In searching for library books, especially for children, it is essential to understand how books are categorized and organized in a library. There are several different types of systems used to organize books, so you may find that your library is slightly different that what I am explaining, but the overall principles are the same.
Libraries separate and organize books into distinct areas based upon age or difficulty range and fiction versus non-fiction. Understanding the various groupings within each of these broader categories is essential to choosing books that are suitable for your family, as well as locating the books for which you are searching.
Public libraries typically keep separate areas for board books (BB), easy books (E), juvenile books (J), youth books (Y), and adult books (A.) This may seem obvious, but it can be difficult to find something you would think of as a “picture book” as they may be included within several different areas. Board books are intended primarily for infants through early toddlers. Easy books are appropriate for older toddlers through kindergarten. Juvenile books can be comfortably read to older toddlers through middle grade schoolers. Since there is a lot of overlap and because each child’s attention span and interests vary, you may find it helpful to utilize more than one area for your reading.
To confuse the visitor even more (it would seem!) some libraries still use a “dot” system to denote books for earlyreaders by grade level (i.e. red dots for 1st graders, blue dots for 2nd graders, green dots for 3rd graders, and black dots for 4th graders.) Again, this creates a certain amount of overlap for those who are browsing, as many of these books are also suitable as early read-aloud chapter books. Nevertheless, the dot system can be helpful to those trying to locate grade-appropriate books assigned specifically for accelerated reading programs.
Board books are not separated by this distinction, but are all just classified as “BB.” Beyond that level, fiction books are cataloged and labeled using their age range category (E or J) followed by the author’s name. So, a book by Laura Ingalls Wilder would be found under “JWilder” and a book by Eloise Wilkin would be found at “EWilkin.” Non-fiction books are catalogued using their age range category followed by the Dewey Decimel number and then the first letters of the author’s name. Thus, a book about bats by Sylvia Johnson may be found a J599.4 JOH.
Now, to put this knowledge into practice! First, as always, know or find out the call numbers of any specific books you are looking for by using your library’s catalog system. Next, if you are not very sure of where each category of books is located in your library, ask a staff member for a tour of the children’s section or walk around paying close attention to labels to familiarize yourself with the exact location of these general groupings. Finally, have fun confidently finding the books you are looking for and perusing the shelves of books appropriate for your family’s reading goals.
In the next segment of “Your Trip to the Library” I will attempt to help readers make sense of the Dewey Decimel system to demystify the process of finding non-fiction books.