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Shelving Picture Books

Page history last edited by Jane McManus 10 years, 2 months ago

Librarians have been struggling with this issue forever! Feel free to add your comments, your colleagues would appreciate hearing what works for you. If you're a member of PUBYAC, check out the archives for 6-22-2011. (Usually, I leave off the contributors ID, but this is an issue where if you want to ask questions, it makes sense to have all the info.) Whether they are called GLADES, Pods, or Neighborhoods, the (under age 5) groupings makes it easier for book selection by our patrons.

 See also: http://www.slideshare.net/gcaserotti/darien-library-kidlit-reorg-2719879  


  • We have switched over to putting a lot of our picture book collection (but not the entire thing) into high-interest subject categories and the result has been amazing! Our circulation has increased dramatically, our young patrons love knowing where their favorite books are, and staff love how easy and self-service it is for certain areas. Some of our categories include:

                    Royal Reads (Princesses, princes, kings, queens, castles, and dragons)               

                    Chills and Thrills (Ghosts, monsters, pirates, witches)

                    Dinosaurs Things                

                    That Go (trucks, cars, planes, trains, ships)

                    Action Heroes (Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Star Wars, X-Men, Mutant Turtles, etc.)

                    Toddler Topics to Talk About (Bibliotherapy--eg. books about death)

                    New Experiences (childhood transitions--eg. potty, going to school)

                    Favorite Friends (children's characters on TV or in the movies)

                    Fairy Tales

                    Concept Books 123's ABC's

          (Heather McCammond-Watts Oak Park Public Library)


  • We did this-somewhat.  We have gathered favorite authors together-our picture books are in bins, filed loosely by author.  So, we have a bin labeled for Jan Brett, Marc Brown, Eric Carle, Mercer Mayer, the Thomas books, and Wick-I Spy.  We also started shelving Dora and other TV-related (Disney princesses, Barbie, etc.)  in the front of the bins.  It will make it easier for folks to find.

          (Anne Friederichs,  Dakota County Wescott Library)

  • We, have specially marked bins for Things That Go, Concept Books, a monthly rotating author bin, a monthly rotating special subject bin (summer fun, dinosaurs, school stories, cats and dogs, etc.), 8X8's, etc.  I am spending this year adding additional labels to our fiction collection and we have been kicking around doing the same for our picture books.  We have a huge collection and I, too, think it is just too time consuming a task.  We would continue to keep our books in alphabetical order and just add commercial labels to the spines for dinosaurs, abc's, 123's, etc.  We have patrons that need and use the added labels for JFic.  Our library has seen a big increase in usage and circulation, so we have been fortunate in that respect.   

         (Judie Dubin, West Bloomfield Township Public Library)

  • We're having mixed success.  It's nice for browsers, less so for people who know exactly what they want.  Patrons are finding it a bit frustrating that books by their favorite authors are not necessarily shelved together, and while the catalog reflects the location of the book, people don't want to have to go to the catalog to find their book. We also switched to face-out shelving at the same time, which is also supposed to work better for browsers, and we're having some issues with that as well. 


  • We've broken out "princess books" and "car, train, plane, vehicle" and "favorite superheroes" books onto very popular shelf top racks. Great for staff, patrons, kids; not good for holds pullers, claims returned checkers. These shelves empty fast and serve almost everyone well. The remainder of our picture books: alphabetical and old school!

          (Scott Keeney, Children's Librarian, Albany Public Library)


  • We separated and marked our easy readers / beginning to read books and put them in front of the picture book collection (all are listed as JE in the catalog) but we have never tried to pull genres out into separate collections. The reason is that we would have to do something about the call numbers to reflect the genres otherwise people would not be able to find a book on the shelf from the catalog. What I did is to keep the picture books in alphabetical order but put genre labels on them.  We use genre or colored labels for

                    Holiday - put generic holiday labels on most but have labels that are Christmas,

                         Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, etc.
                    Folk & Fairy Tales
                    Caldecott Medal books
                    Easy Learning or Nonfiction such as Ruth Heller or Magic School Bus
                    JE Mother Goose

                    JE Sesame Street

                    JE Thomas the Tank

                    JE Bob The Builder

  • Several years ago we also put all of our JFIC collection that was shelvedseparately JFIC, JSF, JMYS, JSC, etc and put them in straight alphabetical order - we use genre labels for award books, adventure, historical fiction,mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, sports, westerns, Christian fiction, and short stories.  Everyone seems to like the straight alphabetical order. 
    (M. Marsha Parham, Flint River Regional Library)

  • I've heard pros and cons for both. I know here we have student teachers, teachers and parents who want books by particular authors, so organizing by genre would be unhelpful to them. However, we do have parents and teachers who are looking for concept books. What we have done is put a sticker on the spine for a couple of the concept genres that can be harder to look up. For example, ABCs and 123s, opposites, holidays and award winners. So they are still alpha by author, but parents can browse and quickly spot those stickers. I think it works for us. If a library was bigger (i.e more shelf space and more budget) maybe then the ideal would be to have a separate ABC section and to have one copy in the ABC section and one copy filed by author. Also, you need to think carefully about your genres. You don't want to get stuck, especially if a book fits several genres.


  • We do a hybrid - perhaps a quarter of our picturebook collection is in category bins (Things that Go, Favorite Friends, Dinosaurs, etc.) and the rest is in the general "Juvenile Easy" section shelved by author's last name, and this has worked quite well.  I think it's a mistake to try to shoehorn ALL the picturebooks into categories, for the reasons already mentioned, but for high-interest/often requested subjects, the bins are very convenient and time-saving, both for patrons and for staff.

          (Andy Leinbach, Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, IL)


  • Some topics to consider:


               Bedtime Stories/Lullabies 




               Growing up

               Rhymes and Songs


               Stories -- for everything that doesn't have a specific subject




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