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Intended readership

Build the Open Shelves Classification

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Jan 23, 2009, 5:13pm Top

This is a general point which came up elsewhere with mixed opinion. The question I ask is, how relevant is the author's/publisher's intended readership to any classification system?

The Harry Potter books are a case in point - clearly originally written as chidren's books, but gaining a huge adult readership which is catered for with 'adult' versions with more sober covers.

I remarked elsewhere on a bookstore's splitting of Science into Popular Science and Academic Science: I think this separation is often clear from the publisher's point of view although, as someone rightly said, a scientific ingenue might very well go to a school book for information about a particular topic rather than a work written for adult non-scientist. Self-help books could be seen as Popular Psychology by the same considerations and there are loads of Popular Medicine works. Is it worth considering the publisher's/author's views?

Jan 23, 2009, 5:55pm Top

This is a general point which came up elsewhere with mixed opinion. The question I ask is, how relevant is the author's/publisher's intended readership to any classification system?

This is an excellent point, and one worth defining for this project.

I've been lurking for some time now, with great interest. I know that BISAC ("the bookstore system") has been used as one of the main jumping off points for this project. It's been interesting for me because I serve on the committee that creates the BISAC codes. And many of the talking points around the draft of top-level headings are born of misunderstandings of the BISAC system.

You see, BISAC isn't just used by bookstores. It is used by publishers, distributors, wholesalers, sales tracking databases, etc. The committee that creates the codes has members from all of these areas of the industry. And many headings and top-level categories are created due to issues that members have, particularly the publishers. Some headings exist due to the tricky nature of many sales reporting systems. Some exist because of the way that the publishers like to keep track of the titles in their own system and others were created to assist the publishers and bookstores with marketing issues. Comics & Graphic Novels were a problem in all of these areas, so they were given their own top-level section. And the committee will be the first to tell you that the system isn't perfect, which is why it is under constant review.

So for the Open Shelves Classification project, I think it is essential that there are ground rules for creating a heading, top-level or not. Library patrons don't care how sales are tracked for Comics & Graphic Novels, but they might care about being able to find all of Neil Gaiman's works in one place. So maybe that isn't such a great top-level heading for this system.

Which brings me to your question: should the publisher's or author's intended readership be a factor? But bridging off of that, it might be asked: what criteria overall is most relevant to the users of this system? Adult vs. Juvenile? Academic vs. Popular? Casual interested reader vs. Passionate junkie? Format vs. Content? Consumer vs. Publisher?

Just some things to consider...

Jan 23, 2009, 6:06pm Top

IMO, intended readership, whether based on the author's, publisher's or librarian's views is not important. It may be needed at lower levels, but we will have to hash out whether readership is more important than subject or genre (e.g. Fiction - Science Fiction - Children OR Fiction - Children - Science Fiction).

I really hate the idea of having to distinguish between Acacemic and Popular science works - I don't always find the dividing line clear and I do not think that there is a benefit for the library user.

Jan 23, 2009, 10:24pm Top

It is important because you can't be all things to all people, even at the top level. So you have to decide which audience you are targeting to decide which choice to take sometimes.


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