How are books about fictional characters or stories classified?

Librarians and other book organizers: Are books that contain content describing fictional characters or fictional stories classified as non fiction or fiction?

For example, a juvenile book about monsters in Greek myths that dedicates a chapter telling the story of each monster kinda seems like a non fiction book, since it is describing the stories of a particular culture/historical period. Another example would be a book that compiles some of the ghost stories of Texas. It is a collection of fictional stories, but it compilation under the heading of “of Texas” makes it seem like a non fiction book because it is true- these are all stories that have been historically told in Texas.

My kiddo needs to classify his books for his summer reading program and it is embarrasing when I don’t know the answer!:slight_smile:

My library in Arlington, VA lists Bulfinch’s Mythology at 291.13 B933b 1991 (Dewey Decimal System + year of that edition).

I couldn’t find a listing for Richard Carlyon’s Guide to the Gods, but it’s probably on the same shelf as Bulfinch. There are character guides to fictional characters that I wouldn’t lump in with fiction (Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life) but the library generally does. There are also literary criticisms about fictional works, like Mary Lowe-Evans’ Frankenstein: Mary Shelley’s Wedding Guest, that might go with literary cririticism instead of fiction.

I recommend you go to your public library’s website and look up each book individually to see how they classify it.

If it’s just a matter of classifying between “Fiction” and “Non-Fiction”, then books about fictional or mythological characters are non-fiction.

If it’s more than that, then you need to ask what system you are classifying in, since Dewey Decimal is not the only game in town. (Many academic libraries use the Library of Congress system; booksellers generally use BISAC.)

If you are using Dewey, then the right number for Bulfinch’s Mythology is not 291.13, since that number became obsolete in 2003. You would have a choice between 398.2 (Folk literature), 201.3 (Religious mythology) and 292.13 (Classical Greek and Roman mythology), and I’d go for 398.2, since the book does not emphasise the religious aspect and it’s not limited to Greek and Roman mythology. However, different libraries have used all these numbers for Bulfinch’s work.

Why do you think librarians need a masters degree? :slight_smile:

Classification is the thorniest issue in librarianship. Most public libraries duck the problem entirely by adopting whatever number the Library of Congress assigns (it creates both LoC and DD numbers), but lots of those are apparently done by W. C. Fields after an 90-year drunk. And individual libraries still have some choice and leeway in the final decisions. (Biographies are thrown at shelves totally randomly.)

If you are researching a subject and have to travel to fewer than four floors of a library to pick out your books, you’re probably not doing enough work.

The Texas ghost story book might be found under folk tales or under Texas or could be fiction depending on how the book was put together. There is a system, but there is no system to the system.

You haven’t done anything wrong except to step into a decades-long rant by all the writers and researchers in the world.

You could also ask the same question about the Encyclopedia of Middle Earth, or a D&D sourcebook.

Both of those books would be classified as non-fiction. The Encyclopedia of Middle Earth would be listed under literary criticism and the D&D sourcebook would go under gaming.

Classification is a thorny issue in librarianship, but most published books are pretty cut and dry. The fun stuff is when you have to catalog privately printed books or foreign language material or essay collections on wide-ranging sub-topics.

But Dewey numbers are easy.

Or then you’ve got things like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books being under “fiction”, even though they’re considerably closer to truth than most “nonfiction” celebrity bios.

Oh geez, you mean all those books that introduce and describe the different characters in Star Wars (Example: Meet the Jedis!) are non fiction? My kid has read 5 of those and I put them all in the fiction. I am going to have to start all over, I don’t want my kid’s paperwork to be declared ineligible and rejected by the summer reading program panel and I don’t want to be slapped by the librarian for being an unfit parent!

I am not a librarian, though I play one at work.

I like to take full advantage of 741.5 (graphic novels). The kids congregate at that location and if I can justify it all all I will put it there so it gets checked out. Are the Star Wars books at all cartoonish?

oh yeah, they are definitely non-fiction. Along with books about the various types of pokemon, this is the most popular section of non-fiction in our school library. (791.4, I think - the section about tv shows and movies). If it’s a STORY concerning these characters, then it goes in fiction.

Do you do that? Just goes to show that librarians do have some leeway to cater for their clientele. I put graphic novels in fiction, unless it’s a true story, then it goes in its appropriate spot in non-fiction. I thought 741.5 was more about the art of drawing (how-to-draw books, etc.)
ETA: I’d put the ghost stories from Texas in non-fiction!

398.2 is the non-fiction designation for these types of stories about New England ghosts. That’s where you’ll find " Passing strange : true tales of New England hauntings and horrors" & “Ghosts of New England : true stories of encounters with the phantoms of New England and New York.” And on the other hand, a book I find remarkably similar “Spooky New England : tales of hauntings, strange happenings, and other local lore” is 808.83…I’m not a librarian, so I’m not sure what exactly the numbers mean. I just know they’re non-fiction.
Building on Krokodil’s suggestion, is there a reason he isn’t either looking them up in the library’s card catalog or keeping track (assuming they’re library books) by writing down the info from the spines of the books as he goes? Would that be considered cheating? If not, I would assume that they intend for participants to do so, rather than looking for the information some less at hand way.

It used to be, but today all the comic book collections, graphic novels, manga, and everything similar can be found there. At least that’s what I see as a user in our system.

Ghost stories can actually be cataloged in multiple locations:

001.9 - Paranormal Activity
133.1 - Spiritualism
398.2 - Folktales

The 808.8 book is likely mislabeled as 808.8 is the section for essay writing.

741.5 has been used for graphics novels/comic collections for decades. Putting them in fiction is actually the new way to do it.

I’m older than you. I remember a time **before **graphics novels and comic collections. :slight_smile:

I’ve worked in the very library system you’re talking about for 15 years. The 741.5 section has included graphic novels and comic strip collections as long as I’ve been employed there.

In my Cat class in library school, I learned to put the graphic novels in Dewey 741.5, but our system is slowly morphing into “Bookstore Classification” and so we have a “Graphic Novel” shelf location, and then divvy them up by fiction and non-fictions by topic. Basically Superman & Fable = fiction, Maus & Pride of Baghdad = nonfiction.

There’s still a bit of disagreement about where the graphic treatments of fairy tales and mythological characters go :rolleyes: , but otherwise it seems to be working fairly well. I am pretty certain that actual catalogers would consider this to be totally cheating, but it does mean that those items circulate a heck of a lot better.
Also, am I the only one puzzled that a kid’s (presumably) grade or high school class assignment is to create cataloging numbers for random books? WTF? I did that as my final for Cat class in GRAD SCHOOL, and it was a huge pain in my rear.

I can’t believe they’re actually expecting that level of precision from a non-specialist class.

And Mesquite-oh, yes, you’re correct that books ABOUT the characters and plotlines and drawing styles of movies or TV shows or cartoons or what-have-you (anything that looks vaguely encyclopedic or dictionary-like) get treated as nonfiction (basically because they are considered to be “criticisms” or “analysis” of those subjects, and therefore nonfiction), and 791.4 is the usual Dewey place for them.

Ghost stories around here live in 398.2 with the rest of the folk tales and some of the mythologies. Mythos gets split (rather unevenly I have to admit) into 398.2 (folk lit.)and 201.3 (religious myths). For some reason, 292.13(Greek/Roman myths) gets totally ignored in the children’s section, although there’s a great deal of it for adults.

I hate to ask it, but are you sure you’re understanding the assignment correctly? It just seems an awful can of worms for a kid to deal with for a summer assignment.

Thanks to the Dewey Decimal System, I spent 7th grade under the impression that Horatio Hornblower was a real person. I saw the Gregory Peck movie on TV and the first book I found in my school library was C. Northcote Parkinson’s “biography” of Hornblower on the same shelf (921.H, I think) with books about Henry VIII and Adolf Hitler.

I don’t think that’s the fault of the Dewey system: it’s the fault of the teacher or librarian who thought that Mr Hornblower was a real person.

All you’re doing is reminding me of how **much **older than you I am. Thanks. :slight_smile:

I got my first library card in 1955. I started as a page in 1966. The first generally agreed upon graphic novel was Will Eisner’s A Contract with God in 1978. In those days - and I mean even the 70s and 80s - you might have seen those how-to-animate books in 741.5 that SerenaPerido mentioned along with maybe some New Yorker cartoon books and the like but the concept that a library would carry graphic novels and comic book compilations was unthinkable until, well, until about the time you were entering the field. Which was yesterday.

I had a school librarian once who, in teaching us what the parts of a catalog card meant, pointed out “Oliver Twist” as the author name. I was pretty sure that was wrong, but what can you say?