Pooja Mathur shares how The King?s School genrefied the senior library fiction collection and the challenges encountered.
As teacher librarians (TLs), we want to put the right book in the right hands efficiently to maximise impact and minimise time wastage; all part of the reader’s advisory process.
This objective is supported and highlighted by Ranganathan’s laws four and five of Library Science (Haider, 2019), where saving a reader’s time is paramount and accepting that the library is a dynamic environment is essential. Hence, location of, and access to, resources in a library must be easy, simple and quick. We should be open to educated changes in shelving and cataloguing to accommodate diverse and unique requirements of our client demographic.
Until recently, books in the fiction collection at King’s were arranged traditionally by the author’s last name. This arrangement, however, did little to accommodate student requests, such as:
‘Where are the sports books?’
‘Where can I find other books like this one?'
‘Do you have any other Dystopian novels?’
‘I’m looking for short story collections/ war stories... where can I find them?’
With these questions ringing in our ears and encouraged by positive chatter on our various professional learning networks (PLNs), the King’s Senior Library team decided to embark upon a small-scale research project to determine if genrefication of the library’s fiction section would be beneficial for students and assist in further strengthening the wide reading culture across the Senior School. We were encouraged by the previous genrefication experience of our Head of Information Services, Di Laycock, in the Barker College Library where the fiction collection was genrefied with positive and encouraging results.
Our 5 step approach
At King’s, the process to genrefy the fiction section commenced during Term 1, 2018. At a library team meeting we discussed the pros and cons of genrefication. Discussions were also held with colleagues from the English faculty and via various PLNs. It was important to engage in some professional readings to help inform our decisions.
A survey of Year 7 and 8 students, regarding how they currently selected books, was planned and implemented. The survey results were analysed, with some 60 percent of student indicating that ‘the story’ influenced their choice of fictions books to read.
As a team, we agreed to genrefy our fiction collection, commencing in Term 2, 2018. Planning commenced and roles were assigned to each staff member. This included deciding on genre headings (using Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) headings, Goodreads categories, student recommendations and the makeup of our collection.
After some lively discussion, and a few ‘practice runs’ to genrefy a selection of books, we settled on sixteen genres:
- Alternate Histories
- Mystery and Suspense
- Science Fiction
- Short Stories
- Urban Fantasy
During Term 2, 3 and 4 in 2018 a few tasks were undertaken. Genre categories were added in Destiny, our library management system (LMS). Each fiction shelf was picked up individually and a genre was assigned to each title. To assist us in this process we consulted with colleagues, other libraries, author websites and Goodreads.
Relevant changes for each title were then made in Destiny and a coloured dot (denoting the genre) was affixed to the spine of each title. The books were then returned to the traditional alphabetical arrangement.
Genre signage was designed and purchased. Shelf layout for each genre and floorplan for the fiction section were mapped according to the collection’s holdings.
On a pre-determined Friday evening, in the middle of Term 4, 2018, our library team re-shuffled and re-shelved the entire fiction collection into genres. This task was transacted over a 5-hour period.
At the beginning of 2019, we utilised new signage, innovative library displays, our reading and writing clubs, Year 7 library orientation lessons, Storylines (our wide reading lessons with Years 7 and 8), and message in the school’s daily bulletin to advertise our newly genrefied collection.
The main challenges we encountered during our journey included:
- Deciding on the number and names of genres.
- How would the books be visually identified? We chose coloured dots on the spine as the best way not to intrude on the spine information.
- Some titles straddled various genres and it was tricky to place them in one genre.
- Physically re-shuffling the collection.
- The process of labelling the books and entering the genres into Destiny was time-consuming.
We have circulation statistics; however, with the introduction of the Accelerated Reader program by the English Department at the beginning of 2019 it is not possible to attribute increased borrowing to genrefication alone.
Most students have reported an ease in locating resources when they are browsing as they generally gravitate towards their favourite genre. Catalogue searches are reportedly clearer now, leading to prompt location of physical items. The boys have reported that they are challenging themselves to read through their preferred genre collection (since they can now see how many books there are!).
We have been able to identify ‘gaps’ in our collection and have endeavoured to fill them. It is convenient for students, especially seniors, to quickly locate relevant resources when they are looking for specific genres. For example, short stories, war, crime.
Finally, I want to emphasise that genrefication may not be for every library. The name and number of genres will differ according to the client demographic of each library. It is certainly not an expensive project, however, it is a very time consuming one.
How to cite this article – Mathur, P. (2019). Genrefication @ The Kings’ School Senior Library. Scan, 38(9).