Over the past few years, I’ve kept a few book carts at the front of my high school library for students’ convenience. Avid readers and curious students take note of the colorful displays as they enter the school library. Though I separate the carts into categories such as young adult, adult, and nonfiction, I sometimes struggle to find specific books I’m looking for. I’m often stumped, for example, when I can’t locate the book I have in mind for a ninth-grade horror/thriller lover.
This year, I began to wonder how genrefication would impact my students. I was encouraged by the numerous articles demonstrating the benefits. As one Denver librarian explained, genrefication “was a step toward student empowerment and away from reproducing systems of dependency” (Torres). At the end of the school year, after classes were over and finals were under way, I decided to take on the project. It was a daunting task but I dove in and didn’t look back.
The first thing I did was sort my entire fiction and contemporary nonfiction collection. I took down all of the books from the shelves and emptied my book carts. I stacked the books in alphabetical piles and categorized them. There were tables of young adult fiction; young adult scifi/thriller/dystopian; young adult nonfiction; adult fiction; adult scifi/thriller/dystopian; adult nonfiction; classics; short stories; and poetry. The only books I left on the shelves were general nonfiction ones that were part of research collections promoted before digital databases were in wide use. There is such a large number of these types of books that I simply didn’t have enough time to sift through them all.
I always spend time weeding at the end of the year, but in order to create enough consecutive space for the most popular genres I had to be more focused. I discarded dozens of outdated and damaged books. I also turned to the infrequently used reference section, which took up an entire wall of shelves. I took down all of the (heavy!) reference collections, weeded books that were no longer relevant or up to date, and moved the remaining volumes to lower shelves that are less visible. When I came across rarely used books I wasn’t ready to get rid of, like collections of dictionaries and classic authors, I stacked them in a corner in the hopes of ordering book shelves to house them in the future.
Once I took stock of what I had, I decided which shelves would hold each genre. I counted the books in specific categories and recorded how many shelves were in a particular area. I began with the young adult collection and started putting the YA books onto the shelves I allotted for them. As I did this, I got an idea of how many shelves they would take up and where the other genres would fit. When I finished with YA I continued with each section, working my way around my shelves and figuring out where to put each genre.
I had been hesitant to display signs on my shelves because my school library had been renovated several years ago and the decor exuded classic sophistication. I didn’t want to ruin the aesthetic. This year, I realized how helpful it would be and ordered a few plastic sign holders. I took those out during this project and made use of them. What a difference it makes! Now, students and staff can see where each genre is shelved even when I’m not there to help them find a book. I taped signs on the front of each book cart too for those students who don’t have time to browse the whole collection.
I wasn’t sure I would finish this huge undertaking but working until the last minute, I was able to get it done. Based on the interactions I had with the students and staff members who came in the last few weeks of school, I’m confident that genrefying my shelves was a great choice. I’m looking forward to sharing the newly organized collection with students in the fall.
“The Switch to Genrefication.” American Libraries Magazine, 26 Aug. 2021, https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2021/09/01/the-switch-to-genrefication/.
Author: Karin Greenberg
Karin Greenberg is the librarian at Manhasset High School in Manhasset, New York. She is a former English teacher and writes book reviews for School Library Journal. In addition to reading, she enjoys animals, walking, hiking, and spending time with her family. Follow her book account on Instagram @bookswithkg.
Categories: Collection Development