It’s a Genre Based Library


 What does the word genre mean?

A genre is simply a fancy name for a group of books which share style, form, or content. For example, books that have characters who may have special powers, or magic, talking animals, mythical beings or are set in a medieval universe are some of the typical elements of Fantasy books.

It’s really important to know this term in our library because our fiction section is organized by genre. The intermediate students have been learning about genres in library class so they will be able to find what they want on the shelves.

Our library looks a lot more like a bookstore than a traditional library. If you like mystery books, you can come in to the library, walk to the mystery shelves and find all of our mystery books in the same place. They are still in alphabetical order by the author’s last name, like a regular library, but they are also shelved by genre.

Our transition to a genre based library happened a few years ago when I noticed that students who came in to the library would get frustrated when they couldn’t find another book similar to the one they had just read. They kept asking, “Where are the fantasy books?” or “Can you help me find another science fiction book?” 

The students got frustrated because they couldn’t find what they wanted quickly. I also was upset, for the same reasons.  Even worse? Kids walked out of the library without a book, saying they would just go to the bookstore and find what they wanted.

The bookstore format could be my solution! We would shelve our books by genre and then the kids would be able to find what they wanted easily. We started by putting a sticker on all the books. Then we grouped the genres into piles, arranged them alphabetically by author’s last name, and reshelved them in their new genre neighborhood!


The conversion was four years ago and our Bulldog Readers love it! They learn about genres for a purpose. They can easily find the fiction books they want. Our check out numbers spiked after the conversion and have stayed high ever since. That’s why we love genres in the Bulldog Library!


What do you think about our genre based system?

What is your favorite genre to read?

Leave us a comment and let us know!


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

33 thoughts on “It’s a Genre Based Library

  1. Dear Mrs.Hembree,
    That was a good lesson in library don’t you think. I have one question When do I get Diary of a wimpy kid Cabin feber?
    I would love to draw it and show you.
    You buddy Alex.

    • Dear Alex,
      I’m glad you see the importance of the lesson on teaching about genres. It really helps to learn our system in a realistic manner.

      We have 20 students on the reserve waiting list for Cabin Fever! I’m not sure where your name is on the list, but it shouldn’t be too long. We have 4 copies that are circulating. Please show me your drawing! I would love to see it!
      Mrs. Hembree

  2. Hi Mrs Hembree

    Thank you for doing a blog post to share your fabulous Genre idea!

    I’m half way there in our Fiction section because many of our Fiction books already have genre labels. After seeing what you’ve done I’m seriously thinking I might organise our books on the shelves in genres too. I will show this post to some of my classes and ask them what they think of the idea and if, like your students, it will make it easier for them to find the books they enjoy reading.

    Miss Y 🙂

    • Dear Miss Y
      I am so pleased that you might consider converting your library too. There are times when it’s hard to figure out a genre, but for the majority of the time, it works fabulously. To help with computer searches, we also put the genre category in the call number. For example, let’s say for example the book is Harry Potter by JK Rowling. In my online catalog the call number reads, F ROW FANTASY. That way when you look up the title or author online, you can still find the book on the shelf. A simple fix.
      It might be a great lesson for your students to help you figure out which genre a book should be in. Then everyone is involved!
      Good luck and feel free to ask more questions!
      Mrs. Hembree

      • Quick question…I am debating on genre-fying my library! I am not sure if I have enough time to get this done before school starts back in August. Did you have to re-barcode each of your books? What would you suggest that my process be first?
        1. First Color Code
        2. Next Grouping
        3. Change Call number?

        –Your insight will be very beneficial to me! thanks so much! 🙂

        • Hi Beth,
          Yes, your order makes sense! The great part of converting to a genre system is that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. First I would pick your genres. What categories work best for your students? Then pick one genre and start with that. You’ll have to make space on those shelves somehow, but start with what you can handle. Graphic novels is a high traffic area. Perhaps, you have a high visibility set of shelves where they could be moved to. You can color code and keep them on the same shelf and let the kids know your system too while you are in transition. Then change the call number. My call numbers have the genre included: F PAU ADVENTURE. I also put the info in the sublocation and then you can run reports in Destiny. I do not re-barcode anything.
          Have fun! I’m in process of converting my picture books and deciding what categories I want to use with them.

          • Thanks for your help! Another quick question….andthen I will leave you alone! Would you take the non-fiction graphic novels and put them with the fiction ones?

          • Hi Beth,
            This is a great question and one that I have struggled with as well. I decided to put them with the graphics. I renamed my graphic novel section to graphics and it now incudes both. I ask the question, where will the book be found most easily so that it will go home with kids?
            Keep asking! I love to help!

          • Hey there, I HATE my picture book section but how does one genre base books that are all about talking animals? Help! Any suggestions would be appreciated!

          • Hi Ms. Nancy,
            What a great question! Truthfully, all of the everybody books are fantasy and therein comes the dilemma. What to do? I divided up my sections similar to my intermediate books. I had favorite characters, humor, go, go, go (all those trucks, cars, planes, sports or on the move books), people/places/history, basics, and others. I will be posting a list on my wiki in a couple weeks. Check back soon with details.
            Mrs. Hembree

  3. Dear Mrs. Hembree,
    I really enjoyed reading your post and would love to see our library organized this way. Each week I hear the same things from the grade 2/3 students that you were hearing from the Bell Bulldog Readers. When my students are looking for books they usually ask for a specific genre. I love that it would make it easier to find books like another book they enjoyed.

    I am not sure if this is something our librarian would consider, but I think I will definitely bring it up.

    I like too how you compared your new system to a book store. In my own classroom my library is organized in book baskets by genres, themes, and a few by author and we say we are going book shopping when we pick our books for our individual book bins.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Mrs. Watson
    Sointula, Canada

    • Dear Mrs. Watson,
      Thanks so much for leaving a comment about your library system. I wish you could come and see our library and why it works so well. Kids don’t have an excuse for not finding a book they like anymore. Now it’s easy to go to the shelves and just look at the books.
      When I taught first grade, we did book shopping too and we had our books in baskets similar to your arrangement. I hadn’t thought about it, but I guess I was using the book store method back then too!
      What are some favorite baskets in your room? We have our easy chapter books in baskets in our library. I will have to do a post about that soon too!

      Mrs. Hembree

  4. Dear Mrs. Hembree,
    I would love to visit your library and the Bell Bulldog Readers some day. What a great field trip that would be!

    Robert Munsch, Rhyming Stories, Holidays (like Hallowe’en and Christmas), and Mysteries are some of the grade 2/3’s favourite fiction baskets in our room. The Space, Dinosaur, and Animal non-fiction baskets are also very popular.

    Looking forward to your next post!

    Mrs. Watson

  5. Dear Mrs Hembree,

    Am back on board again as I lost my internet over the weekend and did not get it back till today and it is all good well I hope it is!

    Now what a clever librarian you are! I really love this genre base of organising your books within your library.

    To tell you the truth I would have more than likely liked going to the library back in my younger years if it is was set out just like yours is.

    However in saying this I do like visiting the library now because BB and I do it together. Actually sometime she would pick out a book for me to read going by her own genre.
    Sorry I forgot to sign off.

    From your pal down under,

    Sorry I forgot to sign off.

    From your pal down under,
    AA. 🙂

  6. Dear Mrs Hembree,

    Am so glad to read you did receive my comment, but I was wondering can you please delate my email address at the end of the above comment.
    I never was ment to put that on at the end of this comment boy I am one silly person when it comes to computers

    Thank you Mrs Hembree.

    From AA.

  7. First, thanks for the comment on my blog 🙂

    I think that for our students, genre shelving is a much more logical fit. I have found that my students are able to find books that they enjoy MUCH more easily now!


  8. Ooo, I really want to do this! I’m all for making things more accessible for children, but I know some people I work with would argue that “this is not how other libraries are organized. What would your students do if they moved to another school in the district that wasn’t organized by genre? This would not set them up to be a life-long public library patron.”

    My argument would be, “Let’s get them reading a lot and reading well in the elementary grades and then worry about the rest later.” Is that being irresponsible?

    • Dear Ms. Morigeau,
      Thank you for your interest in our genre system! My argument for students who go to a non-genre system is that they would be just fine. They still use the alphabetical system. They still know Dewey and they still know how to navigate around a library. I have never had a student come back and say, “Boy I sure hated being able to find books I liked.”
      What our system does do, is help them easily find books they like. My bottom line for library decisions consists of only one question. “IS this decision good for kids?” If after reflecting my answer is yes, then I move forward.
      I would imagine years and years ago when Dewey came up with his organizational system, people questioned him as well. I’m not saying that genre shelving is equal to Dewey, but forward thinking is sometimes a lonely road at first. Follow your heart and don’t worry about the rest.
      Let me know how you do. Also, you might want to check out the TL Ning because genre shelving has been a discussion topic there too!
      Julie Hembree

  9. Hello-thank you for sharing your work! I have been thinking about this for a while and really feel it will help my reluctant readers find more of things they like.

    Question – we have a paperback section right now and I am wondering if those should be genre-ized but still stay in a separate paperback section or just put them in with the hardcovers.

    Did you do anything special in Destiny or whatever you use?

    Thank you again! Jenny

    • Dear Jenny,
      Thank you for your questions. I don’t have my paperbacks separate from the hardcovers. The only exception to that is our EZ book baskets. I have all of the early chapter books in baskets. I have a post with photos on the blog for your reference.
      Otherwise, I keep everything together. In Destiny, I add the genre on the call number. F HEM MYSTERY and then I add it in the subcategory at the bottom. This works for me. It took time to add the call number addition, but we just worked through it gradually, or each time the book came back from being checked out.
      We love the system and wouldn’t go back ever!
      Julie Hembree

  10. Love, love, love the genre shelving for fiction–sounds like a spring/summer project for me! I want to purchase genre labels to tape on the spines, but I have so much trouble with labels and book tape peeling off or getting all grungy and gross under the corners… do you have any recommendations for a brand you like or any tips for getting them to stick better?

    Your blog is amazing and inspiring. Soon, I keep telling myself, soon I will be organized enough to attempt this!
    Kristy Riley

    • Dear Kristy,
      The best part of genre shelving is once you start the project, it’s a great opportunity to weed your shelves and keep the books that your students still read. I had some students help me classify books and determine the genres. I know other librarians are starting to do this, and may have other genres. I chose mine based on our collection. For example, we have an Animals shelf. All the books about animals are there including the Warriors series. They are also fantasy, but our fantasy shelves are so big, that I wanted to divide it up some.
      I use BrodArt and Demco labels and then put a label protector over them. Library tiff uses color coded labeling. You can read what she does here:
      One thing I can tell you is that I have never regretted my decision! The kids love it and so do I. Let me know how it goes!
      Julie Hembree

  11. Pingback: Simple Tips for Organizing Your Homeschool Library |

  12. Mrs. Hembree,
    When I presented the idea of genre shelving our fiction collection to my principal, he could immediately envision how helpful it would be for the students at our K-5 elementary school. So, with some help from a retired librarian friend, I recently finished reorganizing the fiction section of my school library into 12 genres and each title has a label at the bottom of the spine (just below the call number) to show its genre. With the help of a former student, we are in the process of scanning each title into the appropriate category so I can update the call number to reflect the new location for each book. All of the elementary schools in our district are open a few hours each week during the summer, and the students that have already come in have loved how the books are arraigned (and that’s without the aid of signs as I haven’t had the time to make them up yet). Before starting on the project, I also deleted obsolete titles from the fiction collection and I’m so glad I took the time for this important step. Thank you for sharing what you’ve done, it’s awesome!

    • Dear Ms. Plumley,
      Yea! Another convert! I guarantee you will not regret this for one instant because your students will love it so much. My goal is to make new signs this summer as well. I’m going to color coordinate them with my genre stickers.
      I have one of the smallest collections in my district because I do weed a lot. It gives my shelves room, and then the students can find the books they are looking for. When books are jammed in too tight, nothing gets read.
      Good luck with your new system and THANK you for sharing!
      Julie Hembree

  13. I am the new librarian for our high school here in Maple Lake Mn.The students will come to me asking where they would find a good mystery novel, the best I could do was show them how to use our destiny program by putting in mystery then hitting subject. I noticed that not all the books would come up just a few would. So my goal is to set up my library by Genres but I don’t know how to go about finding what each books category would be. Is there a website I can plug in the name of a book and find out the best Genre for it? Any help I can get to get this started would be greatly appreciated

    • Dear Rachael,
      This is a great question that we all have to work through. On books that are not as obvious, I often look at the MARC record to see what tags are listed. Sometimes it will say mystery, humor, etc. I also am a member of Goodreads, and if I have not read the book, I look at what tags other people have put on the book. I do the same using Amazon.
      Your greatest source are the kids. Ask someone who has read the book, what genre they think it is. They love to help out.
      Thanks for visiting our blog!
      Mrs. Hembree

  14. I am making the switch to genre-fy our fiction section but I have a question about your picture books. Do you include them in your genre shelves or do you have an E section still? That is the part I am still trying to figure out. Thanks for your help!

    • Dear Lindsay,
      I have my Everybody picture books in a different area than the “genre” fiction chapter books. Except for the early chapter books. The books like Magic Tree House, Cam Jansen, Bindi, series books, are housed in baskets and are between the two areas. That way anyone who wants to read one of them doesn’t worry about visiting the “wrong” area and getting teased.
      I do know a fellow librarian in our district who is genrefying her everybody section. I’m looking forward to visiting it when she is done. I haven’t gone that far yet.
      I hope this helps!
      Mrs. Hembree

    • Hello,
      Thank you for visiting my blog. I’m afraid I don’t have any information to offer you with combining C# with barcodes and genre. If you do something with this, please show me a photo. I’m intrigued.
      Good luck,
      J. Hembree

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *