Reinvigorating Non-Fiction – part 3 of a 2 year journey
Non-fiction has been a bit of a hot topic in school library discussions in recent months and for good reason. On one hand we are embracing genrefication and challenging the status quo of using problematic library layout systems and on the other hand school librarians are investigating the importance of non-fiction and its place in the school library.
I started my process of reinvigorating the non-fiction at the start of 2022 when I took over my current library. I was only unofficially acting head of library, but I didn’t let that stop me from making some big decisions and prepping for change. In post 1 of this series, I shared about how I started and what my plans were, in post 2 I shared how all those plans had to change and the benefits that had. Now in this third post, surprise surprise, plans changed again (or were just delayed). This section of our journey to reinvigorate the non-fiction collection is from term 1, 2023.
Moving in – or not
Our new library space was to be unveiled on the 24th of January. Unfortunately, our move-in date passed, along with our revised move-in date and the opening date and basically the third, fourth and fifth revised move-in date. All this time, we were still in our temporary library with no access to the non-fiction collection, all our new non-fiction books in boxes and the majority of these had been moved into the building site, so we didn’t have access to them either. Another term of students having limited space in the library and even more limited access to books. The very opposite of our plans to promote and showcase our new non-fiction. But that’s okay, because in between making new move-in plans, we did what we do best – buy more non-fiction. Yep, thanks to lots of student requests we purchased more animal books, football biographies, reflections on the experience of being black, and movie and video game books (Avatar and Five Nights at Freddy’s were popular). All of these fit nicely into our newly genrefied non-fiction collections.
Actually moving in
Finally our move-in date did arrive. And finally we could see the shelves and layout and just how it would work. I was super glad I’d made the decision to put non-fiction downstairs. The shelves appeared even lower than thought and we could only fit one shelf in, so the fiction collection just would never had fit. Instead we had enough room for our new genrefied non-fiction collections downstairs and we managed to fit most of our fiction upstairs.
The return of the old non-fiction
I knew the old non-fiction collection would not fit on the new shelves. I also knew about 90% of it was in no fit state to actually see the light of day again – black mould, other mould, water damage, fading, yellowing, torn covers, not to mention outdated information and problematic representation. Luckily, we have a really big new storeroom and I was able to repurpose some of our old shelves to give us a whole wall of shelving in our back storage room – we are calling it the panic room. For now, the old non-fiction collection is in this space, while the new genrefied collections are out on the library floor for students to access. With the old non-fiction out the back, we’ll be able to cull and genrefy. Anything in decent condition will be added to one of our genrefied collections, given a new spine label sticker and added to the new collections out on the main library area. But that will have to wait until term 2.
Forward facing, forward facing!! We had so many beautiful, brand new (or secondhand but in such great condition they might as well have been new) non-fiction books to show students and I wanted them to be able to see them all. I purchased 500 display stands and with only the new non-fiction to put on the shelves, everything was put cover out. And it looked fabulous. Adding the signage, it was lucky these were custom made, because the shelving layout didn’t fit where it has been planned, and we had to move some things around. Again, thank goodness for genrefication, because trying to fit a DDC layout in would have caused more even crying than just trying to fit the shelves in place. Instead, it didn’t really matter which collection we put where, but we were able to put our bigger collections in areas where we had a bit more shelving, and put some of our featured collections right near the entrances or doors. I made extra signs the night before our big opening to staff and students.
My favourite bit? We opened the building for a special staff event on the Friday. After two weeks of moving I was exhausted, but one of the teachers came up and asked if the library system was up and running (ah, no, we had no power, no computers, and weren’t allowed to actually occupy the space and hadn’t moved in our work stuff yet) but I totally said yes. Guess what he borrowed? A non-fiction book from our new travel collection. Fist pump.
Finally being able to see the new non-fiction collection on shelves showed me what I had and which collections would very quickly need more books. Seeing all our old non-fiction returned also confirmed for me exactly why this collection desperately needed to be reinvigorated.
I can’t wait to have students working, learning and playing amongst the shelves of our new non-fiction collections. Term 2 will consist of genrefying and culling the old non-fiction collection and promoting our new genrefied collections.