For some time now, I have been interested in how we can ensure that both borrowers and staff can easily find books on shelves. In my current library, I have worked with a number of colleagues to re-arrange and re-organise stock in order to make it easier for the borrower (and indeed the staff) to find what they want. This has included putting genres at the end of the author run, rather than breaking up the sequence, and removing a paperback spinner that merely caused confusion (as stock could be on genre shelves, return shelves, fiction shelves or the spinner it could be quite time consuming for the borrower to find what they are looking for). I’m so prone to suggesting changes, that staff almost expect me to suggest a new change every week (much to their annoyance!).
My current preoccupation is the removal of genre sections in preference to a single run of fiction shelved by author. I am not a big fan of genre sections as they can (in my view) be confusing and rely heavily on borrowers who read by genre. Many authors write in a variety of genres which means that, using a genre system, books by a particular author can be spread across the library. This would be particularly annoying for readers who read by author (like myself). Instead of simply finding the author on the A-Z shelving, you would have to know what genre someone has decided the text represents. This is not exactly user-friendly in my opinion, particularly considering genres such as Crime and Adventure. How do you decide what constitutes one and not the other? How would you categorise an adventure story that has a crime at its heart?
Consequently, I have been mulling this over and trying to decide whether the removal of genre sections in public libraries is a good idea or not. My view is quite probably influenced by the way I search for books, and whilst I may find it easier, there will be many who would loath the idea (the genre searchers). Anyway, this may not be a bone of contention for too much longer. If and when ebooks become a standard format, the issue of physical shelving will no longer be a concern as there will no longer need to be a decision about whether an item can be Adventure OR Crime, they can be both. Suddenly, years of debate over the classification of fiction would be resolved in an instant (yeah right!).
So what should it be? Genre distinctions? Or simply shelved by author? Would be interested to hear thoughts on this subject.
Incidentally, I have also set up (yet another) twtpoll relating to this matter. You can vote here.