Tag Archives: genre headings

Cataloguing: Sharing Local Practices and Innovations on a Wider Scale

One of the hardest parts about implementing local practices in your catalogue, and then sharing your success stories, is explaining how or why other libraries should adopt your ideas and practices.

Adding genre headings to assist in readers’ advisory work is often a matter of juggling uniformity, cataloguing rules and access. Uniformity and cataloguing rules are relatively easy. Does an authorized heading exist? If it does exist, will your library adopt it? If so, what are the rules for applying it (only to new items? Retroactively? Etc).

It’s when we start exploring the nuances of access that things get tricky. What type of access do library catalogues now provide? We’ve accepted that known item searches (title/author) and topical searches are the traditional access function of a library catalogue. But, if we approach the library catalogue as an RA tool, we need to view access in the library catalogue differently. Now we’re exploring a way for readers and staff to use access points in bibliographic records to find read-a-likes, recommended reading and items that fulfill a particular reading mood/experience. As a result, cataloguers are creating localized headings and content to address the changing nature of cataloguing and how the catalogue is being used.

I was asked an interesting question lately about how cataloguers, who add these additional headings and content, share the information on a wider scale so that other libraries don’t have to repeat work that has already been done. Or, can at least learn from it.

This is tricky, because it’s like examining why interesting and popular frontline service strategies and programs vary from library to library. If the implemented service is so successful, why aren’t more libraries doing it? Why isn’t it common practice? Are the libraries implementing these strategies “reinventing” existing service models because they aren’t aware other libraries are already doing it?

It’s the same with our cataloguing practices. While we rely on standard resources for finding our genre headings, such as GSAFD, Library of Congress and, for those in Canada, Library and Archives Canada, cataloguing practices and access points vary from library to library because of in-house resources, how/where records are created, local community needs, preferences and our library’s goals and objectives.

As a cataloguer, I’ve also seen sharing of local practices through blogs, articles and publications, presentations and listservs. Sometimes, this is more beneficial than just submitting an access point to LC because it explains why or how practices have been implemented. With the work surrounding fiction genre headings, RA driven access points and enriched content, I’ve found this extremely helpful because it provides background information and the considerations that went in to developing ideas and practices.

Cataloguers also share ideas through copy cataloguing. For example, when I copy catalogue, I have a handful of favourite libraries from whom I like to download records. If I see that they’ve implemented a new subject/genre heading, interesting additional content, or even a new MARC field, I consider using it. As a result, it is like a single rain drop in a pond that slowly works its way out through ripples. Cataloguers speak, collaborate and share on a variety of levels.

When we create a genre heading, or implement local practices that we believe benefit a larger community than our own, many of us attempt to spread the word in a variety of ways, including the avenues I’ve already mentioned. And, of course, one of the most common way to share is by submitting our ideas to leading libraries, such as LC or LAC. However, they are often slow to change or accept our ideas for a variety of reasons. But, if a cataloguer waits for these changes to be adopted on a larger scale, opportunities and innovative ideas are missed.

So how do we share our local cataloguing practices on a wider scale? To what extent is cataloguing or, innovative cataloguing useful? Should cataloguers in public libraries address shortcomings in current cataloguing practices, especially when it relates to what readers are seeking in our catalogues? If they do, how can they share their ideas with the rest of the cataloguing profession?

Public library cataloguers are in a unique position when it comes to the expanding the role of the library catalogue. How we address these issues and how we plan to share our solutions and ideas for creating a *better* catalogue is an interesting issue.

I see this as becoming an important discussion, as cataloguers start exploring the implementation of appeals terminology within the bibliographic record. I don’t know if I’ve answered the question completely, but it certainly has made me take a look at how I share innovative (or what I believe as innovative and beneficial!) cataloguing practices to colleagues near and far.


Filed under Access Issues, The Library Catalogue

Narrative Nonfiction – A New Genre Heading?

With the growing popularity of Readers Advisory Services, it is to be expected that skills and expertise will grow to incorporate nonfiction as well. We are starting to see this trend in Canada.

Not only are patrons happy to seek the assistance of a Reader’s Advisor (RA) when attempting to find that “perfect” summer novel, but they are now asking RA’s to suggest nonfiction titles about travel, crime and adventure. Still seeking a fictional read, a new term has emerged among Readers Advisory Services to describe these nonfiction books; Narrative Nonfiction.

With the emergence of this genre, it is necessary to consider this term for library catalogues. If patrons and RAs are using this to find books, then we need to examine its usefulness in our catalogue and the possibility of implementing it. Currently, it is not a valid authority. However, it is being used as a valid genre in RA databases such as Novelist.

While catalogues are not resources like Novelist, it is important to note that most RAs prefer to use Novelist over our catalogues and prefer their terminology. I find myself continually encouraging RAs to use our catalogue to assist them in finding materials for patrons rather than using alternate resources. Building a partnership between Readers Advisory Services and cataloguing is important. This relationship ties us directly with front line staff and keeps us current on the latest trends in reading and “buzz” words.

It was inevitable, but recently it was suggested that we consider the implementation of Narrative Nonfiction as a genre in our own catalogue. When I first heard this term, I didn’t really know what it included. All cataloguers need their terms defined, so I began seeking out definitions; something succinct and straightforward; something that I could apply with uniformity to nonfiction items.

What is Narrative Nonfiction, exactly? According to Abby Alpert, who wrote the article Incorporating Nonfiction into Reader’s Advisory Services, Narrative Nonfiction is “a style of writing that tells us a true story as a compelling narrative”. It’s a start, but that definition makes for a poor authority and gives cataloguers no direction. As a friend of mine pointed out, that’s an awfully vague concept for a cataloguer to base an authority on. Edward Humes provides a deeper understanding of Narrative Nonfiction. However, after reading his description and Abby Aplert’s, I concluded that the term was just too vague and discretionary to use as a genre.

By its own definition, narrative nonfiction will mean different things to different people. How will cataloguers possibly decide what will fall within that genre with any consistency? Even if we implemented this genre, would patrons find it helpful? I can’t ignore my cataloguing instincts that this genre would be more of a “hit and miss” grouping of titles, rather than a useful heading.

However, with a firm decision not to use Narrative Nonfiction, I still didn’t want to abandon the idea entirely. I believe the idea of this type of nonfiction has significant merit and patrons want to be able to search it. So, I started to explore the genres and headings in our catalogue that will assist patrons and RAs to find Narrative Nonfiction titles.

What I came up with was the following list of subdivisions in our 650 fields:

Case studies
Personal narratives

A colleague of mine is currently preparing a tutorial on Narrative Nonfiction for our Readers Advisors. As a result, I’ve sent her these terms, with search ideas and strategies such as:

(specifically of things rather than countries) are often written in “novel” form. Try performing the subject keyword search: “Salt history” in our catalogue.

Try search a subject keyword and combining it with “anecdotes”. For examples, search “cat adoption anecdotes”.

Case studies
Search a topic like “organized crime” and combine it was “case studies”. You’re subject keyword search will be “organized crime case studies”. Most or all of the results retrieved in HPL’s catalogue will fall under the genre Narrative Nonfiction.

Helpful hint: Usually if you combine a topic with [anecdotes, case studies, personal narratives, travel, biography], as a subdivision, you’ll recall items that fall under narrative nonfiction.)

Even with the above search strategies, I believe we can do better. Our catalogue is just starting to make greater use of genre headings. In the past, we haven’t done so because the software hasn’t allowed them to be as “searchable” as subject headings.

As a result, we are considering the following terms for genre headings:

True adventure
True Crime (which we already use)
Micro History

The idea of Narrative Nonfiction is not going away. The RA movement is growing and we need to find ways to assist it. Perhaps we will not always be able to implement to exact “buzz” word, but many times, we can make these topics and genres easily searchable for patrons and RAs. Collaboration, education and a willingness to change the catalogue to meet the needs to today’s society are essential.


Filed under Access Issues, Subject Headings, The Library Catalogue

Cataloguing Graphic Novels and Graphic Non-Fiction, Part II

Given that it’s a beautiful, sunny Friday before a long weekend ( at least in Canada), this is going to be a bit of an “light” posting.

As promised, here is the second part of the Graphic Novels posting that deals with cataloguing Graphic Novels vs. Graphic Non-Fiction. The first part was posted on October 24, 2007 and deals specifically with the 655 genre fields. Today’s topic deals with the 650 subject heading fields.

Using 650s created quite a bit of discussion in our department. How do patrons search and look for graphic fiction and non-fiction? To what extent are subject headings important given our use of 655s?

In the end, it was decided that adults and YA tend to look for their graphic items by artist, type (ie. Manga) or genre. In general, they do not need numerous subject access points. As a result, when cataloguing graphic novels and non-fiction for A and YA, we use a limited about of subject headings or exclude subject headings. This will be left to the discretion of the cataloguer.

It was also decided that for all J Graphic novels, we would follow the general practice of cataloguing children’s materials: more is better. In addition, we wanted to adhere to our existing cataloguing rules for children’s materials, as they are accustomed to searching by subject. These items tend to have themes throughout and as a result, the use of subject headings is freely used.

Below is our cataloguing outline for use of the 650 in cataloguing these items.

Graphic Novels (Fiction)
Classification number: 741.5

650 Subject Headings
Apply subject headings when appropriate. If the novel does not have one or two main themes (I.e. WWII), subject headings should be avoided.

When cataloguing Juvenile Graphic Novels, assign more subject headings as is the practice when cataloguing all J materials.

When using subject headings, they should be divided by $vComic books, stips, etc.

650 _ 0 $aSchool $vComic books, strips, etc.

DO NOT ADD $vFiction OR $vJuvenile fiction

Graphic Non-Fiction
Assign classification numbers as it relates to the content, the same as we do for regular non-fiction.

650 Subject Headings
Add subject headings when appropriate. Follow the rules for cataloguing regular non-fiction. However, the subject heading should be subdivided by $v Comic books, strips, etc.

650 _0 $aWorld War, 1939-1945 $vComic books, strips, etc.

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Filed under Access Issues, Subject Headings