By David Adkins-Brown
Over the course of the last few years I have repeatedly seen a conversation crop up on the issue of genrefication in libraries. The common effects I have seen on circulation numbers for libraries that do genrefy demonstrate the possibility of a 7000 item increases within a year of activity (Check out these number here). However, two points are missing in the conversation around genrefication: what are best practices when genrefying a collection and why are these steps important.
1. If you are in a school library, then take the summer to genrefy the library
The feedback from several school librarians is that anywhere from three to four months is the average amount of time needed to genrefy their libraries. This makes summer the perfect time for such a project. When you go to present your proposal to the principal, state that the average school library should only take a season to genrefy with the help of students.
2. Figure out the subject headings for each genre section
This might seem like the easy part for a lot of people, but in the end many people have a very difficult time with this. There are a couple reasons for this:
Ontology: Listen, I wish I could make this easier for you, but welcome to the world of cataloging. You can get into all the arguments of what sorts of fantasy there are and the subtle differences between high fantasy and light fantasy, but let’s be real about this: Do your users care all the time or can they figure it out on their own? Keep it simple. You might just want to use the terms your patrons are using.
School District or Federated Catalogs: You might want to consult with your school district or the main branch. If the head cataloger tells you there is already a list of approved subject headings, then I would suggest keeping with the approved list. One reason for this is that the hard work of arguing subject headings has already been done for you. It might also be that the list of approved subject headings is going to be used in other cataloging that most front line librarians are not going to have to deal with (take a look at this from a cataloger’s POV). Remember, you are probably working with a team of library professionals (I’ll skip the para vs. professional talk here). Show them respect for the work they have already done. If you do happen to disagree with a subject heading or want to use another one, talk to your catalogers and see if you can add one or argue for a replacement.
BISAC: BISAC stands for the Book Industry Standards and Communications. This is the subject heading system used in book stores and generally prevalent in the publishing industry. In the past I have had conversations with librarians about the idea of using BISAC. This is a great idea, but keep in mind there is also a cost associated with downloading and incorporating BISAC list into your LIS.
3. Put those students and parents to work
The library is more than a reading room; it is a community learning space. Take the people you have and put them to work in creating their library. This will be a learning experience for everyone since many students may not know what genres are, much less understand how to differentiate them. The same goes for parents, teachers, and principals.
Side note on recruiting the principal: We all know that school principals usually have no idea what a librarian does, but genrefication and shelving projects have been my one way to demonstrate the complexity of what librarians do. I once had a principal and group of volunteers come help me shelve, alphabetize, and shift an entire library over a week. It was during this activity the principal turned to me and said, “This really requires three dimensional thinking. I didn’t know it was so complex.” After this she consulted with me more on a multitude of school activities, both in and out of the library. Gaining hands-on administrative support will help other school staff members begin to fully understand and appreciate what it is you do as the librarian.
4. Your biggest expense is always going to be labels and tape
This is not really based on some big study, but after I built a school library as well as spoke with other people, the one thing everyone had to run for at one point or another was tape and labels. Plan ahead and don’t skimp. You’ll need it, and there’s nothing more embarrassing than having to tell your users it will take another week or two because you have to wait for those very specific labels.
5. Keep track of your circulation numbers from before and after
While many people may see their circulation numbers as merely End of Year report fodder, it is wise for us to remember these statistics can be pulled up at almost any point in the year for things like reports, to administration, and grant writing. Keep those numbers handy if you want to argue for increased library funds form the school district.
And finally…While the study of genrefication and the impact it has on circulation and library usage continues, additional best practices for the creation and maintenance of genrefied libraries will emerge. I hope this post leads to deeper discussion on what you can do and how to branch out on your programming as a whole.
For more information on genrefication, click here.
“Here is a list of the five best practices to take when genrefying a library and why these steps are important:”
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