The Genrefication of an Elementary Library

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

I did it! I’ve joined the hundreds of librarians who have chosen to “genrefy” our library collections, or at least part of it.  After making a connection with Erin Preder from Bolingbrook, sitting down with her and chatting about many things. We landed on why she’s so happy she went through this intense process. She mentioned one of her reluctant readers. When he would come to the library, he was not very successful in finding the right book. It was hard for him to search through Destiny for that one right book. After she “genrefied” her collection, he knew just where to go to find the right book. She felt that if this process helped just one student like him, she would know it was the right thing to do. This student thanked her for making the change because it made it easy for him to find what he wanted to read.

She gave me a couple of blogs to read to find out more about the process and after reading them, I was motivated to get started! Read about her process here: Erin Preder

Kristen Mattson, LMC Director at Waubonsie High School, also genrefied her collection. I admire her tenacity and efforts to be a 21st century Future Ready Librarian in a Future Ready Library! You can read about her experience here: Kristen Mattson

I began the genrefication project Monday, November 28. I finished it Saturday, December 17! The process is not for the faint at heart! It took approximately 61+ hours to complete. It was so worth it the time and effort!

So what did I do and how did I do it? Let me explain.

I only genrefied the Fiction section of my library.

Step 1 – I had to figure out what genres I had in my collection that would best meet the needs of my students. I came up with 12 genres: Adventure, Animal Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor, Mystery, Realistic Fiction, Scary, Science Fiction, Sports, and Super Heroes.

Step 2 – I ran a Library Report to create a Shelf List in Destiny and exported it as a Microsoft Excel document.

Step 3 – Since the report lists everything in my collection, I cleaned it up with only the fiction books remaining in the list. I then uploaded the file to my Google Drive and converted it to Google Sheets. This made the access to the file at home, where most of this work was done, easier.


Step 4 – I had two windows open side-by-side so the switching back and forth between Destiny and my Google Sheet was convenient. I now had to go through each record in my list and decide the best genre for the title. Sometimes the Destiny record would have valuable information to make that determination. If it didn’t, I used Titlewave, Good Reads, Amazon and Erin Preder’s Destiny online catalog to help make the best-fit genre decision.  I have about 4,500 books in my fiction section, so this was a very long process, one book at a time! I froze the top row in my Google sheet so I could always see the headers for the columns. I also put in a countdown formula so I could watch my progress. =COUNTBLANK(H2:H) This helped me keep a bit of sanity! It was so encouraging to watch it dwindle down to 0!


Step 5 – I finally finished identifying all genres. It took about 15 hours. Now it was time to
sort my data by genre, which is easy because it’s in a Google sheet. I also had to decide on the colors I wanted to use to represent each genre. After I sorted the data, I highlighted all lines in one genre and used the Paint Bucket to fill them with my selected colors. Watch this video to see how I sorted by genre.

Step 6 – Destiny, our library management system needed changes too. I wanted to include the genre name in the call number prefix. For example, a fantasy book would read: FANTASY:FIC ALE. I also needed to set the Sublocation to the specific genre location. I thought I would have to open each book and make changes to each and every record . . . copy barcode, paste it in Copy Status, search, edit copy, type in the call number, set the sublocation,  save . . . repeat 4,500 times!  However, the computer geek in me would not allow this! There had to be a way to let Destiny do the work for me! After searching through some of their help files, I found it!!! You can watch this video to see this process. What could have taken an additional 16 or more hours, was completed in about 15 minutes!!

Step 8 – Now it’s time to label each book. I re-sorted the data by call number, then by author and then by title. All I had to do was follow the shelf list and label each book according to its genre.

Speaking about the labels . . . some purchase labels, but I just used Avery 5160 labels and created my own.  I printed them on a color printer and they worked perfectly. I like the length of these labels because they easily wrapped around the front and back of the books. I decided to place the labels at the top of the spine. After applying the genre label, I also covered each label with a clear barcode cover label. My assistant and about five volunteers helped me with this process. The majority of it was done after work while listening to blasting music, encouraging me to just keep going! A pair of scissors was also a necessary tool. Sometimes the label had to be cut in order to not cover a part of the barcode label.

A great benefit of handling each book was that I was able to do a lot of weeding. I was surprised to see so many yellow-paged books with outdated pictures. I was also able to personally see what items were in my fiction collection.

Step 8 – Rearranging the shelves was next. I had a plan in mind about how I wanted to organize each genre section. In order to accomplish this smoothly, I worked one shelf at a time. I carefully maintained alphabetical order, removed the books from the shelves and placed them in piles by genre. Books were everywhere! I found that it was a lot easier to sort the shelf by genre first and then move them into those orderly piles. As I cleared shelves, according to my plan, I placed the organized piles on the cleared shelves. Once again, as I touched every book, I was able to do yet another weeding. Reshelving took 11 hours! Here is a video to help!
Step 9 – The only thing I had left to do was to label my shelves. I created 5×7 posters and purchased frames from the Dollar Store to display them. I also printed additional posters and taped them to the sides of my shelving units to further identify the genre locations.

Step 10 – I had to figure out a way to present the new design to my students and teachers. They saw me labeling and had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t share anything about it. I completed the project on a Saturday, so I needed to present and reveal the new system to each class before they started coming down to the library on Monday. I thought about a PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation, but that would require that I go to each class to present it. I didn’t have that kind of time. So, I decided to create a movie using WeVideo. I finished it at 1:00 am Monday morning and emailed the link to my teachers and asked that they share the 5-½ minute movie before letting students come down to the library. Here’s how they learned about our new system.

I can say that this was so worth the time and effort! Students are thanking me for organizing our library like this! A teacher called me into her room after her class watched the video. When I entered, they gave me an applause because they were so happy about the change! One student told me that he was looking for a historical fiction book and when he went to the section, he ended up with a different book because he could find something he was truly interested in and this system made it so much easier. Another student actually hugged me and said thank you for organizing our library this way!

I’m happy because my students are happy! Now, on with the next project . . .

Note: This piece was initially posted on The Kendall Library Lady blog. Check  it out to see LOTS of pictures of this work as it progressed!

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