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Seen on TV – A Popular Genre

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on April 16, 2015

“Seen on TV” is one of the most popular genres at our library. Could you use this tag to bring your patrons to books they might not ordinarily read or is this a tag that appeals most to your emerging readers and their harried parents?

You know the books we’re talking about. Thomas the Tank Engine, Scooby Doo, Spongebob, Spiderman, Martha, and all things Disney related. Originally the idea of grouping together all the books that were related to current television shows, movies, and direct to DVD releases was aimed at children. Bringing this genre to the forefront of some of our collections has been an interesting experience where we learned about circulation and reading development.

In the past few years, our library’s youngest readers have gravitated towards “TV tie-in books.” We’ve struggled with how to best keep this disparate collection together. Each book would be by a different author or have no author at all. On one hand, it would have been easier to not buy these books at all because they were flimsy and out of fashion as soon as the TV show or movie was no longer popular. But we found it was impossible to tell a small boy or girl that we didn’t have a book about their most favorite thing in the whole world: a popular television show on Sprout, PBS, Disney, or Nick Jr. We aren’t even going to mention the near small girl riot that occurred this summer when we had only one Frozen book in the building and three little girls all wanted it at the same time! Thankfully they took other Disney princess books in the short run!

In the end, the practicality of having what our youngest patrons wanted won out. We cataloged the books by their character, so all the John Deere books based on the direct to DVD releases were shelved under John Deere. And no one remembered the Rev. Awdry wrote the original Thomas stories, so the originals and the new television character-based stories all are shelved under Thomas. While some people remember that H.A. Rey wrote Curious George, all the books are shelved under Curious George.

However, a most interesting thing happened about a year ago when we went to genre grouping in all of our fiction collections. Several reading levels got a “Seen on TV” section, which ended up as one of the largest categories in the collection. The picture books have a huge “Seen on TV” section which includes Star Wars, GI Joe, Transformers, Barbie, Angelina Ballerina, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George, Iron Man, and all things Disney. But it was the Learn to Read collection where we put about 30% of the total collection into the “Seen on TV” section. Even more interesting, people are taking out huge handfuls of these books at a time.

Our circulation of “Seen on TV” books has gone up over the past year, and our emerging readers are happily taking piles of books that match their favorite movies and shows. It has been especially successful for parents who come in searching for their child “who doesn’t like to read.” Even though we must weed this section more aggressively for condition and popularity, it has definitely been worth the time and money we’ve put into it.

Melanie A. Lyttle is the Head of Public Services Madison Public Library. You can watch her YouTube channel, Crabby Librarian, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Rv5GLWsUowShawn D. Walsh is the Emerging Services and Technologies Librarian at Madison Public Library.

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