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Monday, November 30, 2009

State of Crime Fiction Part 2 and the Genre Problem

About 2 weeks ago I wrote this post on the current state of crime fiction.

Publisher's Weekly has posted this article on their website which continues the discussion from the authors' points of view.

Much of what these best-selling authors say comes up each and every day at my library. What is genre fiction and what is literary fiction? Who decides? What are the criteria? Does it matter? (See the comment by Tana French, at the end of the article, for the answer to this question)

However, the most important question from the RAs point of view, which Michael Connelly brings up in the opening sentences of this article, is are genres walls that keep readers out or are they guides to help readers find a book they may enjoy?

I grapple with this issue frequently. In fact, just today, I got fed up with figuring out if a book should be in our fantasy section or if we should catalog it with the general fiction. Exasperated I said to Kathy, "Let's just take away our sections and just file all the books together, with stickers indicating their genre."

The La Grange Public Library
did this a few years ago. I wasn't convinced of the idea at the time, but the more authors write across genres and the more supernatural elements creep into all genres of fiction, the more I love the idea.

I'll keep you posted on our on going discussion at Berwyn, but if you are interested in the issue, go to the Fiction_L archives and read a thread of this very discussion from February of 2006. Librarians weigh in passionately on the issue and many have concrete examples from their libraries.


Anonymous said...

I agree. As a reader, I hate it when a book I like cross genre's and I never know where to search for it. As a result I find myself in Sci Fi, Fiction and Romance, looking for one book (example Patricia Briggs).

Becky said...

And we literally tear our hair out trying to keep an author in all one section when really they should be in 2 separate ones. Without genre sections all of Patricia Briggs would always be together.

So why don't we just do it?

People are used to the sections and many would be very upset if we changed that. We have to decide if interfiling the entire fiction collection is worth the problems it would cause.

Right now, it is not worth it, but someday it may be.