A library is only useful if the materials and resources in it are easily accessible. As I spent time over spring break working in another school library for a class I was finishing this semester I was introduced firsthand to genrefication. I hadn’t given this a thought for my school library as our district has not embraced this trend yet, but I had talked with others who had successfully done it in their districts and loved it. The library I was in was genrefying their upper elementary and high school fiction section for several purposes: to increase circulation, to make it easier for students to locate specific genres needed for class projects and to help analyze and enhance the collection. It helped me start thinking about the pros and the cons of organizing a library in this way. I would like to share a few pros and cons with you.
Genrefication is no quick or easy process, but there are ways to simplify it and not make the task quite so daunting. Each librarian must draw up their own plan, locate the person power to help physically shift the materials and use ready made tools to help them ease the process. The first step is to run circulation statistics and begin weeding. Once the weeding process is finished you can examine your collection to identify which genre labels you want to use to genrefy your collection. There are quite a few different choices available. These are just a few to choose from: realistic fiction, chick lit, romance, historical fiction, science, fantasy, horror, manga, mystery, adventure, sports, and guy reads. After ordering and receiving your labels (Demco sells them.) you must decide when you want to take on the challenge of labeling and relocating the books. When labeling you may choose to create your own scheme for labels beyond the genre labels. “Identifying series titles was important because we had so many, and I, like most librarians, certainly couldn’t remember the correct order of all of them,” (Sweeney, 2013). You may choose to order series stickers or just buy colored dots and mark them with the numbered title in the series. Some librarians choose to work section by section and put up under construction signage so students and staff know to avoid that section. Others choose to do the shift over the summer so they can spread things out and really plan for the space they need for each reclassified section. When you are finished with the relabeling and reshelving it is time to work on signs so that your patrons can easily locate the genres. You could even create a video for classroom teachers to show to students before they come to visit the library for the first time after genrefying.
Genrefication works well for school libraries because it removes the frustration of learning to use the catalog and searching for related topics under different call numbers. It also frees up librarians to make book recommendations instead of having to guide students around the library. Students feel a sense of confidence about the library when it is welcoming and accessible. Genrefication works well with children because they are more likely to be browsers and to be obsessed with certain topics and benefit from those topics being placed together. However, if one of your library goals is to teach the catalog then you may have to rethink how to do this if you genrefy. Will you do the Dewey, or not?
Submitted by Deanna Hirschman
Rodgers, L. (2018). Give your circulation a lift. School Library Journal. July, 24-27.
Sweeney, S. (2013). Genrefy your library: improve readers’ advisory and data-driven decision making. Young Adult Library Services. Summer, 41-45.
Witteveen, A. (2019). Flipping for genrefication. School Library Journal. September, 40-44.
Krysta, (10/01/2019). Pros and cons of the push for shelving by genre in libraries. Pages Unbound Reviews, pagesunbound.wordpress.com
From Jamie Hestermann of Syracuse Middle and High School:
This was a pre-COVID interactive historical fiction display. After learning the characteristics of historical fiction, fourth-graders traveled back in time and visited books from different time periods. They were issued "tickets" and instructed to visit four stations. At each stop, students selected a book from inside a suitcase, previewed it, and filled out a ticket. On the ticket, they had to explain why the book was classified as historical fiction. Many picked up on something included in the cover art, the specific time period in which the book took place, or differences in the way people talked. It helped reinforce the characteristics of the genre and introduced students to some of the historical fiction books we have in the library.
This year of the pandemic has been demanding, stressful, and more work for most librarians. When students were sent back to school in person, many librarians were frazzled about what that would look like, how we could do checkout, and how we could best assist our students’ reading needs. All specialists have been working off of a cart going classroom to classroom at my school since students have been back in person. It is a lot of work to travel to every room, but something that I have truly enjoyed is putting the perfect books into my students’ hands.
Every afternoon my library para and I prepare 6 crates full of books that we take to classrooms the next day. We have a specific number of books we pack for each room, depending on their grade level and reading level. We pack various fiction books, picture books, nonfiction books, graphic novels, and Spanish or Bilingual books. Then the next day in library class, after I teach a short lesson, I find an empty table or space on the floor where I can lay out those books in rows so that students can see them all and point out one to three books that they would like to check out. This is a very tedious process since I can only allow one student to check out at a time, and it takes anywhere between 20-30 minutes to complete this process.
Though tedious, this checkout process has been a great time to bond with my students over books. In a typical year, my students would find their books, bring them up to the counter, and my library para would assist them. With this new process, I have had to be much more involved in the checkout process, and I love it. This has allowed my students and me to have conversations about the books they are reading, students have asked me for recommendations, and I have had the chance to suggest specific books to specific students. It has also allowed me to get to know their interests more and discuss what they like to read.
Since we have to pack bins this year to bring to the classrooms, this has also given us a chance to push new books that have come in and older books that are still great but haven’t been checked out in a while. Since we have to hand-select the books that the students see, this has helped us pick books aimed at the correct level of students who will be reading them. It has also allowed us to choose books that represent the students within that classroom. This has been a great time to help our students find windows and mirrors within their library books. When I pack the bins, I try to think about which specific students are in each class, and I pack books that I believe will resonate with those students.
Although this pandemic has been a challenging and devastating time, there have also been some positive things that have come out of it. I know many people would think, well it’s not fair that your students don’t get to choose their own books, and of course we would like them to choose their own books. But, until it is safe to do so, we will be checking out in the classroom, and the students seem to be loving it. Many times what I hear from the students is, “Miss, there are too many choices!”. We do allow students 3rd -6th grade to place holds on books if they would like different ones also. So until we are allowed to go back to the library, checking out in the classroom is still very enjoyable.
By: Samantha Brown
I scoot down the school hallway, copies in hand, shuffling my keys to unlock the library when I see her, she's standing still and looking at posters.
“Good morning,” I say quickly, shuffling by.
“Aren’t these neat,” she says--slowing my pace--gesturing so that I will stop and really look. “They really are saying something.”
I have walked past these motivational hallway posters what feels like one million times and never taken the time to read one. As I stand here with her, reading one after the other, I feel my shoulders soften, my to-do list feeling somehow more manageable.
Yes, we teachers and librarians move fast to get things done, but this woman also had things to get done–and one of the things on her list was to notice the good stuff around us.
The library is a great place to foster gratitude practices (intentionally noticing the good) this winter season--in virtual spaces and in real life. While we might not feel thankful in 2021, we can mine for gratitude in ways that impact our days, our colleagues, and our students. Here are some easy-peasy, plug-and-play ways to jumpstart gratitude at your school this season:
By Evi Wusk
“Graphic novels’ popularity with young people has certainly earned them a definite place in school libraries” (Mardis, 2016, p. 105). I have discovered this popularity in my new role as school librarian the past two school years. As a past classroom teacher, my students would bring back graphic novels on checkout day and I have to say I wasn’t fond of them. But now in the library I see students read with enthusiasm and thrive on the visual information. They are the first books students ask for and the shelves are continually empty! The population of the graphic novels makes book selection an easy task because I now know which books the students are reading.
According to Mardis (2016), “the modern types of graphic novels began in the 1970s, but in recent years they have become extremely popular and many librarians include them in their collections” (p. 106). Some advantages of including graphic novels in your collection are: visual learner connections, leading to exploring other kinds of literature, attracting boys and reluctant readers, useful for ESL or below level students and for attracting young people to the library. I notice all of these advantages as graphic novels are used in my library. I strongly feel that the books are magnets for pleasure reading and are critical in the development of literacy in our second language learners.
Adding graphic novels to a library collection also has some disadvantages. “The contents of some graphic novels are not appropriate for young people” (Mardis, 2016, p. 106). This is a concept I struggle with when considering what graphic novels to add to my collection because I am at a grade level campus that hosts only second and third graders. I have some students who like the graphic novel format and have a higher reading level than a second or third grader. Therefore, the content may be too advanced for my younger student. I experienced this when receiving a set of Babysitters Club graphic novels and one was titled “Boy Crazy Stacy”. After reading it, I decided the contents were not appropriate for the age of a second or third grade student and I chose not to put it on the shelf.
So let’s continue this love of reading and let the graphic novel collection continue to be the ones with the tattered covers and the longest wait list! All students will be able to build their reading confidence and there will continue to be a surplus of options for readers of all ages.
Mardis, M. (2016). The collection program in schools: Concepts and practices (6th ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Sandoz Elementary School
by Kelly Kenny, Hillside Elementary
Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your top five tips for saving your sanity in the school library! If you'd like to contribute a blog post for the NSLA blog, please email Mandy Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back in August, I shared the app Goose Chase with my faculty. Goose Chase is a scavenger hunt app where you can create a game with missions online and share it out to students through their devices (cell phones or iPads work the best, not so much laptop computers). Students can turn in missions via text answers or photo answers. Each mission is worth points and teams or individual students compete to be the top on the leaderboard. As a teacher, you see the submission feed on your device and can add or subtract points or even delete a submission if students don’t complete it according to your specifications.
After presenting, I had a tremendous increase in teachers wanting to work with me using this app for their classes. I have now worked with Math classes, Guidance Counselors, and English classes. In a school where collaboration doesn’t usually happen, I am super happy that I have found something to share with my colleagues that they want to use for their students. This positive turn helps promote the library and my services to other teachers who haven’t wanted to collaborate in the past.
On March 29 and 30, I attended the Nebraska Educational Technology Association conference for the first time. The opening session of NETA was with Kayla Delzer, 2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year. Ms. Delzer gave an inspiring and motivational presentation that was just what I needed. Motivational talks for teachers are often heard at the beginning of the school year. However, at this time of the school year when testing mode is in high gear, my teaching excitement and enthusiasm run a little low! Ms. Delzer talked about building relationships with the students from the moment they walk in the door on the first day of school. A quote from Ms. Delzer is one to remember, “Relationships between students and passionate teachers will always be the foundation for successful classrooms!” What a great reminder for this time of year when patience is running thin and stress is high!
As a first time attendee of NETA, I was a little overwhelmed with all of the session choices. Since I am planning for a school librarian position, I looked for sessions that would be relevant to a school librarian. Makerspaces are a hot topic now in the education field and one that interests me. After attending some sessions on this topic, I learned a few starter tips: 1. Start small and simple; 2. Ask for donations through school newsletter and social media; 3. Get organized; 4. Establish routines and expectations.
In other sessions, I was able to take away various ideas for both the classroom and the library. I learned about free websites and applications that I could use to teach the National School Library Standards: Inquire, Collaborate, Explore, Include, Curate, Engage. One document that has an incredible listing of tech tools and resources is: bit.ly/AASLTechTools. Last but not least, it was encouraging to know that school librarians like to collaborate and share. In the near future, I may need all the resources I can find for assistance in the school librarian position.
By Susan Becker
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.