For most of us school librarians, school’s out for the summer! Even if we’re working summer school, the pace really changes and it can be a good time to think more about big-picture changes you’d like to make in your library. One summer project you might consider is highlighting special sections of your collection by creating targeted sub-collections based on a specific type of book or theme.
Some librarians, of course, choose to genrify their collections, which creates many avenues for sub-collections. We’ve chosen not to genrify in my library (a subject for another post, perhaps), but still have sub-collections for series books, picture books, everybody graphic novels, middle school quick picks, high school quick picks, literary fiction, and books in Latin, French, Arabic, and Chinese (languages we teach at our school). We don’t have them yet, I’ve considered special collections for Ancient World and Mythology books since we are classical school. Below, I’ve outlined the whys, whens and hows of creating sub-collections.
Two great reasons to create sub-collections:
- To highlight certain resources that your community needs or uses frequently (ex. graphic novels or series books)
- To re-locate materials that need special care or don’t physically fit in their standard classification area (ex. school archival materials or oversized books)
Make a sub-collection when moving books from your standard classification system (in our case, the Dewey Decimal system) is truly more effective for finding the materials or truly needed for more effective preservation or organization. For example, if students always ask for books where an animal is the main character, it could make sense to shelve those books together in a sub-collection.
- In some cases, signage might be enough to point patrons in the right direction, so a special collection might not be needed. For now, we don’t have specific collections for the ancient world and mythology, though we do have special signs clarifying their Dewey Decimal numbers so that readers can find them.
- Be cautious about your own biases and the role they might play in identifying books for your sub-collection.
Choose criteria for the sub-collection.
In our library, we have a “Quick Picks” sub-collection for middle school and for high school, and the goal of the collection is to create a place where students who are reluctant or struggling readers can go to find a smaller, less intimidating collection where most of the books will be more appealing to them, while also appealing to all readers. We decided that books for that section need to match one of the following criteria 1) on the YALSA “Quick Picks” list 2) high interest-low reading level book 3) a wait-time book like a joke book or a fast-facts book like Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Pick the best location to shelve it.
Self-explanatory, perhaps, but important. Location matters! One of the reasons for moving our graphic novels to a special collection, for example, was to provide more browsing space since the shelving in the 741.5 Dewey Decimal number area was relatively narrow and too crowded for the number of students who wanted to use the collection at the same time.
Create a spine label sticker and/ or call number.
Choose a special call number if you want the collection to be more permanent (ex. We use GN for graphic novels as many libraries do), but a spine label sticker indicating the shelving location could be enough and maintains a little more flexibility to relocate books if the sub-collection no longer meets your needs. In some cases, we use both. What you choose here could also depend on who does your reshelving. We found that our student shelvers struggle to get books in the right location more with spine label stickers, but do better with changed call numbers.
Adjust the cataloging if needed.
If you’ve changed the call number, it will be important to update the catalog, of course. But there are other ways to use cataloging to create We use sub-locations in Follett Destiny in lieu of a custom call number for our series collection, for example. This would make it easier to reorganize the collection if we decide to interfile series and general fiction again at some point in the future.