Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fiction vs Nonfiction Dilemma followup

I sent an email to the librarian who does the cataloging in our local library asking her about classifying the books as fiction versus nonfiction as she has them catalogued. Her answer, though a bit surprising to me since I was not familiar with really how books were shelved in libraries, was very helpful.

She said I could share her reply with all of you since I had posted this asa dilemma question to everyone. In essence, shelving books is a subjective and depends on how the librarian feels the books should be shelved. There are about as many ways to classify a book as there are books out there. So, here is her reply:

My first email to her:

Hey Susan,

I see that you have my books listed as nonfiction. This is incorrect. I publish them as fiction since the storyline is fictional characters playing a fictational game that is giving them factual clues. I would appreciate it if you could fix this.
(I also had some other concerns in the email that affect only the listings in the local library, so will not bother posting that info.)

Susan Manalli replies:

Hi, Elysabeth,

We do appreciate your gift of your clever and educational books to the ACL system, and I, for one, am convinced that children will find them delightful. Your goal of covering all 50 states and, at the same time, make learning fun, is commendable.

As for your concerns: with all due respect, you view your creations as fiction, but if you ever study the Dewey Decimal System you would see that all of fiction is really 813 (American fiction in English), but because the section becomes so large, convention has it pulled out of the 800’s (Literature), dropped the number, and put it into a section all its own called Fiction.

There are multitudinous areas within nonfiction that deal with fictionalized subjects. Consider mythology, short stories, nursery rhymes, poetry, cosmology, etc. There are even fictional Manga characters teaching algebra as a graphic story. So, although your characters are fictional, the content requires it to be NF because its main concentration is an adventure/mystery game on information, trivia, geography, and history of a state, and that is considered NF. 793.93. You state it yourself: “factual clues.”

I recall that at the beginning you were most insistent that the state not be mentioned in the subject tracings, and so I acquiesced. With this particular wish of yours in mind at that time, Donna Long, the ACL Head of Childrens, and I spoke about it, and decided not to catalog them by the state, but that 793.93 would be the most appropriate for our system to keep them on the shelf in an area where children find all sorts of literature trivia games, etc. In a more recent email, you said you didn’t mind if I now put the state in as a subject for each book. I have not yet have time to do so, but it would immensely help students who are studying a particular state find them.

A library can classify it as it chooses for their collection. Who knows but that that eventually Donna might decide to move them into the individual states classification, which would make the SC book 975.7, a Montana book 978.6, etc., because any local library system cataloger can decide, within the rules of the Dewey system and the intellectual content of the book, what to assign as a classification number so as to be the most accessible to the system’s patrons and be the most appropriate for the local system. Other libraries and other vendors can catalog them as they chose.

(more info on the second issue not necessary to this dilemma of classifying my books as fiction or nonfiction)

My reply:

This helps tremendously as I had posted this question on my blog for teachers and librarians to respond to and the general consensus was that the books were fiction with state facts and they were similar to The Magic Treehouse books - fictional characters exploring real history or events that have occurred or they have even likened them to Historical Fiction - again using the real history but fictional characters and the author's creative licensure to embellish on the actual facts or real persons used in the books.

Do you mind if I post part of your response on my blog as an answer to my posting? I guess not being a librarian and not really knowing how you all catalog books it has put me in a different mindset.

When I publish them, should I change the books to nonfiction to be consistent with your classifications? The other two libraries that I know have copies of some of the books also have them classified as nonfiction and here I was listing them as fiction and selling them as fiction. This may help more librarians along the way. (just to let you know the other two libraries have the copies in the 910 and 913 numbers, so from your explanation, they are in the state section but not by individual states?) - anyway - I just need all the classifications to be consistent because whatever I list them as on createspace is how they get processed in the listings for Baker & Taylor and Ingrams and createspace's distribution -
(some other information concerning "publisher listing" - not necessary for this posting)

Susan replies again, clarifying the dilemma even more:

Hi, Elysabeth,
Feel free to quote my response!

Are you required to provide a specific Dewey classification on your postings with vendors? Can you provide several suggested Dewey numbers?

These are general possibilities for your books:
793.93 [Mystery games]
910 [Geography and travel]
913 [Geography of and travel in specific continents, countries, localities]
Each state in the 970s has its own Dewey number, which places it first in a US region and then provides a number for the state after the decimal. Attached is a Word document (I've printed it out and the states go from 976.1 - Alabama through 978.7 - Wyoming, and everything in between those numbers) of the states with their Dewey numbers which may be of some help to you. Of course these would all have subjects subdivided as “Juvenile literature.”

I did send Susan one more reply to which she responded but not directly answering my questions:

When I publish the books, I have to classify them from a drop down menu - fiction, nonfiction, et cetera and then each of those categories has subcategories - I try to put them out as far as I can to make sure that all bases are covered. I don't know how libraries and schools place orders for books and that is where my concern is. If they order from Baker & Taylor or Ingrams when they go looking for my stories, they are right now listed under fiction, children's, mystery & detectives and I add other tags - geography, games and puzzles, et cetera -

If the libraries who actually have copies on hand are listing them as nonfiction therein lies my dilemma - either I'm misclassifying my books or the libraries are. But since receiving your explanation, I feel maybe it is on my shoulders to make sure that I list them in the correct place. I don't want any confusion - lol. Now I know a little bit more about the Dewey classification, that also helps. I will post these two email explanations on my blog - - giving credit to you and will share with other librarians and teachers on my social network so that we all will be on the same page. I'm doing a presentation at the SCASL conference in March and this may be my new presentation - classifying books such as mine. I guess there is no definite way to shelf books like mine, and that it is a subjective thing - each will put them on the shelf where they feel best suited? - You really have given me a good bit of helpful information. I appreciate it and I'll double check my print copies to make sure they have the line that says published by Elysabeth Eldering with the correct listing so that I can get those to Cheryl for ya'll to have copies that reflect that 4RV is no longer the publisher of the books (except the copies of State of Wilderness, State of Quarries and State of Reservations you have - those are published by 4RV with State of Wilderness having been republished since it went out of contract, so there is a second printing of that out - new cover, new illustrations, et cetera). Thank you so much for taking the time to explain to me why the books are classified as they are in the three different libraries - E :)

To which Susan sent this very brief answer:

My pleasure, Elysabeth. That’s why, although I have a Masters in Library Science MA/LS, it is from the Liberal Arts Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cataloging is not just a science; it is an art.

Susan Manalli, Head of Technical Services
Anderson County Library
300 N. McDuffie Street
Anderson, SC 29621
864-260-4500 ext. 169

Susan and I were on the spelling bee team together this past March, which I hope to be able to participate on again this coming March. I've enjoyed it and Susan is very knowledgeable and someone I feel I can take these questions to.

So, now, how do you all feel about the ways my books are being classified in the different libraries that have them on their shelves? E :)


Anonymous said...

Hey Elysabeth!
Very well done. Looking forward to the same issue myself, with my historically accurate time travel novel. Your books should be considered non-fiction in a sense. Totally agree!

Unknown said...

I agree its kind of a gray area open to interpretation. Faction is a great way to educate with a spoonful of sugar as it were. My own time-travel novel should be virtually in historical fiction, sci-fi but also could be considered 'faction' as it is woven around actual events and is an educational snapshot of life in 1927.

Anonymous said...

I agree, its kind of a gray area open to interpretation. Faction is a great way to teach with a spoonful of sugar as it were. My own time-travel novel is a fictional tale woven around actual events in 1927, providing a snapshot of life in 1927. Time Trippers: The Nights of the Round Table

elysabeth said...


Apparently the librarians subjectively decide where a book goes on their shelves. For now, I'm going to continue publishing my books as fiction and let the librarians just classify them where they want - as long as the books are getting on the shelves - E ;)

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