I have been spending a lot of time recently hanging out at other libraries and checking out how they organize picture books. Many libraries are grouping at least a portion of their picture book collection into topics because it makes it so much easier for the library’s smallest patrons to browse for books by subject (Example: I want a book about Dinosaurs!). There’s also been a lot of research done on how grouping books into genres or topics aids literacy because it allows readers to find more books about what they’re interested in–so they are more likely to read more. The overall goal of arranging books in this way is to improve access to materials and save the patron’s time. Additionally, for the youngest readers, arranging the books face-out as opposed to spine-out presents picture books in a way that is visual–which is exactly how they’re supposed to be presented.
I went to talk to the librarians at Des Plaines Public Library about their experience reorganizing the picture book collection. One of the most interesting things they told me was that circulation rates for their picture books increased significantly after they reorganized. I began to think about Ranganathan’s 5 laws of library science and how they apply to a project like this: Books are for use; Every person his or her book; Every book its reader; Save the time of the reader; A library is a growing organism. A picture book reorganization project touches on each of these laws.
It makes a lot of sense to me to arrange at least part of the collection into topics that will showcase the books, while making it easier and more efficient for patrons to browse and find what they’re looking for. The hard part comes in deciding precisely which categories would be most beneficial to the community, and then physically rearranging everything, but the benefits to patrons make reorganization worth researching. I appreciate the way that libraries as institutions, particularly SPL, are constantly evaluating services and are willing to evolve when necessary in order to find ways that best serve patrons and all of their diverse needs. It makes it an exciting profession to be part of!