Graphic Novels: Cataloguing Issues

It seems that no matter how many times we revisit our rules for cataloguing graphic novels (and when I say graphic novels, I include graphic non-fiction), a new issue always seems to creep up.

Lynne LeGrow, in her new blog Cataloguing Aids, brings up the issue of main entry access points.   Given that graphic novels consist mainly of illustrations, should the main entry be the illustrator, or the author?  Lynne writes:

My personal opinion is that when dealing with graphic novels one should be consistent and always use the artist as the main entry, providing an added entry for the author of the text.  Anyone searching for copy lately will realize that there seems to be no consistency whatsoever.  Some give the main entry to the author, some to the artist.  To my horror, I have found copy that names only the author and the artist is not even given an added entry.  This practice is in direct violation of AACR2 rule 21.30K2.

To further muddy the argument, we must remember Rule 21.24 Collaboration between Artist and Writer.  Rule 21.24 states that ‘collaboration’ in this case means that the artist and the author have worked to produce the work.  The rule states that if collaboration exists then the main entry is entered under the person named first on the title page, with an added entry provided for the second named person.  A further obstacle to consistent cataloguing is that many graphic novels do not have title pages, and often the publisher gets very creative with the cover.

Lynne and I are colleagues, so I understand her point of view. In fact, we’ve discussed it and I’m in agreement.  However, that doesn’t mean that our records necessary reflect this!

In the case of graphic novels, our existing records or rules don’t address the unique difficulty in cataloguing them.  Another of the cataloguers in my department has indicated that an access point with a geographic subdivision is also important.  These subvisions would indicate if the graphic novel is out of Japan, the United States and so on.  Since graphic novels vary in “flavour” depending on their country of origin, avid readers of Manga or graphic novels from Japan may have no interest in graphic novels from the United States.

The same can be said about the main entry.  Are readers looking for the writer of the story, or are they more interested in the artist?

While there is significant literature available discussing which Dewey number should be assigned to graphic novels and where they should be shelved, little is written about access points specific to graphic novels or content that enhances our bibliographic records.

While we are muddling through, our collections are growing.  I anticipate a very significant graphic novel project in the future at Halifax Public Libraries – where Lynne and I, as well as several other colleagues, will take a serious look at what interests readers and how we can provide them with the best and most useful information within our bibliographic records.

In the meantime, here are some additional resources to check out:

Graphic Novels, University of Urbana-Champaign

Cataloguing Resources –  The MinervaCats blog, out of Maine, includes a nice list of graphic novel resources about halfway through the resource list.

Cataloguing Graphic Novels and Graphic Non-fiction, Part I

Cataloguing Graphic Novels and Graphic Non-fiction, Part II

Cataloguing Resources – Lewis & Clark Library System



Filed under Access Issues, Subject Headings

6 responses to “Graphic Novels: Cataloguing Issues

  1. Pingback: Graphic Novels: Cataloguing Issues « The Cataloguing Librarian | Computer Internet and Technology Articles.

  2. Pingback: Graphic Novels « WRL’s Technical Services

  3. I’ve have been giving this issue some thought recently and found an interesting article in the Faculty of Information Quarterly by Amie Wright (, looking at the classification of graphic novels in four public libraries in Canada, that offers some interesting insights.

  4. Laurel Tarulli

    Hi Fiacre – thanks for sharing this resource.

  5. Ray G.

    Is there a reason Lynne chooses as her opinion the artist as the main entry?

    I completely agree with your colleague that geographic access points are important. Aside from the already mentioned Japanese-style “manga” and American-style graphic novels , Belgian-style have there own “flavours” as well as Hong Kong-style comics and Korean “manhwa”.

    I can’t seem to open Fiacre’s link, but was hoping to find out why a lot of libraries and librarians automatically want to place all graphic novels in either children’s or juvenile section–it’s like we’re stuck in a timewarp.

    I find “juveniles” and “young adults” would have no qualms about going to an “adult” section to read graphic novels, but most “adults” on the other hand wouldn’t want to visit “juvenile” or “young adult sections” of the library.

    Ooops, I have to stop posting before I start going on a rant ;p

  6. Laurel Tarulli

    Hi Ray,
    Here’s an updated version of the link Fiacre provided in the comment above. Hopefully this one will work:

    As for Lynne’s opinion about using the artist…I can’t respond on Lynne’s behalf, but I can ask her to provide her thoughts, if she’s willing.

    When considering what the main entry should be, writer or artist, I think about the majority of GNs that come across my desk. Many have little to no text. Others indicate a handful of writers of the storyline and others who actually penned the text. However, the majority feature the artist’s name – often the clearest information that we’re given on many of our GNs. I have to admit, however, that it isn’t a “black and white” situation. There are times that it’s obvious that the writer should be the individual for the main entry.

    I enjoyed the beginnings of your rant on J and YA GNs. 🙂 For me, it’s trying to determine why there’s a difference in adult and YA GNs. Especially when, if one library has 5 of the same titles, half are in the adult collection and half in the YA collection. Hmmm, what about having a separate collection of GNs, like we do for our kits, DVDs and CDs? More of this explored in my chapter of Graphic novels in libraries and archives (McFarland)

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