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A proposed outline for fiction

Build the Open Shelves Classification

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Edited: Jul 9, 2008, 2:53pm Top

I figure someone has to throw something to the wolves at some point that we can attempt to build upon, hence this proposal. Feel free to tear it apart; I certainly do not expect it to be anywhere near perfect or all encompassing.

It's intended so that crossover fiction "stop" in the first genre where they are a clear fit. There's nothing against adding subdivisions for them (mostly in speculative) should they warrant it. I'm not a specialist. Parodies and comedies are put in the genre they parody.

Fiction proper
-Speculative fiction
--Science-fiction (including time-travel, alternate histories, steampunk and techno-thrillers)
--Fantasy (inc. traditional and modern fiction with magic or mystical forces and traditional fantasy creatures)
--Supernatural fiction (including vampire and other "modern myth")
--Non-supernatural horror
--Animal fiction (Redwall, Watership Down)
--Other speculative
-historical fiction (including fictional accounts of real events)
--By time period
--Contextual historical fiction (1)
-Adventure fiction
--General Adventure/action and pulp fiction (includes most caper stories)
--Mystery fiction where the plot is strictly centered around solving a crime or crime-like occurence
---Hardboiled mystery
---Police procedural
---General mystery
-Romance (2)
--Inspirational romance
--Cross-cultural romance
--General/contemporary romance (including most of category romance)
-Fiction without specific genre (a.k.a. realistic/psychological fiction?) (2)
--By historical period (and by country/language?)
-Omnibus and compendium of several genres
Special forms of fiction
-Comic books and strips
--subdivide mostly with the same divisions as general fictions
-Animated fiction
--Movies and TV series probably need an outline of their own
-fiction written following non-fiction conventions
-books mixing essay and fiction
-heavily fictionalized memoirs
-facts later revealed as fiction

1. Context in defining historical fiction
As far as the reader is concerned, books written in, say, 1920 are basically historical fiction. If Of Mice and Men happened to have been written in 1990 (in the same setting, of course), it would have been classified as historical fiction. OSC should probably recommend a cutoff date for this contextual fiction (something as short as 40 years might be reasonable: WWII fiction is certainly historical fiction).

2. "Ungenred" and Romance fiction
The lack of subgenres here is due to my own extreme unfamiliarity, not any inherent belief that there are no subgenres. Romance with speculative fiction or mystery themes, or put in another time period, is put in those genres (it is generally not the central theme, hence the lack of explicit subgenres).

Jul 9, 2008, 1:20pm Top

Why does SF get so many distinctive divisions but not romance (which has quite a lot of internal divisions if you ask the readers or publishers) or mystery (ditto)? Just curious. No one else has called me a wolf today, after all.

Jul 9, 2008, 1:28pm Top

Well, re: the divisions in SF versus the lack thereof in romance - if the system has any kind of utility it will be possible to insert divisions into categories as required.

However, what about "crossover" fiction like paranormal romance which could be fantasy or romance?

I volunteer for a book sale - you would not believe the trouble some people have sorting books into even really broad categories, much less this kind of detail.

Edited: Jul 9, 2008, 1:32pm Top

>2 LeesyLou:

Primarily because I'm working mostly off DDC (only thing I had on hand at the time of sketching), and I am thoroughly unfamiliar with romance fiction (I don't think, in fact, I have ever read a book that would fi specifically in a romance section).

I'm also not that clear about the divisions of Mystery fiction. The outline is intended so that multi-genre fiction "drops" in the first available genre (so that speculative trumps adventure and romance). I might need to move historical fiction after speculative, though. *goes to edit*

Jul 9, 2008, 1:34pm Top

Probably because circeus wasn't as familiar with or interested in romance or mystery.

Personally, I hate the term speculative fiction. I'd much rather have science fiction/fantasy. No hyphen in science fiction; that, at least, I think is dictated by current usage.

As for science fiction...
---Space opera
---Alternative worlds and histories (including most cyberpunk and steampunk)
---Contemporary science fiction (including techno-thrillers) (2)
---Science fiction comedy and parodies

I don't see that as viable, or useful. There's nothing particularly connecting cyberpunk with alternate histories. What's contemporary science fiction, and why are techno-thrillers are included but not cyberpunk? (The Andromeda Strain hit the best sellers list in 1969, long before cyberpunk was around.)

I'm sorry I don't have time to be more than critical; science fiction subdivision is a complex topic and I don't have a good example of how to do it at hand.

Jul 9, 2008, 1:50pm Top

>5 prosfilaes:

The brand/definition of cyberpunk I am familiar with has a strong dystopian theme, hence putting it with other alternative histories for me. In practice it's broader than just alternate worlds and not specifically mentioning it (most of it fits well enough in the other specified categories) would probably be fine.

When I write "techno-thrillers", I have in mind works more akin to those of Robin Cook than Crichton. Most of Crichton is still clearly contemporary science fiction to me in any case, although Clancy is mostly not (from what I know he's verging between regular adventure and alternate history).

Jul 9, 2008, 1:52pm Top

Possibly lack of specialized knowledge in those divisions? I mean, I would suggest for the mystery category the following subcategories:

---Locked Room
---Police Procedural
---Crime Caper

But where should suspense/thriller novels fit in the structure? Are they a subcategory of Mystery or of Adventure Fiction?

Edited: Jul 9, 2008, 2:00pm Top

I actually am fairly familiar with mysteries. I'm just not clear that the subgenres are anywhere as strongly "walled" between readers. as the subgenres of Speculative Fiction can be. Crime capers and thrillers to me have characteristic elements (primarily in pace) of the general adventure novel. Because the caper story does not center around a problem to solve (either normal or reverse whodunnit), it's clearly not a mystery subgenre for me.

Maybe I should write more in details about how I define these subgenres.

Jul 9, 2008, 2:03pm Top

As a SF fan (and on the SF Fans group) I have to agree with prosfilaes in that the SF breakdown isn't terribly useful.

Cyberpunk definitely doesn't fit in with Alternate Worlds & Histories.

I would say that the following would all be good targets for SF sub-genres (if people want to go that far)

- Science Fiction
-- Apocalyptic, holocaust, and post-apocalyptic
-- Cyberpunk & Biopunk
-- Light/humorous science fiction
-- Military science fiction
-- Near-future science fiction
-- Science fantasy & Planetary Romance
-- Space opera
-- Time travel, alternate-history and alternate-worlds
-- Alien invasion and first contact

However I would think that a lot of collections would not go down to that level. Books would be shelved in one big Science Fiction section by author (as most writers dabble in a number of the sub-genres).

Jul 9, 2008, 2:09pm Top

I'm not super familiar with the specific collections of most public libraries, but if that's the audience that we're working for, are they going to have enough works in some of these super-specialized sub genres to make it efficient or practical to divide to that level of specification?

And will that make it really hard to find a work by an author whose name you know? If I can't remember if my favorite science fiction writer Author X is shelved under "Traditional" fantasy, Contemporary fantasy (1), or Fantasy comedy and parodies, I'm going to get very frustrated when I go to look for his book on the shelf.

We have to remember the need to balance better browsing while still maintaining findability without having to resort to looking it up in the catalog every single time.

(And while I was typing this andyl said basically the same thing with fewer words)

Jul 9, 2008, 2:25pm Top

>6 circeus: I don't see dystopias as alternative histories. 1984, for example, is as valid a possible history for its era as I, Robot was.

>10 Tricoteuse: I think here, like elsewhere in the system, the depth of classification is up to the cataloger; there should be nothing that stops a librarian from cataloging fiction as 813 Name, even if the system offers 813.123852.

Jul 9, 2008, 2:31pm Top

Okay, I took comments into account and pared down all the science-fiction and fantasy subgenres down, keeping only inclusion notes.

I'm not sure if that doesn't make mystery fiction overdetailed now.

Maybe it can be kept at level 2 for the basic, and further divisions worked out later (you know there are people who would rather have further subdivisions).

Jul 9, 2008, 2:37pm Top

What about children's fiction and young adult fiction? Most libraries will want to separate those out of the main fiction bulk. Will those require special categories? (I don't have kids myself, so I'm unsure as to how children books are normally broken down.)

Jul 9, 2008, 2:51pm Top

In my idea, one would simply apply the above scheme (or with likely adaptations were appropriate) to age-separated fiction.

While I suspect children's fiction would have to have a wholly different set of categories, I should probably not be let anywhere near it.

Jul 9, 2008, 3:09pm Top

what about "older" fiction? Ovid Metamorphoses, for example. Should this be classified as Fantasy within Fiction. Or as at least one classicist would hold, should it be in "Classical Literature" somewhere else?

Jul 9, 2008, 3:26pm Top

Probably historical fiction/ungenred by period, where it would join similar works. In practice, though as far as most public libraries are concerned, it might as well go in humanities. There's also the fact that the Metamorphoses are technically poetry, so if they must be placed in fiction, they'd probably go in a "special form" category ("fiction in verse").

Edited: Jul 9, 2008, 5:23pm Top

Youth sections mirror adult sections, depending on the collection. The last library I worked at had Young Adult Fiction and Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy. That was it. The collection wasn't very big, so to split them up more would have separated authors quite a bit.

And that's the major problem - lots of authors write very much the same kind of book, but some don't. Is it more likely that someone will want to read some more Michael Crichton, or more books about

I think for most libraries, having just a few fiction sections will be most useful. Nothing says you can't have a more broken-down classification (see more here) labeled on the book, so you can get an idea of what the book's main theme is (assuming it's easy to pinpoint that).

If we separate more than the main genres, do you all think that people will be more likely to discover new books by author's they've never heard of before? Or will they be frustrated because they can't find more Stephen King?

Also, where does creative nonfiction go? It's obviously (supposed to be!) nonfiction, but it's often read by fiction readers. Fiction readers may not go trolling the autobiographies (where all the stuffy old tomes on dead people reside), but then may never find Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.

Jul 9, 2008, 8:46pm Top

My personal library with more than 4000 genre titles is divided into romance, science fiction and fantasy, mystery, and everything else. Within those categories I organize by author, alphabetically. This lets me find a specific author very quickly and I can usually find a particular title pretty quickly too. Personally this is the way I browse both the public library and my own library when 'just looking'.

However, if you do want to categorize fiction, romance comes in many flavors. Just one of my favorite authors has written Harlequin-type contemporaries, contemporary romantic suspense (where the romance is usually a little more important than the suspense) both with and without paranormal elements, futuristic romance, often with a paranormal element, Regency historicals (with suspense and/or paranormal elements), and most recently she has been writing Victorian historical romances. Would you scatter her books all over the map?

Jul 9, 2008, 9:12pm Top

What if we created a system that allowed for alphabetization by author within the large categories but still indicated what the sub-genre was?

So a call number would look something like FR-Jac-24 where FR=fiction-romance, Jac=the beginning of the author's last name (you could use cutter numbers to ensure proper alphabetization), and 24=regency historicals

It wouldn't collocate the sub-genre works, but at least it would identify them, and libraries would be free to leave the last bit off altogether if they didn't want to use it.

Jul 9, 2008, 10:34pm Top

I agree with Tricoteuse on the use of large groups of books - there's no need to have a biopunk section, where most readers will probably be reading some of the other sub-genres of scifi.

I disagree that there's any point to adding the sub-genre after the author. That would mean that an author's works (within a genre) would be ordered by the sub-genre, not the title. When you go to the shelf, you'd need one more piece of information to be able to find an item.

*This is totally nitpicky - sorry Tri!*
Having a number is meaningless unless you know that 24=regency historicals. If we had a larger space to write (say, on a label that resides on the back of the item - like Borders) you could write out 'regency historical', which would help the reader decide if they want to pick it up.

Jul 9, 2008, 11:07pm Top

Nitpick away! That's the whole point here.

You're right that a full-text indication would be easier for people than coded letters/numbers to indicate sub-genre, but I think you'll be hard pressed to get libraries to give up spine labels and switch to something bigger.

Jul 10, 2008, 12:13am Top

But you can put up section dividers, shelf-labels, signs, etc. It's what bookstores do—and some libraries.

Jul 10, 2008, 12:41am Top

Public libraries also use genre labels for fiction. Who's to say they can't have more detail sub-genre information included? I think both Tric and sonya are on the right track. We have to keep coming back to what will be useful to a browsing user.

Jul 10, 2008, 8:29am Top

I like this “So a call number would look something like FR-Jac-24 where FR=fiction-romance, Jac=the beginning of the author's last name (you could use cutter numbers to ensure proper alphabetization), and 24=regency historicals” except,

When I am browsing in a library or bookstore I like having the sub-genre mixed together. Browsing is my way of fishing for new areas. If I specifically want cozy mysteries or alien invasion science fiction I would go to the computer, in the old days the subject card catalog, and search for that.

So how about this FR-JacA#-1863&XXXXX where FR=fiction-romance, Jac=the beginning of the author's last name, A=first initial, #=indicator for no middle initial, 1863=date book first published, & a separator what comes before goes on the book spine to aid shelving and what comes after is for the computer to check during topic searches.

I don’t know if Andrew Jackson wrote and romance fiction in 1863, it is just an example and I don’t think that fiction books were listed by subject in the card catalogs, again just an example

Jul 10, 2008, 10:38am Top

Speaking of historical fiction - are we limiting it to true historical fiction (that which was written AFTER the time period involved) or are we including fiction that was contemporary at the time (like Jane Austen)? Just curious as to the consensus on this one...

Jul 10, 2008, 10:57am Top

Keep it simple, Keep it simple, keep it simple,
I am the director of a small public library, we serve 18,000, and my philosophy is put it where patrons will find it. Think about how patrons ask for books. "You know that one with the lady detective who drives a cab." or "the cop with 10 kids".

Jul 10, 2008, 10:59am Top

I wouldn't count Austen and the like as historical fiction, but that's just me. That would mean that eventually everything written now would become historical fiction if you just wait long enough.

Jul 10, 2008, 11:06am Top

# 24
JacA# means that you need to know the author's last name, first name, and middle initial to find them - it would be easier if you can browse just by the author's last name. (Or a Cutter equivalent.) I'm lucky if I remember the author's name at all!

The downside of creating lots of subgenres in fiction is that there will be a lot that don't quite fit in just one genre.

I think we're enjoying thinking about all of the genres that fiction fit into, which is a nuanced description - like a subject heading. I reiterate that organizing by subgenres fractures the collection, and makes it more difficult to find things. If you're walking into a library, and not going to the online catalog, it's hard enough to know if an author is found in general fiction, or in a subgenre like mystery or romance.

I'm not advocating for throwing out genres, but I'm not sure how many subgenres we need to break a collection into - especially if you have a small collection (and therefore have fewer books overall to reflect the genre).

I would assume that the ones I see most at public libraries - mysteries, romance, and scifi/fantasy - are there because those readers are most likely to read more from the genre. Also, there are a lot of series in these genres - that's probably an indicator as well.

Edited: Jul 10, 2008, 2:07pm Top


I was trying to refine an earlier suggestion that included a suffix for sub-genre. For fiction I really think that even the largest collection can get by with a top-level designated fiction and one sub level that denotes genre. FR-JacA#-1863 that would be FR in this example. The rest just fixes the order of the books on the shelves in that section. I like to do fiction alpha by author and then in order of publication. Without the initials all the Kellerman’s books get mixed together and James Lee and Alifair Burke are commingled. I like to have each authors books in order of publication, the –YEAR takes care of that. This only makes sense in fiction.

Oh, a large library might want to use more letters of the last name, FR-JacksoA#-1863 or FM-KellerJ#-1986 or FM-Burke#JL-2003.

edit Someone on another thread said to fit on the spine use no more that 8 letters per group so

Jul 10, 2008, 3:59pm Top

#26 I agree completely. I get a bit worried seeing an overly fine breakdown of subgenres, particularly because I think authors are becoming less and less afraid to merge them in various ways and I don't think it will be that easy to simply place them in the first genre they seem to fit.

Jul 10, 2008, 9:49pm Top

#28 & #30

I agree that most libraries are not going to bother dividing fiction books into more than a few categories. Most collections are simply small enough not to need to go further than that, but it never hurts to have the option to divide into more obscure sub-genres.

Even though I do think that sometimes having all the steampunk-vampire books together is useful for genre fanatics, I do sympathize with many of the things Neil Gaiman says about the UK's new-ish proposal to age band all books (http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/06/soon-enough-cat-post-i-promise.html). Some of the same problems with turning away older readers if you designate a book as for children may also occur when you designate a book as Romance or Sci-Fi. On the other hand a categorization schema isn't generally government mandated and libraries don't have to use iit if they would prefer not to have that problem.

Jul 11, 2008, 2:18am Top

31> I think there's a certain inevitability about that; there's a lot of books that could be labeled mathematics or games, and either one will turn away part of the audience.

Jul 11, 2008, 3:00pm Top

28 / 24

Having the first initial doesn't mean you can't browse by last name -- it just keeps the authors/subjects together for those who want to choose one in particular.

It would probably be easier in browsing to see the groups together -- a larger block is easier to pick out than mixed, indiividual titles...

Jul 11, 2008, 3:24pm Top

> 29

I too like having my personal fiction collection organized by publication date, but I would be a little wary of having a public library fiction collection (e.g.) organized this way. When a patron comes in looking for a book, they're much more likely to know the title than the date of publication. Although date of publication is a nice way to organize for you and me, I think that the general population will find it much easier to find books when they are shelved by title.

Of course the one place where shelving by title doesn't work as well as shelving by pub date is when books are in series. I'm not sure there's a particularly elegant way to handle that. Perhaps shelving series by series title at the very beginning or end of one author's books, and shelving by publication date within each series?

Jul 11, 2008, 8:59pm Top

Ordering by the original publication date within a series sounds great to me. We do need to specify the original publication though. Many public libraries are outsourcing cataloging to the book vendors and cleaning up what comes in. Book vendors normally just track the actual publication date of specific printings, and that's what I see they include dates in the call numbers. We don't need reprints turning up as "later" in the series.

I would also like to see multi-author series grouped under the series title. Star Wars is a prime example of this. Who knows how many authors have contributed to this series? Even when the authors are very well established, like R. A. Salvatore or Terry Brooks, people look for their Star Wars contribution under "Star Wars", then ask if there is no such entry.

Edited: Jul 13, 2008, 12:06am Top

I firmly believe there is nothing to prevent specific multi-author series from being treated under their series title. I can think of several European Bandes Dessinées that will end separated in librarires, but will be kept firmly together in a bookstore. All libraries I know insist to sort non/small-series BDs by author, which makes a mess of multi-authors series >__

Jul 15, 2008, 10:30pm Top

Alright, I'm all for shelving series titles in order and together, but there are reasons that doesn't happen. For one, a lot of series titles didn't start out as a series. Usually the first book was popular enough to warrant a few more books and then you go from there. Just look at Harry Potter. What is the series title for those books? Is it just Harry Potter (probably), is there ever an official series title given? If somebody gets permission to start a series based on Hermione are they still part of the Harry Potter series?

Basically, I think that series are mostly an unsolvable problem, certainly one that will not be solved by a classification system. LibraryThing has some nice series pages (http://www.librarything.com/series/Harry+Potter), but I think that is as good as we will get.

Jul 15, 2008, 10:37pm Top

At the very least wouldn't we need to have a series field as part of the classification? Even if it ends up not having much bearing on shelf order.

Jul 16, 2008, 5:46am Top

#37, yes it's the Harry Potter series which is the official name, and she planned a series of 7 books from the start. If there was a spin off it would have a different name.

Now that was just a very bad example to give. Maybe the Foundation or Dune or Pern would have been better since they get complicated or even Narnia

When I did my Access Database I put a field for series and used the intitial letters as an Acronym plus a number eg HP1, I have used Discaa to Discbd for the discworld series, not enough numbers!

You don't need to have a series field, it just makes it nicer for customers.

Jul 16, 2008, 7:29am Top

The series field should be included as part of the MARC record and it should be authority controlled. That being said authority control for series tends to be universally awful, and the cause of at least half the record corrections made at my library.

Jul 16, 2008, 2:47pm Top

Does anyone have any sense of what percentage of fiction works are part of a series?

I honestly have no idea, so I'm wondering if including series notation in the call number would make it too much more complicated for something that most books don't even need. If only 5% of novels or whatever are actually part of a series, is it worth the space/effort/time to specially designate those?

I will certainly agree that the way it's done (or not done) now isn't great, but is this the place to solve that?

Jul 16, 2008, 3:20pm Top

I suspect it would be very low, except in fantasy where a stand-alone is almost blaspemy. lol. I mean, create a whole detailed world for ONE book? Are you mad? d'y think i can fit it all in?

Compare John Grisham with Raymond E. Feist, or Dan Brown with Naomi Novik.

Detective and spy stories also have long series, because you can reuse the detective/spy. But elsewhere it doesn't really make sense unless you want it to turn into a soap opera. It's harder to reuse characters in mundane fiction because thier story finishes at the end of the book, but in a fantasy world there are still other people and places to see.

Jul 16, 2008, 3:56pm Top

There are lots of romance writers who will introduce a set of characters in the 'first' book. This book's hero and heroine will appear as secondary or even cameo characters in the next book where one or more of the secondary characters from book one are the 'stars' of book two. Then a secondary character from book two stars in book three...Romance readers consider these to be series.

Jul 16, 2008, 3:59pm Top

Don't forget that series exist in non-fiction as well (i.e. Time-Life, great works of ...., etc...)

Jul 16, 2008, 4:17pm Top

>44 jmgold:

Good point about non-fiction.

So what we seem to be talking about is a shelf order that's different than the traditional Author's last name then date, correct? We don't necessarily need to integrate it into the subject/genre notation, just the filing notation.

For example:

12-34-56 GrishamJ 1995
could indicate a stand-alone John Grisham novel published in 1995

12-34-56 GrishamJ S1997-3
could indicate a John Grisham novel from a series (book three of a series begun in 1997)

This would shelve all of the Grisham series books in order based on publication date of the first book in the series, following the stand-alone books.

Jul 16, 2008, 4:28pm Top


I like that notation, but do we actually need to include the "s" series indicator? I'm thinking of retroactive cataloging concerns when a sequel is written to a book that was not thought to have been a part of a series originally. If we just add "-2" to a sequel then they will be shelved together and no one will have to recatalog the first book in the series.

Jul 16, 2008, 4:43pm Top

>46 jmgold: True, I guess I was thinking of a way to separate out the series from the stand-alones, but it could make sense your way as well.

So 4 books, with 2 in a series would look something like this on the shelf...

12-34-56 GrishamJ 1995
12-34-56 GrishamJ 1997
12-34-56 GrishamJ 1997-2 (even though this one was written in 2000 or whenever, because it's in series with the one written originally in '97)
12-34-56 GrishamJ 1998

Jul 16, 2008, 5:12pm Top

What about those workaholics who publish more than one book a year? How to tell which was the first one of the series?

For example take a look at Stephen Baxter.

In 1999 he published Silverhair and Manifold:Time. Both were book 1 of a series.

Should the ending of the call numbers of these two books be 1999a and 1999b so that the book 2 in each series (Longtusk and Manifold: Space) can be 1999a-2 and 1999b-2?

Jul 16, 2008, 9:38pm Top

Just to play devil's advocate some more, how about series with multiple authors.

Edited: Jul 16, 2008, 9:49pm Top

At home, I shelve the Star Wars books together according to the timeline included in some of them; however the Star Trek ones are together but in no particular order.

The single author series J. D. Robb wrote about Eve Dallas are in publication order which is also the internal order of events in the books.

So I tend to do a case by case for myself, but the system should come with guidelines for series.

Jul 17, 2008, 12:06am Top

>40 jmgold:
Series should definitely be in the MARC record (although that info, as another said, is often inconsistent or non-existant), but I think it should be a module of the call number as well.

As a general example of the importance of having series info on a spine label, think about the huge influx of manga and graphic novels in the public library. Our library finally listened to users and shelvers about how people were browsing for manga. It was almost always by series title, not the dewey call numbers (741.xxxx Author) or author. They also wanted to find the specific volumes in the series (which are often covered on the spine by the label), so our notation became YSeries 1, jSeries 15, etc. We keep a central list of series abbreviations to stay within the 8 digit label parameter. The same general concept is applied to western graphic novels, which present the whole different author issue more than manga, as well as teen and children's series fiction.

Edited: Jul 17, 2008, 2:28pm Top

I really understand the value in keeping a series in order seeing as how I often become annoyed when I accidentally pick up the 2nd or 3rd book in a series before the first, but I still haven't seen a satisfactory solution to use within the call number from anyone here.

It just seems to me that there are too many weird exceptions to any general series rule for one book's place in the series to be communicated on a spine label. Multiple authors are one of the main problems, but other oddities are when authors write prequels, and books from a different character's perspective, and any other concurrent books, or even a "series" that doesn't have any particular reading order implied and is still set in a single "universe."

For that matter, what defines a series? Are a bunch of books set in the same universe sufficient, or do the books need to be intended to be read in a certain order and do they have to be designated by the author as a series at some point? For example, Carl Hiaasen writes a lot of books set in a modern overdeveloped Florida and many of the characters overlap from book to book, but I don't think he has ever called his books a series. Would we designate them as one?

It seems to me that if we're serious about having series information in the call number, then we need to define a series first. That may decrease some of the notational difficulties. At that point we can start working on the rest of it.

Personally, I think that the author and/or authors have to consider their works a series before they are one. Many mysteries, for example, don't benefit from reading them in a specific order and are designed so you can pick up any volume without being lost. Those mysteries probably shouldn't be considered a series.

Any thoughts?

Jul 17, 2008, 3:07pm Top

I think most of the time it is easiest to work fiction in alphabetical order in order of publication. Putting things into categories the same way we categorise non fiction is, mainly, a mistake.

This is largely because fiction categories are even more subjective than non-fiction.

In a domestic bookshelf one can make special cases for series with an internal chronology not connected to their publication. Also for multi-author series, and certain other circumstances.

Unfortunately I do not think this it is appropriate to build in this support for the OSC. Author, Date should be the standard way of indexing, a library can pull out series if it is appropriate, but only according to very specific circumstances.

Jul 19, 2008, 4:10pm Top

I wrote out a proposal using a fiction book (and DVD) as an example in post 91 of this thread: http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=40831

It could be amended to include the volume number {v.1} as a local (optional) module:

Book: {Book} {F} {Fic} {Eng} Ishiguro 1989-00 {v.1} {XX-123-456}
DVD: {DVD} {F} {Fic} {Eng} Ishiguro 1989-00 {v.1} {XX-123-456}

Edited: Jul 20, 2008, 6:42pm Top

I would like to suggest that the following are often regarded as fiction:

humor (humour)

Then there is:
religious fiction (Left Behind)
coming of age
psychological (Wuthering Heights)
domestic (Wuthering Heights)
war novels

I think one can use LT tagging to see how many people divide up their own libraries.

Then there are divisions based a little more on who is reading the work:

Young adult
Women (maybe)
Men (maybe also)

Jul 20, 2008, 8:04pm Top

I would ask that we not classify books based on women/men readers - I imagine that division leading to some very ugly sexism that is easily avoided.

I agree though that the age level distinctions are important for fiction, so the system needs to include that in some way.

Jul 20, 2008, 10:16pm Top

>56 Tricoteuse: (and 55 I suppose) I agree that the women/men readers thing should not be addressed in our system, and furthermore, I think that the age level distinction doesn't need to be made either, at least in the cataloging system. Instead, this can be part of the optional prefix we have discussed elsewhere. The library can decide if it wants a juvenile section and what books should be in it, and if it wants a children's section, and what books should be in it. Then within each section/collection, the normal categorizations can be used. This allows both children's fiction and children's nonfiction to be shelved together with ease in some libraries, while other libraries, which might not have much children's literature, can put it in with all the other fiction.

Edited: Jul 21, 2008, 12:38am Top

I was very mixed about the women men distinction. "Women" is not an unusal tag that might go along with fiction, although "men" is not frequent. And one cannot tell whether the tagger means a book is for women, about women, uses a women's perspective, etc.

I do like the age distinction, but I am not sure what the difference is between juvenile and young adult, and perhaps a librarian could inform me.

I also am aware of another category, which is literary criticism. One might think that would be in some sort of adjunct fiction category, as most books of that sort deal with fiction.

Also reference books, like bibliographical guides to fiction should go under fiction. I am not sure about biographies of fiction writers, but maybe a fiction writer's essays would be included? Then there are books about specific novels, e.g. Secrets of Angels and Demons: The Unauthorized Guide To The Bestselling Novel by Dan Burstein.

The craft of writing should perhaps stay with non-fiction.

Jul 25, 2008, 9:44pm Top

Although it is important to divide books by age appropriateness, I don't think this is something that should be built into the classification system. The boundaries between the books are too subjective. What I would consider juvenile, you might consider adult. What I might consider appropriate for younger children, you may be appalled at. It ought to be the responsibility of each library to sort their books out.

I think it is a case of having a content rating such as video games or movies so that the reader knows what they are getting into (adults as well as children and their parents). And, such a system has nothing to do with classification.

Aug 5, 2008, 4:07pm Top

Harking back to the general area of #28 and the issue of subgenres:

Speaking as a browser of libraries, I actually think having a fairly detailed subgenre option is valuable. I have no idea who all the authors are that write paranormal romance, but I'd like to be able to locate an author I like and find others who write similar books in the same area. One of my main frustrations with the current organization of fiction in libraries is that I have to know the author in advance or search through dozens of books sorted by author in the hopes of stumbling across one I like.

The system being discussed in the other thread, which can be truncated from either end would accommodate deep levels of subgenres, without imposing it on collections with no need for them.

In many ways, I think fiction would be well served by being looked at through a lens similar to the subject lens that comes naturally for non-fiction, with author information as a secondary or tertiary level.

I'm more than willing to sacrifice browsing by author to browsing by genre. If I like an author, I can easily look up the location of additional works in almost any system, but I can't find a subgenre in a system that doesn't recognize their existence.

Aug 6, 2008, 10:13am Top

>60 Helcura:

Good points.

Aug 6, 2008, 12:41pm Top

At this point in development, our focus is task based (WHAT people are browsing: class/genre) versus audience based (WHO is browsing: children, women, dogs, etc).

However, I do think that OSC should be usable for the many innovative public libraries that are now grouping their collections by audience. I plan on testing our system within these libraries once we have consensus on the top-level (see the wiki for current list: http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Open_Shelves_Classification)

Great discussion everyone!

Aug 27, 2008, 1:52pm Top

If the catalogues enable one to search for (e.g.) a dystopian-future novel about librarians, I don't think we need very precise genre divisions on the shelves. Most people who are browsing (me, at least!) are looking for something fairly broad. If they aren't, then there's both the catalogue and the readers' advisor.

One problem is that the more detail you try to put in, the more subjective it becomes. In my home catalogue I've got Imaginary lands, Pastorals, Picaresque fiction, Diarial fiction, Sword & sorcery fiction, etc, but many books are listed several times. I wouldn't like to be the classifier who makes such precise distinctions for shelf locations.

Aug 29, 2008, 11:28am Top

In some ways, the Open Shelves Classification is what you'd like to see for other people's collections. For our own personal libraries,we want to keep our own quirky categories. The LT effort on Collections is way of getting your own books arranged in certain broad categories that you want to keep together, even if the relationship between them isn't entirely obvious to an outsider.

Jan 21, 2009, 9:59am Top

As a YA type (high school) librarian I think it is better to leave user based classification to individual libraries. I think there is little if any good to be gained by classifying books as being for any particular user group. That tends only to help limit people's choices, for example adolescents will feel uncomfortable borrowing something kept in a children's section, some adults feel uncomfortable borrowing from a young adult section, and so on. It really only leads to making imprecise assumptions about whole segments of the population. And gender based shouldn't even be considered.

Jan 21, 2009, 11:29am Top

I would age divide at the highest level. Children / YA / Adult each of which has their own Fiction / non-fiction etc. because that is what is of most use to me.

Jan 22, 2009, 8:40pm Top

I agree with Merriwyn, age designations should be strictly local. Not all libraries use the same divisions or define them the same way. Even designating age at a specific level can be tricky. Many libraries separate fiction into children and adult, but combine non-fiction without age designations due to the average reading level of their populations.

Jan 28, 2009, 3:38pm Top

There is also the factor that the classification of a work as "adult" or "children's" can change over time. For example, Charles Dickens' works were definitely written for an adult audience, but nowadays one routinely finds them in the children's section. (Doubtless because, being written for a Victorian audience, there's very little sex in them.)

Jan 28, 2009, 10:43pm Top

On Long Island, Dickens' novels are classified either as adult fiction and somewhat less frequently as Young Adult. The only ones for children are 'retold' or 'abridged'. I think the assumption here is that children's books are for those under the age of 13. The problem with an age related category is not really at the children's level but at the fuzzier YA/adult level.

Jan 29, 2009, 3:28am Top

Classification of some books will inevitably change over time. I don't think trying to create a classification system where this would never happen is worth the effort. For instance, many books classed in the history section today were contemporary when they were released.

Feb 2, 2009, 1:44pm Top

Greetings! David and I have been busy compiling and analyzing all your comments, and a post with new top levels is forthcoming!

In the interim, take a look on Thingology (http://www.librarything.com/thingology) at the summary of the OSC meeting we had in Denver last weekend.

To clear up some confusion, take a look at how facets/formats and categories/call numbers will be organized:

The first letter is audience (A, adult, Y, young adult, C, children's) The second letter is format (B, book, A, audio, G, graphic-novel, etc.) Other facets could be for whatever else needs to be called out—language, special collection, etc.

And so you have

AB 123.321 - Lost Moon
AA 123.321 - Lost Moon in an audio format
AG 123.321 - Lost Moon the graphic-novel
CB 123.321 - Goodnight Moon (children's book)

A library that had no childrens' books would ignore the first facet. A library entirely of Braille books would ignore the second. A library that wants to put all graphic novels together in one area may do so if they wish, or interfile them. Same with CDs, Audio books, etc. Facets allow for this flexibility.


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.

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