Monday, July 23, 2012

Where's Waldo? That's a great question.

During my first semester in library school, I took a course called "Representation and Organization." We spent two evenings a week talking about Ranganathan, discussing Library of Congress vs. Dewey, making our own thesauri and indexes...

Oh, my. How to find
the book I want?
UGH. I am putting myself to sleep. To simplify: library organization is really about one single question.

How do people find the library materials they want?

That is a big question, especially when you consider the unique challenges of youth librarianship. How do pre-readers find the books they want when they're not yet able to read spine labels? How do lower elementary students navigate Dewey non-fiction when decimals aren't taught until the fourth grade? How do middle grade and young adult readers find what they want to read when they tend to notice plot points and pacing more than authors and titles? How easy is it to browse versus search the library stacks?

Historical Fiction! Dogs! Humor!
Science Fiction! Mystery!
Do genre stickers help?
I am curious to know what different librarians have to say in response to this major question of how young patrons find what they want. Do you instruct children on the traditional alphebetical and Dewey organizations? Do you adapt your organization schemes like Darien Library, who reorganized their children's picture books, or school librarian Tali Balas Kaplan, who created a homegrown system to replace Dewey? Do you use genre stickers? Color-coding? Theme displays? What do you do to make sure kids can find what they want, regardless of whether they come to the library knowing what that item might be?

I'd love to hear from a bunch of librarians from a variety of libraries I want to know what works for you and your kids.


  1. We use genre stickers in our chapter book section with mixed results. About 80% of our readers advisory questions come from this group as well, so I feel like staff members who aren't as familiar with the collection use the stickers more than actual patrons.

    I'm very interested in reorganizing our picture books into themes. 1 out of every 15 questions is about where to find an author in our picture books. The rest are, "I want to read a truck/train/princess book." The longer I'm working at this library, the more I feel like we need to rethink our current system.

    1. We see really similar book-seeking scenarios at my library. I've just started a reorganization in picture books... stay tuned for details as the project progresses over the next two months!