Spartacus Space Redesign: The Politics of Placement

As time goes on, Spartacus’ selection of books changes. Different topics rise to prominence or writing about them slows, our collective’s composition and interests change, and our visitors ask for change.

Bookshelves full of colourful titles with a sign in middle of shelf that says "Feminism is for everyone".
Shelves at Spartacus Books displaying titles on Gender Identity, Sex & Consent, and Feminism.

Last week, we moved our sections on Race/Ethnicity, Gender Identity, and Indigenous Fiction & Nonfiction onto the larger shelves in the center of the store as they were outgrowing their prior homes. In doing so, we had a hard look at other categories in the store and began to think about doing a more comprehensive reorganization to better use our space, ensure materials are easy to locate, and give our collections enough room to grow and change over time.

Gathering Feedback from our Community

To gather feedback from our users about their preferences when searching for books, we shared an Instagram Poll and Google Survey on social media over the weekend, asking a number of questions about different sections. We’d like to offer a heartfelt thanks to the 84 people who responded to our questions! Here are the results:

Pie chart of results from question "Where would you rather look for LGBTQIA2S fiction?": 56% in the fiction section, 44% with LGBTQIA2S nonfiction.

Pie chart of results from question "Where would you rather look for Indigenous fiction?": 43% with Indigenous nonfiction; 57% in the fiction section.

These two first questions were very close races! Based on this feedback we’re leaning towards putting the Indigenous and LGBTQIA2S fiction in the fiction section, but in their own special sub-sections (like “radical science fiction” is currently). This hopefully allows for us to both feature what makes these books special, while also respecting people’s desire to browse fiction comprehensively.

Pie chart of results from question "Should we keep Anarchism separate from Politics & Philosophy?": 53% Yes; 47% No.

Again, a tight race! These books will likely stay separate, however we are planning to place Anarchism and Politics & Philosophy next to each other in the new layout, rather than separated by a few shelves as they were previously.

Pie chart of results from question "Do you prefer books on Sex & Consent be shelved near...": 66% Wellness; 34% Feminism.

Looks like wellness is solidly in the lead on this one. Our hope is to have these shelved back-to-back on one of the rolling shelves on the store floor so that they’ll be close by to one another.

Pie chart of results from question "Would you rather YA/Teen books be shelved...": 89% In their own section; 11% by theme with adult books.

These will definitely be staying in their own section! We’ve noticed recently that many newer and popular YA titles get shelved into other sections, and will be doing a better job to keep them separated in their own YA area. We’ve also been doing more ordering for this section, so if you are a YA fan, please come by and check it out and share your favourite titles with us to add to our shelves!

In addition to the votes on our polls, we also received a number of comments from respondents. Here is a sample of these comments, with responses from us in italics.

  • Solicit more buttons!
    • We love having more buttons at the store! We have a couple of regular suppliers that we rely on for these, but most buttons come in to us on consignment when their creators drop them off. If you or someone you know has buttons you’d like to sell at Spartacus, please stop by any time we are open and speak to the collective member on shift.
  • More gradient options ex. I would prefer sex and consent to be between wellness and feminism.
    • Yes, this would be fantastic. Unfortunately with our store layout it isn’t always possible, but we are definitely trying to work these types of crossover sections into our arrangement wherever possible.
  • Is there, or can there be a section specific for Disability Justice? Thanks!
    • We do have a section on Disability Justice, but it has room to grow. We’ll add this to our list of priorities for more ordering, and welcome suggestions of titles to add to this area as well.
  • Lots of grey areas – books on Women & Labour, for instance. Which section?
    • VERY TRUE. This is an ongoing challenge for us! Part of this process is thinking about how to be more consistent in how we make these decisions about where books go in the store, and titles with intersectional foci definitely highlight the limitations of classification systems that rely on prioritizing one major topic of a book. No easy answer, but we are working on this and welcome suggestions.
  • The books in languages other than English seems uninviting…
    • Yes, sadly due to our space limitations this section has gotten put into the area behind our public computer stations that is not very easy to access. Depending on how this space rearrangement works out we may be able to move some of these materials back into the main floor area… stay tuned!
  • Maybe use a color sticker to denote special interests in the fiction section.
    • This is a great idea and one that is quite common in libraries. However, we do try to avoid stickering up our books too much as generally we find our visitors prefer not having to peel too many stickers off their fresh new books. Based on the tight race on the questions about special fiction sections, we’re thinking that the special interests in the fiction section may have their own special sub-sections, like “radical science fiction” does currently.
  • More Palestinian writers in the Palestinian section.
    • Thank you for this suggestion! It will on our priority list for upcoming ordering. As noted above, we also welcome suggestions of titles and authors to order, so please feel free to get in touch if you have ideas!
  • More on migration plz
    • Yes, thank you for this too! See the notes for the comment above 🙂
  • You’re awesome Spartacus!
    • Thanks! We’re a reflection of the love and care from our volunteers and community, so thank you for making that awesomeness possible and contributing to our ongoing improvement.

Next Steps

Based on the poll results and comments we received we have a clearer sense of priorities for rearranging our layout over the next few weeks. We are super grateful for your input that has helped guide this process! Specifically, we will be:

  • Consolidating our fiction materials, with more special sub-sections represented;
  • Moving Anarchism and Politics & Philosophy together, but not interfiling them:
  • Continuing to separate YA titles into their own special section;
  • Moving titles on Sex & Consent into the Wellness area of the store;
  • Trying to move some of the non-English materials out of the back corner by the computers;
  • Doing our best to place overlapping sections beside one another to show their relationships; and
  • Ordering more buttons, titles on Disability Justice and Migration, and works about Palestine by Palestinian authors.

As always, we welcome your ongoing feedback as we make these and future changes. If you have more thoughts to share, feel free to contact us and share your thoughts.

Spartacus Book Club Reads

Over the past 3 years, the Spartacus Book Club has met on a monthly basis to read and discuss 23 excellent titles.

If you are looking for a great read on anti-capitalist and anti-colonial themes, this list is a fantastic place to start your search.

It includes both fiction and non-fiction works, graphic novels, short story collections, and more!

The full list can be viewed online. Further commentary about the book club from one of its co-facilitators is available here: “Reflections on the Spartacus Book Club“.