Recently, I discussed library organization with my students. I asked two questions. Why is the library organized? and What are some other ways that we could organize the library? I wanted them to think about why the library is organized the way that it is. I asked them to discuss the questions in their groups and then to post their responses on the chart paper. Nearly every group answered the first question this way: “So we can find the books we want.” I got several different answers for the second question which included: by color, size, shape, level, and genre. We discussed why color, size, and shape didn’t make sense. Later, I went through the sticky notes again and realized that many groups had listed genre and level as their response to the second question. Are my students trying to tell me something? I think that they are most definitely telling me that the library is difficult for them to use because they are thinking in terms of genre not author. They ask me: “Where are the scary books?”, “Do you have any football books?”, “Can you help me find a mystery?” They are searching by genre.
I believe that the core mission of the library is to provide access to information. Patrons need to be able to find information and books that they want and need. If students are using genre as an access point then I need to help them by organizing the library by genre. This is not going to be an easy task but if the end result is students finding the books that they want to read then it will be completely worth it.
By the way, I am not getting rid of Dewey. The books will still be classified as fiction and shelved by the author’s last name. The initial access point will be genre. I am not going to bother the nonfiction section because it is naturally shelved by subject and my students are finding the books that they need.
Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted.