Thursday, May 28, 2015

Making the Move to Genre

I’d heard about the Genre or Bookstore Model in school libraries.  I’d read the blog posts from Shannon Miller on her process in 2012. I’d gone to the different WEMTA conference sessions on how to update a library.  I loved the idea, but the process just seemed overwhelming.  
I realized that I had to make the change when one of my reluctant readers walked into the fiction section and did not know where to start. All of the books looked the same.  He wanted a “sports book.”  Like every other time that had been asked of me, I defaulted to the authors I knew would satisfy the need: Carl Deuker, Chris Crutcher, John Coy, or Mike Lupica.  Those are all great authors, but without even realizing it, I was limiting his choice because I was giving easy and known answers in the moment.  A guy can only get by with reading Gym Candy so many times.  This student was like so many before him - frustration, irritation, and overwhelmed.  I wanted to share my love of reading, to break down the barriers, but I had been keeping an obstacle in the way - organization.  I knew that I needed to change for my students.
In Fall 2014, I accepted a new position at Muskego High School.  I now had two aides to assist me in the process of moving to the Genre model, which made the process seem more manageable.  
To learn from others, I toured two school libraries that had already reorganized. Visiting Betsy Daniels from Oconomowoc High School was my first stop.  She had gone to the genre model the previous year and shared her process with me.  A few months later, I traveled to Tremper High School in Kenosha to see how Lorena Danielson had made the move.  These two were invaluable in their guidance and help.  They helped me fine tune my process.
The Process
I weeded out all ugly books, old books, and aged multiple copies (for example, I went down to one copy of Twilight from four).  I used Follett Titlewise analysis along with circulation records from Follett Destiny to help guide me as well.  This was also a great time to see what needed replacing and updating.  After we weeded the books, classroom teachers were given the chance to the take them into their classroom libraries.
Toni Heinowski, Muskego’s K-8 librarian, and I collaborated on the genres in anticipation that the middle schools would also move to the genre model.  We wanted to make sure that students had a consistent experience between buildings.  Here are our final genre categories.
We chose to purchase blank labels from and print our genres.  This gave us more control of which genres we chose and the labels look more appropriate for a secondary
school, which I didn’t always feel when searching for preprinted labels.   An unexpected surprise, the English Teachers happily accepted the same labels to put on the books in their classroom library. Students are going to see these labels everywhere.  
Many of the libraries that I visited and read about changed the call number of each book. This seemed like it was going to take too long and be too tedious.  It would also have increase my cost to replace all of the spine labels.  My wonderful aide, Pam Watters, figured out that we could change the sublocation of an item in a batch edit.  The directions are here.  My spine labels did not need to be changed; they are still FIC above the first three letters of the author’s surname. In an initial search in Destiny, the sublocation shows, so there will be minimal instruction to students and staff on how look for items.  
I also instituted that we should spend no more than 30 seconds to decided on a genre.  We only assign one genre to a title, even if they can fit in multiple places.  We think about what reader would most like the book and put it in that genre.  If we are wrong, and students have told me that I am, I’m happy to change the label. There are so many books to get through that we couldn’t waste time with indecision.
A shelf at a time, we would load them onto a cart to label and change the record.  Then the books were returned to the same shelf.  Any book that was returned in the book drop was labeled and changed before it went back onto the shelf.   This way, if the As were finished, we would not shelve a book that needed a label.  This was very important the further through the alphabet we got.

When we were finished, Pam used her Destiny manipulation powers again run a report by sublocation so we had an idea of the number of books in each genre.  That helped us to plan where each genre would be shelved.
I borrowed book trucks from other libraries in the district.  Two shelves were already empty due to weeding.  We started there and then we shifted and pulled the genres in alphabetical order on the carts and reshelved in the new locations.  On paper, this looked like a good plan, and it was. However, after seeing it in reality, we made changes and reshelved again.  I think we moved the Classic Genre three times before we were finished.  
It was such a feeling of relief and accomplishment when it was finished.  It looks amazing. Time will tell if our circulation statistics will rise and how the students feel.  At this moment, I think this is a success. When my reluctant readers come in and say "I want a sports book," my response is "Green Label" and to let the wonderful world of reading open to them.

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