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Guidelines for Subject Access to Individual Works of Fiction, Drama, etc. (GSAFD)

These guidelines define standard practice in the provision of genre and subject access to individual works of fiction, drama, poetry, humour and folklore in all formats (books, audio-cassettes, films, etc.)

The current version is the 2nd edition, published in 2000.

Form and genre access

A genre is a kind or category of imaginative work that is readily identifiable by one or more of the following characteristics: style, plot device, mood or tone, character type, and theme. For example, novels belonging to a certain genre share typical characteristics, in terms of setting (e.g. western stories), theme (e.g. mystery stories), form (e.g. fiction in the form of a diary), etc. GSAFD provides a list of terms for genre and form.

Subject access

Individual works can also be subject indexed using Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), with the term subdivided by Fiction, Drama, Poetry, etc. For example:

Problem families - Drama
Single women - England - Fiction
Innocence (Psychology) - Fiction
Cancer - Patients - Fiction

Fictitious Characters

Headings for fictitious characters can be assigned if they appear prominently in three or more works. Such headings enable users to find all Agatha Christie works featuring the detective Hercule Poirot, although his name is only rarely part of the title and the works are not formally part of a series. Qualifiers may be needed in cases of ambiguity. Example LCSH headings are:

Holmes, Sherlock (Fictitious character) - Fiction
Bugs Bunny (Fictitious character) - Juvenile fiction
Thor (Dog) - Fiction
Thor (Norse deity) - Fiction
Thor (Ship) - Fiction

Headings can also be assigned for groups of people, and imaginary corporate bodies.

Hardy Boys (Fictitious characters)
Muses (Greek deities)
SMERSH (Imaginary organization)

Real people

Some works of fiction, etc. include real people. Headings for such people are assigned the appropriate LCSH heading, with an appropriate subdivision. Headings can also be assigned for real corporate bodies. For example:

Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 - Juvenile fiction
Veronica, Saint, 1st century - Legends


Headings can also be assigned for places (real and imaginary) and time periods, when this is judged to be important for retrieval. For example:

Paris (France) - Poetry
National Zoological Park (US) - Fiction
Middle Earth (Imaginary place) - Fiction
U.S.S. Enterprise (imaginary space vehicle) - Fiction
Quivira (Legendary place) - Poetry

United States - History - Civil War, 1861-1864 - Drama
Glacial epoch - Europe - Fiction

Work: The Partner by John Grisham


Death, Apparent - Fiction
Larceny - Fiction
Brazil - Fiction
Biloxi (Miss.) - Fiction
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Content by: Ann Chapman of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 03-Jun-2005
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