Monday, August 10, 2015

Genrefication Objection #5: Genrefication is inconsistent and non-standard.


Mystery? Horror? Action? Suspense?
This is certainly true and probably the greatest challenge facing genrefying librarians. What do you do with books that could fall into two or three different genres? A lot of fiction books—arguably, the majority--easily fall into more than one genre. I don’t have a solution for this; it can be a problem with traditional Dewey as well. For example, what do you do with a book about the history of air pollution in China? 300s for the air pollution? 900s for China? 900s for Chinese history?




How many times have you had mythology books come cataloged in 200 (for religion and mythology), 398 (for fables and folklore), E (if it's a picture book), or Fiction? I've even seen two books, exactly the same title, cataloged in two different places. The inconsistency of Mythology books and the fact that they were scattered about the whole library are what led me to create a separate Mythology section for all these books together, even before I genrefied.

How many times have you disagreed with or even changed a book's Dewey number in your library? Raising my hand on that one, too.

How many names do we have for biographies? Is it Biography? 92? 920? Why do musician biographies sometimes come cataloged in the 782s (for music) and sometimes as biographies? Why is a 920 (collected biography) defined as two or more people? Should The Beatles or the Barber Twins really be cataloged as 920? Why do we catalog a four-person musical group or a pair of football-playing twins separate from other individual biographies? Are they really "collected" in the same way as a book of the 50 most influential women of the 20th Century?

Junie B. Jones books. Fiction or E? If I never changed the cataloging, my elementary library would have had two separate Junie B. sections. Same for Nate the Great, Ivy & Bean, Mercy Watson...

The Infinity Ring series. 39 Clues. Spirit Animals. Because all books in these series have different authors, they would not be shelved together alphabetically. Lucky for my students, I changed the call numbers to reflect the series, rather than the authors. Otherwise, they would have to know the author of the next book they want to read in order to find it. I don't even know the authors in order without looking them up...

Fairy tale picture books. Why are they sometimes E and sometimes 398.2 and sometimes Fiction?

Story Collection. Do you have one? I never have, but I know many libraries do.

So yeah, Dewey isn’t perfect, either. Cataloging varies by whomever is doing the cataloging. What we call the sections and the numbers we use can vary by library, too. My best advice is to put fiction books in the genre section you think they are most likely to be found by the readers who will love them. Ask students which genre section they think the book belongs in. If you still see students passing them up, you can always move them to a different genre later if you think that will help.

Students do not need to know every library cataloging system. Even if we all cling tight to traditional Dewey and bow to the awesomeness of the AACRs, there will still be differences from library to library. People will use lots of different types of libraries in their lives, and chances are very good that no two libraries will be the same. The important thing is that users know that there is an organizational system and that they know how to use an online catalog to help them locate materials, no matter what type of library they visit.

Next: Genrefication Objection #6 (coming Aug. 12, 2015--stay tuned!)

PREVIOUS GENREFICATION OBJECTIONS:

Objection #1--If I genrefy my library, my students will not be able to use a public or college library.

Objection #2--It's the librarian's job to teach students to use the cataloging system, not enable students to be lazy.

Objection #3--College professors increasingly report that their students come to college with no research skills.

Objection #4--Genrefication is just the latest fad. 


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