Sunday, August 5, 2012

We Spiced Up The Shelves....And Ditched The Dewey

Something really big has been happening in the Van Meter School Elementary Library over the last few months.

We are always doing things within our library, school, and community to get our young people reading, learning, thinking, collaborating, and creating.  One of the ways that we can encourage all of these things within the library is to take a look around and see what changes we can make.
I looked at the way our collection was organized, where and how our students browsed in the library, what books they looked at and checked out, and the books and sections they were not looking at all.  Last year when we put all of our Graphic Novels together, this quickly became the most popular place to go in the library.  And it also made me realize how many more Graphic Novels we needed in our collection to support our readers.

And then I asked myself and others these questions, "Why do we need to keep our library organized according to the Dewey Decimal system?  Why do we need to keep all of the biographies in alphabetical order?  Why do the fairy tales need to stay in the 300's where most of the students could never remember where they were?"  

Every year I taught all of the students about Dewey and the different "neighborhoods" where our books lived.  Did they still ask me where the poetry books were on the shelves?  Yes.  Did they still ask me where their favorite book about aliens lived?  Yes.  I even had the shelves clearly marked and displayed books about the different Dewey neighborhoods, but still....they asked and used Destiny to locate the books themselves.

And what about the students who were not naturally drawn to nonfiction?  Chances are....they didn't even venture into this part of the library.  They stuck to what they knew because they found nonfiction books to hard to locate and perhaps didn't know they too could find a nonfiction book that was interesting to them.

After hearing about several librarians around the country that were moving their library collections to the "Book Store Model" or subject based system of classification, we decided this would be an awesome move for our school too.  The reorganization would lead to more browsing of the nonfiction, everyone would find so many more wonderful books with the shelves clearly marked and reorganized, and "sshhhhhhhhhh"....the Dewey Decimal System would not have to be mentioned again.
The first step was to conduct an analysis of our collection.  We went to the Mackin Educational Resources Collection Analysis Plus Solutions site and uploaded our collection.
This tool gave us a very clear picture of what books we should weed and which sections we needed to pay close attention to during the process.  
Diana, the best library associate in the world, printed off the "Full Weeding Consideration List" and went through the entire collection.  She would pull off a set of books and then check within Destiny for the circulation history of a particular title.  
According to the report, it suggested we weed over 40% of our collection....and we were pretty close.  Diana weeded over 2000 titles from our collection.  
It was incredible seeing the overcrowded shelves go from this....
to looking like the shelves on the left hand side of this picture.  With more space on the shelves, we would be able to reorganize the library the way we wanted and in a way that would best serve our little people, teachers, and community.  
It was very helpful to do another collection analysis after the weeding and inventory.  This gave us a clear picture of the areas we needed to develop within our collection.  Once again, Mackin was so great in developing lists for "Recommended Nonfiction, Recommended Fiction, and Recommended Picture Books" specifically for our collection.  It is easy to look through these lists making additions and changes as needed.  
During this process, my special little friend Greta helped us too.  
Greta will be in 4th grade at Van Meter and loves books, learning, and our library. When Greta's father Alex passed away last spring, the memorial money was gifted to the library.  Greta, her mom Jennifer, and I spoke about ways to use the money and decided this would be the perfect project.  And since Alex owned a spice store, loved cooking, books and learning we named this project...
Greta wanted to not only choose books herself, she also wanted to get her friends at Van Meter involved.  She created a survey called "Spice Up The Shelves" and gave it to over 300 students and teachers at Van Meter.  Greta collected the surveys and from the results created a list of authors, subjects, and titles that would be perfect to add to our library. 
Greta and I created her very own Mackin account and she built "Greta's Book Project List", which would be one part of the new books we would order for our collection.  
While we waited for over 500 new books from Mackin, Diana and I started thinking about the best way to reorganize the collection.  
We talked to our friends DeAnn and Ann at Mackin and other teacher librarians who have done similar projects within their libraries.  We also took a look at the BISAC Subject Headings List on the BISG website and started mapping out a grid for our collection.  
And then we just jumped right in and started putting the books together according to the different subject or topics that they contained.  
We started with all nonfiction and reference books.  Once they were somewhat reorganized, Diana and I went through them together and decided on the subjects or topics and subtopics that would be placed upon the spine labels and shelves.  
By going through this process we came up with major subjects or topics and also subtopics.  Our collection consists of subjects such as "Animals, Vehicles, History, Sports".  As of right now, we have the library arranged into 90 different subjects and subtopics.  You can see this list in the NEW Van Meter Library Arrangement Google Doc.  Please feel to use and share this list too.
We also figured out how they would be arranged on the shelves.   When we were arranging them on the shelves, Diana and I thought about the high traffic areas or "hot spots" within the library.  We also thought about the natural flow between several of the subjects and how they fit together.  We found ourselves asking a lot of questions to one another like, "Are you sure that the books about Riddles should go there or should they be placed by the Poetry books? Should we put the books about the Environment by the Recycling books?"  
The biographies were left together in the space they were before.  When my friend Jerry Blumengarten (@Cybraryman) saw me post about the new arrangement yesterday on Facebook, he told me that he arranged his biographies by subjects as well...Explorers, Scientists, Artists....what a super idea!  I can't wait to reorganize our biographies this way too.   
For right now the shelves will be marked with these simple tags containing each subject or subtopic.  The main subject areas will marked with new signage that contains words and images so our students can locate these areas easily. 
We are now working on the new spine labels for our books.  Each book will have a new label that will contain the word and image of the specific subtopic.  
I would like the images to match those that are located within Mackin VIA.  Our eBooks within VIA are organized within "Categories" and it will be helpful to have these images be similar to those that are also found on the books on the shelves within the library.  

As we place these new labels on the books, Diana and I will also be updating each MARC record within Destiny to reflect the new classification system. I will post about this process too.  
Even though there are several books that we have yet to find a home for in the new organization, we are going to start shelving all of the new books next week.  We have 17 boxes from Mackin and several new books that I bought over the summer to get on the shelves before school starts on August 15th.
Thanks to my daughter Brianna and students Quinn and Erica, the library is now neatly organized with new spaces, signage, and a whole new feel for our school community to experience this fall.  
We even have a new reading couch thanks to Mr. Linde and this corner will be transformed into a warm, inviting reading space next week too.  

So as you can see, there are lots of big changes that have taken place within our library.  

I cannot wait to see what all of the students, teachers and our school community think.  It is going to be the best year yet!  


  1. What a huge undertaking! I will be interested to know if your students or you can still find things.

    1. Yes, I cannot wait to see how they browse and find things too. I will be following these things as we open the library in just over a week. :)

  2. Great job, Shan! I know that you and your students are going to LOVE the change!

    1. Thank you, Tiff. :) You were one of my library friends who encouraged me to make this change. I know the students will just LOVE LOVE LOVE the change. I can't wait. :)

  3. I ditto Kathy! HUGE undertaking! Will you have a suggestion box for new titles, as well? Let us know how students are doing with the new system. It sounds like what Dewey wanted, though. Subjects, sub-topics... Are your new subjects alphabetical now? I'm still missing something. I love the sticker idea, too. I am a sucker for a pic of a ghost on the spine for supernatural or a rocket for Sci-fi, but can't imagine what it must look like!! When I have time, I'll make a road trip and come visit! Best part - having the kids invested in this project. Way to go, Shannon!
    -Joy Kirr

    1. Thank you, Joy. :) I take suggestions from the students and teachers all the time...I just have the kids find the titles on Amazon and order them right away. We get them a lot of times overnight.

      No, the subjects are not in alphabetical order....I thought about the traffic areas, etc... in the library when organizing it.

      I will take tons of pics as we proceed even further and post more about this. But YES, please come and visit anytime friend. I would love to have you.


  4. Wonderful! I know you won't regret this switch! My library has really thrived since making it student friendly with genres & book store model.

    1. Thank you, Sherry. :) I bet your students and school community absolutely love it too. I would love to see pics of your spine label stickers and signage. :)

  5. LOVE this idea! Our library serves almost 1,000 elementary grade students, so I'm overwhelmed just thinking about doing something like this. But I'm so tempted, too! I'm wondering if this is an all-or-nothing kind of thing--maybe we can start in sections, like reorganizing the biographies first, for example. We already have our graphic novels in their own section.

    Looking forward to hearing how this works--how exciting for you all!

    1. Thank you, Natalie. :) Yes, I did just a few sections at first....Graphic Novels, Easy Readers, etc... Then just went for it. Get a few volunteers to help you and it would go pretty fast once you have your categories, etc...

      Please let me know if you need any help or advice...I would be happy to talk to you about what we did at Van Meter.

      Have a great weekend, Shan

  6. I'm on board for putting books according to the BISAC system. I'm hoping to accomplish this next summer. It is a very big undertaking and though we have a small space we have a very large collection and not much space to work in. I haven't got my library board on my side yet, but I will be working on that soon.I will be bookmarking your site as a great reference. ;)

    1. Hi there,

      Thank you for the response. :) The first thing I did was MAJOR weeding because our library is not the large also and we had way too many books that were not even used. This helped so much. Please let me know if you need any other information. I would be so happy to help.

      Have a wonderful weekend, Shan

  7. Love this! I don't think I can even attempt to think about doing it right now though. I have two libraries and don't feel like I know my collection or teachers & students well enough after just a year so far. Maybe in a few years!

    1. And remember....start slow. Maybe pick one Graphic Novels....first. :) That is what I did. And ours isn't completely finished either. We will have to work on everything slowly throughout the year. But it is a start.

      Please let me know if you ever have questions...I would be more than happy to help. :)

      Have a happy weekend, Shannon

  8. I absolutely LOVE this! I just began my first Librarian job 2 months ago and would love to organize my library this way. We have an older collection and could definitely benefit from weeding this year. I'll have to see what I can do. I'm thinking I will begin with the Biography section to help improve the circulation of that area.

  9. Wow! I would love to do SOMETHING to increase the usage of our library but worry about this system with high school...headed to college. My biggest question is...What did you do with all the weeded books? I need to weed but dread eliminating books! Now is the time for me as we renovated this summer and all books are in boxes - @160 boxes. fun times ahead!!