Lie: It’s Not Worth It (But It Really Is!)
This is the last 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, here for the second post, and here for the third.
Yes, genrefying took a LOT of planning. It was also a LOT of work, and I sacrificed other things to make it happen. But oh my goodness the payoff was incredibly worth it!
Impact on Students
My students are so much more independent and efficient in the library. Checkout goes so much faster because students are quickly finding what they are looking for. Students can come in to check out between classes (we have a 5 minute class change) and they can walk in, go to their section, pick a book, check out, and be on their way to class in that time frame. That never would have happened before.
Students are also more confident in their book selections, knowing that the titles in the genre they like will probably interest them, and they are more willing to take a risk on a new book or new author. Genrefying has really benefited our students – especially special education and ESL students – who are easily overwhelmed by so many choices. As previously stated, we have about 8,000 fiction titles and that’s a lot to look through when it’s organized by author’s last name (and not many middle schoolers know which authors write which genres, anyway). Many students didn’t really see an access point into the fiction collection and randomly chose a place to start, often missing entire sections of really good books. Now, students are able to find their favorite genre (or genres) and instead of browsing 8,000, students are browsing 500 at the most (our two largest genres are Fantasy and Realistic Fiction). Many genres have 200-400 and that seems to be a manageable size for students to browse – without running out of choices.
Our circulation has significantly increased (as I stated in the previous post, it jumped 30% overall) and students are checking out books more than ever. They are devouring what we have on our shelves and making recommendations to each other for good books they have read. Often, I’ll see friends browsing the library together when they realize they all like to read the same genre – or similar genres – and get each other to read their favorite books. It is truly amazing to watch.
Genrefying really has made my students’ library experience more positive and successful. They are confident in their choices, trying new authors, and reading more than ever. Genrefying has gotten my students talk to each other more about books they like. They are happier, more efficient, and walk out with (at least) a new book in hand. Mission accomplished!
Librarians Benefit, Too!
Reorganizing my fiction section to a genre-based layout, believe it or not, has made me an incredibly more successful librarian. Yes, it is extra work to process new books (because they need genre stickers before they go on displays & shelves) but I can recommend books better to students. When students ask for a suggestion, I typically ask them what genres they like to read and we head over to that section. From there, I know I’m going to choose books that are already that genre (instead of having to “hunt and peck” through the stacks like I did before) and I can easily pick out books I have read that I can quickly booktalk to them. In short, it greatly increases the probability that the student will walk out with a book they will enjoy, and that student and I have had a positive experience talking about books!
Also, my collection development skills have greatly enhanced. Due to space limitations, I am able to stay on top of my weeding while also being intentional about new books I am purchasing. I try to add new books to every genre each school year, and being able to physically see how full (or lean) genres are helps to determine if I buy fewer or less for each genre. I feel like I’m more responsible with my book budget because I am purposeful with the titles I select as well as how many I purchase for each genre.
Finally, I am generally happier in my job. Watching my students be successful and independent in the library instead of wandering aimlessly and randomly selecting books is priceless and worth every moment I spent sitting at my desk. Seeing my students talking to each other about books and recommending to each other makes me feel like the library is having a direct, positive impact on their day, their friendships, and their lives. Because I genrefied my library, my students, parent volunteers, and staff all have a better experience. They are successful in their visit, and taking time out of their day to visit the library has been beneficial for them. It’s important that everyone sees value and success in their experiences in the library. Once they have had those first successful experiences with reading – and reading books they like, that they were able to find on their own – they will come back time and again.
Some librarians are worried that genrefication is a fad. Some think it’s not worth the time. Yes, there are lots of decisions you need to make (including multi-genre books), but in the end, I think the phrases, “It’s not worth it,” or “It’s just a fad/trend” are complete myths. In my opinion, genrefying was 100% worth every moment of planning, prep, and execution. I honestly don’t think it’s a trend; I think genrefication is something that is here to stay (at least for a while) and you know what? It makes kids independent and successful in my library. When something adds to my students’ enjoyment of the library, I’m going to keep it around.
In middle school, students aren’t required to come to the library, with the exception of their English teacher bringing them in as a class to get a book for a project. Students have to choose to come to the library. They have to have a reason to want to come to the library in order to walk through our doors. For me, genrefying was the trick that made my students start to come in more often, made them excited about reading, and made my library a better place.
When people say genrefying isn’t worth the hassle and work, I am perplexed. Genrefication has revolutionized my job and my students’ experience with the library.
It’s worth every single moment, and I would go through it all over again.
My students (and yours!) are worth it.