We Mere Mortals Have Been Genrefying Our Books Forever

readingThe Central Minnesota Libraries Exchange posted a link to a poll on Facebook. The poll was about genrefication of a fiction collection. I had to click over to learn more, like what the heck genrefication is.

Genrefication is the arrangement of books in a large collection by genre … i.e. all the mysteries go together, all the romances go in another section, etc. … rather than using the Dewey Decimal System. Remember that arcane alpha-numerical mumbo-jumbo? While nonfiction is grouped together roughly by topic in the Dewey Decimal System, fiction is typically arranged by author’s last name and title, rather than by genre.

In looking at CMLE’s poll, I found that it was aimed at school librarians. Apparently genrefication for the fiction collections of libraries is a new thing. However, this isn’t a new thing for those of us with large personal collections of books.

I took a few photos of my home library to show you what I’ve been doing for years.

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Natural health care books, Mary Warner’s home library, November 2014.
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Fiber arts books, Mary Warner’s home library, November 2014.
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Books on creativity, book-making books, & Malcolm Gladwell books, Mary Warner’s home library, November 2014.
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Writing books, Mary Warner’s home library, November 2014.
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More writing books, Mary Warner’s home library, November 2014.
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Even more writing books and health care books, Mary Warner’s home library, November 2014.

Apparently, we mere mortals have been genrefying our book collections.

I don’t collect as much fiction as I do nonfiction, so here’s where my genrefication gets a little weird. Mostly, I collect literary fiction, which doesn’t really have a specific genre, so I put all books by the same author together. I have this strange thing about how I place books with disturbing subjects on my shelves. This is what I told CMLE on its Facebook post:

“If I have a horror book, I’m very careful about the books I put on either side of it. I use “buffer” books, books that are serious but not scary, to buffer the horror book from other types of books.”

Two shelves of mostly fiction, Mary Warner's personal library, November 2014.
Two shelves of mostly fiction, Mary Warner’s home library, November 2014.
Fiction books, Mary Warner's personal library, November 2014.
Fiction books, Mary Warner’s home library, November 2014.

The second photo is a close-up of the lower shelf in the photo above. From left to right, there’s Brenda Ueland’s “Strength to Your Sword Arm,” “Little Women,” “The Secret Garden,” a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson, “The Great Gatsby,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “In Cold Blood,” George Orwell’s “1984,” “Frankenstein,” and an Edgar Allan Poe collection. To the right of Poe is a book of short stories.

I count the books from “In Cold Blood” through Poe to be disturbing. The buffer I’m using on the right of Poe is the short story book. The buffer I’m using on the left of “In Cold Blood” is “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Why? Because Harper Lee was friends with Truman Capote and both that book and “The Great Gatsby” are buffering the more serious books from the children’s books.

How did I develop this system? I have no idea. It’s just what I do and it wasn’t until CMLE asked about genrefication that I even thought about it.

How do you arrange the books in your home library?

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