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Thursday, June 27, 2013

To Genre or Not to Genre?

This is the biggest question in the world of adult popular fiction.  Genres conventions are how we librarians are able to make some sense of order out of the millions of possible reading selections; however in the last five years, as genre fiction has moved more into the mainstream and literary fiction authors have begun to regularly use genre tropes in their "literary work," the lines between the genres have blurred to the point of disappearing.

Now please note, I am not against this fluidity of genre boundaries; in fact, my favorite authors are those who cannot be easily placed in a genre. But, it is a problem for those of use whose job it is to help leisure readers.  Over the years we have been our cheat sheet-- our trusted genre conventions we lean on when helping readers.

I have talked about this trend in more length before on this blog.  This post from 2011 goes into everything in more detail.

I was brought back to thinking about this issue again today by two specific things.  First, thanks to PW, I saw this article on Wired.com about how genre fiction rules the e-book world.

But the second has to do with the program at the ALA conference which I have been the most excited about: Beyond Genre: Exploring the Perceptions, Uses and Misuses of Genre by Readers, Writers and Librarians.  Here's the description:

Speaker: Laura Lippman, Author, Harper Collins
Speaker: Margaret Dilloway, Author, Penguin
Speaker: Naomi Novik, Author, Random House
Librarians have traditionally relied on genre classifications to create smaller, browsable collections, but as genre boundaries increasingly overlap, this becomes more difficult. Join us at the Readers' Advisory Research and Trends Forum where we question authors and librarians about the ways genre is used to sell books, the limitations of reading within a genre box, and the challenges "genre" poses for readers’ advisors.

Obviously, I have thought a lot about genre and the current blender we RAs are living in  [click here if you want to see those thoughts], but I have not really come up with a solution.  I hope going to this program on Saturday morning will be my first step toward a plan to address and cope with this trend.  It will make my job easier and my patrons happier.

I hope to still get a review up later tonight of a genre mass-up title, but if not, tomorrow for sure.

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