrefy your library. Do you want to make it easier for students to find books that fit their interests? Do you want to reorganize the space or move foot traffic to different areas of the library? How will the change increase library use and circulation?

Having defined goals will help you plan out the process of genrefication.

2| Planning the Process

Don't Forget to Ask for Advice
After defining goals, you'll want to start preparing and planning. Conduct a bit of research by speaking with other librarians who have genrefied to determine best practices and potential problem areas. There are many articles, blogs, and videos online from those who have genrefied a library. Using other librarians’ methods will give you a starting point to reference.

Do Create a Plan
Once you've gathered information and details, you can begin planning how you are going to execute the project. Here is a three-step outline:

1. Prepare and plan the collection: Decide the timeline of the project, the materials you'll need, weed out books, determine genre groups, and identify genres in your library software.

2. Design the physical library space: It's important to plan how you will arrange the new genre sections in your library. Depending on your goals you may want to design new foot traffic patterns in your library, move shelves, or create new signage and labels.

3. Executing the work of flipping your collection: The scariest part of the process will be physically moving your books into genres. Removing every book from its current place and relocating it to a new home will be a big task. Be sure to have details pinned down like; what is the deadline for the project? Who will perform the work? Who has decision authority for resolving issues and answering questions?

3| How to Organize Genres Selections

Don’t Assume Which Genres You’ll Select
Try not to force your collection to fit into generic categories. Each library collection is going to be different depending on the education level of the patrons and the interests they have.

Most librarians choose to begin the genrefication process with fiction. Genre classification can later include non-fiction and picture books. In most cases, librarians prefer to keep non-fiction in Dewey Decimal since that is, by definition, already categorized by subject. The decision to combine non-fiction and fiction depends on the individual goal for genrefying your collection.

Each category size will be the guide for how you genrefy your books. Subjects like Fantasy will be much larger than Sports Fiction. Assessing all the possible categories will be essential to help you maximize the benefits of genrefication.

Do Assume Your Collection Needs to be Addressed Individually
Your collection has an individual fingerprint. You'll need to take a look at every book in your database to determine which genre it will belong to; this is called Genre Mapping. Matching books to genres will be the most time-consuming activity of genrefication. But, it is vital for the overall project.

Genre Mapping is challenging when titles fit into more than one category. There are a few ways to help you decide which genre to select. Goodreads is a useful tool to use when debating about how to genrefy a book. You can also take a look at the weakness or strength of certain sections of your collection to influence the decision. If you are uncertain, ask yourself where will this title get the most attention.

Below we've provided a list of common genre categories to get you started. Be sure to address if each category fits your library's needs.
Elementary Grades

  • Adventure
  • Animals
  • Fantasy
  • Fairy Tales
  • Folklore
  • Graphic Novels
  • Historical Fiction
  • Humor
  • Mystery
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Scary Stories
  • Science Fiction
  • Sports
Middle/High School

  • Adventure
  • Award Winners
  • Classics
  • Dystopian
  • Fantasy
  • Friendship
  • Graphic Novels
  • Historical Fiction
  • Horror
  • Humor
  • Mystery
  • Myths and Mythology
  • Poetry
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Sports
  • Urban Fiction

4| Meeting Library Expectations and Standards

Don’t Worry Too Much About Sticking to Dewey Standards
Genrefication is a relatively new method of organizing a school library. As of now, there are no set standards for genrefication since each library collection is different. Depending on your outlook, the lack of rules may be daunting or freeing. We like to think the latter.

Some individuals will disagree and say that all libraries should be the same. Sticking to library standards is a valid argument. But, as with any classification system you use, it is more critical that users can find the books they are searching for.

Do Worry About Users Ability to Find Books
Library classification systems like Dewey Decimal are in place to help users find and locate books. Genrefication is the same.

Whether or not you stick to standards or create an entirely new system, the most critical factor is: can patrons find books. Teaching patrons how to search the library catalog and find a book is essential, regardless of how the library is organized.

5| Timeline of Flipping Your Collection

Don’t Believe There is Never a Good Time to Genrefy
Reorganizing your library at any point of the year can be a large project. Planning the logistics of your timeline is key. With a big project like genrefication, time is the most precious resource you have. Make sure to have a deadline in place and mile markers in between. Be sure to know what hours you can perform the work, if it will be necessary to close the library down, and how you’ll handle books in circulation.

Do Believe Genrefication Can Be Done at Any Point of the Year
Genrefication is big, but not impossible. You can do it gradually throughout the school year, or you can flip your library all at once.

Depending on your resources and time you may want to opt for a slow and steady approach. The “work overtime” strategy allows you to take each step of the process as an individual task. The “work overtime” approach may be difficult when there are a lot of books in circulation. But, this method is easier if you have limited help and resources.

The “all at once” strategy requires more time and planning. Genrefying all at once means less disruption to provide library services. An optimal time for this approach would be in the summer after you've completed inventory.

Each strategy has pros and cons. Determining the approach that works best for you depends on the time and support you have at your disposal.

6| Tools, Resources, and Help

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself
Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your genrefied library. Whichever route you take, the “slow and steady” or the “all at once” approach, it will take time. Proper planning and using all available tools will help you to not feel discouraged.

Do Ask for Help and Use Resources Available to You
We suggest contacting your library automation software representative. Your representative will know the ins and outs of your software and can help you navigate features to make the process as seamless as possible.

Look for tools to aid you throughout the project. Tools like Mitinet can streamline the tasks of changing call numbers, updating fields, and more in your database. Other tools and supplies you should consider are book carts, computers, bookends, boxes, post-it notes, markers, tape, pens, etc.

Likewise, seek out help from within the school and community. Ask volunteers, teachers, students, and parents to help in the process. You can delegate easy tasks or larger project portions. Even a pair of extra hands can make a difference.

7| Planning Your Library Space

Don’t Begin Moving Books Until You’ve Laid Out Each Section
Once you’ve stepped through the initial stages of the plan, it will be time to move the books right? Nope! Do not begin moving your collection until you’ve laid out where each section will go. Nothing will be worse than spending hours moving your collection only to find out that your Adventure Fantasy genre won’t fit on the shelves. Some books will be thicker than others; it will be essential to consider the thickness of books in each genre.

Do Arrange the Library Space and Calculate Shelf-Room
Use sticky notes to label shelves as you plan out the new layout of your library. Sticky notes will be a visual aid in planning, and you can move them around until you find the perfect arrangement.

While laying out sticky notes, keep in mind traffic paths through the collection. The location of favorite genres can influence traffic patterns, so plan accordingly with plenty of space.

Calculating shelf-room can be a long shot estimate. But it will help you to understand where each section will fit roughly. Start with your largest genre and figure out how many copies are in that genre. Calculate the number of inches of shelf space required for that section by multiplying the number of copies by the average “inches per book” for that genre. Plan to have about 75% of your shelf full (the other 25% will allow for you to insert new materials in the future). Learn more about calculating your shelf room in your school library.

Don’t forget about signage! Make sure your signs are clear and visible. Be careful about using too large of signs for they’ll take up precious shelf space.

8| Assess Where Improvements Can Be Made

Don’t Set It and Forget It
Lastly, once you've finished the genrefication process, you'll be ready to move onto other priorities in your library. Don't forget to keep an eye on how the new layout is working for your library patrons. After the transition, you'll want to show students and teachers the new classification method by teaching them how to find books using genrefication.

Do Adjust as Needed
Genrefication isn't a cookie cutter method. You'll want to to see how students and teachers are using genrefication and where improvements can be made. Track library activity by viewing circulation statistics and talk to students and teachers about where to improve.

Most likely you'll need to make a few tweaks to refine the genrefication system at your school library. Ultimately, this stage of the process will show you how you are reaching your intended goals.

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  1. […] Library Genrefication: The Do’s and Don’ts […]

  2. […] Do’s and Don’ts of Genrefication at Your School Library. (2019, March 08). Retrieved from https://goalexandria.com/library-genrefication-the-dos-and-donts/ […]

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