If I’m saying I’m part of a library I’d like to work at then it would be a university library. The one’s I’ve been to don’t usually have their fiction separated into differing genres but instead just as a separate classification from the main collection. I do know of one that had their kids books in a juvenile section so I that could be considered a separation of genres but the kid's books weren’t separated themselves just as the original fiction section wasn’t. To be honest, I never had a problem in with this setup, I like just browsing the section and looking over everything at once. The library that I’m mainly referencing was also small and didn’t have the room to do a separate section for each genre, but I honestly don’t think they’d ever think of doing this anyway as an academic library.
I would go along with this setup and not separate the fiction into genres as I wouldn’t see it as a good idea with the space issue and with the main focus being on giving books more for academia. Their fiction section was small enough that actually separating it into genres would leave a lot of empty shelf space. Moving away from just academic libraries, I don’t see a necessary bonus with separation in public libraries unless they have a very large collection and this would help from books getting “lost” among the many shelves.
One problem I see with separating the genres anywhere would be making sure you covered them all—present and future. I’ve already mentioned the possibility of a space issue, and that can only be made worse if more genres appear in the future. While this may not seem real now, librarians of the past probably wouldn’t think that such genres such as GBLTQ, African American, or even New Adult would appear on their library’s shelves. Also, if a library decides to separate the genres they should really separate all so that no one feels left out. As Thomas says in his “A Place on the Shelf”; “for every reader seeking a complex literary novel, there is another who wants a sexy beach read and a third who wants a cozy mystery” (40). There are a lot of genres and you wouldn’t want someone to feel left out.
Separating the genres could also make some readers feel “exposed” as Thomas put it; they may feel that as others can see what they are browsing, they are more open for judgment. This is opposed to the fiction being all together and other readers can’t make a good judgment on what you are looking at unless they know the book-- and are being extra nosy. Thomas does offer a good alternative thought; create finding guides. Such guides would include an online list or print outs that are options for those looking for specific genres, authors, or other such categories.
Another option for helping readers find what they want is to trust the RA department—I mean they did go to school for this right? An article from Reference & User Services Quarterly on the views of genre separation pointed this out as a valid option. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the advisors have to be prepared to offer genres outside of what the patron is asking. The suggestions don’t have to be far away, but offering at least one option that may not be directly similar can help show the reader what is all available (35). The article also compared a library’s set up to a bookstore’s set up and did conclude that the bookstore had a more accessible layout and, while libraries might not have all the resources to be exact, taking some cues from them can be helpful. Options to showcase different genres would be special displays (a favorite of mine) and also make browsing easier to navigate (37-38).
I’m not against separating genres, I only feel that doing such isn’t necessarily an answer to a problem. It may just be one of those arguments that differ by location, community, and focus of a library. Such a question should be considered by the library staff with their individual uniqueness in these categories in mind. Whether they choose to separate or not, the decision should be chosen based on making things easier for the library as a whole and not only a small group. To go back to my small academic library, I wouldn't choose to separate the genres as doing so would not help the main focus of the patron demographic and would also hinder the space issue that was already present.
Thomas, Devon. “A Place On the Shelf”. Library Journal. 132.8.2007. 40-3.
Trott, Barry & Vicki Novak. “A House Divided? Two Vies on Genre Separation”. Reference & User Services Quarterly. 46.2. 2005. 33-38.