Friday, September 2, 2022

Welcome to the Neighborhoods

This project was initially completed in 2014, slightly updated in 2017, and by 2022 I felt it was time for a big overhaul. In addition to a lot of the signage being tired and the issues with some of the categories annoying me, I had not weeded since 2018/2019. I reviewed all the categories and did a title by title weed and re-evaluation. It took most of the year, but I finally finished - I am currently in the process of ordering replacements and updated titles, especially in the classics and some of the heavily used sections like animals and things that go. After all these years, I have a good idea of how people use the collection and it was fairly easy to update the improve the categories, as well as to take into account current trends like social-emotional learning and requests for specific titles and subjects. Even before I updated this project, it has proven to be universally popular and, after the few initial complaints, people settled into it quickly. I now have patrons visiting from other libraries complain that their books are not organized in neighborhoods and they can't find what they want, so they drive over to my town!

I kept all of the original neighborhoods, but updated a number of subcategories and standardized the cutters. A complete list and guideline can be found in my Neighborhood spreadsheet here.  I also have bookmarks explaining the contents of each category and my associate has just finished updating the signage. I'm very happy with the results and I think our patrons will enjoy this section even more than they already do.

I've always been interested in the idea of organizing picture books into subjects and I started researching this seriously in 2012-2013. I presented my ideas to our staff and, after much input and discussion, had completed the bulk of the work by the end of 2014. As I worked on this project through 2014, I saw picture book circulation increase by 4,885. My picture book circulation for 2014 reached 27,214.

The Neighborhood project went through a lot of evolution. I drew heavily on the ideas of Kathleen Larson at Bloomer (and a big thank you to her for being so kind and sending me all her information), the process at Darien in CT and several other libraries who have done similar projects.

We've had this arrangement for about three years now and I have had only positive or neutral feedback from patrons so far. I do occasionally get patrons who are frustrated that they can't immediately find a specific title, but I quickly pull what they need and they are easily satisfied. I had far more requests and complaints from patrons who wanted subjects (tractors, dinosaurs, potty-training, etc.) prior to this arrangement and those requests immediately died once I completed the project. It's also a bonus for collection development, as I can look at the sections and see which ones need more materials and which need to be weeded or aren't circulating. We've had a huge jump in remote collections and teacher requests and those have also become faster and easier with the books in sections.

During the following years I've been carefully tracking the use and circulation of the Neighborhoods. The immediate surge in circulation died down a little bit, due in part to the shelves getting very crowded (I was unable to weed in any significant way and we added almost 2,000 more books to the area in three years, making it seriously overcrowded). I've also been able to see which areas need to be updated and shifted.

The major problem area was the titles which were not relabeled and were left by author. These included "favorite authors" like Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, and Fancy Nancy, but also a plethora of books that did not fit into any of the current categories or which I did not want to relabel since they needed to be weeded. There were also some smaller sections that needed to be adjusted - we ended up with all the planet books in Things That Go/Space and math books in Fun/Create (there were some people who strongly disagreed with this (-:)

In 2017, while my associate updated and created new signage, I updated the area to include several new subcategories and weeded or sent to be recataloged and relabeled everything in the general favorite authors section that was not a specific character or favorite author. There are a couple things I am still not satisfied with, but which aren't practical to change. Our community category, which includes Farm, Helpers, Long Ago, Pets, and School is confusing to some. I had hoped to put pets into animals, but was overruled and people find it confusing. I'm still not quite happy with the Ourselves section, but it is shaking out more or less ok. I also would have liked a general Tales section, but I ended up putting those in either the new general Fun category or under Princesses or World.

So, if you are thinking about doing Neighborhoods, a couple things I'd suggest thinking about. First, it's a LOT of work. I did a lot of the re-cataloging myself, but our processor had a lot of work to do relabeling everything. It took over a year and was at times very frustrating and stressful. My original signage was not the best; it was greatly improved when my associate took over and handled it. Get your signage organized first. I think the process would have been simplified and improved if I'd done small sections one at a time. That wasn't possible for me, but it may be for you. I also made a utube video, which was put on Facebook, and that helped people understand the process a lot better too.


Unknown said...

That looks great! I can't wait to visit again and see it now that you are finished.

Kristin said...

So not every book was added to one of the new "neighborhoods"?

Jennifer said...

Yes, many libraries put these (Eric Carle, Fancy Nancy, etc.) in "favorites" or "classics" but I just left them by author. We were tired of relabeling and I felt those sections were really subjective anyways. It's nice b/c not everything has to "fit" in a certain neighborhood.