Blogger Emily Mroczek-Bayci

A deep dive into: Picture Book Categories

How many times has a patron asked you for books about princesses, or Pete the Cat, or colors and you’ve had to ask them for specific titles or to wait a few minutes to consult your computer?

The traditional method of organizing books by an authors last name does not allow for brows-ability, especially in a picture book section. That is why many libraries find ways to feature their picture books with face out shelving and to reorganize the picture books into categories or topics. I took a look at local libraries around me and on the Internet to see various trends and ideas for organizing picture books. It seemed like common trends with libraries who employed categories were customer satisfaction, easier brows-ability and increased circulation.

A portion of the Kids Favorites section at a branch of the Naperville Public Library in Illinois.

Naming it

My old library called our organized picture books, “Kids Favorites,” and divided certain books into specific categories while keeping some books in alphabetical order by author. My current library has everything divided into categories and it is still called the picture book section. I’ve also heard of people calling it, “Picture Book City,” “The First Five Years Collection,”

I’ve seen a variety of categories and subcategories including but not limited to:

  • Animals
  • Celebrations or Holidays or Traditions (holidays, parties, and special events)
  • Concepts or Basics (can include ABC’s, Colors, Numbers, Shapes, Size, Time, Opposites, Sign Language)
  • Favorites (popular series, great read-a-louds, classics, award winners). I’ve also seen this as a ctach all for titles that don’t fit in a specific section
  • Folk/ Fairy Tales
  • Emotions or Ourselves or Growing Up or Me
  • Fun and Games
  • Nature (This I’ve seen as either weather and trees or even dinosaurs and animals)
  • People or Community or Places or Alaska
  • Play
  • Pretty in Pink or Princesses
  • Rhymes and Songs or Rhythm
  • School
  • Science
  • Seek and Find
  • Sights and Sounds
  • Sports or Movement
  • Superheroes
  • Stories (This can take many directions with adventures, princesses, pirates, bedtime, or monsters).
  • Transportation or Go Go Go
  • Wordless
The picture books section at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Illinois.


Changing your collection in such a drastic manner can be quite complicated. You may choose to start small, or turn over the whole collection at once. Below are some questions to consider while making a reorganization.

  • Who is responsible for making decisions both initially and as new books come in?
  • How will the cataloging, labeling and relabeling process work?
  • What categories and classification will you use?
  • How will you shelve the books?
  • How will you make the collection available during the conversion?
  • What will signage and call numbers look like?
  • How will collaboration with technical services and other departments work for such a big change?
  • Will you include non fiction books? How will that be determined?

Have you done a picture book reorganization or classification at your library? I would love to hear any advice or information in the comments.


  1. Valerie Morris

    The best advice I have for doing a picture book reorganization is to weed your collection first! You do not want to be relabeling/recategorizing a book that you will not keep. Weeding can also be a great time to discard books with negative stereotypes of BIPOC.
    Also, instead of using the terms “folk tales” and “fairy tales”, I used “traditional tales” so that I could include Indigenous stories which are not considered fairy tales. Then the stories are subcategorized by the continent the tale comes from.

    1. Emily Mroczek

      thanks for the advice, those are both important and ways to keep the collection timely

  2. Carey

    I did this with our picture book collection over five years ago at the Carnegie-Schadde Memorial Public Library. It was a nine-month process. It’s been great.

  3. Hamees

    Please, tell the difference between picture books and toy, movable books

    1. Emily Mroczek

      The classifications can really vary depending on publisher and library etc. Etc. However from a personal standpoint toy and movable books can also include lift the flap and pop up books and are often in the board book section because they have harder pages. While picture books are more likely to have the 32 pages made of paper. Hope this helps!

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