LCGFT Hierarchies

This post is the opinion of Netanel Ganin and is in no way to be construed as an official communication from any section of any institution.

At ALA Midwinter 2018, in Denver, I attended the Subcommittee on Faceted Vocabularies meeting [as an audience member, I’m not on the committee] which is part of the Subject Analysis Committee.

There, another audience member [guest? attendee?] asked if there was a way to view LCGFT not as a purely alphabetical list of terms but as narrower terms of their hierarchies.

At that time, there was not–but now there is:

I downloaded every single term, one by one, from the LC linked data site [unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to bulk download LCGFT as MARCXML records], then I added an 072 field [often several] to every single record indicating which hierarchy it belonged to. Add a little XSLT to transform it into a visual display and we’re off to the races! I also added a bit of interesting statistical data, because who doesn’t love that.

Anyway, maybe you’ll find it useful, maybe you won’t but there’s at least one person who wanted it — so there we go!

If you just want the data, here is a link to the raw xml, and here is a link to the XSLT used to transform it.

Fantasy is Fantasy

This post is the opinion of Netanel Ganin and is in no way to be construed as an official communication from any section of any institution.

[bolded terms are a mention of a LC vocabulary term]

A brief overview of the Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials [LCGFT] follows:

From the introduction to the LCGFT manual:

In 2007 the Library of Congress began a project to develop genre/form terms, which describe what a resource is, rather than what it is about, as most subject headings do.

[emph mine]

The vocabulary is [along with the Demographic Group Terms and Medium of Performance Terms] part of LC’s foray into faceted vocabularies. Traditionally form has been handled through a $v in a 6XX field, but with this vocabulary [and some of its precursors such as the Moving Image Genre Form Guide or Guidelines on Subject Access to Individual Works of Fiction, Drama] catalogers can express ‘is-ness’ in a separate field from ‘about-ness’ [of-ness is a whole other kettle of fish].

I, Robot” may be about RobotsArtificial intelligence, etc. but it’s genre/form is Science fiction, Short stories, etc.

I think this is a great idea! We’ve long since known that people want to know the form of a material before selecting it, heck we stuck it right in the middle of the title field in $h with a general material designation. If a patron is looking for a resource by title, and there’s a play, motion picture, and novel all with the same title — that can be an important initial piece of information by which to limit their search.

So what’s the problem? I’m worried that we’re actually not as faceted as we could be. The problem is actually right in the name of the vocabulary. Genre/Form.

It’s two things: genres and forms!

Let me show you what I mean:

  • Science fiction
  • Science fiction comics
  • Science fiction films
  • Science fiction plays
  • Science fiction poetry
  • Science fiction radio programs
  • Science fiction television programs

That’s seven terms, each of which expresses a genre, followed by the form. [the unadorned “science fiction” is part of the literature hierarchy and is textual]

This is by no means an outlier either, there are eight permutations for “Political”, seven permutations for “Fantasy” and “Horror”, six for “Detective and mystery”, “Thrillers”, and “Westerns” [this is not exhaustive! Explore the vocab yourself and find more]

Remember that every single term in this or any LC vocabulary requires research on the part of the proposer and approval by the Policy and Standards Division at LC.

What if we encoded genre and form separately?

Rather than 47 terms, we could express all of those unique genre/forms with eight form terms and seven genre terms. That’d make for a leaner vocabulary and more precise machine processing.

  1. Leaner vocabularies without crossing of the streams are easier to maintain and introduce new terms [without having to worry that introducing a new genre means adding additional ones for every possible genre/form combo]
  2. Machine processing of a unique genre or unique form [rather than a combo] is easier to match to other vocabularies from form specific disciplines which wouldn’t include the form in their term.

Ultimately what I’m trying to get at is what the title says: fantasy is fantasy. Whether it’s a comic book, a tv show, or poetry — it’s all of the fantasy genre.

Let’s keep our forms and our genres separate.

Stop it with Yer Dang “Hebrew Fiction”

Oh there’s Netanel, off on another of his patented rants about Hebrew fiction and how much he hates it.



My beef is with

650 _ 0 Hebrew fiction.

and its very good friend:

650 _ 0 Israeli fiction.

If I had a Spanish-language specialty, I’d probably be complaining about Spanish fiction, but my specialty is Hebrew, so here we are.

Now look, you know and I know (and I know that you know) that subjects belong in 650s and genre/forms belong in 655s, we’re not going to rehash that whole biz here.

You, right now.


So then why am I even bringing this up? Well here’s the thing, I feel you. There currently aren’t any LCGFT terms which adequately cover “language of fiction” or “national origin of fiction” — heck I’ll even give you the benefit of the doubt that you’re trying to enter

655 _ 7 Hebrew fiction $2 lcsh

and maybe OCLC is just flipping it to a 650 upon controlling the heading. Because the thing is people do want access to their fiction by these facets, so I understand your impetus to give them that access.

What I’m suggesting is that we’re going about this the wrong way. If we push for authorizing every “$language fiction” and “$nation fiction” as LCGFT terms, we’re going to end up with the same bloat we currently suffer from in LCSH.

Let’s leverage the metadata we already have to give users these facets. The “Lang” element (characters 35-57 in the 008 field) contains a three digit code which can be dereferenced into a language. The “Ctry” element (characters 15-17 in an 008) contains a code which can be dereferenced into country of publication.

Write a macro that upon presence of a ‘1’ or ‘f’ in “LitF” (character 33 in an 008 or 16 in an  006) generates a 655 of “X fiction” upon export. We can treat them as we do pattern headings and any [Language] fiction is allowed, without needing to add every term individually.

Whadda ya think?



As the very wise and detail-oriented MarcinaColdClimate has pointed out to me:

I have erred!

“Ctry” is place of publication of this manifestation — if for example (her example to be precise), you were cataloging a Canadian publication of Tintin, you’d end up with

655 _ 7 Canadian fiction.

When of course Tintin is Belgian.



Linked data.

Pretty good idea, right?

No, but seriously — in the work Name Authority Record — place of origin of work (RDA 6.5) is recorded in 370  $g. Our more-clever and powerful cataloging tools will be able to easily fetch that data for us. Problem solved.



Mysteries and Detectives and Fiction

This is not a post wrought through white-hot fury and righteous anger. Sorry. Sometimes I just have a specific heading on my mind that I can’t cram into 140 characters.

Gina doesn’t mind if I post less Serious Topics somtimes

Detective and mystery stories has a UF of Detectives—Fiction. This is a problem.

Remember our good friend LCGFT? Of course you do. Well it didn’t always exist, and even once it DID exist, literary terms were only added recently.

So here’s the thing, back in the day pre-LCGFT — we were sloppier about mixing our genres/forms and our subjects. So if you assigned a Sherlock Holmes story:

650 _ 0 Detectives and mystery stories

(Or more likely, Detective and mystery stories, English — but now I’m quibbling)

It was correct.

Good job, us in the past!


But nowadays we are more careful and thoughtful about this mixing.

Subjects (650s) ought to be for what the resource is about

Genre/forms (655s) are for what the resource is.


A Sherlock Holmes story isn’t about ‘Detective and mystery stories’, it’s about speckled bands, blue carbuncles, or evil mormons.

(Seriously, have you read Study in Scarlet?!)

This is basically the second-half of that novel


Anyway — those are subjects, and then for form, we’d look to LCGFT and find:

Detective and mystery fiction

So today, a good array of headings might be:

650 _ 0 Detectives $v Fiction.

650 _ 0 Carbuncles $z Goose $v Fiction.

655 _ _ Detective and mystery fiction.

But then you go and control them — and SNAP! That first one becomes Detective and mystery stories, ruining your perfect array.

Now my understanding is that as LCGFT grows in use and acceptance that the subfield v terms will be phased out entirely of LCSH, but until that happens we need to watch out for UFs like this that convert a Subject–Form string into one that is purely form.


LCGFT Manual

Okay, I’m still recovering from ALA MidWinter 2016, and attentive followers will note that I actually tweeted out this thing’s existence prior to the conference!

So why wait until now to post, you ask? I WAS BUSY. Sorry.

Don’t fret y’all — I already e-mailed my comments to Janis Young at LC, because I know my feedback is hella valuable. But why should you miss out on my aforementioned valuable feedback? You shouldn’t. Here are some highlights/musings. Also do not take this to be an authoritative play-by-play, READ THE MANUAL.

[Note, I’m not including any of my feedback on typographical errors because that’s hardly substantive enough for the likes of you!


MARC Coding of LC Genre/Form Terms Assigned in Bibliographic and Authority Records J 105

The most interesting part of this memo (to me) (beside the Danny Joudrey shout out in example 1.a) is 1.b

A $3 subfield may be used to describe the part of the resource to which a term applies. Examples:

505 0# $a volume 1. A-H — volume 2. I-Z — volume 3. Biographies of important figures in education.

655 #7 $a Encyclopedias. $2 lcgft
655 #7 $3 volume 3: $a Biographies. $2 lcgft

While $3 is in the MARC spec for the 650 field, there’s nothing in the Subject Heading Manual that explicitly states that you can assign headings to pieces of a resource like this. I find it interesting that they lay it out so clearly in the first memo for the LCGFT.



Assigning Genre/Form Terms J 110

This is the clutch memo to read, if you read NO others, read this one.

1. General rule. Assign genre/form terms only as they come readily to mind after a superficial review of the resource being cataloged.
That’s the first rule, and frankly it’s pretty good. Get it done.
“Say, this movie has a dragon on the cover!”
“Code it Fantasy films”


Note: The use of the phrase “significant proportion” is deliberate. Catalogers should take the intent of the resource into account and display good judgment when assigning terms from multiple levels of the hierarchy in this manner. (emph mine)

O&O, Inc lol laughing omg bette davis
Bette has strong feelings about Cat Judge
Lest you miss your faves in LCGFT — fret not! We still have both Rule of Three, and Rule of Four in place.
12. Subdivision of genre/form terms. Genre/form terms may not be subdivided, neither topically, geographically, chronologically, nor by form.
So that’s the last time I expect to see
655 _ 7 Science fiction films $z France. $2 lcgft
or some such in a master record! Ya hear me?



When to Establish a New Genre/Form Term J 120

2. New genres and forms that are not yet identifiable. When a resource being cataloged is of a genre or form that appears to be new but it is judged to be not yet definable and identifiable, assign available terms that most accurately describe the genre/form of the resource.

It happens to us all, sometimes you’re cataloging a resource and you go to analyze its genre/form and suddenly you’re all
what omg zoom frown miranda sings


Okay, so don’t just make something up for that oddity of a resource.



Authority Research for Genre/Form Term Proposals J 160

Note: Crowdsourced web sites and social media such as Wikipedia, DBpedia, Twitter, etc., are not generally considered to be authoritative when proposing genre/form terms.

So make sure to do checking in one of these preferred sources compiled by ALCTS – CaMMS for proposing new LCGFT terms, rather than just adding
670 _ _ $a @OpOnions, January 19th, 2016: $b (he said he loves ‘Those kinda movies with a single location and small cast and usually a bad twist’)



Citation of Sources J 162

Maybe it’s just me, but it strikes me odd that they’re including in the LCGFT memos how to record citations from telephone calls and email correspondence. Since we’re not recording info on persons/families/corporate bodies, what kind of info do they expect we’re going to be finding out from these phone calls and emails that aren’t found in the MANY reference sources?

Hey Nancy, can you confirm your date of birth for disambiguation?

Form of Authorized Genre/Form Term J 180

Use natural language, this means:

  • Terrible films
  • not Films, Terrible
  • Inscrutable poetry
  • not Poetry, Inscrutable



Broader Term References J 186

“Orphan” terms – terms having no BT – are prohibited in LCGFT, except for the topmost term in each hierarchy (e.g., Instructional and educational works; Law materials; Motion pictures).

So make sure to have a  BT in mind when proposing a term. If there’s really no decent BT, congrats you’ve discovered a heretofore unknown facet! Go propose the  BT you wish existed while you’re at it!

I’m also excited to have specific memos dealing with subjects! That’s right, just like in the SHM, and that’s also right…I get excited by memos.
Tina is also all about those memos
Right now those subject-specific memos are:
  • Legislation and Legislative Histories
  • Literature
  • Moving Images
  • Music (coming soon!)
  • Radio Programs

Now having just checked, as of press-time the relevant memos in the SHM which previously covered these as genre/form terms still exist. But presumably some time after the LCGFT manual leaves ‘draft’ status, they’ll remove those redundant SHM memos.



Moving Images J 240

(not a joke) I really appreciate the clarifications provided for “films for the hearing impaired” both that it refers to intent, not just any subtitling, and the reason “video recordings” is also in the vocabulary.
That has come up very often in discussions both at work and on list-servs, so it’s not see it addressed. Same goes for the specification in the background section that “films” does not just refer to “motion picture film” but any moving-image on any medium.
So that’s that, eh? Pretty glad to have some formal documentation to point to!



P.S. While checking the SHM for those now redundant memos, I bumped into this bizarre bit from Moving Image Genre/Form Terms H 1913  2.b
The context is: check LCSH before proposing a new genre/form term, and if that term exists in the former, use it for the latter:
Example: The work in hand is a film made by a child. The topical term Dystopian films exists in LCSH and can be proposed for use as a genre/form term.
So…I’m pretty sure they meant Films by children? Unless this is some weird burn by LCSH that all “Dystopian films” are amateurish as though made by a child. I don’t know.

Up to date Headings

Original Post

I saw this tweet a few days ago, and thought to myself — challenge accepted!

Here’s a very up-to-date and comprehensive subject heading guide for queer folks in the LCSH/LCGFT/LCDGT

If all you want is the link, have at it. If you’re interested in a bit more of the ways and means and hows — here’s more of that:

  1. I went to and searched the following terms:
    1. Sexual minorities (and minority), queer, lesbian, gay, gender, orientation, intersex, transgender, transexual, and bisexual.
  2. Downloaded each relevant record (some hits with those terms were not) as RDF/XML (MADS and SKOS)
  3. Created a master RDF/XML file, available for your perusal, here
  4. Wrote an XSLT to make this (Class Web inspired) visual display, available for your perusal, here