Our children’s nonfiction collection has been worrying me for a while! The books were tightly packed, borrowed infrequently and there was no room for front-facing displays on the shelves. We use the Dewey Decimal classification system and as a result, not all books are where you’d expect them – and children and parents don’t want to have to ask the library staff every time they’re looking for something.
The first thing I did was have a drastic weed of the nonfiction and remove all the tatty or out of date books so each bay had one or two display shelves and the whole area looked more inviting. Then I created a new section called History Projects and filled it with all the relevant books from the main sequence. We had no money for shelf dividers so I covered some withdrawn adult fiction hardbacks with black paper and stuck laminated labels on their spines: Egyptians; Greek; Romans; Medieval and Castles; Tudors; Stuarts; Georgians; Victorians; World War One; World War Two. The books have coloured stickers on their spines for easy shelving, but are in Dewey order within each section.
Almost straight away I noticed more children borrowing the History Project books and we’re shelving more children’s nonfiction generally, so it all seems to be working. I think we need to move some of the other books as well and create more shelf dividers, although it’s not always easy to choose the best way to split up the books. For a start, I think pets should be shelved with other animals and poetry and jokes should have their own sections nearer the fiction. We haven’t altered any catalogue records so it will all be easy to change if we find something else works better. Some libraries arrange their books by curriculum area or by age but I think this is too restricting as there are too many cross-curricular books and I don’t like the thought of children (or their parents) avoiding books that are considered too young for them.
Nonfiction is important for children as many (particularly boys) prefer it to fiction. It opens up wonderful facts to them and helps their reading, writing and academic conversation skills. At a time when many bookshops have cut back on their children’s nonfiction (now often dominated by character or tv-based books) and many schools have lost their libraries, it’s even more important that public libraries provide children with books to excite and inform them.
- Children need exciting non-fiction books – and libraries (theguardian.com/uk)
- Reorganizing Non-fiction: A Dewey Hybrid Model (www.alsc.ala.org/blog/)
- The Challenges of Reorganizing Nonfiction (schoollibrarybeyondsurvival.wordpress.com/)