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On Genre and Shelving

This week I went to a library that did not have a separate science fiction shelf. (Or a 657ipiseparate mystery shelf.)  Instead the library put science fiction sticker on the spine and shelved the books in alphabetical order by last name.

I was displeased by this arrangement. I wanted all the science fiction books in one place so I could look at them all at once. I didn’t want to wander through half the library looking for science fiction/fantasy books.

I suppose if I had time to look through all the shelves and was willing to be distracted by interesting covers, it would have been excellent arrangement. But I didn’t have much time, I just wanted a quick look at their science fiction/fantasy selection and see if something looked good.

I may go back if I have a few hours to spare. And can I say how odd it was to see literary classics and science fiction books on the same shelf. Which may have been the point.

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4 thoughts on “On Genre and Shelving

  1. I have mixed feelings about separating genre fiction from the rest. On one hand, I want to be able to find the genre(s) I like to read without having to search through the whole fiction section (which is even harder when they don’t even have stickers on the spines!). On the other hand, I don’t like the way a lot of people perceive science fiction as somehow less worthy than other kinds of fiction, and not keeping the sci-fi in some kind of literary ghetto improves that genre’s image in some eyes.

    (When I worked as a librarian, back in the Dark Ages when some card catalogues still contained literal cards, one of my responsibilities was to go through ALL the fiction and separate it by genre — the head librarian wanted sci-fi and fantasy separate! — and put colored sticker dots on the spines accordingly. It wasn’t always straightforward. Is this a romance novel, or a novel with a love story subplot? Is this novel about genetically engineered dragons sci-fi or fantasy, and can I convince the head librarian that, since the AUTHOR considers the story sci-fi, it belongs in that genre? What about horror with supernatural themes? Can I convince the head librarian that splitting a series into more than one genre is a bad idea and that all books in a series belong together on the shelf?)

    1. Well sci-fi and fantasy are usually shelved in the same place, so Anne McCaffrey won’t break that. But the others . . . I don’t know. All I know is, it’s faster to peruse a few shelves than a few dozen.

  2. It’s been so long since I’ve been to the library that I forget how they shelve books here. I would prefer sectioning by genres. Fiction covers a lot of topics and I’d rather zero in on what I’m looking for to save time.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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