In the past I have written posts regarding arrangement of my collection and my constant attempt to make the library as user friendly and accessible as possible. This is a goal that I believe all librarians can understand. For months I looked into various ways to organize a library's collection. After much consideration I decided to take the plunge and arrange non fiction by subject rather than Dewey. I have read several articles both for and against this arrangement. I have talked to my library friends both locally and members of my PLN in other states. Most expressed no interest in doing this in their library, but encouraged me to do what I thought was best for the students I serve. We know our students or patrons better than anyone else. Reading the experiences of others helped me to decide if this was something I wanted to do. I knew it would be a big project so I wanted to take my time in making this decision.
Here are my main motivations:
1. My middle school students don't understand Dewey.
Maybe this is my fault because I don't spend much time teaching Dewey. Maybe they don't completely understand decimals at all. Either way I do not have time to shelf and find every non fiction book that circulates. I do not have an assistant and even some of my student helpers never grasped Dewey even after I attempted to train them.
2. Pulling out fiction and biography was good for circulation.
Some people are surprised to hear that Dewey includes fiction. I think so many people are accustomed to fiction being a separate section that they think that Dewey did not originally include it. Having a separate section for fiction and biography increased circulation for these sections so it seems that arranging by subject may do the same for the rest of my non fiction.
3. I believe it will make the library more user friendly.
After polling my students, even my helpers and frequent library posse, they all were excited about the possibility of the change. I have had teachers and administrators (educated professionals) come in during the switch to see what I was up to and when they heard about it they were excited.
4. I want to appeal to the groups that check out non fiction the most.
My special education and reluctant readers are the groups I find browsing non fiction the most. I believe this change will make browsing easier for them (and everyone else).
As soon as I made up my mind I began the switch. The first step for me was getting the collection organized, weeded and inventoried. Looking back I would not have spent much time getting my Dewey in perfect order, but at the time I wasn't 100% committed yet. Then I ran a collection analysis. Using the collection analysis I looked at what subjects I had the most books in so that I could choose categories. Dewey is basically subject grouped anyway so I used these categories to determine what type of labels I would need. The report that helped me the most was the Collection Analysis (by 10s). Many of the groups were easy to group by subject. For example, all the 200s became Religion and the 700s became Art. I grouped some things together and wrote lots of little notes down. After reviewing the report and looking at the Book Industry Standards (BISAC) categories these are the categories I decided on: Animals, Arts & Crafts, Biography, Cars, Cooking, Crime, Family, Folktales, Health, History, Literature, Math, Multicultural, Music, Mythology, Nature, Poetry, Religion, Science, Space, Sports, Supernatural, and War.
I ordered genre labels for each of these categories. A few categories I had to rename so that it would fit with the labels available. There were no labels for Geography so I decided to group though with customs and holidays and create a Multicultural group. At this time I do not have subcategories because the size of my collection doesn't warrant this additional step; however, this is something I will consider for the future. History is my largest section and if I feel the need to further divide them I may do that. I may also subdivide Science if the need arises.
This decision did have its challenges. Deciding the category for some books was difficult. Should a dinosaur book be in science, history or animals? I looked at the Dewey number for guidance, asked my student helpers, and sometimes just made an executive decision.
I created an area in the library for each category and started sorting books into groups. I took one section at a time and changed the record in the computer, added the genre label and typed and added the new spine label. The spine labels changed from 940.53 WIL to NON WIL and then the History label. Then they were ready to be alphabetized and put back on the shelf. It sounds so simple when I write it but it took lots of time and several student helpers. In addition, I changed my label preferences with Follett so that I will only have to add the genre label for my new books. Another challenge will be collection analysis. Without Dewey it will be more time consuming to create a report; however, I can walk around the library and look at the shelves and see weaknesses much easier than before.
While I was making all of these changes I also decided to create a section for the anime/manga series, make new spine labels for the professional books (remove Dewey and replace with PROF SUBJECT Authors first 3 letters, EX. PROF SCIENCE WIL), move any remaining Story Collection to Fiction, remove the PB (Paperback) and E (Easy) labels from the collection by changing the record and replacing the spine label. My Cars, Cooking and Supernatural books are very popular and it wasn't until this change that I realized just how small these groups were. I will definitely order more for these areas.
I'm looking forward to seeing student reaction and looking at circulation for differences in non fiction numbers. I still need to finish up a small stack of War and put up the signs for each area. I have shelf markers from Demco that I plan to use, but I'm also looking at other options for making each category easy to find and see. I ordered lots of book stands so that I can display as many books face out as possible. I will post an update after the school year begins to share any positive reactions and any difficulties that may arise.
A few resources for your consideration:
Dewey Free Project Presentation: One public libraries journey as they converted their collection. Lots of great links inside the presentation.
An article about the library mentioned in the previous presentation from a catalogers view.
"It's Not About Dewey" from the Library Journal
"To Dewey or Not to Dewey" peer reviewed article
"It's Fine to Drop Dewey" from Library Journal
"The Dewey Dilemma" from Library Journal