Cite Your Creators with Relator Terms!

This week, I saw a commentary on Comic Beat’s website featuring a tweet from colorist Matt Wilson of The Wicked + the Divine. Here’s the tweet and a link to the article:

It takes a whole group of people, authors, artists (pencilers, inkers, colorists, etc.), letterers, and editors working together to create a comic book.  And, I’ll admit, it’s easy to cite the author and primary artists when talking about comics, I’ve done it on the blog (and will change my ways after this). Colorists and letterers have been honored by the Eisner Awards since the early 1990s and play a very important role in comics. Gone are the days of four colors layered on top of each other and in are the days of digital coloring which has created a new and varied aesthetic in comics.

Libraries have also been bad about not giving credit to all those involved in a specific work in regards to cataloging practices. Under AACR2, the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition, there was a, “rule of three” stating if there were more than three creators on a specific source, the first would be an added entry (7xx field), appear in the title and statement of responsibility (245 field), and the other contributors would be represented as et. al. appearing nowhere else in the record.  RDA, Resource Description and Access, the new cataloging standard implemented by the Library of Congress in 2013, does not follow the rule of three. The first listed contributor is the main entry (in the 100 field), the title and statement of responsibility (245 field) lists all contributors on the chief source of information, and all other contributors are added entries (7xx fields). Creators appearing in the 1xx and 7xx fields are indexed in most online library catalogs, so if a patron searches using the “author” search, they will find anything in the 1xx and 7xx fields.

Developing relationships between creators and works is a key principle of the FRBR/WEMI models which directly impacted the development and implementation of RDA. Ok, I know that’s a lot of acronyms, so here’s their breakdown. FRBR, Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, is a model that explains entities, relationships, and attributes thus creating metadata. There are three groups of entities in the FRBR model used to describe attributes. Group 1 are the products of intellectual and artistic endeavor, including Works, Expressions, Manifestations, and Items (WEMI). Here is a visual example of WEMI in action.


For example, the work Captain America: Winter Soldier can be either the book by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Mike Perkins and Michael Lark, or the film directed by the Russo brothers. The book could be expressed as the single issue comics or a trade paperback; be manifested as a paper book or a digital file, and your library could have a hardcover or paperback item.

Group 2 are those responsible for the intellectual and artistic content, such as a person or corporate body and Group 3 are the subjects of the works, including groups 1 and 2 plus concepts, objects, events, place.  You can find a lot of information about FRBR and RDA online. The one thing to drive home about FRBR and new cataloging practices is the importance of the relationships in metadata.

I bet by now you forgot this was about artists right?

Because the relationships are important, it is necessary to detail the aspects of each contributor, which is where relator codes in RDA come into play. Relator codes can be found on the Library of Congress’ MARC Code List for Relator webpage. The terms are slightly different than those found in the RDA toolkit. Looking at the list, there are many that are primarily geared to comics and graphic novels.

They include: artist, author, colorist, creator, and editor (with more expanded terms in the RDA Toolkit). These relator terms appear in the subfield e for the 1xx and 7xx fields. Plus, practically speaking, the relator terms are free form, so I’ve seen a lot of interesting terms in the subfield e.

This may seem a bit cumbersome for a practicing cataloger. To include upwards of 10 collaborators and their responsibilities on a single MARC record takes time and effort. But let me give you a real world example of how practical this information can be.

2017-04-magenetoLet’s say a parton comes up to your reference desks saying something like, “I really love this author, Skottie Young. Could you give me other titles of things he’s written?” Without relator codes, when searching the OPAC, you’d just see Young, Skottie, which would include I Hate Fairyland written and illustrated by Young, colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu and lettered & designed by Nate Piekos, or maybe The Wonderful Wizard of Oz adaptation, written by Eric Shanower, illustrated by Skottie Young, colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and lettered by Jeff Echleberry, but what the patron really wanted was something like Magneto: Not a Hero, written by Skottie Young, penciled by Clay Mann and Seth Mann, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, and colored by David Curiel Insheild, a book Young wrote but did not draw at all. Here’s what the relator terms would look like for these three books as displayable in your OPAC.

I Hate Fairyland
100 1# Young, Skottie, |e author, |e illustrator.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
100 1# Young, Skottie, |e illustrator.

Magento: Not a Hero
100 1# Young, Skottie, |e author.

Think about what other items in your collection this is beneficial for. Many creators now straddle their original artistic endeavor and relator terms help to identify their work. Lady Gaga, for example started off as a singer and is now known for her acting. So give yourself, your reference staff, and patrons a searching boost by adding relator codes to all your records and explore the diversity of individual creators in your catalog.