Ditching Dewey: Choosing Genre Categories

One of my favorite things to talk about in library land is the genrefication of our library. I frequently get questions about this from folks who have read my blog posts or have seen me present. I blogged about the process all along the way, from theĀ tagging my fiction books, to genre shelving fiction, to ditching Dewey in nonfiction. Those posts were basically my reflections and thoughts from when I made the move. For a while now, I’ve been wanting to write a more comprehensive blog post that I can share as a reference for people interested in genrefying their library. After our AASL presentation, I realized that a series of blog posts would be the way to go. So this post will be the first of several that will detail the process I used to genrefy the fiction and nonfiction sections of our library.

The first step in the process is to choose the genre categories that you will use. For fiction, I didn’t want to get too specific with my genres. My original categories for fiction were: realistic fiction, sports, romance, Sci-Fi/fantasy, mystery/suspense/horror, and series. As I sorted through the books, I made some changes to these categories so it made more sense for our collection and our students. I decided that it would be better for the series to go with their genres and clearly label them as series within their corresponding sections. I also added several more sections. Our fiction genres now include: historical fiction, general/realistic fiction, Sci-Fi/fantasy, action/adventure, mystery/suspense, sports fiction, relationships/romance, and inspirational fiction.


After the success I found with our genrefied fiction, I wanted to follow suit with our nonfiction. Choosing these categories was a little harder for me. Thankfully, I had my friend Tamara Cox to look to for advice. I took her nonfiction category choices and tweaked them to work with our collection. These are the categories we use for nonfiction in our library:


Some of our larger sections are broken into subcategories as well. This is our section and subsection breakdown:

Section List

Something that I love about this arrangement is that nothing is set in stone and you’re free to make changes to work best for your students and your curriculum — it’s okay to make some changes your categories and subcategories as you go. Make your plan for your categories, but don’t be afraid to tweak it as you go!

Watch for the next post: Labeling the Books

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6 Responses to Ditching Dewey: Choosing Genre Categories

  1. Ditching Dewey is one of my favorite librarian topics too! Your presentation at AASL13 was great. Before going to Hartford, it felt a bit like there were only a handful of us out there. But after the UNCON and the two sessions on leaving Dewey, I feel like there are a lot of librarians out there that are open to change.

    One of the best things I got from the presentation was the idea to create my own stickers for NF. I got as many as I could from DEMCO and a few other places, but there were several subjects that I couldn’t find stickers for: U.S. Government, Insects, Farming, etc.

    Looking forward to the rest of your posts about genrefication!

    – @stroudlibrary

  2. Jen (yup, another one) says:

    Thanks, Tiffany! This is really helpful. I’m most interested in reorganizing NF and it’s helpful to see different schemes for dividing it. Where do you put state books other than the LA booiks?

  3. Nancy says:

    Interesting concept – but I wonder if it isn’t a bit too colloquial to be ultimately useful. Before Dewey, librarians devised their own systems and this seems a bit like a throwback to those days. I think it’s great to have your own system of color coding that your students will probably learn during their time at your school. But what happens when your students venture out to other libraries with other genre categories and color / sticker combinations? Consistency in cataloging across libraries (be it Dewey or LCC) is what enables us and our students to function independently in any library setting. In terms of long-term sustainability, will one librarian’s genre choices sync with her / his successor? I feel my job as a secondary school librarian is to prepare my students to function successfully in a larger community. I like to think that my students will be prepared to go into any library, access the OPAC and ultimately find the resource they’re looking for. I think it’s great to color code your collection, it’s something I did in my ten years as a K – 9 librarian at my previous school. My students knew that a yellow sticker covering the FIC label meant the book was an easy reader, but they also knew the kitten books they loved were in the 600’s at 636.8. I don’t think you need to choose genre categories over Dewey numbers as many libraries use a combination of stickers and spine labels. Ultimately though, aren’t genre categories really Dewey classifications without the numbers? Wishing you the best of luck with your collection, whichever system you choose.

  4. Sande says:

    I think a useful library makes a GREAT library and I think this organization makes the library more user friendly for kids! I started thinking about switching my JR High library just a few days ago and started researching it. I am ready to start! I would love to use your materials…I cannot figure out how to get them off of flickr. Is the another way you would be willing to share them? Thank you so much for the information you have put out there,,,your enthusiasm is contagious!

  5. Mary Moser says:

    I look forward to reading about your genrefying work and seeing how you went about the process differently. We must be on the same wavelength because I, too, found that the detail in the process was what I missed most when researching how to genrefy your library. In order to help others in my district and keep my record, I started posting about my process a couple weeks ago.
    Thanks so much for you resources and posts, which along with others, inspired me in my genrefying changes when I adopted the library at my high school. Students are responding enthusiastically to the changes; I’m finding that I also got to know my newly adopted collection through the process.

  6. Pingback: Collection reinvigoration – Genrefication 101 | 100 great books before lunch

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