Some pupils had been suggesting for some time that they would find it easier to find fiction if it was arranged by genre. I consulted past threads on the School Librarians’ Network group, and read with interest the positive reports from school Librarians who had taken this approach. I also spoke with a local school Librarian whose Library also adopts this method of categorising and shelving their fiction and she reported the big impact she felt it had on her Library, and pupils’ ease with which they could find their next book to read.

I considered how I might best implement this, and after doing my research, found the following methods:
– adding genres labels to spines, but keep the genres mixed
– adding just some genres for the most popular (e.g., vampire/Twilight, funny, adventure), maintaining a section of general fiction that doesn’t conform to a discreet genre
– adding genres to the whole collection

I decided that if I were to add genres, I should try to do it to the whole collection, and so identified a number of categories that would hopefully encompass all fiction. These were:

– For the girls
– Love bites
– Horror/scary
– Crime/mystery
– Adventure
– Sci-Fi and future worlds
– Fantasy and other worlds
– Hard-knock life

I took the chance over a half-term to sort the books and re-shelve according to the genres I had defined, and then once pupils were back from their holiday, my library assistants set about adding genre labels to the back-cover of the books.

So what?

This has been in place for a couple of months now, and I am beginning to be able to reflect on the relative merits and disadvantages of this approach.

It has been very helpful to many pupils, particularly those who like to read books of a similar kind. For example, with the popularity of the Twilight series, this has spurned a whole host of books of a similar style. With all these books together, pupils are able to choose from a range of books in the Love Bites section which helps them to make decisions easily about their next book and find similar authors to those they already like. This is great in the short-term, but one thing to consider is the potential for readers to become entrenched within a genre and not read widely. I would hope to see, however, that as readers mature so will their reading habits and that with some guidance, they will want to broaden their choice of material.

One of the key difficulties in this exercise has been assigning genres to particular books. While many books do fit nicely into particular categories very many others, particularly those written for older teenagers or more competent readers, do not lend themselves to this system well. The approach of adding genres to all fiction books has meant that some books are rather “shoe-horned” into a genre, even if they actually fit into a number of different categories.

What now?

After a term of this method of arranging the fiction, I feel that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits and that a different approach may be more successful. I have found that trying to give books a particular genre becomes reductive, doesn’t encourage broader reading, and adds further tasks to the processing of new stock.

After visiting a school Library recently, I saw an approach that I feel seems much more effective. This particular Librarian does not have her fiction divided into genres, but has displays of fiction in various parts of the Library with books of particular type or genre, with the books faced-out on slat-walls, dump-bins or on desks. This allows a more visual, high-impact approach to book promotion, and facilitates a targeted display of books which is easily and quickly updated.

I now plan to revert back to a fiction stock arranged by author only over the Summer holiday, and find ways of grouping books through more visual, genre-specific displays.