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Long Days Sorting DVDs


Last week felt like the perfect time to tackle a project that has been on our minds for some time now. Our DVD collection has always been organized alphabetically by title. However, as it grew, this system didn’t seem very convenient, particularly for browsing. We noted that most patrons browse for movies rather than seeking a specific title, and we thought everyone would be better served if we were to break the collection into genres. Like Netflix or Hulu (or for anyone who remembers video rental stores 😊), if you are looking for a comedy, you can go right to the comedy section. If you are in the mood for a good action film, you know right where to find them. Libraries across the country have been moving toward this ‘shelving’ scheme and we aren’t in the business of reinventing the wheel, so we started researching about six months ago.


It seems that libraries who have already done this have no consistent genre list. Some break down their collections into as many as twenty genres—seemingly a little too ‘micro’ for our purposes. Why have just ten or so DVD’s in a collection like Bollywood? Other libraries skipped categories we thought might be important, like “Drama” (Maybe all their ‘Dramas’ ended up in ‘Thriller’?) Turns out even generating a draft of our categories was quite difficult.

When we finally settled on the nine genres for our collection (more on that later), it was extremely challenging to determine where a movie might ultimately land. What constitutes a “Classic”? It depended on who you asked, and, we decided, your generation. Or what do you do with a movie like “Forrest Gump,” which is classified as both a Drama and Comedy? (We landed on Drama for our collection). In the “Scream” trilogy, the movies become increasingly parody—do you divide the collection? Put them all in one genre, and if so, “Horror” or “Comedy?” Repeatedly there were difficult decisions to be made. Multiply this by our collection of 3500 DVD’s and you can see how this became a big project. Did any movies get placed in the ‘wrong’ genre?—it is entirely possible!


Here’s a list of the genres we are using in our DVD collection, along with a ‘NHPL-specific’ description:

Action- Anything primarily driven by action or adventure, including all of the superhero films.

Classic- Basically everything 70’s and earlier. We did not include more modern films that ‘stand the test of time,’ because we thought they might be more discovered in their genre area.

Comedy- If the back of the movie said ‘fun,’ ‘a romp,’ ‘hilarious,’ or any other iteration of comedic descriptors. Romantic comedies ended up here too, because where else?

Documentary- For ‘non-fiction’ films that primarily represent a specific story or viewpoint. As opposed to our non-fiction section with exercise videos, National Geographic episodes, etc. (*Think: “Mitt” or “Bowling for Columbine”).

Drama- Kind of the catch-all. If it was a family film, not enough ‘action’ or ‘comedy’ to make it elsewhere, it ended up in drama.

Holiday- Almost exclusively Christmas films (but not “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” because we put that in ‘Comedy.’ 😊 )

Horror- Scary movies, not necessarily ‘horror.’

TV Series- Speaks for itself

War- Another of the more difficult, the main theme had to be a ‘real’ war to make the cut here.


Each DVD was ‘touched’ multiple times in the process—first a genre decision, then a new sticker and scanning the barcode to make the physical item AND the record reflect its new location. This whole process began last Monday and is mostly complete as of the beginning of December, under a week. Thank you for those of you who were patient with us while our collection was being reclassified. We hope you find this new organization easier to browse and discover your favorite titles and new movies to enjoy.

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