Color Us Thrilled!

Like most of you, we look closely at our collections, their arrangement and their kid-friendliness. We successfully morphed our Picture Book collection into Picture Book City "neighborhoods" and stopped fighting board books and made them 100% browseable in easy-to-access bins - both great "accessibility" decisions.

Since Alan, our new head of Collection Management (CM), started two years ago - and we changed our ILS - these types of changes have been far easier. Why? He has two kids and he really "gets" youth services. He knows how challenging big collections are for children seeking information and favorite books. The Dewey Decimal and multiple fiction collections with strange letters and symbols sitting atop author's last names and so.many.books.everywhere. can make a library visit overwhelming.

Our newest collection update was something that Al suggested as soon as he started working here. "Why," he mused, "don't you just color code the spine labels for your different fiction collections (early readers, graphic novels, chapter books, illustrated fiction)?" Why indeed. This coincided with an observation I made when I had first started. Since our catalog clearly spells out what particular fiction collection a book is located in (thank you automation), why do we need to even have a suffix (+, P, E, jgn or jif) as part of the call number in the catalog? We could save cataloging time by simply going suffix-less in the call number field.

Then, like peanut butter and chocolate running into each other and producing a peanut butter cup, we realized that if we took our two ideas (colored labels and no call number suffix on both books and in the catalog) we would save a ton of processing time and reach a hoped for goal- easy kids access. Al's idea sparked us!

We designated unique colors for each of our fiction collections - and while we were at it divided out our chapter book collection into tween and chapter books: early readers = pink; jgn = red; illustrated fiction = purple; chapter = green; tween =orange. Then we simply added the appropriately colored overlays to our existing collections and did global changes to wipe out the suffixes in the catalog's call number field (there's that slick new ILS!). All new books come down from CM without a suffix ((E, +, jgn, jif)  - the spine label simply has the first three letters of the author's last name or main entry. YS staff quickly determines which fiction collection each belongs in, puts on a colored overlay and batch updates the catalog.

Colored overlays show what collection books belong to. Top three books display sleek new suffix-less labels!
The results?

  • Kids (and shelvers!) more easily can spot the types of books they are looking for. 
  • The colored collections make a quick shorthand way for desk staffers to direct kids to books ("Let's find that in the red section where graphic novels are.") ,
  • Our Collection Management catalogers and processors no longer have to agonize over exactly which collection a book fits in or do small batch processing to cope with the differences between fiction collection labels. 
  • If we think a book would be better in a different collection, we simply make a quick change in overlays and a catalog update. 
  • The overlays themselves - which we have used on other collections around the library - are long lasting but still peel-offable if we want to do a reclass of individual books.
Left: Illustrated fiction (purple labels). Right: Graphic Novels
A strong partnership with a visionary CM manager and a willing YS team made the difference in making this user friendly and more efficient library workflow change.

I think simplifying Dewey numbers may be next!


  1. Any problems with kids and/or adults who are colorblind? Just wondering.
    But I think it's great!

    1. Because the books of one color are all gathered in one section and shelf cap end signs spell out the collection name, we don't expect any problem for patrons. If we have shelving staff who are colorblind, they would request another colleague set up their cart and put small signs within the collections on the bookcart which would indicate to the colorblind shelver which collection to shelve in.