Content

Philip Hider, Fiction Genres in Library Catalogues and Social Cataloguing Sites in:

International Society for Knowledge Organziation (ISKO), Marianne Lykke, Tanja Svarre, Mette Skov, Daniel Martínez-Ávila (Ed.)

Knowledge Organization at the Interface, page 190 - 199

Proceedings of the Sixteenth International ISKO Conference, 2020 Aalborg, Denmark

1. Edition 2020, ISBN print: 978-3-95650-775-5, ISBN online: 978-3-95650-776-2, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783956507762-190

Series: Advances in Knowledge Organization, vol. 17

Bibliographic information
Philip Hider – Charles Sturt University, Australia Fiction Genres in Library Catalogues and Social Cataloguing Sites Abstract Samples of fiction genres both represented and not represented in the Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms (LCGFT) were compared with respect to their usage in the social cataloguing site, LibraryThing. It was found that the non-LCGFT genres, mostly based on entries in Wikipedia, were markedly more used than were the LCGFT genres. A particular feature of many of the non-LCGFT genres was an element of affect, relatively lacking in the LCGFT sample. It is suggested that there may remain a reluctance in library cataloguing to fully embrace this aspect of genre, and creative works such as fiction, and that this reluctance may be due in part to the traditional, modernist paradigm of the cataloguer as gatekeeper to objects rather than as a facilitator of experiences and feelings that those objects may provide. 1.0 Introduction The study and description of ‘genre’ has been relatively neglected in knowledge organization (KO), compared with resource attributes such as ‘subject’ (Lee and Zhang 2013). Yet for a wide range of works, including creative works, the concept of genre is central to the way in which they are described, and thus conceptualized, by both creators and consumers. Recently, the Library of Congress developed its Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT) to help address this gap in library cataloguing (Young and Mandelstam 2013). This paper assesses the extent to which there may still be gaps in LC’s coverage of genre by comparing the use of samples of LCGFT and non-LCGFT fiction genres on the social cataloguing site, LibraryThing. The paper goes onto discuss why missing genres may not have been included in the library vocabulary, and the relationship between professional and commercial genre classifications and the genre folksonomies to be found on social cataloging sites. This discussion draws, in particular, on the critique of the modernist paradigm in library cataloguing and classification by scholars such as Mai (2011), the work of scholars such as Spiteri and Pecoskie (2017) in pointing out the importance of affect in fiction access, and the theoretical framework of art classification originally developed by DiMaggio (1987). 2.0 Literature review Zhang and Olson (2015) have explored the ways in which genres exhibit qualities of both ‘essences’ and ‘contexts’ in library cataloguing and beyond. On the one hand, genres involve essences that provide stability; on the other they relate to contexts that are fluid. Noting that ‘genre has long been a source of uncertainty and unease in bibliographic control’, the authors consider genre to be ‘an integration of aboutness, of-ness and is-ness’ (Zhang and Olson 2015, 540, 550). The meaning of specific genres becomes even more complex when it viewed as in an ongoing state of negotiation between different protagonists, such as creators, audiences and intermediaries (Tudor 2012). The influence of different interests and groups on art classification has likewise been included in the theoretical framework originally proposed by DiMaggio (1987), with ‘ritual’ classifications being shaped by commercial, professional and administrative inputs. In the framework, these classifications vary 191 across the dimensions of differentiation, hierarchy, universality and boundary strength. While the conceptualization of artistic genres has tended to be viewed as more heavily influenced by commercial interests than by the professional views of critics, for example, Brown (2015) notes the exception of ‘feel good’ movies, a category with sometimes positive and sometimes negative connotations that have followed the lead of the film critics rather than the film distributors. Although genres have, for many decades, played an important role in the everyday description of creative works, their use in library cataloguing and other KO practice has been less than prominent, with far more attention having been given to describing books and other materials in terms of ‘subject’ (Lee and Zhang 2013). Thus there has been a long debate around the concept of ‘aboutness’, but far less attention paid to what it means for a novel, for example, to ‘belong’ to a particular genre category. Nevertheless, formal controlled vocabularies for the description of genres do exist, with the Library of Congress having developed a separate list, over the past decade, of headings for genres and formats covering a wide range of materials, including fiction. The LCGFT is primarily based on those genres and form subdivisions previously established in the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) (Young and Mandelstam 2013). The LCGFT defines genres as ‘categories of works that are characterized by similar plots, themes, settings, situations, and characters’ (Library of Congress 2018, 3), and this definition has been adopted for the purposes of this paper. For inclusion as LCGFT, terms require ’literary warrant’, that is, they should be based on items being catalogued, although the terms also need to be justified with reference to authoritative sources (Library of Congress 2018). Outside of librarianship, another formal classification system that includes fiction genres is BISAC (https://bisg.org/page/BISACEdition), developed for and by the book industry. The classification is not as deep as those typically used in library cataloguing, but is influential in the book world. Because of its commercial roots, its adoption by (some) libraries has been criticized by Martínez-Ávila (2016). Meanwhile, fiction experts and enthusiasts have the opporunity to contribute to the description of genres on Wikipedia, which divides ‘genre fiction’ into the main genres of 1) crime, 2) fantasy, 3) romance, 4) science fiction, 5) Western, 6) inspirational and 7) horror (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genre_fiction). The general reading public are also able to ‘tag’ their personal collections with their own genre terms on social cataloguing sites such as LibraryThing (https://www.librarything.com) and Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com). When aggregated, these terms form a folksonomy (Rafferty 2018). Social tagging environments such as LibraryThing have been studied extensively from a KO perspective (e.g. Johansson and Golub 2019; Vaidya and Harinarayana 2016; Voorbij 2012; Bates and Rowley 2011; Lu, Park, and Hu 2010; Adler 2009). Their ‘democratization’ of access provision and KO practice has been championed by scholars such as Mai (2011), who have characterised traditional library cataloguing and classification as modernist and objectivist, with the cataloguer describing and classifying materials according to a single, ‘authoritative’ perspective. Pando and Almeida (2016) have shown how this approach is now being challenged across the field of KO, with a postmodern viewpoint coming to the fore due to the pervasiveness of online technologies that support activities such as social tagging. 192 While social cataloguing and social bookmarking generate many tags that describe personal relationships with resources (e.g. ‘to read’), many more describe aspects that are, or could be, relevant to other users (Heymann, Paepcke, and Garcia-Molina 2010). Stover (2009) has noted the opportunity the sites provide for the classification of creative works by affect, as well as subject. Spiteri and Pecoskie (2017) have followed up by developing an ‘affect’ taxonomy to cover emotions, tones and association, for use in readers’ advisory services, in this case based on the literature and existing schemes. Social cataloguing sites with large user communities also provide a good opportunity to gauge ’user warrant’, defined here as the justification for the inclusion of terms and concepts in an indexing vocabulary on the basis of their likely use by prospective users of that vocabulary. User warrant is often contrasted to other major forms of warrant recognised in KO, including literary warrant, mentioned earlier, expert warrant and cultural warrant (Hider 2015). Svenonious (2000, 135) argues that ‘literary warrant is a necessary but not sufficient basis for admitting terms into the vocabulary of a subject language. This is because there is no guarantee that the vocabulary of those who create the literature of a discipline will match the vocabulary of those who search for it.’ As such, user warrant is a commonly accepted basis for the development of schemes and vocabularies (Hider 2015). Sometimes, user warrant is also distinguished from ‘use warrant’, though other times the terms are used interchangeably (Martínez-Ávila and Budd 2017). In this paper, they will be defined and distinguished operationally, as described in the Methods section. It should also be noted that the literature review did not identify any other study on the social tagging specifically of genres. 3.0 Research questions This project aims to explore the following research questions: (1) Are there fiction genres with relatively high levels of general use and user warrant which are not covered by the LCGFT? (2) If so, what is the nature of these genres? (3) Broadly, why are libraries not describing fiction in terms of these genres? 4.0 Method The study devised an index of use and user warrant that could be utilized in the context of a readily accessible social cataloguing site, namely, LibraryThing. A purposive sample of twelve genre terms not included in LCGFT (i.e. as neither preferred nor nonpreferred terms) was derived from Wikipedia and, in one case (i.e. ‘pulp’), the Ebay search interface (https://www.ebay.com). The sample was selected on the basis that the terms would generally not be used as subjects, when applied to fiction, as per the distinction made by the Library of Congress between subjects and genres (Young and Mandelstam 2013). All seven of Wikipedia’s divisions of genre fiction were represented in the sample, as were genres that were described as crossing over different divisions. The twelve genre terms, as well as works cited in Wikipedia and Ebay as examples of the genres, were searched in the Library of Congress catalog (https://catalog.loc.gov/index.html). Literary and collection warrant could be found in all cases. The sample genres were: biopunk, chick lit, dieselpunk, dying Earth, gaslamp, grimdark, hardboiled, inspirational, northwestern, pulp, splatterpunk, and weird. The sample did not allow for 193 a general comparison between LCGFT and non-LCGFT genre tags in LibraryThing, but it did allow for an exploratory study of possible gaps in LCGFT. The sample terms were then searched in the LibraryThing interface, which hosts approximately 155M tags, used by roughly 2.3M subscribers (https://www.librarything.com). As such LibraryThing is the world’s biggest social cataloguing site and deemed to be representative of the way in which the public at large describe works of fiction (while acknowledging certain biases, including one toward the English language). For each sample term, the tags that included either the term exactly or a word-form variant of the term (e.g. ‘biopunk’ and ‘bio-punk’), and that could have been used to represent a fiction genre, were identified. For each of these tags, the number of works for which the tag was used, and the number of subscribers who used the tag, were recorded (LibraryThing collates different printings and editions of the same work, albeit imperfectly). This information was provided directly in the LibraryThing interface. Tags with variant terms were grouped together. As many tags have been used by thousands of different subscribers for thousands of different works, for the purposes of this study those groups of tags used by fewer than ten subscribers altogether were discarded at this stage. Many of these tags were personal in nature or contained typographical errors. The total numbers of works and users for the remaining tag groups were then adjusted in some cases for non-genre use, that is, where tags had been used in senses other than a fiction genre. For example, ‘biopunk’ was used as a tag for a book of poetry, while ‘inspirational’ had been used to describe non-literary works that were ‘inspirational’. These adjustments were based on samples of the ten works for which tags had been most used. The final estimates of works and users were then added up for each of the twelve sample genres, providing an index of use warrant and user warrant respectively. A sample of the 20 LCGFT genres under the ‘Fiction’ heading was selected for comparison with the non-LCGFT sample. As the latter are subgenres, those LCGFT that represented the main genres listed on Wikipedia were excluded. Also excluded were those LCGFT that did not include the word ‘fiction’, as these tended to be ‘forms’, like ‘short stories’, which fell outside of the LC definition for genres above, or in a few cases were non-English terms for non-English language material. Further, those LCGFT listed at more than one level below the ‘Fiction’ heading were not used. The selection of the remaining LCGFT genres was done randomly. For each of the sample LCGFT genres the process as described above was repeated, except that in this case all of their non-preferred, as well as preferred, terms, as listed in LCGFT, were included as variants to be searched in the LibraryThing interface. The estimated numbers of works and users for the non-LCGFT and LCGFT genres were then compared. Finally, the most tagged works for each of the twelve non-LCGFT genres were then searched in the OCLC WorldCat database (https://www.worldcat.org), which comprises bibliographic records used in vast numbers of library catalogues around the world. For the top ten works found in WorldCat, the subject and genre headings used in each of their most prominent edition were recorded and analysed for semantic overlap with the sample genre. The headings were also analysed for their overlap across the ten works. 194 5.0 Findings The twelve non-LCGFT genres were all represented with tags in LibraryThing. Six of the genres (biopunk, dieselpunk, dying Earth, grimdark, northwestern and splatterpunk) were represented by just one group of variant tags used by at least ten users, the other six by several tag groups with ten or more users; the genre with most tag groups was chick lit, with 15 groups. For some genres with multiple tag groups, however, one or two of the groups were far more used than others. Generally, the most used terms were those that included just the genre term itself (e.g. ‘hardboiled’), but the term qualified with ‘fiction’ or the parent genre(s) (e.g. ‘hardboiled detective’ or ‘hardboiled fiction’), were in some cases also quite often used. Of the 71 tag groups with ten or more users, across the whole sample of non-LCGFT genres, a majority (42/62 = 68%) appeared to be used virtually exclusively to represent the fiction genre, but about a third (20/62 = 32%) were also used for other concepts to varying degrees. Not surprisingly, the two genres with the tags that exhibited the most mixed use were those with terms that had other common meanings, namely ‘inspirational’ and ‘weird’. The four other genres with polysemic terms were gaslamp, pulp, northwestern and splatterpunk. In some of these cases, the different meaning still related to the fiction genre, but covered the genre more broadly or another literary form (e.g. poetry). One might perhaps have expected a larger number of tag groups per LCGFT genre than per non-LCGFT genre, as the non-preferred LCGFT terms were also searched in LibraryThing. However, whereas the twelve non-LCGFT genres yielded 71 tag groups, the 20 LCGFT genres yielded just 69 tag groups. Apart from the possibility of different distributions of degrees of ambiguity across these groups, a likely explanation is simply that the LCGFT genres were used less overall in LibraryThing than were the non- LCGFT genres. As with the non-LCGFT genres, some of the LCGFT genres yielded just the one tag group, others yielded several; likewise, while a majority of the LCGFT tag groups were virtually exclusively used for the fiction genre, some (18/69 = 26%) were also used for other concepts, related or otherwise. Tables 1 and 2 list the estimates for the number of works in LibraryThing that were tagged for each of the non-LCGFT and LCGFT genres respectively, at the time of the study. We can clearly see that overall the non-LCGFT sample was used for many more works than was the LCGFT sample. Of the six genres with tags to more than 10,000 works, four were non-LCGFT, despite the smaller sample size. The top genre was chick lit, followed by magic realist fiction and pulp. At the other end of the scale, there were five LCGFT genres (20% of the sample) with fewer works than the lowest non-LCGFT genre had. If the median number for the LCGFT sample (162) were deemed the threshold for ‘use warrant’, then all bar two of the non-LCGFT genres (dieselpunk and northwestern) would have a strong case for inclusion in LCGFT. Tables 3 and 4 list the estimates for the number of users in LibraryThing that had tagged for each of the non-LCGFT and LCGFT genres respectively, at the time of the study. The distributions are similar to those of the numbers of works (above), and accordingly we can clearly see that overall the non-LCGFT genres had been used by a lot more LibraryThing members than had the LCGFT genres. Again, chick lit comes out on top by a large margin. Of the seven genres with over 10,000 taggers, five are from the smaller non-LCGFT sample. If the median number of taggers for the LCGFT sample 195 (160) were deemed the threshold for ‘user warrant’, then again all bar two of the non- LCGFT genres would have a strong case for inclusion in LCGFT. One should also bear in mind that there may well be synonyms for the non-LCGFT terms that were used by other taggers, and for other works, which would increase the non-LCGFT numbers. Table 1. Works with non-LCGFT fiction genre tags Genre Works Chick Lit 74781 Pulp 27310 Inspirational 21937 Weird 14414 Hardboiled 8179 Gaslamp 751 Genre Works Grimdark 652 Dying Earth 646 Splatterpunk 225 Biopunk 200 Dieselpunk 139 Northwestern 52 Table 2. Works with LCGFT fiction genre tags Genre Works Magic realist fiction 35345 Legal fiction (Literature) 10157 Campus fiction 949 Philosophical fiction 876 Utopian fiction 829 Didactic fiction 488 Road fiction 371 Mythological fiction 352 Social problem fiction 344 Picaresque fiction 171 Genre Works Martial arts fiction 153 Easter fiction 102 Prison fiction 73 Pastoral fiction 62 Bisexual fiction 55 Fishing fiction 34 Transgender fiction 32 Hunting fiction 24 Samurai fiction 24 Nonsense fiction 0 Table 3. Users tagging for non-LCGFT fiction genres Genre Users Chick Lit 81056 Pulp 27639 Inspirational 21990 Weird 14676 Hardboiled 10038 Gaslamp 776 Genre Users Dying Earth 707 Grimdark 654 Splatterpunk 230 Biopunk 202 Dieselpunk 138 Northwestern 52 196 Table 4. Users tagging for LCGFT fiction genres Genre Users Magic realist fiction 37384 Legal fiction (Literature) 11054 Utopian fiction 1335 Campus fiction 1050 Philosophical fiction 1003 Didactic fiction 490 Social problem fiction 445 Picaresque fiction 264 Mythological fiction 250 Road fiction 211 Genre Users Easter fiction 108 Pastoral fiction 102 Samurai fiction 49 Prison fiction 31 Martial arts fiction 22 Fishing fiction 19 Bisexual fiction 18 Hunting fiction 14 Transgender fiction 11 Nonsense fiction 0 The distributions in these tables are notable for several other reasons. First, there appears to be hardly any use or user warrant for nonsense fiction, despite its inclusion in LCGFT (or if there is, LibraryThing taggers use a term not covered by LCGFT). Second, chick lit appears to have more use and user warrant than the 20 LCGFT genres put together, demonstrating how a well-used professional vocabulary can nevertheless be hugely at odds with ‘folk’ perspectives on particular works. Third, the exponential-like distributions shows the extent to which genres, or at least fiction genres, can withstand relatively massive amounts of use in preference over subgenres. Fourth, the indexes of ‘use warrant’ and ‘user warrant’ as constructed for this study very strongly correlate, with Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients of over 0.999 for both non-LCGFT and LCGFT orders. The thematic analysis of headings in the WorldCat records for works tagged with the non-LCGFT terms did not reveal any clear substitute terms that were consistently used instead of these terms. For the most part, however, the headings indicated that the tags used in LibraryThing did indeed represent the genres described in Wikipedia and, in the case of pulp, as used on Ebay. There was one very noticable exception, however, namely ‘northwestern’, which appeared to be used to describe fiction of a quite different ilk from the ‘western’ set further north in the American continent as per Wikipedia. In some cases, for instance, the library headings pointed to settings in Russia. The wide range of headings found in the records for works tagged ‘inspirational’ and ‘weird’ also pointed to a ‘slippage’ in meaning from that described in Wikipedia, although in these cases it is less clear to what extent the difference is absolute or one of degree. Many of the headings for ‘weird’ did relate to ‘the other’ and alientation, while many of the headings for ‘inspirational’ could be considered emotive. The headings for the other nine corresponding genres are summarized as follows: chick lit works attracted relatively large numbers of headings, representing many different subjects and various categories of women; pulp fiction also had headings covering a wide variety of subjects, including fictitious characters, and sex and crime related topics; hardboiled fiction mostly had specific headings pertaining to characters, plot and place; gaslamp fiction had a large number of headings for classes of persons and some for broader genres, including science fiction; grimdark fiction also had headings for broader genres, as well as for a number of subjects with a military focus; dying Earth fiction had fewer subject headings, but headings for both fantasy and science fiction; 197 splatterpunk fiction also had fewer headings, tending to cover subjects related to violence; biopunk had a wide range of subject headings, including some with a scientific slant; and dieselpunk fiction had headings for a range of ’dark’ subjects, but lacking any obvious common thread. Sampling the headings, and the works described by these headings, it is clear that many of the non-LCGFT tags represent fiction that may be about various subjects, but that also, critically, invokes certain feelings, and, overall, more so than does the fiction tagged with the LCGFT genres, many of which indicate particular settings (e.g. prison fiction) or particular themes (e.g. social problem fiction), more than particular reader experiences. Even ‘chick lit’ and ‘pulp’, although their more literal meanings do not represent feelings, have widely known connotations that include affect. Indeed, Fenkel (2019: 183) has argued that chick lit forms part of ‘a type of umbrella genre’ that she labels as ‘pleasure’, ‘constituted as an ephemeral archive that is translated into popular fiction when it is read as a history of feeling in public cultures.’ It seems that pulp fiction might also form part of such an umbrella genre. In summary, the sampled non-LCGFT genres can be regarded as, on the average, more affective than the sampled LCGFT genres. Although the method used in this study does not account for synonyms used by LibraryThing taggers for the terms under analysis and so strictly compares the use and user warrant of terms rather than concepts, it is nevertheless able to highlight, at the very least, deficiencies in language that could be of interest to vocabulary builders, and it could be extended to compare such deficiencies across multiple schemes. It can also be argued that most terms used in most schemes would be the most used or only commonly used term for their concept, and as such the index provides, even at the conceptual level, a reasonable ‘rule of thumb’ for the purposes of broad comparison. 6.0 Conclusion The findings reported above strongly suggest that although libraries are de-scribing fiction using some of the genres heavily used by the general population of fiction readers, they are also missing a considerable number of others. The greater amount of user and use warrant for the Wikipedia and Ebay genres than for the LCGFT genres, on the average, would also suggest that the impact of li-brary classification on everyday genre classification (at least with respect to fic-tion) is weak relative to other classifications, such as those of experts via Wik-ipedia and commercial classifications. Therefore, while it may be that both ‘pro-fessional’ and commercial classifications strongly impact art classifications as a whole, some of these classifications are likely to be considerably more impactful than others. The more heavily used genres in this study tend to connote a strong affective element. The importance of affect for fiction searching has been noted by authors such as Stover (2009) and Mikkonen and Vakkari (2016). It is very possible that this element has, in fact, worked against the inclusion of some gen-res in library vocabularies. In some cases, the connotations may be seen as derog-atory, but, beyond this, recognition of affect may have not sat well in the modern-ist, essentialist paradigm of which the Anglo-American library cataloguing has long been a part, with cataloguers viewing themselves as providers of access to information objects, rather than postmodern facilitators of access to materials that are engaged with perhaps primarily for emotional and subjective reasons. The modernist paradigm is therefore especially imperfect, 198 it would seem, for the pro-vision of access to works of the imagination, such as fiction. Rightly, the Library of Congress has separated out LCGFT from LCSH, as genres go well beyond sub-ject. However, this study demonstrates that the genre list may need further work, underpinned by greater recognition of the importance of affect in the consump-tion of creative works, including the reading of fiction. 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Abstract

The proceedings explore knowledge organization systems and their role in knowledge organization, knowledge sharing, and information searching.

The papers cover a wide range of topics related to knowledge transfer, representation, concepts and conceptualization, social tagging, domain analysis, music classification, fiction genres, museum organization. The papers discuss theoretical issues related to knowledge organization and the design, development and implementation of knowledge organizing systems as well as practical considerations and solutions in the application of knowledge organization theory. Covered is a range of knowledge organization systems from classification systems, thesauri, metadata schemas to ontologies and taxonomies.

Zusammenfassung

Der Tagungsband untersucht Wissensorganisationssysteme und ihre Rolle bei der Wissensorganisation, dem Wissensaustausch und der Informationssuche. Die Beiträge decken ein breites Spektrum von Themen ab, die mit Wissenstransfer, Repräsentation, Konzeptualisierung, Social Tagging, Domänenanalyse, Musikklassifizierung, Fiktionsgenres und Museumsorganisation zu tun haben. In den Beiträgen werden theoretische Fragen der Wissensorganisation und des Designs, der Entwicklung und Implementierung von Systemen zur Wissensorganisation sowie praktische Überlegungen und Lösungen bei der Anwendung der Theorie der Wissensorganisation diskutiert. Es wird eine Reihe von Wissensorganisationssystemen behandelt, von Klassifikationssystemen, Thesauri, Metadatenschemata bis hin zu Ontologien und Taxonomien.