Shelving Genre Fiction: A Mystery Month Dilemma

BookendsCindy and Lynn: The biggest mystery to solve this month might be where to shelve your mysteries! Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh wrote a recent blog post about genre shelving over at Public Libraries Online, looking at the divisive issue of how to organize popular fiction genres. Since we are focused on the mystery genre this month, what better time to gauge opinion on this issue?

All librarians work to help patrons find titles that fit with their interests, whether through displays, bibliographies, readers advisory, Pinterest boards, spine labeling, or separate shelving collections. Back in the 1990s, we supported Lynn’s contagious enthusiasm for science fiction and fantasy by starting a separate collection in our middle-school library for the IMG_6405hardcore readers of those genres. That decision made it easier to support the fans of those popular genres, but it led to cataloging debates that still rage. For example, where do books with talking animals belong? While it certainly isn’t nonfiction, is it really fantasy? We came down on the side of keeping books like Watership Down (1996) and the Redwall series in fiction. Fairy-tale revisions are another bone of contention—though magic is often an aspect of those classic originals, putting them in sf/fantasy doesn’t seem quite right. Currently, most fairy-tale revisions remain in our general fiction section, but it is often a case-by-case decision.

The move to create that special collection inevitably leads to questions from students. Where is the mystery collection? Yes—where indeed. Should we create a permanent one or are mystery spine labels enough? And if we do create one, then what about other fiction genres? What about, say, historical fiction? And then, what does one do with a historical mystery?

2015_mystery-hashtagDo you think popular fiction genres need individual sections? What does your library do? Maybe it depends on how patrons prefer to find their next book. Do your patrons read by genre or by author? Or by format? We’d love to hear about the things you’ve tried in the comments section below!




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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