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Special Collections & Archives Genre Terms

Metadata Services Policy

Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) applies genre terms to original catalog records and enhances copy catalog records with genre terms. These are added entry terms that describe the intellectual genre or form of presentation of published materials.

Special Collections catalogers apply terms primarily from the RBMS controlled vocabularies and Library of Congress Genre Form Terms (LCGFT) but may also use other vocabularies as appropriate such as, the LC Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (GMGPC or TGM) and Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), for significant conditions of publication and physical characteristics.

Catalogers must familiarize themselves with the introductory material in each thesaurus, since details of term selection and coding vary.

Special Collections catalogers apply most terms selectively to items that are particularly important, attractive, early, or representative examples of a genre or form. A term may sometimes apply to only a portion of a book (e.g., Calendars, Bookplates, Genealogies, Letters, Maps, Menus, Advertisements), not necessarily to the entire item. Apply genre terms as indicated by the curator and exercise cataloger’s judgement about tracing features that are especially exemplary. 

Assign 655 genre headings in addition to appropriate form subdivisions in the 600/610/650/651. 


600 10 Smith, John |v Diaries

655 _7 Diaries |z California |z San Diego |y 19th century |2 rbgenr

Genre Subdivisions

Rules for application of subdivision varies between thesauri, and can be found in their respective introductions.  Below are local subdivision practice for the most common genre thesauri used in Special Collections.

RBMS Controlled Vocabularies

For RBMS genre terms, apply subdivisions as instructed in the RBMS genre term introductory text applying the following local practices:

Order of subfields/subdivisions: Apply subdivisions/subfields in the following order: 

     1. geographic (|z)

     2. chronological (|y)

     4. facsimile (|x)

     5. thesaurus source code (|2)

Geographic subdivision: When more than one level of geographic subdivision is called for, use indirect subdivision as prescribed by LCSH. For geographic locations in California, subdivide down to the city. For geographic locations in the United States, subdivide down to the state. For geographic locations outside of the U.S. use country only.

Chronological subdivision: SC&A usually, but not always codes the decade in which the year of publication falls in the |y subfield. For example, a publication date of 2005 would be coded |y 2000-2009. In cases where the imprint date would be misleading in describing the period of the genre of the term (e.g. Bookplates, Letters, Diaries), use the date or the century appropriate to the unique feature itself, or omit the date entirely.Facsimile  subdivision: Use "|x Facsimiles" for facsimile copies indexed using terms from Genre Terms. Index facsimiles only for important examples or for terms indexed exhaustively (e.g. a book of hours or a facsimile atlas).


Subdivisions are not used for LCGFT and AAT headings.  In cases where we collect deeply in an area and there is an equivalent RBMS genre term (such as “cookbooks”) prefer to code the heading as RBMS and apply appropriate subdivisions. 

Thesaurus for Graphic Materials

Apply subdivisions as instructed in TGM introduction.  TGM has two special subdivisons:

  • Color subdivision: Use "|x Color" for examples in color of graphics/visual terms from TGM.
  • Reproduction subdivision: Use "|x Reproductions" for reproductions of visual items indexed using TGM.  Index facsimiles and reproductions only for important examples or for terms indexed exhaustively (e.g., a book of hours or a facsimile atlas).

Thesaurus source code

Thesaurus source code: |2 must always be present at the end of the field; see the introduction to each thesaurus, for the appropriate |2 code. Generally prefer to use a term from RBMS Genre Terms  followed by LCGFT when a term with the same meaning, but different syntax, is also found in multiple thesauri.

Some examples of coded terms:

655 _7  Artists’ books |z Indiana |y 2010-2019. |2 rbgenr

655 _7  Artists’ books |z California |z San Diego |y 2010-2019. |2 rbgenr

655 _7  Broadside poems |y 1940-1949. |2 rbgenr

655 _7  Broadsides |z England. |2 rbgenr

655 _7  Broadsides |z Mexico |y 1780-1789.|2 rbgenr

655 _7  Cookbooks |z Oregon |y 1980-1989. |2 rbgenr

655 _7  Cookbooks |z California |z San Diego |y 1980-1989. |2 rbgenr

655 _7  Screen prints |y 2010-2019 |x Color. |2 gmgpc

655 _7 Detective and mystery fiction. |2 lcgft

655 _7 Pop-up books. |2 lcgft

655_7  Tunnel books. |2 lcgft

Terms used exhaustively

Special Collections uses the following terms for every book that is an example of that genre or form, instead of only in selected cases. Catalogers should be especially familiar with the meaning of each of these terms. This list should be expanded as departmental needs dictate or new terms are identified for exhaustive indexing. Instructions for exhaustive indexing of a particular term are sometimes also included in collection-specific cataloging procedures. Materials cataloged prior to implementation of genre indexing (in 1985) may lack these terms; as such items are identified, appropriate terms should be added.

Almanacs. |2 rbgenr

Artists' books. |2 rbgenr

Atlases (Geographic). |2 rbgenr (Note: prefer over lcgft term: Atlases)

Books of hours. |2 rbgenr

Broadsides. |2 rbgenr

Broadside poems. |2 rbgenr (added Oct. 2016)

Captivity narratives. |2 rbgenr

Community cookbooks. |2 lcgft (added Aug. 2016)

Concrete poems. |2 rbgenr

Cookbooks. |2 rbgenr

Diaries. |2 rbgenr

Exploration literature. |2 rbgenr

Extra-illustrated copies (Provenance). |2 rbprov (added Aug. 2016)

Herbals. |2 rbgenr

Imaginary voyages. |2 rbgenr

Incunabula. |2 rbgenr (added Aug. 2016)

Juvenile literature (removed Aug. 2016)

Juvenilia. |2 rbgenr

Leaf books. |2 rbgenr

Ledger drawings. |2 aat (added Jan. 2017)

Letters. |2 rbgenr

Overland journals. |2 rbgenr

Paste paper bindings (Binding). |2 rbbin (added Aug. 2016)

Photographic postcards. |2 gmgpc (added Aug. 2016)

Pictorial lettersheets. |2 gmgpc  (added Aug. 2016)

Playbills. |2 rbgenr (Note: Prefer over lcgft term)

Pop-up books. |2 lcgft (Note: Used for books with pop-up illustrations. May be used on conjunction with “Toy and movable books,” for books that also have animated illustrations, such as pull tabs, etc.)

Postcards. |2 gmgpc

Sermons. |2 rbgenr

Survivors' narrative. |2 rbgenr

Toy and movable books. |2 lcgft (Note: Used for books with animated illustrations such as pull tabs, etc.  May be used in conjunction with “Pop-up books,” for books that also have pop-up illustrations.)

Tunnel books. |2 lcgft (added Aug. 2016)

Viewbooks. |2 rbgenr

Updated 2017-02

Special Collections