Bookstore Model

I know I’ve written about the bookstore model before.  It’s not that I keep changing my mind, but I keep evolving in how it will look in my library.  My first foray into it was back in 2011, during my library school practicum.  It was quite successful for what it was – checkouts skyrocketed in given categories (593% increase in military books, I kid you not!), but my professor told me it was more a “featured collection” than really the bookstore model.


So when I started at MNW, I changed around collections at the elementary, included a featured collection section, but this past Christmas break did a quick move to bookstore model.  But when I thought of it, I knew I really wasn’t doing bookstore model.  You can’t move to the bookstore model over Christmas break, after all.  But it was a start, too – paying more attention to the subject than what was on the spine label.  (Some librarians were appalled that I would let students put all the primate books together, without regard to what’s on the spine label.  C’est la vie.)


So this summer, we’re doing honest-to-Pete bookstore model.  I talked a bit about it here.  I was gone for most of June and didn’t get started on it at the high school until July 1.  Still, it is looking great!  So for anyone who wants to put in the bookstore model into an existing library, here’s what we’ve done or are in the process of doing.  (Unlike a presentation I went to a few years ago that talked about doing bookstore model – for a brand new library, brand new books, and where a jobber did all of the work except shopping and choosing categories – this is with an existing collection, no brand-new shelves, no huge new collection.)


First, I took books off shelves and onto tables.  Eventually, I would move them around on the shelves, but I needed a little space to be able to do that first.  As I took them off, I looked at them and decided what type of book it was.  Classic?  Romance?  Thriller?  Humor?  I did this by looking at the back or inside cover, checking the Library of Congress cataloging data, or looking it up on Amazon or Follett and see where others have put it.  I chose some categories that eventually got absorbed into other categories – international books (like Nation by Terry Pratchett) went into either realistic or historical fiction, depending on the title.  Holiday books like A Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans got set aside for me to get out in December.  While I was working, I realized I needed a new category (survival) and we had to go back and see which ones should go in there.  I eventually ended up with these fiction categories:

Classics Fantasy Graphic Novels Historical Fiction
Horror Humor Mystery Paranormal
Quick Reads Realistic Fiction Romance Science Fiction
Sports Survival Thriller Urban

I have a paid helper this summer, and I corralled a volunteer (my daughter).  Donna made labels, Libby put labels on and straightened the shelves, and I started working on nonfiction.

Of course, I weeded along the way.  I can’t wait to get all done, do inventory, clean out any missing books, put in new purchases, and see where my average date lands.  I’m sure it will be improved!  (For now, we’re right at 15 years – 1998 average date).

After all that, then we’ll have to change the cataloging in the circulation system.  Since this has gone very quickly (many hands make light work), and since our system is online, we can all be on the system simultaneously and I’m sure it will take just a day to change all that (well, for the fiction).

So at the rate we’re going, if it were one person doing all this, it would take 4 days to sort fiction and nonfiction into their categories, and 6 to make and put on labels.  To be done still, I think it would take 4 to make and put on labels for nonfiction, another day to weed all the books out of the circulation system, and 6 to change the cataloging of all the books.  So, if I were completely on my own, it would take at least 21 days to get this done.  That really isn’t that bad!  But again, if you possibly can, get someone to help you because it’s good to have someone to ask about genres, to trade up jobs once in awhile, and just to chat with while you’re doing this rather monotonous work.

Finally, we’ll have to make signage.  I think we’ll either paint print dictionaries and put the genre name on the spine, make color print-outs with words and a picture describing the genre (then putting in a frame and standing on the shelf next to the books), or have my son make wooden boxes that he’ll laser the genre name onto the edge.  We’ll see.


Cox, Tamara. “Arts and crafts.” Creative Commons Copyright. Found here on Flickr.

Nonfiction is looking a little busier – almost twice the major genres as fiction – which is strange because I know it is a smaller collection.  So the signage will just be on the major categories here.  I’m still figuring all this out.  Here’s my major categories, and you can find the full list here (84 categories!).

Adolescence Agriculture Animals Art
Biography Cooking Facts Family & Relationships
Foreign Languages Games Health & Fitness History
House & Home Iowa Language Arts Literary Nonfiction
Math Medicine Music Nature
Philosophy Poetry Psychology Religion
Science Social Science Sports Technology

The elementary collection is so much larger, it might take a lot more time.  But by then, we’ll be old pros at it!

I don’t know if this will help circulation at the high school – heck, I wanted to be a librarian when I was in high school and didn’t read books (other than the occasional book – why this was in my school library, I’ll never know).  But I know it is making it a tighter, better collection, and if anything will improve circulation, this will.

Summertime fun

How has it been over a month since I blogged??

It’s summer – finally!  For the first time ever (as a student, mom, and teacher), school went into June, what with all the snow days.  But never fear, Donna and I are finally able to get to work on our summer projects.  The first one is:

Bookstore Model

And not some squishy way like I did before.  I mean, the kids loved that – it made it easy and fun to browse the nonfiction.  However, I was the only person who could put all the books away!  Since we hadn’t changed any spine labels, it was more art than science.

But after going to IASL and hearing about the success at Waukee Middle School and North Liberty Public Library with BISC, I’m going whole-hog.  I’d always been hesitant to do it, because – hello! – I can find any book I want in a public library but always need help at Barnes and Noble.  But the way WMS and NLPL did it, it made so much sense!  I’m starting with fiction, though – I think NF might have to wait until fall.  I’m starting at the high school too, where I think it can have the most affect.  See, here are my fiction shelves:


Which look fine, right?  I’ve done a lot of weeding over the past two years (remember, it used to look like this) and the collection has definitely improved.  But as I reflected on it, I realized that I would never look for a fiction book in my library.  When I go to the public library, I never browse fiction.  Maybe new fiction, but I never, ever, browse the fiction stacks.  I’ll look for favorite authors (but I don’t need to check out Carl Hiaasen’s new book, Bad Monkey, as I have it from Amazon and am loving it!), but that’s about it.  Yet I expected my students to browse fiction?

I mean, look at this shelf:


So that’s Harry Potter (fantasy), then Storm Catchers (horror/thriller), Someday Dancer (historical fiction), next to realistic fiction, next to a mystery, next to humor, next to romance, next to graphic novel . . . you get the idea.  Chaos, pure chaos!!

I mean, it’s not like the high school students are racing to the circulation desk to read these.  But if anything is going to help, I think putting books by genre is it.

So, that means, new spine labels!  So for The Catcher in the Rye, it will say, Fiction/Classics/Salinger.  That’ll be a lot of work, but I believe in efficiency – for now, it’s weeding and sorting, then when I know the categories are solid, we’ll do all the spine labels at once.  Then, the fiction books will be placed back on the shelf, first alphabetically by category then alphabetically by author.  For example, Adventure then Classics then Fantasy then Romance then Science Fiction then Sports.  Within Classics, it would be Alcott then Austen then Bronte then Dickens then Fitzgerald, etc.  I expect we’ll have about 15 different categories.  It will be interesting to see where the gaps in the collection are once I get the books organized this way.

Watch for updates, and posts about our other summer projects.  What’s on your to-do list?

Rethinking fiction

When I started working at the MNW Elementary Library in 2011, I was dismayed at the dearth of collections that were present for students.  Sure, we had plenty of books at all sorts of levels, but these were in three digital collections – and three physical spots – for patrons:  Easy books (picture books), fiction (everything from Junie B. Jones to Harry Potter), nonfiction.  Although students may be able to find books in their current reading level thanks to either a sticker indicating a book’s Accelerated Reader level or their own searching, neither choice was ideal.  AR is problematic because students won’t discover books that would be completely appropriate and enjoyable for them, and searching can be frustrating for a student who doesn’t have the time or inclination to spend time perusing the stacks.

So before classes even started, I eyeballed fiction and added a new collection “Juvenile Fiction.”  Here were the Junie B. Jones titles, the Magic Tree House series, and, my personal favorite, Captain Underpants.  Books had a sticker affixed and were put in a different place in the library.  Donna and I changed the books in the computer to this new collection, and both students and teachers seemed to appreciate this new system.

As the year continued, though, it became clear we hadn’t done enough.  Where were new readers to find their books?  Finding a book in picture books was hit-or-miss – there might be a great book like one of the Rookie Reader collection, but also there would be a book like Sparrow Girl that could be read and appreciated by high schoolers.  Picture books are for both students and adults.  There had to be a better way.

Last summer, then, Donna and I, as well as a high school volunteer, combed through the picture books and the JR collection, and came away with anther collection, “Juvenile Reader.”  This is for the simplest books in the collection for early readers, like Sandbox Betty or Hop on Pop.  Eventually, we added another collection, “Leveled Text,” for books like Amelia Bedelia and Henry and Mudge.  These changes have been a great help to students and teachers who come in for part of their “Daily 5” rounds to find “good fit books.”  By mid-year, students as young as first grade are quite adept at finding good fit books by themselves.


But we’re not done!  This summer, we’re rethinking the fiction collections, at both the elementary and the secondary schools.  We’re moving toward the bookstore model of fiction collections, using the BISAC subject headings, so the Fiction collection will be labeled differently in the LIS and on their spine labels, whether it be an adventure book, mystery, horror, or fantasy.


Data at similar-sized schools show this has a positive impact on circulation.  I’m not concerned with numbers – I’m concerned with kids.  As I quoted someone very smart at IASL:

I mean really – when I go to the public library, I know exactly what I want in fiction . . . certain authors.  Maybe it’s an old favorite (Carl Hiaasen) or a new book I heard about (Where’d You Go, Bernadette?).  But I rarely if ever browse fiction like I do nonfiction.  And really – how do I browse nonfiction?  By subjects!  Maybe it’s books on libraries (021) or cookbooks (641.5) or basketry (746.4).  Wouldn’t I like to browse subjects in fiction, too?

The thing that always scared me off of the bookstore model was this very fact:  I can find any book I want in any public library, but I always, ALWAYS, have to ask for help at Barnes and Noble.  But a session at the recent IASL conference gave me this eureka moment – sort subjects alphabetically.  So in nonfiction, art goes before cooking which goes before history.  In fiction, adventure goes before historical fiction which goes before mystery.  AHA!

So what’s your big project this summer?  (I have two others, but that will be left for another day.)