Browsing the library shelves – genres and the problem with general fiction


Like most public libraries, we divide our fiction books into several genres, so that people can easily find the sort of books they enjoy most, making the experience more like browsing in a bookshop. I have mixed feelings about this as I think it stops people trying different sorts of books but I’m coming round to the idea more and more as I can see customers like it and it definitely boosts our borrowing figures.

Crime is one of our most popular sections and a few months ago we created a sub-section for cosy crime. We weeded the crime books to create more space to display front-facing books and picked out the cosy books to shelve in their own bays. The whole crime section now looks much more attractive and it means that people who like the medieval mysteries of Peter Tremayne may now try those of Ariana Franklin or even be tempted by the modern Agatha Raisin books by MC Beaton. So, in a way it is encouraging wider reading.

I still hate that the general fiction books (i.e. the ones we haven’t slotted into genres) are so neglected but it’s partly our fault as we’ve put them at the back of the library and few people seem to get further than the crime, saga and romance shelves! I’d really like to get people borrowing these books but I’m not sure how best to do it.  Should we rearrange the whole library? Mix the sagas in with the general fiction? Any suggestions?


5 thoughts on “Browsing the library shelves – genres and the problem with general fiction

  1. thestoryofrei

    Have you ever heard of the “blind date with a book” concept? Basically you wrap a book in plain paper (if there’s anything on the book that needs to be scanned for borrowing purposes, you could leave those exposed), and you write a few very simple details of what the book is about. Not enough to give away what it is.

    I’ve seen a few libraries do this, and even book sales. I’m not sure if that would be feasible or practical in your situation, but I think it’s a neat idea.

    1. blackcountrylibrarian Post author

      I’ve never heard of it, but I like the idea a lot. We could have a “blind date with a book” display of wrapped up general fiction books. I’ll have a think about how I can leave the inner barcodes visible!

  2. olganm

    Yes, never heard of that either but it sounds very intriguing. In an ideal world I guess you could have readers recommend some of their favourite books in the general fiction section, writing something about them. It’s a difficult one as some of the books I’ve most enjoyed I don’t think would easily fit in any category…


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