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Genrefying Library #2!

Whoohoo! I have just completed my second library genrefication project! My first project was in a middle school library in Fort Worth, Texas. This time, I have genrefied my new middle and high school library in Suzhou, China.
Simply put, genrefication is the act of labeling library books according to genre. When I talk about genrefication, I am only referring to genrefying my mega-sized Fiction section. With only two exceptions (mythology and short stories), I have left the Dewey sections of my library intact.

There are two ways to genrefy a Fiction section:

  • Label only–This is where books have genre labels but are still located in their traditional alpha-by-author Fiction section.
  • Label and section–This takes genrefication one step further. Librarians label the spine by genre and also dissolve the fiction section altogether, opting instead to create genre sections.

Personally, I think it is best to label your genres with color or pictorial spine labels AND relocate the books into genre sections.

Before I did my first full fiction genrefication in 2011, I had labeled books using pictorial spine stickers I created myself. I did this for about a year and noticed only a slight increase in circulation and library use among students.

It was only when I moved the books into color-coded genre sections that I really saw a spike in our circulation statistics. Labeling alone will help make the library more user-friendly, but creating genre sections will go much farther to maximize benefits for your patrons.

Right from the start, students loved the changes in the library, saying it was easier to find the books they liked. At the end of each school year, I always had a few students tell me that they were sad to move up to the high school library because it wasn’t genrefied. While they knew how to use the online library catalog, it just wasn’t the same as having all the historical fiction novels you love right in front of you in one place.

While many school librarians report positive results in their genrefication endeavors, genrefication is still controversial within the library community. Librarians who oppose genrefication say it dumbs down the school library and does not force students to learn to use the online catalog system. They say that students from genrefied libraries won’t read widely across genres and won’t be able to use non-genrefied public and university libraries. I will examine these and several other arguments against genrefication in several upcoming posts over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned…


Classroom or Library Book Genrefication Labels
Thinking about genrefying your library? Want to update your current genre labels? This set of genre labels is designed save you time and help make your genrefied library beautiful and easy to navigate.


  • We are planning to genrefy our fiction section using the see-through color coding labels. We have a problem, though. Many of our fiction book already have large, colored dots on the labels that are left over from when reading rewards programs such as AR and RL were used. Has anyone ever contacted you with a similar predicament, and if so, is there a solution? Pulling each off would be too time-consuming and in many cases would pull the bar code off along with the dot. Any help or suggestions would be most appreciated.

    • Hi, Laura,
      This is a great question that I’m sure happens often in libraries. It sounds like you aren’t using AR anymore, is that correct? If you no longer need the AR labels, is it possible to use plain white Avery labels to cover the dots? You could trim the white label if it covers the barcode. Time-consuming, yes, but not as bad as un-sticking a bunch of dots.

      Another idea (depending where you have the AR labels–works great if they are at the top of the spine) is to cover them with a colored label for either fiction or nonfiction. You could have one color for fiction and one for nonfiction. This way, if you ever want to mix nonfiction into any of your genre sections (I did this for mythology, some narrative nonfiction, memoirs, and nonfiction books on paranormal occurrences), it’s obvious what’s fiction and what’s nonfiction.

      I think whether you are genrefying the library or not, the AR labels should be removed or covered if possible. If it’s a recent move away from AR, teachers may still be using the “levels” for student reading. Students still know what their “level” is or was (and what levels other students are reading). If it’s been a while since you had AR, those labels could cause confusion about what they mean.


  • I am looking into genrefication for my k-8 school library. I do not plan on doing the easy section of the non-fiction section. I am just having a hard time trying to figure out how/where to label the spine on my books. The books already have an AR grade level label and several have an AR book level/pts label in addition to the normal FIC and author label. What or rather where do you suggest? I was thinking of just doing the colored dot labels you suggested using Demco labels (it would be easier to change genres or categories this way).

    • I’m actually not a fan of putting the AR label on the outside of the book. It’s too easy for others to see and comment on someone else’s reading level. It can add stigma and shame to those lower reading levels, making those students not want to read. Are the AR labels inside the book anywhere? If so, maybe you could just cover those AR labels with genre labels?

  • I’ve started the process of genrefying the middle school section of our K-8 library. I’ve found that our realistic fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi sections are HUGE! Did you break yours into even smaller subgenres? What do you recommend?

    • Hi, Bethany!
      Yes, these sections are always so huge! I did break fantasy into magical realism, epic fantasy, animal fantasy, fairy tale retellings, and (a weird one here, but it worked for my school) mermaids-witches-fae. Each section had its own color, just like all the other genres. I wanted to break up Realistic Fiction, but I had trouble coming up with categories and never did it. I was thinking of something like family problems, friendship, school stories…it was a really hard genre to break up though because there were so many that fit all three and so many that didn’t fit any.


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