Genrefying: Two Truths and a Lie (Part 3, Truth 2: Not Everyone Will Love It – But Most Will)

Truth 2: Not everyone will love it – but most will.

This is the third in a series of four posts about my experience genrefying the fiction section of my middle school’s library. Click here for the first post in the series and here for the second post.

2015-2016 (First year, post genrefying) 

Our library was freshly genrefied when the school year began in 2015. I was the first in my district to genrefy, so this was brand new to all my users – staff, students, and parents. I began spreading the news with our English teachers, who frequent the library more than most staff at my school, by offering to have the Back to School Department Meeting in the library. During the meeting, I took time to explain to them how our fiction section had been reorganized and why, along with the benefits and drawbacks I anticipated, and they were given time to walk around and browse the new layout.

The reaction was mixed; some teachers were instantly in love and began looking for their favorite titles, while others were confused or blatently disagreed (I had one teacher tell me there was no way students would find books anymore and I needed to change it back to how it was before). I took these reactions with a grain of salt, knowing that this was new to them (change is hard!) and some were, ahem, more traditional about education than others. Also, I used this opportunity as a way to practice how I would explain to students – especially our eighth graders – about our new genre organization. It was also good to experience a mix of reactions, as I knew it may be the same for our students.

Man, was I in for a surprise when my seventh graders walked in (my school is only grades 7 and 8) and when I explained the layout, they were OVERJOYED. Seriously. I made sure to spend a chunk of orientation on them discovering the space and allowing ample time for them to browse, but they were excited. Seventh graders. Excited about reading. Seriously. One student even said to me at checkout, “Why don’t all libraries do this? It’s so much easier to find good books!” This made me somewhat nervous about introducing our eighth graders to genrefication; hardly ever do eighth graders feel the same way about something as seventh graders do.

While some eighth graders took some time warming up to the idea, as I expected, because they had become used to the layout the year before, others were all about it. All it really took was intentional time to browse and use the catalog, as we always give to students during orientation and book checkout. Many of them fully enjoyed looking and discovering books they might have missed before in the genres they liked. The smiles, laughs, and checkouts were priceless.

To be fair, there were some (maybe a dozen students – out of 1200+) that were not exactly thrilled with a layout that was different than what they were used to. These students tended to be the ones who had issues with change in general, as well as those few who delighted in reading every book from an author – and now said author was most likely scattered across genres. Once I showed them the power of the library catalog and clicking the “Author” button, they were amazed that they could still find what they were looking for. Others just didn’t like the concept of the genre layout but still enjoyed browsing. And this will happen; like we well know about most things, you can’t please everyone all the time. But when the vast majority enjoy it, there’s no way I’m going to put everything back for the few who don’t like it. (And there were MANY students who weren’t successful in the former layout, which we’ll talk about in tomorrow’s post).

At the end of the first quarter and at the end of the school year, I surveyed a random sample of English classes (one of each level of class – self contained, regular, honors, gifted) in each grade about what they thought about our layout. It was anonymous; the only thing I recorded was the level of class each survey came from. It was amazing that 94% of our students liked the genrefied layout! The percentages of students who said they could find books better, discovered new authors to read, and other statements were higher than I ever could have expected. Truly, this was something that students didn’t really know they needed, and yet most of them absolutely loved it. At the bottom of the survey, students could write comments about what they thought. The best? “Genrefication is AWESOME! How did I survive without it?”

(For more stats & graphs of students agreeing/disagreeing with statements, see this Smore that I created. PS: TT=team taught/inclusion; GE=general ed; HN=honors; AA=gifted; SELF=self contained)

My parent volunteers – who do the shelving in my library – absolutely LOVED the genre layout. All they had to do was pull books from a particular genre and shelve those! It made the alphabet a lot less intimidating because sometimes shelving with a zillion similar call numbers can get confusing! It also helps because if they only have a limited amount of time, they will only shelve one or two genres instead of going through the crazy of alphabetizing all the returns. A few even stated they were going to start asking their children which genres they liked to read. Parent/student connections – all because of genrefying!

All in all our first year, our circulation jumped 30%. Every month circulation increased, but especially during orientation and December (getting ready for Winter Break). Books I debated withdrawing due to lack of checkouts were found by students and actually checked out! Students were having conversations with each other about books they recommended, and our students were more excited about reading than I saw the year before (or with my own students when I was a teacher!). I knew all my work the year before was beginning to pay off.

2016-2017 (Second year post-genrefying)

This past school year, having a genrefied library was something our eighth graders were already used to from the year before. Our seventh graders latched onto genrefying with the same excitability as previous year, and it became “the new normal” for our library. Teachers became more comfortable with it and some began to accept that it wasn’t going away. Some teachers explored for their own browsing to see what other books they might enjoy, while others decided to assign specific genre projects – that students could choose from a few genres for their next reading project. Circulation continued to jump, especially in September for orientation (I attribute most of this to the new seventh graders finding more of what they were looking for) and increased more each month than the previous year. While this could be explained by stating we just have a good collection 🙂 I would argue that it was more about student self-discovery and them feeling more confident in their browsing – knowing they would be successful in finding something they would possibly enjoy.

I have also begun visiting elementary schools at the end of the school year to introduce them to some changes they can expect from a middle school library. One of the items I mention is that we have a genrefied fiction collection. At first, students look really confused, but once I explain what that means, well, let’s just say I wish I had a camera to capture the look of awe on their faces! (One student even said to me this year, “Can we come browse over the summer?”)

2017-2018 (This year)

This year is off to a roaring start! Our new seventh graders have come in with the excitement of having a genrefied fiction collection and in three weeks of school, we are just barely under our total checkouts from last September! And it’s only September 11th!

Our eighth graders are beginning to expand their horizons, and a student mentioned to me late last week that her goal this year is to read books from every genre. It’s amazing how genrefying has revolutionized my library. It really is.

To be continued on how this year is going to fare. I expect it will be just as successful as the two prior years! Overall, the reaction of most staff and students has been positive and they have enjoyed the genrefied layout. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post – the final in this series – when I address a “lie” (or common myth) about genrefying – and my experiences with it.

Thanks so much for reading!

2 thoughts on “Genrefying: Two Truths and a Lie (Part 3, Truth 2: Not Everyone Will Love It – But Most Will)

  1. Pingback: Genrefying, Two Truths and a Lie (Part 4, Lie: It’s Not Worth It – But It Really Is!) – Grover's Corner of the Library

  2. Pingback: Genrefying, Two Truths and a Lie (Part 4, Lie: It’s Not Worth It – But It Really Is!) – Grover's Corner of the Library

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