Genre-fying the Library

So I had this idea…students were constantly at the circulation desk asking for advice or
assistance. While I loved the company, I started


My amazing TA Denise and I after reorganizing the entire collection in ONE DAY!

thinking, “Why are my students librarian-dependent?” After a bit of reflection, I realized that my students are explorers, not seekers.

Library seekers know exactly what they want. Typically a seeker will use the card catalog, look up the title or author that they would like to find and then approach the shelves.

The vast majority of my students are not seekers…not even close.

My students are explorers, browsers, and perusers. They have a vague idea of  what they would like to read, but lack the self-awareness and reading confidence to self-select. My traditional library was failing my students.

I needed to develop a sense of reading-confidence and self-awareness in my students. The best way to accomplish this task is to reorganize the library by genre.


In each section we included a “spotlight” section where we could display a few books and educate our students about the genre.

Here are the steps that we followed to genre-ify the library. By no means was this a perfect process, but it could be a starting place.

  1. We bought tinted label covers from Demco in twelve different colors to signify the various genres.
  2. Identify which color will stand for each genre. For example “adventure” will be red. The genres we used for our middle school collection included: adventure, mystery, sports, ghost & horror, fantasy, science fiction, realistic fiction, historical fiction, verse, classics, and graphic novels.
  3. Use a common platform for identify the genre of the books in your collection. We used Novelist (free through Nebraska Access), Follett’s Titlewave for more difficult titles, and the subject headings listed on the copyright page to identify the genre of books.
  4. Label a shelf at a time, keeping the books in alphabetical order, and replace the books once they are coded. This helped keep our circulation up during this process.
  5. Create shelf space by weeding or adjusting books in the collection. We started with 12 empty shelves.
  6. Starting with your smallest collection, for us it was sports, extract one genre at a time, starting at the beginning of the collection. Using a cart stack them in alphabetical order.
  7. Place the extracted genre in the empty shelves.
  8. Continue culling one genre at a time from the shelves, creating space for your next genre.
  9. We used three book carts, each with shelves that were the same dimensions as the library shelves, making it easy to eye-ball how many shelves will be needed to store each genre.

Once the books were labeled, it took us only ONE day to readjust the collection! By the end of the first day, the students were already loving the new system. I’m excited to see if the new system helps my “explorers” find new books and authors to love— building their self-confidence and self-reliance within the library.


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