Posts Tagged ‘LC genres’

Genre Terms and the GSAFD List

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Judy Archer shares with us her insight on genre authorities and GSAFD.

Ahhh genre terms … what a subject is, versus what a subject is about.  The necessity for this distinction seems obvious, doesn’t it?  If I want to find poetry written by Robert Frost, I wouldn’t necessarily want to weed through all the works written about his poems, would I?  The more logical option is to access only his actual poems.  Yet for a long time I had no choice, for genres were considered part of the general subject access.


As time went by, the library community saw the need for a distinction and recommendations were developed for a national standard.  This standard provided guidelines for developing genre access as well as subject access for fictional works, humorous works, drama, poetry and folklore.


To accommodate this effort, the “Guidelines on Subject Access to Individual Works of Fiction, Drama, etc.” 2nd edition was published in 2000, and this came to be known as the GSAFD.  In chapter 1 of that Guideline was a list of 153 genre terms, and in 2001 the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) developed MARC21 authority records for these 153 terms.  The source file is located at Northwestern University, but OCLC has a link to the terms and their full authority records, which can be accessed at the following link:


If you would like to know more, The ALCTS discusses their creation of the authorities here:


Discussions continue about the formulation of genre terms, and the Library of Congress began their own ambitious project in 2007 to formulate authorities for genre terms.  They started with Moving Images, but they have also moved on to additional categories such as:  Cartography, Law, Religion, Literature and Music.   They have a timeline and commentary about the project which you can find here:


Many libraries will use terms from the GSAFD list, the Library of Congress authorities, or other thesauri.  If you plan to use the 153 GSAFD terms in your catalog, they are handled by way of a 655 field using a second indicator of ‘7’ and a subfield $2 with the term ‘gsafd’.  This clarifies the thesaurus you used.  Here are examples of how both GSAFD and LC terms are entered in MARC21:


From the GSAFD list:

            655_7  $aEpic poetry.$2gsafd


From the LC subject headings catalog:

            655_0  $aRoad films     [or]     655_7  $aRoad films.$2lcsh