Reshelving Project: Almost There and Already Awesome!


Team Ditch Dewey!

Hooray! I’m catching my breathe and finally getting the chance to write the follow up to my previous post entitled Welcome Back and What is Going on in the Library?!

If I knew how much work all this would be, I’m not sure I would have ever taken it on. With that being said, I’m ecstatic  about my own naivete! We’ve already witnessed the positive results of this project, and we’re still far from finished. We started fifth grade orientations this week, (will write a follow up post on particulars), and I used the comparison of cleaning out your garage with students; it gets messier before it gets better!

Nevertheless every student walked out with at least one nonfiction  and one fiction book without a hitch, and most importantly, they’re excited about reading the books they chose!

Now for the how.  We prefaced every decision we made with these thoughts,

“Will this shelving decision help our students easily find the books they’re looking for? Will this shelving decision help our students find new interests and foster understandings, through books that they never would have been attracted to in a more traditional shelving scenario?”

As described in the previous post, to start this project we massively weeded our collection. This was long overdue and in my humble opinion, it was not worth re-shelving books that no one is interested in, aren’t appropriate for our students or teachers, are not up to date and are clogging up our shelves.

Next, we decided on a shelving scenario that would make the most sense for our students  and our current and planned collection. This was not easy! Because we had just weeded the entire collection, we we’re a bit more aware of what we had, which was a good thing. Even though we made a lot of inevitable mistakes and continuously needed to change our plans. We did stick with our decision to keep fiction separated from non-fiction. We plan to shelve fiction by genre, however there will be time consuming research and decision making involved in this process. In the mean time, we decided to keep the books on the shelves alphabetically by author until most of our fiction collection is labeled by genre. In addition we’re not sure about what primary genres will work out best for our collection and student needs. We decided to use old genre stickers in the mean time but need to reevaluate books already labeled since we found many inaccuracies. For example, Winn Dixie was labeled animal book because there happens to be a dog in the story, however it’s not truly the essence of the story. See what I mean about research and decision making! Cheryl Reed, the awesome substitute that I negotiated to get to assist in this project, found that Amazon was a good source for genre labeling unfamiliar books. Scroll down to the left hand bottom of the book’s page to where it reads Look for Similar Items by Category. If you’ve found a better way to label an unfamiliar book’s genre,  please let me know by adding a comment to this post!

We decided on these  nonfiction shelving topics and subtopics after much trial and error.  It should be noted that part of our decision making rested on our current space: how many shelves we would designate for nonfiction books and trying to make each set or sets of shelves a different main topic. We also decided to keep things in alphabetical order, simply because it’s an ordering system which we are all familiar with. We did fudge some of this however. For example, we liked the cross over between “Ourselves” and community so we named community “Our Community”. We lucked out on many topics too. For example, “US Then and Now” luckily just happens to come just before “World Then and Now”, which keeps history together. In addition, we decided to disperse biographies within the topics where they best belonged. For example: a book on Monet was placed in the Art section.

In addition, mainly due to our shelving scenario, which by the way, cannot be changed because the current flooring does not lie under the shelves, we added an area for special collections and highlights. Our special collections and highlighted books include:

Inspirational True Stories, The Titanic, Holocaust Stories, Orca Currents, Orca Sports, Graphic Novels, Author Bios, Hunger Games Book A-likes, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book-A-Likes, Mummies and highlighted Series.

We kept our primary category signs clean and simple for now, by mounting card stock on pre-cut 11″ by 14″ foam core bought at Staples. We planned on buying shelf stoppers from Demco to denote subcategories, but in order to save money, we decided to use the shelf stoppers we already have, also giving us an opportunity to recycle some of our weeded books. I included the appropriate call number on the bottom of the shelf stopper signage in order to assist in finding and shelving books. See pics below:

Shelf Shot










Sign Close Up












Signs and more










Back Wall













Next Steps:

We need to update our nonfiction books’ call numbers and spine labels according to classification, by scanning the bar label in Destiny, changing the call number accordingly and  adding  copy to a Clean Up Copy Category, which we will use to print new spine labels. In addition, we’ll need to inventory our entire collection, since we decided this was a better option than deleting the records of weeded books.

Back to School Night is tomorrow night; hopefully these changes will make as much sense to parents as it does to their kids!

17 thoughts on “Reshelving Project: Almost There and Already Awesome!

  1. I highly recommend goodreads for genrefication and permabound and level it from Scholastic for finding guided reading levels.

  2. After reading several articles on this, we decided to give this a try this year. I love the idea of moving the biography section to the non-fictions. The rarely go out, only for projects. I see that you wrote this in 2012. Can you share how things are going since then, now that it has been in place for a few years?
    Thanks for sharing your idea and I too would be interested in the survey.

    • Hi Diane. I’m afraid that I’m no longer at this school, however, other than making it a bit more difficult to process books, the impact was all positive.

  3. I’m a new librarian at a K-8 library with 1000+ kids. We are in Oklahoma so we don’t get any state/fed. funding for the library so my collection is weak to say the least. I am on the fence about ditching Dewey since I come from a background of librarians who believe Dewey is the MAN! Any suggestions for starting this process during the school year? Also, We still use accelerated reader so I can’t color code anything since my colors are preoccupied! This seems like such a big job and I don’t know exactly where to start…

    • Huge undertaking to say the least! What I might suggest is separating books by larger classifications, which better meet your reader’s needs, and then leaving the books in Dewey order within each classification, if that makes sense! This would seem that this is what Dewey does with 9 areas, however, if your books have been cataloged in in ways I’ve witnessed, books are in sections which just don’t seem to make sense for most kids. Feel free to email me at if you want to talk more about it!

  4. I am creating a VoiceThread for an online Simmons course and want to focus on the ditching Dewey idea. Would it be okay to quote you and/or use images of your library signage? Thank you for considering this.

  5. The way you set up the library was such a great idea. We should take a survey about who thinks it is easier to find the books in the “new” library.Aafter i asked some friends they thought it was a good idea too.The kids should have a say in what they like about the library. You make the library a fun place to go to especially with the couches and cool chairs.

    • Thanks big time Pamela! I love your idea of creating a survey. Would you like to create one together and we can make it the next blog post? Let’s talk!

  6. Do you still keep children’s fiction (picturebooks) separate from regular fiction then shelve by subject? And are the fiction and non fiction side by side on the shelves?
    I am curious because I have talked to other librarians who have done this and they also think it works well.

    • The plan is to put fiction picture books at the start of each genre section according to genre. For example, the Historical Fiction, which are already together will be at the beginning of the Historical Fiction section. Right now all the fiction picture books are in one section together. I love the idea of fiction next to nonfiction by similar genres, but I think it would be too confusing in our library. I’d like to make displays which emphasize the connect. For ex: Historical Fiction Holocaust books w/nonfiction Holocaust books.

  7. I really like the idea of mixing Biographies in with the topics they represent. Students are more likely to peruse their favorite topic, than the Biography section of the library. I think this is especially true with Collective Biographies, but I don’t know where to put the Top Ten type of biographies. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • A student went out with a baseball biography the other day. There is no way he would have found that book when bios were shelved separately. I love this also!

  8. One reason that I am hesitant to rearrange books is because of the books that come in after the reorganization. How are you going to work with your book vendors to process future book orders according to your system?

    • Kate-Great Question! Sent out this tweet the other day “Ditching Dewey” Need Book Vendors on board for processing options @follettlibrary #tlchat #sljdewey. I’ve spoken to follett rep adn Junior Library Guild, but need to continue conversation. We totally need to figure this out! I’m sure vendors will figure out way to accommodate since they want our business!

  9. How do you explain to students that your library is not set up like the local public library? My kids go to other libraries as well as mine, so I try to explain the similarities in searching the catalogs, and layouts of the room… Doesn’t this include changing thousands of records in your catalog?

    • Hi Heidi. I explain that books need to be organized so that you can find them, just like we organize our dresser drawers and closets so that we can easily get dressed in the morning. However, there are many alternatives to systems of organization. They may still use the OPAC to look for books in our library, as they would in the public library. If they look for a book for example on Space Exploration in our library, they may see the call number: “SPA Exp (first 3 letters of author’s last name)” and find the book accordingly. If they are in the public library they would look for the book in the OPAC and find the numerical call number first 3 letters of author’s last name and locate that number accordingly. I would rather that students realize and be able to be flexible using multiple methods of organization and tools for locating what they’re looking for rather than memorizing the Dewey Decimal system. Yes, we are in the process of changing call numbers in the OPAC. It’s a process! Now we’ll need assistance from Book vendors with respect to processing book orders.

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