Collection reinvigoration – Genrefication 101

Putting the ‘cart firmly before the horse’ and doing things back-to-front…I have already told you about my plans for our newly created genre of sports fiction. I have had a few queries about how we went about the process of genrefication, so here goes!

**PLEASE NOTE THIS BLOG POST may be edited and modified**

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Genre-fi-what?

Genrefication – is when fiction is arranged by genre rather than by author name in one overwhelming A-Z sequence.

See the post by Jennifer LaGarde:

Five MORE Conversations [About School Libraries] That I Don’t Want To Have Anymore

The section on genrefication was my touchstone – every time I had a twinge of self-doubt during this process I referred back to Jennifer’s comments.

“Simply put, we need to remove the secret code that stands between our students and the resources they need and start organizing our spaces based on what’s good for kids (not librarians).”

The objective of genrefication is to make finding a book much easier for students. In a student-centered Library you want students to spend their time enjoying books not searching for books (which usually means wandering the shelves and feeling frustrated, and taking a book…any book…. because their teacher tells them they have too). Not being able to find books they like is one of the biggest barriers to kids becoming readers.

In a genrefied collection students will discover other authors and books similar to their favourites and it is possible to lead them to other genres by helping them appreciate the crossover factor between them e.g.  “Oh you liked the part in the time travel book where it was set in the Middle ages?…”  perhaps a cue to explore historical fiction. Students ask for books by genre more often than by author “Where are the funny books?” being the request I hear most often.

It is far more fruitful working one on one with a student exploring a genre and its possibilities, within the physical space and distance of a few shelves, rather than trying to remember author and series names on the fly. No more rushing around the shelves with the child in tow – one can calmly talk about the options and make choices right there.

The Genres we are using are based on student preferences – the genres in bold were made first and then sub-genres added later:

  • Funny
  • Realistic fiction
  • Realistic – Sports fiction
  • Realistic – Girlszone (BFFs, Crushes etc )
  • Mystery
  • Historical
  • Historical – War stories
  • Spooky
  • Animal stories [currently this contains animal fantasy e.g. Warriors…this may change to a subsection in Fantasy]
  • Animal stories – Horse & pony stories
  • Science-fiction
  • Action and adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Fantasy – Dragons
  • Fantasy – Based on fairytales

So how did we physically genrefy and change the collection?

My approach was a little unorthodox. I didn’t even bother printing off lists from our LMS to start this project. I had done a few tentative searches but discovered many books had multiple subject headings for multiple genres. I also wanted to approach our shelves as our students do. It was an eye opener for me. Many books are very difficult to  identify by genre in an A-Z sequence and students don’t have the benefit of the inside knowledge we do e.g. when you see a row of spines of books by a particular author it usually equals a particular genre!

Our Fiction collection is small (2500 titles) as we had already split off early readers and first chapter books earlier in the year, so I didn’t think it would be too big a project. I had been living and breathing genrefication for some time before hand. Every time I handled a book I would consider which genre it belonged to and thought long and hard about where titles would be placed based on the preferences and reading habits of the students who liked to read them.

Firstly, I created new collections in our LMS for the main Genres – so as well as the existing collection of Junior Fiction we now had a specific collection for each genre. Please note that initially Realistic, Animals and Fantasy weren’t split further into sub-genres as they are now. The Junior Fiction collection will disappear from the LMS once every book has been changed. The genres also reflect the curated genre collections we have used in our OverDrive collection.

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I walked around our shelves and pulled out all of the funny books and series I recognised and knew. These were kept in alpha sequence on a trolley (cart).

I scanned all the barcodes into the LMS, searched for the matching copies and came up with a set. I then performed a ‘global change’ and changed the collection from Junior Fiction to Junior Fiction Funny. Immediately after this (to avoid duplication and rescanning), I ran a report and generated new spine labels for the set making sure this was in alphabetical order according to the cutter number and printed it off. As the books were still in alpha order by cutter, it was easy peasy to add the spine labels (which were in alphabetical order too).

I then added the appropriate colour code for the genre. The orange dot has been used in our library to identify Junior School Books. We are still using this as when the Middle/Senior Library genrefy we will want them to use the same colour strips (They could use the same blue for science-fiction as we do and add an appropriate label sticker for dystopia – keeping the genre collections continuous between the collections presenting a cohesive experience for students graduating from Junior to MS/SS Library). In a Middle/High School Library I would consider using themes as well as genres.

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I pretty much followed this process for each genre. If I discovered something that belonged to a genre I had already done – these titles were put in small piles and processed in batches. (The books currently on loan will be processed each day as they are returned).

After I had pulled out the books where I was confident about the genre they belonged to, then it was then a matter of going through the books that were left on the shelf and checking them individually – I used the Auckland Libraries catalogue, GoodReads, Publisher websites, consulted with colleagues and asked students for their opinions to help with this.

Tackling a genre at a time made the process feel far more manageable than pulling every book off the shelf and kept the overwhelming piles to a minimum. It also felt more strategic than tackling a shelf at a time. By batch processing the spine-labelling and stickering for each genre it  was an efficient process and easier to coordinate help for this task. (This approach would work for a Library wanting to gradually genrefy – choose the most sought after genre first and work through).

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I left Fantasy until last as it was not only our biggest genre, but also had the most titles that could possibly fit into other genres (in particular, spooky, and science fiction). I split off books about Dragons and those fantasy titles based on Fairy tales, as we get asked for these often. The main Fantasy genre still looks large (it is 1/3 of our fiction) so I am considering splitting off the titles based on myths and legends. Many books were weeded during this process – but some books have been given a second chance at life. If they remain unchecked at the end of 12 months after genrefication and promotion they will be weeded.

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One of the immediate benefits is that I can now see  exactly what we hold in each genre and what state it is in. As a result, we will be purchasing more for the sports fiction and the spooky collections and reducing the number of fantasy titles purchased this year. It will be interesting to see the number of loans vs the number of titles in any genre. Seeing a genre as a whole makes weeding a breeze!

If a student or teacher is uncertain about where to find a specific title it will be necessary to search the catalogue. All fiction is now clearly identified in the online catalogue with the genre included in the classification:

for example….

J F FANTASY RIO

J F SCI-FI FAL

Each genre is colour coded and each new spine label includes the genre name. If a genre is split into sub-genres then a picture sticker is added. Misfiled books are now very obvious to our student shelvers. (Just redoing the spine labels for all the books and tidying up misplaced orange spot labels etc has given the whole collection a fresh look).

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We are still using the first three letters of an author’s name to keep an author’s works or series together within a genre.

Some authors are now shelved in more than one location (e.g. you will find Michael Morpurgo stories in Animals, Historical and War stories and Jacqueline Wilson in both Realistic-girlzone and Historical). This is a positive thing as it is a great way to introduce students to another genre.

What still needs to be done before students arrive back from vacation?

Signage (the black wire stands on top of the shelves are waiting for new BIG signs) and QR code links to connect the physical genre collections to the digital titles we own in OverDrive.

Watch this space.

Other links:

My previous post on the sports fiction genre

See Michelle Simm‘s posts on genrefication in her library

Mrs ReaderPants

Jennifer LaGarde’s article was also published in a special edition of SLANZA’s Collected Magazine. I recommend a thorough read of this for examples of other innovative changes happening in NZ school libraries. See also the brief article about genrefication at Cambridge Highschool.

School Library Journal

Labels: Book Protection Products (Auckland NZ)

 

Combat Zone – the new Rugby Academy series from Tom Palmer

Two years ago I wrote about a wonderful new book that I had recently purchased for my school library written by Tom Palmer and published by Barrington Stoke. That book was Scrum, and two years later I am still heartily recommending it to my students.

Tom has gone on to write other great sports books for Barrington Stoke and we have purchased every single title for our collection. The success of these books with my mainly struggling boy readers encouraged me to buy more Barrington Stoke titles including many titles with more ‘girl appeal’.

The benefit of these books are three-fold : the books are dyslexia friendly without looking like they are “special”; the books appeal to struggling readers or those needing hi-lo material, as well as those kids that just don’t like reading but are more likely to pick up and try a short book; lastly and most importantly, the stories are so well written and so good that they appeal to readers of mainstream fiction as well as dyslexic and struggling readers.

Rugby Academy

I was really excited when I learned that Tom was writing a series for children with a Rugby theme. Despite living in a rugby mad country like New Zealand, there really isn’t enough children’s fiction written and published that connects younger readers with their sporting and other interests.

The first book in this planned trilogy is ‘Combat Zone’ set in England, the second book ‘Surface to air’, set in  Toulon France, is due out in February 2015 and the final book ‘Deadlocked’  is set in New Zealand!!! and is due mid-year around the time of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Publisher’s description:  “Borderlands is no ordinary school. All of the students boarding there have parents in the armed forces, and the UK is drawing perilously close to war in the Central Asian Republic.

New boy Woody is desperate to escape, but his dad has been mobilised and now football-mad Woody is stuck in a school where everyone is crazy about rugby. Worried and unhappy, Woody tries to make the best of his situation. But will rugby be his unlikely saviour?

Tom has explained more about the trilogy on his website:

Sort of a children’s World Cup to run alongside next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The reason for the titles of the books gives away the second theme to the series.  The Royal Air Force.

Most of the boys in the Borderlands team have parents in the RAF. The series is set during a conflict a little like what is going on now in Syria and Iraq. A sad coincidence, I’m afraid.

So the books are about being part of a rugby union team, but also about being the child of a forces family.

What did I think about Combat Zone?

I loved it. I think the three main plot elements ( the struggle to switch from playing football to Rugby Union and the hardships of being sent to boarding school and coping with the worry of a family member fighting in a war) mean that the story has plenty of action and angst. That is perhaps the aspect that makes me like this so much – it isn’t “just a sports story”. The reader may pick it up because of the hook of a story about rugby, but they are exposed to a lot more – the same empathy inducing plot that they would find in realistic fiction combined with a great sports story!

Every time I read one of these books I am amazed at how the power of the story shines through, even if it contains far fewer words and chapters than the average book for the same aged reader. The author makes every word of the text count. There must be an art to this – how to tell a story using very spare prose? It is certainly something this author does very well and why I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series.

These books fit perfectly in our newly genrefied sports fiction section. Rather than have them in a collection of dyslexia friendly books, as we have done previously, they are shelved with the other sports titles. Should I need them for a dyslexic student they are easy to find, but they can be read by any reader at any time. As I have said previously – the stories are so good, the dyslexia friendly format is a bonus!

Verdict: Heartily recommended (and for me – an essential purchase.)

You can read the first chapter here:

This PDF file helpfully shows you the special yellow paper and dyslexia friendly font used in the books.

Resources and links:

Tom Palmer website (we are obviously sympatico – we have the same WordPress theme…I suspect the use of black means Tom really is rooting for the All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup 2015!)

Barrington Stoke website take some time to explore and discover all the wonderful well known authors who have chosen to write for this audience. (Cornelia Funke, Tony Bradman, Jean Ure, Frank Cotterill Boyce, Anthony McGowan and many, many more)

Tom’s Literacy resources based on the Rugby World Cup

Bibliographic details:

Combat zone (Rugby Academy, Book 1) / Written by Tom Palmer with illustrations by David Shephard

Published by Barrington Stoke, 2014.

101 pages.

ISBN:9781781123973

NZ RRP $17.99 If not in stock at your favourite independent book store most would be happy to order this for you.

Barrington Stoke classification : Reading age: 8 / Interest age: 8-12

#365PictureBooks Day 27 Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

 

From the creator of the national bestseller It’s a Book comes a timeless story of family history, legacy, and love.
 
Grandpa Green wasn’t always a gardener. He was a farmboy and a kid with chickenpox and a soldier and, most of all, an artist. In this captivating new picture book, readers follow Grandpa Green’s great-grandson into a garden he created, a fantastic world where memories are handed down in the fanciful shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten.
 
In his most enigmatic and beautiful work to date, Lane Smith explores aging, memory, and the bonds of family history and love; by turns touching and whimsical, it’s a stunning picture book that parents and grandparents will be sharing with children for years to come“. Publisher: Macmillan

I really love this book – it is a lovely one to share on Grandparents Day. It is also a very lovely book to share with children and to talk about how things have changed between the generations and also to gently explain about memory loss and aging.

The illustrations are gentle and calming. This isn’t a picture book to be read in a hurried fashion and the lush green topiary and the connecting branches and other objects that lead from one phase of the grandfathers life to another support this slowness. I have always loved topiary and it is wonderful how the horticultural imagery connects with the story elements.

This is a perfect title to use with our Year 2 PYP Unit of Inquiry : Where we are in place and time:  “Then and now”

Life is changing

  • How our family traditions have changed over time
  • Similarities and differences between generations
  • Artifacts, heirlooms or rituals that have meaning in a family

Bibliographic details:

Grandpa Green / Written and illustrated by Lane Smith.

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2011.

32 pages.

ISBN:9781596436077

Available to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

#365PictureBooks Day 26 Boy + Bot

One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun.

But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he’s sick. The usual remedies—applesauce, reading a story—don’t help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep.

Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him?

Using the perfect blend of sweetness and humour, this story of an adorable duo will win the hearts of the very youngest readers”. Publisher: Random House

I love the universal message of friendship in this story. It is possible to be friends with people who are different. People are different in appearance, mannerisms, preferences and needs, but we all want and need to be loved.

I love reading this to our kindergarteners. They get it.

I love the illustrations that remind me of Little Golden books from when I was a child. They perfectly match the spare text – which says just enough – no more is needed.

I love this book!

Should it be in a school library?

AFFIRMATIVE!

Watch the book trailer from Mr Schu:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBi820NFhag

Bibliographic details:

Boy + bot / Written by Ame Dyckman and Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Published by Random House, 2012.

32 pages

ISBN:9780375867569

NZ RRP$34.99

Available to borrow from Auckland Libraries (although I notice most copies are out! testament to the awesomeness and kid appeal of this PB perhaps?) It is still showing as available for Libraries for purchase on the Wheelers website too :)

#365PictureBooks Day 25 Grandfather Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson tells the story of how his grandfather taught him to turn darkness into light in this uniquely personal and vibrantly illustrated tale that carries a message of peace.

How could he—a Gandhi—be so easy to anger?

One thick, hot day, Arun Gandhi travels with his family to Grandfather Gandhi’s village.

Silence fills the air—but peace feels far away for young Arun. When an older boy pushes him on the soccer field, his anger fills him in a way that surely a true Gandhi could never imagine. Can Arun ever live up to the Mahatma? Will he ever make his grandfather proud?

In this remarkable personal story, Arun Gandhi, with Bethany Hegedus, weaves a stunning portrait of the extraordinary man who taught him to live his life as light. Evan Turk brings the text to breathtaking life with his unique three-dimensional collage paintings. Publisher: Simon & Schuster

This is a true story told from the point of view of Gandhi’s 12 year old grandson Arun. Arun goes to the village of  ‘Sevagram’ to live with his grandfather, and is initially frustrated that his close family standing does not seem to bring him special favours or time with his grandfather. Arun is used to living in South Africa where Indians are still treated as second-class citizens and he is subsequently full of anger. His struggle to fit in with peaceful village life, learn the language and share his grandfather with Gandhi’s followers adds to his anger and resentment. He questions how he can be a Gandhi when he is not peaceful. When he asks for advice, Gandhi assures Arun that anger is normal and that even he Gandhi, (who is known for his peaceful co-existence and non-violent protest) sometimes feels anger too.

“Have I not told you how anger is like electricity?”

I shook my head.

“It is. Anger can strike like lightning and split a living tree in two, ” he said.

I saw myself on the soccer field, rock in hand ready to strike, I saw the movie cowboys and their guns.

“Or it can be channeled, transformed. A switch can be flipped, and it can shed light like a lamp.”

“Then anger can illuminate. It can turn the darkness into light,” Grandfather said.

The mixed media collage illustrations by Evan Turk are stunning and use the white cotton thread symbolic of the spinning that Gandhi and the village are known for. When Arun is angry swirling dark lines drawn or painted angrily, are mixed with black thread around his head and all over the page. The emotions erupt off the page.

It is wonderful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfuWrq9XfTs

Awards:

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014
The New York Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
The 2014 Non Fiction Picture Book Nerdy Award Winner
Chicago Public Library’s Best Informational Books for Younger Readers of 2014
Huffington Post’s “Best Picture Books of 2014″ Honorable Mention

Bibliographic details:

Grandfather Gandhi / Written by  Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk

Published by Athenaeum Books for Young Readers, 2014.

48 pages

ISBN:9781442423657

Available to purchase from all good bookshops and to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

#365PictureBooks Day 24 – The girl and the bicycle

“A little girl sees a shiny new bicycle in the shop window. She hurries home to see if she has enough money in her piggy bank, but when she comes up short, she knocks on the doors of her neighbors, hoping to do their yardwork. They all turn her away except for a kindly old woman.

The woman and the girl work through the seasons, side by side. They form a tender friendship. When the weather warms, the girl finally has enough money for the bicycle. She runs back to the store, but the bicycle is gone! What happens next shows the reward of hard work and the true meaning of generosity.

Wordless, timeless, and classic, The Girl and the Bicycle carries a message of selflessness and sweet surprises and makes an ideal gift for graduations and other special occasions.” Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Like the Farmer and the clown that I wrote about a week ago, this is a wordless picture book that reads very much like an old black and white movie. The drawings in this are really interesting, they are drawn in varying shades of brown and grey – the only colour being the dark green bicycle. The book is overlaid with a real feeling of sadness. It is unusual in that most of the characters are drawn without mouths – so it is impossible to see their facial expressions. The absence of any smiles makes it really sad. The kindly neighbour is the only smiling adult we see and it is lovely to se the bond that develops between the girl and the neighbour as they work together through the seasons. Readers will really feel for the girl when after she has worked so hard, and all the money is saved, she discovers the bike has been sold. The ending is very satisfying and says a lot about giving and gratitude.

Another great book to use as a writing prompt.

Bibliographic details:

The girl and the bicycle / by Mark Pett

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.

40 pages

ISBN:9781442483194

Available to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

Collection reinvigoration – part 1 – sports fiction

For those of you that I know via Twitter,  many of you will be aware that I have been busy these holidays genrefying (genre-fying?) our Junior Fiction collection.

One of the benefits of genrefication is that it is an immediate ‘visual stocktake’ of any genre in our collection. The visual reality has had far more impact on my collection development ideas than any list I have  generated in our Library Management System.

When I saw the huge volume of Fantasy which took up 1/3 of our available shelving I was not surprised (but a little overwhelmed) at the imbalance… but I was jaw-droppingly shocked when I saw the subsection of realistic fiction that we have for sports fiction. It was small – I mean ‘less than half a shelf’ small.

I was jaw-droppingly shocked when I saw the subsection of realistic fiction that we have for sports fiction. It was small – I mean less than half a shelf small.

Even taking into account the titles that are written for younger readers, those that are still on loan, and those that are in a different section, I was ashamed that this was an area where we have  demand and yet we are obviously and glaringly under-resourced. We have purchased a range of titles via our OverDrive ebook collection, which supplement our print collection in this area, but these aren’t immediately visible to students. It is possible to add a curated genre collection in OverDrive and this was an immediate quick fix, so I did this first.

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Sports fiction will be my first priority for fiction collection development in Term 1. I will be seeking out the best books and series that we don’t already own and purchase them. I’ll also be looking at how we can aid discovery of the ebook sports fiction titles we own so that users browsing the physical collection are aware of the digital titles too. The popular dyslexia friendly titles we have by Tom Palmer and Alan Gibbons and published by the excellent Barrington Stoke, have already been moved to the sports fiction section, as well as the Jake Maddox series – effectively placing as many titles as possible into one browsing area (the object of genrefying after all, is to make things easier to find and more discoverable for students).

The sports fiction shelf is now closer to one full shelf – but we still have a long way to go!

We have been reclassifying our non-fiction and the sports books have been resorted nicely, however I’m wondering if there is some way I can put the non-fiction books and fiction together. It’s pretty hard with the mix of shelving and layout we have – that might be something I work towards in collaboration with the kids.

Here is a list of the sports of interest to our students in order of popularity (based on requests for books):

  • Basketball
  • Football (Soccer in the USA)
  • Rugby
  • BMX
  • Snowboarding
  • Surfing
  • Gymnastics
  • Wrestling

Not so popular (books aren’t asked for, but many kids are involved in these sports):

  • Rugby League
  • Cricket
  • Netball
  • Hockey
  • Cheerleading

Sports not widely played  (if at all) in NZ:

  • Baseball
  • American Football
  • Aussie Rules footy

I want to test out whether students who love sports will read ‘outside their own code’. If this is the case then there would be an argument for stocking more titles from codes not played here – especially well written and highly regarded books about baseball and American Football.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and providing a more diverse selection of reads in this area. The kids who want to read sports books are often the kids who say they ‘hate reading’ (at least in my school community). These readers (however dormant at the moment) deserve a bigger share of the collection ‘pie’ and a bigger voice in selecting the titles we provide.

Related posts: Scrum by Tom Palmer

scrumtompalmer

 

 

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