Monday, April 10, 2017

Week 14 Prompt Response

Prompt: Consider yourself part of the collection management committee of your local library, or a library at which you would like to work. You must decide whether or not to separate GLBTQ fiction and African American Fiction from the general collection to its own special place. Some patrons have requested this, yet many staff are uncomfortable with the idea - saying it promotes segregation and disrupts serendipitous discovery of an author who might be different from the reader. Do you separate them? Do you separate one and not the other? Why or why not? You must provide at least 3 reasons for or against your decision. Feel free to use outside sources - this is a weighty question that is answered differently in a lot of different libraries.

My Response:

I personally am somewhat against separating items of different genres in libraries.  It seems like there are too many times when a book might fit perfectly into two or more genres, and if the library only has one copy, the question becomes, where should it go?  I know not dividing up books and other materials by genre can be somewhat frustrating for patrons looking for items in a specific genre, but it also provides an opportunity for these same patrons to discover something new they might never had considered before.  When items are divided up, as stated in this week's prompt, it somewhat does promote segregation between the various genres-- we just discussed this same sort of thing last week in our YA, NA, and graphic novel prompt response.

My solution would be to keep all the adult fiction together, sort them by author, and have different genres identified by spine label stickers.  My library does this, and it seems to work pretty well.  The various genres, such as romance, paranormal, horror, and more, each have their own spine label sticker with a unique color and symbol or picture.  The name of the genre is also listed below the image for further clarification of what genre it represents.  I can see this easily being implemented and used for GLBTQ fiction and African American fiction.  When there is more than one genre or section an item fits into, additional spine label stickers can easily be added to the item.

Specifically, my three reasons for this spine-label-sticker solution include:
  1. Separation of different genres or sections of items promotes segregation and discourages branching out into new genres.  If a patron believes they would never like a Science Fiction item, they might not ever travel into the separated Science Fiction section at their library.  However, when all of the adult fiction books are together in one location at the library, this patron is more likely to come across a book with Science Fiction elements in it that they find interesting and enjoy.
  2. Including genre spine labels on books is an easy way to allow all patrons who enjoy these genres to find these items.  When the genres are separated, if the library only has one copy of a book that fits into two different genres, one genre will have to be chosen above the rest for the book to be located.  Patrons looking for the book in the genre section(s) not selected might simply assume the library does not carry the item.  We should make things simpler for the patron, not more complicated and confusing.
  3. These items can be somewhat controversial, so some patrons might feel embarrassed or even nervous about entering or even browsing in sections clearly marked as GLBTQ, African American fiction, or even New Adult for that matter.  By keeping all of the adult fiction together and in one location, patrons are more free to explore items with more controversial genres without worrying about anyone "seeing them in the [insert genre/area here] section."  While I can see many librarians not understanding why patrons might be concerned about what others think about their personal reading choices, I have to think about our discussions last week about adults reading YA items.  Even though some patrons might be worried about what others may think, we should respect each patrons privacy and encourage them to read whatever they are interested in, no matter the genre or format.


  1. I absolutely understand how separation of genres could be off-putting. It is also difficult because so many books could fit into multiple genres. I like the use of genre stickers to help a bit with this area.

    But I have to play devil's advocate for a second. I know that when I go into a library with no idea of what I want the sheer volume of books in the adult section is overwhelming. I don't know where to start or what to look for when they are all grouped this way. That is the main reason why I do my research before I go to the library. I look for titles that fit what I want at the moment and am prepared with a list before even entering the building. Putting everything in one spot works wonderfully for someone who already knows what they want, but it doesn't always help for people who are browsing. Do you think that, other than organizing by genre, there is another way to organize that would be conducive to browsing patrons?

  2. I agree that we should not separate these genres into a different section because it segregates important works that patrons would enjoy. I like that you suggest spine labels for these works because it would promote these works as being an integral part of the library's collection without discouraging patrons from reading African American or GBLTQ fiction. Sorting them by author allows the reader to search by a simple cataloged system, and the spine label would be an effective way to convey the genre that the title represents.

  3. Hi, personally I don't think separating the two genres is a form of segregation because for me at least it is easier for me to access either of them separately as opposed to the spine label concept. The library I go to now has that in place and it is hard for me to see the labels and the shelfs are too tall. Also I have had near misses because I am so focused on the labels ( finding what I need) that I have already ran into people!

  4. Hi Paige,
    I used to agree with your shelving solution and the added genre stickers. But, as you mentioned, what if a title falls into more than or between genres? Does it get multiple or one half of a label? Do you purchase multiple copies and use different labels for each? These are the kinds of questions that our Tech Dept Manager and I used to wrestle with. We ended up deciding not to use labels going forward. Some patrons aren't very pleased, but hopefully, as we get more proficient with our RA services, they will agree that appeal terms outweigh the benefits of the labels.

  5. Excellent prompt response! You argued your opinion well and created great dialogue on the comments! Great job!

  6. I like your idea of the stickers. I also think they should be catalogued that way.