ALA Annual 2012

#ala12: I Want a Truck Book! Reorganizing Your Picture Book Collection

Once in a while, a conference session will light a spark that stays with you beyond the time spent listening to the speakers. I Want a Truck Book! has stayed with me, as I think about this fascinating presentation time and time again. Gretchen Caserotti, Deborah Cooper and Tali Balas Kaplan shared their experiences reorganizing their children’s collections to meet the needs of young patrons. Each approached the challenge of reorganizing their collections to help children find books intuitively and easily. They shared their experiences working with public and school libraries.

As Tali Balas Kaplan wrote here in the ALSC Blog, “Successful systems have clear logic and the different pieces are connected in ways that make sense to people who’re using the system.” But the Dewey organization of books by an intricate subject matter system and author’s last name does not make intuitive sense to our young children or their caregivers. One of her young student wrote about his feelings on searching for books in the library: “aginy” (agony). How can we change that experience for our patrons?

And so each of these librarians has reorganized their collections — in part or whole — grouping materials by broad subject areas that make intuitive sense to children. I was fascinated by these projects, as I’ve often struggled to explain our library’s organization system to children. Look at an example Tali Kaplan shared: the call number 327.12 EAR. What do students make of this? Does it make them think of an ear of corn? Or one of their ears?

Now take a look at this book, The Real Spy’s Guide, with the new call number developed using their reorgized Metis system: S Mystery Spies. All of the mystery books are grouped together, with subgroups for topics like “Spies”. Nonfiction and fiction books are grouped together, so a kid who’s really into reading spy stories like Alex Rider might be able to browse and find nonfiction books like The Real Spy’s Guide.

Each library system approached their reorganization slightly differently, but all focused on what made browsing for books easiest for their patrons. Each also found ways to make their new system visually intuitive for children, with clear signage and labeling. It’s a fascinating project, one that I will keep thinking about, sharing with colleagues in my district, and considering for my library.

Do you want to find out more about their projects? Here are some sources of information:

Mary Ann is the librarian at Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley, CA, is active in ALSC and AASL, blogs regularly at Great Kid Books, and connects with library friends @MaryAnnScheuer.


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