Three Ways to Catalog Graphic Novel Series

Cataloging graphic novel series is difficult. With title changes, re-numbering, cross over events, and the whole gambit of inconsistencies, settling on a way to catalog series, and sticking to it, brings stress to many catalogers and collection development librarians. A perfect example is the current trade paperback of Hulk, or is it She-Hulk? All the single issues had the title Hulk, but now the trade is being released with the title She-Hulk. Antics like this are one of the many reasons why catalogers dislike working with comic book series.

There are three types of cataloging records for comic book series; multipart monograph, monographic with series in the 245, and a straight monograph record. Each type has their advantages and disadvantages, but the most important aspect is consistency. If you are consistent with which type of record you use, you will find cataloging comic book series a less painful experience. You’ll want to take an inventory before you begin. How does your ILS and OPAC handle multi-volume items? How large is your graphic novel collection? How do your patrons search for graphic novels?

Let’s use The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, as an examples for the three different ways to catalog comics. This book is a multi-volume series and was part of the Marvel Now!,  event, which re-launched and re-numbered many of their titles at #1.

Squirrel girl #1

I’m going to present only snippets of MARC records, the parts which pertain to the uniqueness of cataloging comic book series.

Multipart Monograph 

Think of how you usually catalog a set of encyclopedias; you don’t catalog each volume individually, you create a multipart monograph record and add a 505 contents note for each individual volume. Then, you can add the volume number to the call number so all the items are on the same record.

020 ## $a 9780785197027 $q (vol. 1 ; $q paperback)
020 ## $a 9780785197034 $q (vol. 2 ; $q paperback)
100 10 $a North, Ryan, $e author.
245 14 $a The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl / $c Ryan North, Erica Henderson [and others].
300 ## volumes : $b color illustrations ; $c 28 cm
490 1# Marvel now
505 00 $g Volume 1. $t Squirrel Power — $g Volume 2. $t Squirrel you know it’s true.
650 #0 Women superheroes $v Comic books, strips, etc.
650 #0 Good and evil $v Comic books, strips, etc.
655 #7 $a Comics (Graphic works) $2 lcgft
655 #7 $a Graphic novels $2 lcgft
700 1# $a Henderson, Erica, $e illustrator.
830 #0 Marvel now!

There are many benefits to having individual volumes of a graphic novel on the same record. Patrons can see every volume you have in stock at once because every volume will be attached to the same bibliographic record. Depending on how your ILS generates circulation statistics, this can be an easy way to see waning interest in a series due to declining circulation throughout the individual items. Before you select this option, you’ll want to make sure your OPAC can place holds based on an individual item. If that isn’t possible, this is not a good choice for you.

As a comic book fan, one of my problems with this type of cataloging record is when authors or artists change between trades, they very often don’t make it into the record as a 700 added access point and/or are not added to the 245. Every once in awhile, you’ll see a proactive cataloger who creates a 500 note for each individual trade stating the name of the trade and the creators. Also, because you are including several trades on the same record, you can’t have specific subject headings, they have to be broad enough to describe the series as a whole. So if in one trade Squirrel Girl is battling aliens, and the next panda , you can’t really include Extraterrestrials and Pandas on the series record. It doesn’t give you the granularity available in some of the other options (although I’d LOVE for a patron to ask for a comic book featuring pandas!).

Series in the Title

020 ## $a 9780785197027 $q (paperback)
100 10 $a North, Ryan, $e author.
245 14 $a The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. $n Volume 1, $p Squirrel power / $c Ryan North, Erica Henderson [and others].
246 30 $a Squirrel power
300 ## 1 volume : $b color illustrations ; $ 28 cm
490 1# Marvel now
500 ## Collects issues 1-5.
650 #0 Women superheroes $v Comic books, strips, etc.
650 #0 Good and evil $v Comic books, strips, etc.
650 #0 College students $v Comic books, strips, etc.
655 #7 $a Comics (Graphic works) $2 lcgft
655 #7 $a Graphic novels $2 lcgft
700 1# $a Henderson, Erica, $e illustrator.
830 #0 Marvel now!

You’ll notice how all the series information is in the 245 field. Most OPACS display all the information before the subfield c as the main source of information, so patrons will be able to see the series, volume, and trade title from a hit list. This is great for browsers but can be problematic with titles, like Green Arrow, which has been re-numbered several times with the same series title. In those situations, you have to rely on other information, such as publication year or author to find the next volume in that iteration of the series. Using this method, you’ll have many more records in your system and run the risk of duplicates.

Monograph

If you chose to catalog your comics as monographs, you are treating them each as an individual book.

020 ## $a 9780785197027 $q (paperback)
100 10 $a North, Ryan, $e author.
245 14 $a Squirrel power / $c Ryan North, Erica Henderson [and others].
246 30 $a Squirrel power
300 ## 1 volume : $b color illustrations ; $ 28 cm
490 1# Marvel now
[Optional] 490 0# Unbeatable Squirrel Girl ; $v Volume 1
500 ## Collects issues 1-5.
650 #0 Women superheroes $v Comic books, strips, etc.
650 #0 Good and evil $v Comic books, strips, etc.
650 #0 College students $v Comic books, strips, etc.
655 #7 $a Comics (Graphic works) $2 lcgft
655 #7 $a Graphic novels $2 lcgft
700 1# $a Henderson, Erica, $e illustrator.
830 #0 Marvel now!

One thing to note about my above example. I included an untraced 490 series statement. You somehow want your monographic records to be connected, and the 490 0# is a great place to do that. If you choose to go this route, see if your ILS indexes this field and makes sure you are using the same spelling for each trade.

Whichever type of record you choose to use, remember that consistency is key. Which way do you catalog your graphic novels?

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