You're in the wrong place!

So. Genre fiction. I can't speak for you, of course, but I happen to love it. Library patrons love it too. The question comes in where to put things.

So many books cross genres. This is great for reading, but it can be really difficult when you're trying to determine what goes where. It often prompts my boss to say we're going to put them all in order by author/title and not have ANY genre sections. Welllll, I think she's joking (I think) and you can imagine the revolt there would be. In fact, patrons want MORE genre sections, not less. Right now, we don't have separate Romance, or Horror sections, they're just in the general fiction stacks. Fantasy was there until perhaps seven years ago, when we merged it with Science Fiction. A move that was long overdue, but still cause some librarian consternation. Science Fiction, of course, is about SPACE. Fantasy is not. How can you merge the two? (I'm not making that complaint up.) We can't even get into the complaint that Tolkien shouldn't be classified as Fantasy because it is a "classic."

So, with no dedicated horror section, where do vampires go? Werewolves? Where would the Kelley Armstrong books go? Or, if you're sitting with Bitten on your desk, and there are no other books in the series, where does THAT go? That's the problem we have more often. It's the first book in a series, nothing to compare it to, and a zillion subject headings that suggest we should slice the book into pieces and shelve each piece in its own section!

And how do you decide which category is dominant in a given book? We would never dream of putting a series of books featuring a private detective anywhere other than in the mystery section. Unless.....they're the Harry Dresden books. Those obviously don't belong in mystery, but why not? He solves mysteries, right? Some of the early books are very much like Noir detective novels, right down to the dames walking in the office that are nothing but trouble.

A lot of the answer depends on how the books are marketed, to whom they are marketed, and where browsing patrons expect to find them. It is more likely that a patron browsing the SF section would check out the Dresden Files than a patron browsing the MYS section. But is that necessarily true, and are we doing a disservice to patrons who might LOVE those books, but would never ordinarily browse the SF section because they think it's all spaceships and unicorns?

We discussed a little of this earlier in the week on twitter about Science Fiction Romance. Our library doesn't separate out romance, but I know many libraries do. Some not only separate out romance from gen fiction, but also separate out paranormal romance from the regular romance section. For us, when we have 22 libraries basically sharing one ginormous collection, tiny categories would be a logistical nightmare. Half Price books also has a separate paranormal romance area before their general romance in the paperback section. Yet, I haven't seen any library or bookstore separate cozy mystery from hard boiled. Or historical mysteries from modern day. No one separates out forensic pathologists from traditional PIs.

So, librarians, I'm curious how YOUR library manages its fiction collection. How do you break it up, and what categorization rules do you use?

I'm also curious what library patrons, and bookstore patrons like, don't like, would suggest, wished their library and/or bookstore did and didn't do. Have at it!


Karen said…
We have all of our fiction together but with close to 20 different genre spine labels. We run into the same challenge, however. Some titles qualify equally for three different stickers.

We try to base our final selection on which would be most popular with our own patrons but without spending too much time on analysis. Thanks to standing orders, it's easy to quickly get buried.
Helgagrace said…
I had a nice, thoughtful comment, which Blogger ATE. Will try again under a more auspicious sky.

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