About Books and Libraries

The following is an original page from very early on in this site’s history.    The fact that I have completely switched over from promoting public libraries and books they offer to promoting only #indie books which I believe over readers true value,   makes much of the following largely inapplicable.    I’ve buried the link a bit,   but can’t quite bring myself to delete this page.    (Alan Jobe– February 2013)

One of my biggest purposes in creating and maintaining the blog is to promote reading and the use of public libraries. The following general information about books and libraries may be helpful both in reading the posts on this blog and in making the best use of your local public library.

Libraries use certain terms in talking about books, many of these terms and classifications are shared with the publishing industry and some are unique to libraries. When reading my posts on books, the following definitions of terms may be helpful:

“Easy” books generally refer to books for the youngest patrons– tooddlers, pre-readers and new readers. These generally come in three main varieties:

  • Easy Picture books may be read to a child by an adult or be read by a new and uncertain reader. For both audiences much of the narrative burden is carried by the illustrations. A good easy picture book has illustrations that clearly convey much of the story and have writing at a true Easy reading level so that a child who has been read the story can subsequently use the book to practice reading.
  • Easy Readers are especially designed for children learning to read and use a limited and carefully chosen vocabulary for use in teaching reading. Many of the Dr. Seuss books are Easy Readers. These books have been so successful for their fantastic wit and excellent illustrations that few people who are not teachers or librarians ever think about these books as the teaching tools they are primarily intended to be.
  • Easy Board books are practically indestructible, constructed from thick cardboard pages, each laminatedand the whole securely sewn together into a chunky block.
  • Easy Non-Fiction (which can be in any of the three forms above) presents factual information at a very simple level.

“Juvenile” books are written at a grade school reading level and fall broadly into the basic categories of fiction and non-fiction. In our library, juvenile fiction titles are shelved in the children’s section but juvenile non-fiction is interfiled with adult non-fiction in the main stacks. This is both from the belief that younger readers will benefit from seeing the full range of books availalable about the subject that interests them and may in some cases be able to use a general adult non fiction book and because having them arranged all together makes things much less awkward for an adult patron if a librarian determines the patron would be best served by materials at a juvenile reading level.

“Adult” books are written at a high school or above reading level and like juveniles fall broadly into fiction and non-fiction. Fiction is sometimes further sub-divided by genres. At smaller libraries all fiction is usually shelved together in a single section but larger libraries may have sub-sections for some or all of the following genres:

  • Mystery–suspense novels, detective stories, police procedurals . The mystery genre is a vast sub-section of literature and more than worthy of it’s own blog. One of my favorite blogs that frequently talks about high quality mystery novels is Jim Bashkin’s Nearly Nothing But Novels.
  • Science Fiction–another large sub-genre that includes some of the most imaginative authors working today. One of my favorite science fiction blogs is by science fiction author Nina Munteanu– The Alien Nextdoor.
  • Romance, Westerns and Historical fiction are all well recognized sub-genres in publishing but rarely get their own sections at the library. The Mystery and Science Fiction sub-genres are often used for Juvenile books as well.

Non-fiction at most US public libraries is classified and arranged according to the Dewey Decimal system, a proprietary system owned and maintained by OCLC. To view a list of the classifications and their number assignments click here. Sometimes when writing about non-fiction I include the book’s Dewey Decimal number because knowing the Dewey number for the subject that interests you enables you to browse the library shelves at and around that number to locate many different books about the area of interest.

It is important to remember however that Dewey is simply a classification system and each time a librarian makes a decision to include a book or other material in her library’s collection she makes an ultimately subjective assessment of what the primary subject of the material is and what Dewey classification applies. And as I discussed in this post, sometimes good librarians can and do profoundly disagree about what exactly a particular work IS and how it should be classified. In instances where I know that a work has been classified differently by different libraries, I either note specifically the different classifications or if I really don’t know if the book was controversial to the classifiers I omit any reference to the book’s Dewey Decimal number.

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