Genrefying and Other Shelving Shifts

by Sonja Schulz, librarian at Nacogdoches High School, TxASLTalks Editorial Board

When I moved up from my middle school library to become the high school librarian I knew that one of my first priorities was to genrefy the fiction collection. Having already been through it once at the middle school level, I felt like it would be easier the second time around, and while it took a while to get it all done, I was way more at ease with the process the second time around.

Many libraries now genrefy their Fiction sections, and it is easy for folks who are information specialists to find a ton of helping how-to’s out there on the interwebs if you are considering going through it.

Two of my biggest tips to offer you:
  1. Like most things in life, there isn’t one right way to do this.  It really is all a matter of preference. So seek input, and do your research, but ultimately go with whatever works best for your kids and your space and you’ll be fine.
  2. My mama always says things are gonna take more time and money than you expect.  This is a universal truth so pace yourself and remember to breathe through the process.

With our fiction collection now fully genrefied, I am excited to share the newest shelving shift I’ve been working on to help my students and teachers be able to more easily find what they need.

Y’all, I am unDewying my Poetry section.  

Rather than housing some in 811, some in 821, and some in decimals points at various spaces in-between, I have pulled ALL our poetry (other than the novels-in-verse, which live in their specific Fiction genre section) and have created one all-encompassing Poetry section.

Three sections of shelves have been cleared off, with intentional space left for display and white space. Spine labels have been reworked, with each book now being marked as Poetry and then either the first three letters of either the poet or editor’s last name, along with a transparent blue label protector over each spine label to easily mark which books are our poetry books. Next up is creating the new signage---so by the end of this week, this new poetry section should be fully up and running!

Teens and adults alike have responded favorably so far. In fact, the comments have been so overwhelmingly positive that I honestly can’t believe I never thought about doing this before now. The teens who love poetry are happier, the teens who are sent by a teacher to find a book of poems are happier, and my student aides who shelve the books are happier.  Since my job as an information specialist is to assist folks in getting their information needs met, this teacher-librarian is happier, too.

The Texas Topaz Reading List - Nonfiction Gems for Reading and Learning

By Kristi Starr,  librarian at Coronado High School in Lubbock ISD, TxASLTalks Editorial Board

"The purpose of the Texas Topaz Reading List is to provide children and adults with recommended nonfiction titles that stimulate reading for pleasure and personal learning."

Today’s nonfiction isn’t the dry, run-of-the-mill nonfiction of the past. Today’s nonfiction is engaging, visually appealing, and relevant to current readers. More than ever, diversity can be found in current nonfiction, both in the topics represented as well as the formats in which it appears.

Consider Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu. It’s a graphic anthology of women from throughout history and around the world. Yes, Mae Jemison and Temple Grandin are there. But do you know Hedy Lamarr as just another pretty face? Think again. Who is Wu Zeitan or Agnodice? Between the amazing illustrations, humor, and fantastic subjects, you don’t want to miss this one. Brazen also appears among the Tayshas Top 10 titles and starred Maverick titles, as does Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo. Take the best of nonfiction and graphic novels, and you have two outstanding selections that just might invite readers to pick up nonfiction for the first time. And you’ll find even more graphic novels on the list.

Maybe you want an alternative to prose. In that case, pick up In the Past: From Tribolites to Dinosaurs to Mammoths in More Than 500 Million Years by David Elliott for primary students, or Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood for upper elementary. Gorgeous illustrations accompany brief poems that highlight creatures and young women, again, some of whom are familiar, but also others who are not.

You will find global representation in Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card: A Memoir by Sara Saedi (Iran - YA); The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman (Germany - gr 6-8); Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot's World War II Story by Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrated by Melissa Iwai (Japan - K-2); Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph by Yusra Mardini (Syria - adult for YA)); A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa (YA) by Alexis Okeowo.

Figures in American civil rights are the focus of titles such as What Do You Do With A Voice Like That? by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ekua Holmes (K-2); The United States v. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (K-2); Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (YA); Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimner (gr 6-8).

Current social events are reflected in titles like #NeverAgain by David Hogg and Lauren Hogg (YA); The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater (YA); I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope by Chessy Prout with Jenn Abelson (YA); Not So Different: What You REALLY Want to Ask About Having a Disability by Shane Burcaw (K-2); when they call you a terrorist: a black lives matter memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullers and Asha Bandele (adult for YA).

You’ll still find all the glorious nonfiction-y subject matter like animals - Lesser Spotted Animals (gr 3-5) by Martin Brown and Fur, Feather, Fin: All of Us are Kin by Diane Lang (K-2); gross-outs like Wicked Bugs: The Meanest, Deadliest, Grossest Bugs on Earth (Young Reader's Edition) by Amy Stewart (gr 6-8) and The Gross Cookbook by Susanna Tee (gr 3-5); history - Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend by Karen Blumenthal (YA) and Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton (K-2); space books such as Chasing Space (Young Reader’s Edition) by Leland Melvin (gr 6-8) and If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas (K-2); and of course dinosaurs! Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones by Sara Levine and illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth (K-2).

And oh! There are so many more titles! You’ll find narrative nonfiction, informational nonfiction, memoirs, and biographies for all age/grade levels and topics of interest. Find a title or two - or ten - to share. Sit back and enjoy the read.

January 18 update - An annotated list of K-12 Topaz titles divided by interest level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Adult for YA) is now available. You can find it here.  

**Do you have a favorite title from this year's Texas Topaz list? If so, which is it? Please share in the comments below.**

Are you TALL?

By Jacqueline Higginbotham, Lead Media Specialist, White Oak Middle School, New Caney ISD

Walk into any school during the month of December and you are bound to find circles under the eyes of the educators, extra cups of coffee, and kids hanging from the ceiling (well, maybe not literally, but it might feel that way). I have 2 daughters in elementary school and I work in a middle school so the holiday chaos in elementary school looks a little different than it does in secondary school, but there is one thing in common -- we are counting down to the winter break! Ahhh. Quiet mornings, sleeping in, and checking some things off of our list. If applying for the TALL Texans Leadership Development Institute isn't on your to-do list, I would encourage you to add it! TALL Texans is not a secret society (nor is a group of librarians over 5'10"), but it is an opportunity for professional and personal growth as you reflect on your career and set goals for the future.

Every summer, the Texas Library Association spends four fabulous days with Texas  librarians as part of their TALL Texans Leadership Development Institute. 25 librarians from across the state and different library types are selected to participate in the institute each year. Led by Jack Siggins & Maureen Sullivan, these librarians learn about themselves and how to make a greater impact on their community through their jobs as librarians. They work with mentors, reflect on how they can be better, and set goals that they want to complete over the next year. During these 4 days all of the participants and leaders form long-lasting bonds that will help them to continue to grow over the coming years.

So, are you ready to apply? The application WILL take some time and thought so don't wait until the last minute. Applications are due January 25th, 2019. On the TLA website, you will find a link to a webinar that will give you some great tips for your application. If you want more information, please feel free to reach out to me at

It is a true honor to be selected to participate in the TALL Texan Leadership Development Institute. And most graduates are proud to call themselves a TALL Texan! It is a badge of honor! Many of the TLA movers and shakers got started in TALL!