We’re doing it again!
We converted our intermediate fiction section to a genre style a few years ago. You can read a post about the project here. I also wrote an article for Knowledge Quest and have presented at the Washington Library Media Association WLMA annual conference on the topic. More of our district libraries have converted. Circulations are soaring and kids are READING!
Now I have a new project in the works. I forgot to mention it in my Happy Anniversary post that listed my goals for the year. Instead of five goals, I really have six. The sixth goal is to categorize our picture books into a genre style shelving system. Mary, one of the other librarians in our district worked on this project all of last year, and when she told me about it, I knew it was the answer to our problem.
What problem you may ask? Despite all the book displays on top of the shelving carts, many of my students still have trouble finding a book they want. They read a book about trucks, animals, colors, shapes – you name it, the topic doesn’t matter. Then they come to me and want to check out a book one just like that one. In a 30 minute class of k-2 students, where we have 10 minutes of checkout time, I get swamped by students who need help. I’m frustrated by too little time to help each student individually, while I also need check out books to the other 27 students waiting impatiently in line. Many librarians have lots of adult helpers, but I don’t always have that luxury. There are many classes where it’s just me and the kids. What’s a frenzied librarian to do?
I need to make it easier for younger students to find the books they want. I need to use the genre shelving system with the picture books too!
Simple. Easy. Kid friendly. And why didn’t I think of this earlier?
When I converted our fiction section in 2008, it wasn’t something that was being done on a large scale in school libraries. In fact, after asking my principal for his blessing, I didn’t tell anyone about what I did for over a year. At the time, I was a new librarian, and I was fearful of the backlash and criticism. Although it’s more common now, at the time, the idea was fairly radical. I had no idea if it would work, but my hunch was that by making books easier for students to find independently, they would check out more and READ more. The rest is history. Genre shelving our fiction section was a huge success.
This time it’s different. I’m not waiting and I’m no longer worried about what other librarians might say. I plan to document the process as we move along with photos and advice. I’m starting small this time. I haven’t figured out all the categories yet, and I’m okay with the ambiguity. The categories will work themselves out as I look at what others have done, ask my students for their advice, and do my research. If sharing my process helps other librarians, then all the better.
To launch the project, I did decide on three major categories: Art, Concepts and Favorite Characters. Last spring, I asked one of my trusted parent volunteers to look through our shelves for books about concepts – math, ABCs, shapes, punctuation, colors, etc. She pulled those books off the shelves and put them in labeled piles. I already had a major art section with story books about art and artists like Katie Meets the Impressionists or Picasso and the Girl with the Pontail.
These books had been shelved together previously, so all I had to do was find the right shelf and change the call number. I decided to shelf the Art books near the Concept books since they seem like related topics to me.
Each book in a genre section is marked with a colored tinted label that goes over the call number. You can look at the shelf and see visually on the spine that the books go together. I did the same thing with my fiction books. This photo below is what our intermediate sports section looks like. You can see the green call number covers on the spines. I get the covers at Demco.
I’ll use similar colors for our primary books so as a student transitions from the picture books to intermediate books, the color system will be as close as possible. After each book is labeled, I scan it and change the call number. We use Destiny and the photo below show how I added the category in the call number and in the sublocation. If I don’t want to pull each book, I can make the changes on Destiny, run a report on the sublocation and give it to a volunteer. Then the volunteer can pull the books on the list, mark them, and reshelve. When I have a shelf ready for the new section, it’s easy to scan the shelves, pull the books by color and shelve them in their new home.
I also decided this would be a perfect time to begin an inventory. If I was going to touch each book, I might as well get an accurate inventory of the books in our picture book area.
Like I said, I’m starting small. I don’t even have official signs yet. Large sticky notes mark the new sections for the moment! I only have three categories in progress right now. Through the course of the year I will add more categories, using student suggestions. I’m doing this conversion for them, and their voice needs to be a major component on how we proceed. When I have photos of a completed shelf, I will post them.
If you have questions or have suggestions because you have already been through this process, I hope you will share them in a comment. Let’s work together to make our libraries the vibrant places our students need.