What School Librarians Have to Say About Genrefication
Many librarians are looking at genrefication as a way to help kids find the books they’re interested in and, ultimately, boost circulation. To learn more about the challenges, logistics, and benefits, we interviewed school librarians who are putting genrefication into practice.
The responses we received highlight five things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about genrefying your own library:
- Reasons for choosing genrefication as a library classification system
- Key challenges when making the switch and how to overcome them
- Why you might choose to genrefy your entire collection or just a part
- What resources and products are available to help you along the way
- What benefits you can expect when you genrefy your collection
Reasons to Choose Genrefication
A great way to start your genrefication journey is to think about what you hope to achieve or what behavior you hope will change when you genrefy your library collection. To give you some ideas, the librarians we interviewed noted the following:
- Supporting Reluctant Readers
Avid readers in their schools will find a book no matter the organization system. So, for most librarians, the goal of genrefication is to help reluctant readers. A genrefied collection makes it easier for these students to find books that align with their interests, instead of getting overwhelmed by shelf after shelf and just grabbing a random book when it’s time to check out.
- Boosting Reader Independence
Genrefication helps students become more independent in the library by offering cues that help them find books they like on their own.
- Saving Time for Students and Staff
From losing an assistant to taking on new duties, many librarians have less time for traditional readers’ advisory. Some face more limits on the amount of time that students get to spend in the library. For these librarians, a genrefication project can make it both easier and faster for students to choose a book.
Key Genrefication Challenges
Perhaps one of the most important steps to take before genrefying your library is to identify and plan for the challenges that may arise. To give you a sense of what is in store for your own genrefication project, the librarians we interviewed called out the following:
- Time to Completion
Most librarians said that while they had to work very hard, they were able to finish their genrefication project during the school year, within a few months, and without stopping circulation. However, librarians who finished their projects in less time typically had full-time help and/or chose to genrefy only a part of their collection. Some projects took quite a bit longer to complete. The longest project took two years — with one year spent planning, and one year physically genrefying.
Learn how Tiffany Whitehead tackled the project in her post 5 Steps to Ditching Dewey: Genrefication in Your School Library.
- Stakeholder Buy-In
Most of the librarians we interviewed did not experience a great deal of resistance to their genrefication projects. However, they did consider any concerns that key stakeholders held. Students and parents had little to no concerns, while administrators and teachers had slightly more. However, most librarians studied the benefits of genrefication at length before proposing their project and were able to satisfy any concerns with clear goals and reasoning on how genrefication would help their students. Nearly all librarians noted that concerns vanished once they finished their project and stakeholders could see students benefiting from a genrefied collection.
- Genre Selection
Many librarians found that genre selection was challenging — both in choosing which genres to use in their library, and in deciding where to shelve each book. To choose genres, some librarians relied on a genre label list from their book supplier (like this one from Follett), and some turned to Demco’s Genre Classification Labels webpage for help. To decide on where to shelve a book, most librarians used the subject headings listed on the book’s title page, a book supplier’s suggested genre for the book, MARC records, or how readers classify the book on goodreads.com.
Genrefying Fiction, Nonfiction, or Both?
Perhaps the most important genrefication decision, beyond actually choosing to start, is whether to genrefy your entire collection or just a part. Here are some insights from librarians who have done both:
- Who Genrefied What?
All the librarians we interviewed, across all K–12 school libraries, genrefied their entire fiction collection. Of the K–8 school librarians, half also chose to genrefy their nonfiction collection. High school librarians chose not to genrefy their nonfiction collection.
- Why Not Nonfiction?
There were three reasons why librarians did not genrefy their nonfiction collection. First, some librarians noted that they did not feel they had the time to take on another genrefication project. Second, some librarians started with fiction but planned to genrefy their nonfiction in the future. Third, some librarians, all at the high school level, chose to keep their nonfiction collection classified in Dewey so that students could experience a numerical classification system before going to college.
- Other Options
Some librarians who chose not to genrefy their nonfiction collection did select key titles to either genrefy along with similar fiction or display separately from the rest of their nonfiction. For example, one librarian noted that she chose to shelve sports nonfiction with sports fiction. Another librarian made displays to highlight popular nonfiction and help students branch out from their typical choices.
Genrefication Labels and Signage
After deciding whether to genrefy your entire collection or just a part, you’ll need to decide on how to call out genres in your library and how to physically identify each book. To help you choose, the librarians we interviewed called out the following:
The two most popular genrefication products were labels that spell out the chosen genre and color-coded labels. Many librarians used Demco’s Genre Classification Labels or Color-Tinted Label Protectors. Most elementary and middle school librarians chose Genre Classification Labels that fit their needs. At the high school level, librarians used Color-Tinted Label Protectors for a more sophisticated look.
Many librarians noted that they created their own signage to call out genres in their library. Their ideas ranged from custom-made wood signs at the top of shelves to colored tape for highlighting shelf divisions. Other ideas include using student-created artwork, matching Retro Genre Posters, Silhouette Genre Posters, Custom Mini Posters, or Shelf Talkers to call out genres.
- Bonus Color-Coding Ideas
You can also use color codes to identify genres in your library. If this solution appeals to you, you may consider simply using Color-Coding Dots or Color-Coding Labels to complete your genrefication project.
The Benefits of Genrefication
The final piece to the genrefication puzzle is understanding the ways that reorganizing can affect students. Librarians who have genrefied noted the following:
- Increased Student Engagement
Nearly all the librarians we surveyed noted that genrefying their library made it much easier for students to find books that aligned with their interests. These librarians noted that the increased ease of use boosted student interest in books, as well as the library as a whole. Many noted that this increased student interest had a positive effect on administrators and teachers as well, as they enjoyed seeing students so engaged in the library.
- Boost in Circulation
Genrefication can also lead to a boost in circulation. One librarian noted 6% growth in circulation and another noted that 1,000 more books circulated after she completed her genrefication project. Most librarians credited their boost in circulation to an increase in reluctant readers finding books of interest and branching out from there.
- More Circulation Variety
Librarians also noted that a wider variety of books circulated after they completed their genrefication project. In these cases, a genrefied collection led students to browse other titles they may not have chosen before.
- Easier Reshelving
A number of librarians noted that the spine labels and signage they used to complete their genrefication project made it much easier to shelve books. Some librarians noted that now they can have volunteers or students pitch in on shelving with very little training.
There is a lot to think about when you’re considering switching to a genrefication library classification system. If you are making the change, be sure to check out these additional resources: