Inheriting a Genrefied Library
I have shared a lot about my experiences and thoughts around genrefication. I have written posts and articles, shared how I first started by genrefying a young adult fiction collection, before moving onto non fiction collections. I’ve presented at conferences and webinars on the topic. But, a first for me this year has been inheriting a library collection that had already been genrefied. I had worked in libraries before that had collections genrefied by someone other than myself, but those times were only for part time work or contract work. This year, I have taken over the library and am now responsible for a library collection where the non fiction is organised by dewey, the biographies are separated, and the young adult fiction collection was genrefied over 5 years ago.
So, is inheriting a genrefied library collection different from genrefying yourself? Absolutely!! Here’s why and here’s some of the things I’ve done or plan to do now that I have inherited this collection.
Why is it different?
The thing I love about genrefication is that there is no one way to do it. It is customised to your collections, what works best for your students, the books and genres available and popular at the time, and of course the librarian’s preference. It is also something that does not remain static. It changes and adapts over time. That’s the way it should be. So, in some ways I have approached this inherited collection in the same way that I would if I was assessing and updating a genrefied collection five years after I genrefied it. But it’s also different, because I might look at the collections differently or have a different preference to layout. Of course, in either case, what was created over 5 years ago might need to be updated to suit the current collection, students and approach to borrowing.
Where to start?
I was fortunate to work part time in this library last year and see how students interacted with the collections and explore the layout before needing to decide whether or not to make changes. In that time I saw which genres students preferred, which were hidden and hard to find or access, which were small or outdated, and which could benefit from a change of some sort. Then, at the end of the year I came up with my suggested changes and spoke with my Library Tech to get her input, ideas, thoughts on the changes and how we might go about it. Here is what we decided to change.
What we changed
New Genre Stickers
I am super excited that we are getting new genre stickers. When the collection was first genrefied (and when I was first genrefying another collection in much the same time) there were very few sticker choices available. Now, there is no shortage of options and customisation available. The stickers the collection was using were the coloured symbols. These are great at portraying the essence of that genre. I wouldn’t have bothered changing the stickers, but I wasn’t happy with the sticker and symbol used for the Relationships collection. We have both a Romance and Relationships collection. The Relationships collection could equally be called the Realistic Fiction collection (more on that later) and the symbol used was a pink female and male silhouette. I didn’t like this for a range of reasons.
- People get it confused with romance. I had someone helping in the library and I explained three times that romance has the red heart and relationships uses the pink boy girl sticker. I came back later to find all the romance books had the boy girl sticker added. Clearly it wasn’t different enough to be clear.
- It’s hetero-normative. Boy. Girl. Are they holding hands? In a relationship? We have a lot of LGBT+ books in that section. We have a lot of books that are not about romance. And the sticker didn’t reflect that, for me.
- It’s pink. Okay, I know pink is just as much for males and non-binary students as it is for female students, but there is a whole lot of association with pink and “girl books” and what are “boy books” and I really just didn’t even want to go there.
So the sticker had to go. There are not a lot of great options for symbolically representing relationships in the same sticker style, so we decided to move to the full colour image stickers. There is such an amazing range, so I decided to go with the YA Relationships sticker from Merchandising Libraries.
I hope it reflects our diverse student population and diverse collection better than the previous sticker and reflects better what the collection and Relationships is actually about.
And of course, once we changed one sticker we decided to bring all collections in line with the same image style and selected replacement stickers for all our fiction collection.
Okay, my weeding process is probably going to be an entirely separate post, because I adore weeding!!! But weeding is an important part of any collection maintenance and genrefication process. I love weeding a collection. Love it. I cannot tell you the joy it brings me to deselect books that are no longer in good condition, no longer have covers that will entice our readers, and are no longer of interest to our students. The books were rehomed. My stance is we are a library to serve our community’s needs and promote reading for pleasure. We are not an archive or museum.
Gosh, I love working with my Library Technician, because when I mentioned that I wanted to get students to help us clean all the books she didn’t baulk at the work (which is massive!!) but instead just organised the supplies and dove into it. I love a clean book. I love a book in good condition. If I don’t want to take a book home and read it in my nice, cozy, clean bed then I won’t make a student take that book home. Our collection is old and has sat on shelves through moves and renovations and it’s dusty and dirty. I had to scrub my hands, pen and computer after weeding the collection so I knew it was time for a clean.
Tidying – Spine labels and catalogue
We also added fixing any books still in decent repair but needing a bit of love, realigning the spine labels and a general tidying of the collection to our to-do list. This work has all fallen to my Library Tech and I will say it again, she is amazing!! And the collections look so good once they are finished, spine labels all neat. We are also checking that each book is correctly placed in the catalogue and has a cover image in the catalogue.
At first I wanted to rename the Relationships collection to Realistic fiction. In the end I decided not to, but that might change. I want to talk more to students about what they relate to best and what they think reflects the collection best.
Assessing what’s in a collection
As I weeded, I also made sure we had complete sets of series (and not missing book two, so no wonder books 3-6 were not being read!) and assessing if what was in science fiction might sit better in dystopian (a collection that was added later). We moved books around genres, found replacements for old copies and generally just made sure everything was in order.
There were some collections that I felt we could do away with and we move the books into other collections. Australian fiction for example, just made no sense to me as a lot of them could fit better into other collections. Others might disagree with me but I have never had a student or teacher ask me for Australian fiction and I knew I could fit this small collection into other collections and make better use of our layout. Smaller collections take up more space and can be lost among bigger collections.
Changing the layout
We really wanted to spread out our graphic novel section and the only way to do that was to move the adventure collection. And the only space to move that was where the romance books were. A quick shuffle later we had an extra shelf to use for graphic novels which allowed us to have a lot more forward facing books. It was the same for all collections – fewer books on the shelf allowed us to spread them out, make sure collections started on the top shelf where possible and put lots of books on display. We are currently using bright blue book ends to stand books up, which isn’t ideal, but is hopefully just a solution for this year until we find funds for better display stands (or a repaint?)
Yep, I definitely needed to purchase some new books, particularly for collections like Sport fiction and Humour which had very old or small collections. It’s no secret that I love sport fiction, so that was a fun collection to bulk up and it made sense to purchase more humour books, as that was a unit our Year 8 students study.
How we did it
My #AmazingLibraryTech and I came up with a year-long plan to tackle our collection management. We’ve created a document that lays out each term and week and assigns tasks for each week. For example, I put down a collection to weed for each week. We then set goals for when we’d try to get the restickering and maintenance done for each collection. We aim to use student helpers where we can. We also won’t try to do entire collections at once, but work shelf by shelf or even a handful of books at a time when we have time to just chip away at the work. Hopefully, this will make it doable. As I write this we are just four weeks into our plan and already we have a few collections done and are well on our way to beautifully presented collections.
Non fiction, biography, and graphic novels are all on my hit list. Once we are done with the fiction, we’ll tackle these collections and I’ll share what we do as we do it.
I also want to get student feedback on the changes we make as we go. A Year 8 class are going to help me with sticker choices and this might be helpful as we move into our options for non fiction. I’ll also be monitoring any changes in loan stats for our updated collections and ask my classes to provide feedback on what they are choosing to read and why.
Signage is next up. For now, I’ll update our posters and I’ve removed all the old posters. I aim to create proper signage with Perspex and vinyl, but might wait until we know what our new library space (coming next year) will mean for our layout and shelf design.
Have you inherited a genrefied collection? Did you make any changes? What have I forgotten to consider? I’d love to hear your story.