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

This entry was posted in Genrefication, Reflections, Resources & Links. Bookmark the permalink.

18 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

  7. Pingback: The end of genre: Readers’ Advisory in the age of genre blending | Beta Librarian

  8. Pingback: Genrefying the High School Fiction Collection | The Future is Now

  9. I have been so inspired by you and others who are making this move! We are 5 months in and are just about done with our fiction section! I have a 10 hour aide and all she has time to do is shelve books, so I was looking for something to help make it easier for my students to find books on their own. I have taken it a little further and have taken all of our sports books..fiction and non-fiction and put them into one place, with very specific shelf signage. My boys who were only reading non-fiction are now excited about reading fiction! I even put the sports biographies in this section and they are now getting checked out as well! Thanks for the great information!! It’s been a great source of reference for us!

    • librariantiff says:

      So glad you’ve been finding these posts helpful! Having the sports fiction and nonfiction on the same row is a HUGE benefit for me, as well! Good luck as you continue to work through the transition!

  10. Although we have genre-organised fiction (adventure/action, animals, comedy, drama, fantasy, historical, mystery and crime, romance, science fiction, short stories, and sports), I agree with Nancy about preparing students for standardised use of libraries beyond school, and our non-fiction is still Dewey, at least in high school. It’s a tough call either way and makes you get to know your collection very well!

  11. Heather says:

    well I’m finished…almost. All the labels are on and Destiny catalog is updated. Last step is signage.

    I was going to use my Cricut to make some genre signs but yours are so much cooler!!!! Especially appealing to middle school.

    Do you have your signs available to share? Or for purchase?

    Thanks so much!

  12. Stephanie says:

    After lots of research and discussion, we decided that this was the best route for us as well! Fiction is almost complete, with a few tweaks here and there needed. We had our 5th & 6th Grade student library helpers sort books and label. When we had books that could have fit into several different genres, we had the students vote on which genre they thought it belonged in. Our easy section is now in the process of being moved and labeled. We started with Favorite Characters, Holiday and Seasonal Books and Favorite Authors. The remaining fiction in this section will eventually be moved into neighborhoods. I’m finding that the students are able to find books a lot quicker on their own! I only have an aide 10 hours a week, so believe me, this is helpful! We’re working on Non Fiction this year. It’s quite a process, but I’ve touched every book in this library, weeded out the old and unused and am enjoying seeing the results! It’s a lot of work, but so worth it! Thanks for all of your suggestions! It’s been a life saver!

  13. Pam says:

    Thank you for these posts! I have been inspired. I am opening a homeschool resource library at our church (eeekkk!) and was going to use the Dewey system. As the daughter of an English teacher that seemed the only way. I found your blog when looking for something completely different and decided to genrefy our library too. (I haven’t told my Mom yet.) I am using your labels (thanks so much for offering them!) and want to tweak some of them and make some of my own to better fit for our library. Would you mind sharing what font you used?

    • librariantiff says:

      The stickers were created in Comic Life using the font DigitialStrip. I’m excited that the genre organization is working well for you!!

  14. Pingback: Project Genrefy – Week 1 | Readerspeak

  15. Dawn D Davis says:

    I am horrified about this genrefication of school libraries! We are a LIBRARY NOT a bookstore! What is wrong with teaching children how to use the Dewey Decimal System? I believe this is another way of making our children nonthinkers! I am a Library Clerk in a middle school in Virginia. I cannot see us doing this in our library. We work hard to teache the children how to use the library. You want a book about Cocker Spaniels, head over to the computer, look up Cocker Spaniels on Destiny. Write down the call number, go to the non fiction section and viola! There you are, standing in the 636’s. You have found your book. The day my library goes to a genre way of classifying books is the day I quit being a librarian!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *