Monday, April 10, 2017

Week 14

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Fiction section at Oaklyn Library featuring genre stickers.
At my current library, we only separate our paperback books by genre and we have a special area for Christmas/Holiday books. And by paperbacks, I mean the 4"x7" mass marketed paperbacks, and not the regular sized trade paperback editions of books. We have a general fiction, mystery, science fiction, romance, and western section for each of these collection. We do this because it's easier to shelve. Having these books that are the same size is easier for us to contain when they are shelved together. With that being said, we also have stickers on our regular fiction collection that indicate what kind of book it is. Inspirational, Romance, Science Fiction, Mystery, Holiday, and Classic stickers are on the spines of a lot of our books, so that way the patrons can easily determine if that is the genre they are looking for. I think that if patrons were wanting to know where we kept our GBLTQ or African American Fiction books, I would look into finding suitable stickers to put on the sides of the books. This way, they will be easier to find if a patron is seeking them out, or a patron knows to avoid them if they don't want to read it. I know I steer clear of the "Inspirational" sticker, but I don't think they should have to be separated from the rest of the collection. 

I don't think books should be singled out and separated just because of their subject matter, unless we are featuring them on display. In February we feature books with African American themes on our display cases and in June we display books with GBLTQ themes in order to draw awareness to the collection. That is the only time I could see myself having collections separated like that, just because it is not done with the rest of our collection with the exception of Holiday books and paperbacks. 

However, the stickers might cause some issues, for example, if a teen wanted to read a book with the GLBTQ themes and a parent who didn't approve saw the sticker, they might not allow their child to read that book, but if there wasn't a sticker, the parent would never know and the child would be able to read their book and the parent would be none the wiser. 

Ultimately I wouldn't separate these books because it might sway people away from reading them due to genre prejudices, we don't keep other genres separate, and where would you draw the line? Would every book written by an African American author be in a separate section? Would Toni Morrison be in that section, even though we have some of her books as classics? Is Oscar Wilde going to be put in the GLBTQ section? And what about James Baldwin? He discusses the African American experience, but also the experience of gay and bisexual men, so would there be multiple copies of his books to make sure both themes are covered? Who decides if he is gay or African American? I certainly don't want to make that choice.  

I would also like to note that the ALA says this about labeling: Directional aids can have the effect of prejudicial labels when their implementation becomes proscriptive rather than descriptive. When directional aids are used to forbid access or to suggest moral or doctrinal endorsement, the effect is the same as prejudicial labeling. 


  1. Jennifer, I agree that we shouldn't separate African American and GLBTQ from the collection. I appreciated your James Baldwin example- where would his book go? Multiple copies of the same book would be questionable on already tight library budgets. To buy multiple copies would take away money to purchase other titles for the collection. Shelving these materials separately also leads to discrimination.

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    I enjoyed your thoughtful comments. In case you're interested, I finally corralled my computer whiz son into helping me get rid of the annoying white background you get when you copy and paste into Blogger. Here is the link:

  3. I agree, separating fiction when it helps for shelving or for easy things such as Christmas/Holiday. But otherwise, it feels like segregation.

  4. Wonderful prompt response, I like that you included background on how your library handles it and the pros and cons of each. Full points!