Science Fiction and Fantasy In the Library

The other day I ventured into my new library, all excited to explore what they have to offer and to bring home a new book. After signing up for my brand new library card, I asked the librarian where the Fantasy section was. She pointed out the shelves and said “They’re all there, under Science Fiction.”

cpl-genresMe: “Oh, okay. Are the spines labeled as Fantasy?”

Librarian: “No. They’re marked Science Fiction.”

Me: …

Me: …

Me: …

Me: *screaming on the inside*

Me: “Okay, thanks!”



Mystery gets its own shelves. Graphic Novels have a separate area. Romance has a monopoly on an entire wall. Why do these two genres have to get lumped together?

I understand that Science Fiction and Fantasy have a lot in common. I understand that many books exist that are difficult to categorize as one or the other. Yet there are so many books that are extremely distinct within these genres, and when I’m in the mood for Fantasy, I want to be able to browse through Fantasy.


It’s hard to be critical of libraries when it comes to creating genre sections in their fiction. Many libraries don’t have the shelving space to create multiple sections, or carry enough books in a genre to justify creating a new section.

It also depends on patron trends. If a library frequently has patrons looking for Romance, it makes sense to create an entire section to make those books easily accessible to the patrons. If very few readers are looking for Westerns, having a section for those books may not be necessary.


So while I understand and can explain to myself why a library may have some sections and not others, it’s very hard for me to not to get twitchy when Science Fiction and Fantasy are lumped together.

For a great breakdown of Science Fiction versus Fantasy, check out The SF Site.

I know it’s probably personal preference, and I do see a lot of readers combining these two genres all the time on Goodreads and book blogs. For many, there doesn’t seem to be a distinct line between the two. Yet when I’m browsing, I want to be able to draw that line. I want it to be black and white. Fantasy = Magic. Science Fiction = Technology. And when I’m in the mood for magic, I don’t want to have to wade through the technology to get there.

So although I’m disappointed by the joint Science Fiction and Fantasy section, I’m still super excited about the new library. I’ve already got a stack of books next to me to read, a hold list on the go, and I’m eyeing my To-Read list with a renewed vigor. Let’s get reading!


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