U.S. Library of Congress created two furry subject headings in 2017
When you look up library books on a computer, typically you get a description that goes something like this:
|Title:||Out of position|
|Publisher:||St. Paul, Minn. : Sofawolf Press, 2014.|
|Description:||viii, 324 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.|
Gay college students--Fiction.
In the Subjects section, the first word or phrase in each of those lines is called a subject heading. The example above has five of them: Tiger, Foxes, and so on.
Subject headings are really useful for understanding what a book is about, especially if the title is artistically vague. A book with the title "High hopes" would be more meaningful if you knew the subject was "Mountaineers--Biography" or "Marijuana--Therapeutic use".
Ok, so what? Well, librarians aren't allowed to write whatever they want in the Subject section. Otherwise an angry, insane librarian would put in something like "AUUUUGH BEES". Instead, the Subject section is based on a "controlled vocabulary" of pre-approved words, usually from a list called the Library of Congress Subject Headings (or LCSH for short). It's a huge list, and allows librarians to build more meaningful subjects by adding suffixes like "--Fiction" or "--History--20th century".
Some subject headings are extremely specific, like "Bat-compatible mine gates". Some are general and vague, like "Interpersonal relations". Some are next to impossible to guess unless you already know they're in the list, like "Generative organs, Male".
Of course, as time goes on, the LCSH gets changed. Subjects get added or updated. I don't know how this is done - probably by a committee somewhere. Their decisions are sometimes quickly applied, or can be excruciatingly slow. For example, if you wanted to look up books about cooking, would you have used the term "Cookery"? Probably not. The LCSH didn't update the term to "Cooking" until 2010.
Now the headline should make more sense. Two furry subject headings were created in 2017! I was able to find a list of references that were used as proofs of validity:
The first one, Furry fandom (Subculture), was based on five references:
- Fred Patten's Furry fandom conventions book ("An adult social group interested in anthropomorphic animals in art, literature and culture"),
- The Fursonas documentary ("This documentary transcends its bizarre premise to tell a universal story of identity and community"),
- The Furries among us essays from Thurston Howl Publications,
- A thesis at San Francisco State University in 2013 by Sarah Marie Henry, Furries, fans and feminism: querying and queering the furry fandom,
- And a thesis at Texas State University in 2012 by Sherry A. Jeansonne, Breaking down stereotypes: a look at the performance of self-identity within the furry community ("The furry fandom has recently gained considerable exposure in the mass media").
If you look up "Furry fandom" in LCSH, you can see other subcultures are in there too, including gay culture, goths, mods, punks, rockers, and steampunk.
The second subject heading is Furries. It had some of the same references, as well as:
- The 2014 how-to-draw book, Furries furever ("Draw fascinating furries! There's so much to explore in the world of furries, from flamboyant costumes to spectacular hair styles to unforgettable expressions and poses"),
- And a 2009 BBC article, Who are the furries? ("Furries are people who have a fascination with anthropomorphic animals. These are animals that are given human traits, like walking and talking. They can be anything from cartoons characters like Bugs Bunny to computer game personalities like Pokemon ... Some furries assume animal traits - known as zoomorphism - and identify strongly with certain species. This can range from adopting an online persona to wearing a tail or full-sized fur suits").
In LCSH, "Furries" is a sub-category of "Fans (Persons)"; it's listed alongside comic book fans, music fans, science fiction fans, and sports spectators. You may think that "Furries" sounds semantically confusing. Couldn't it apply to furry fans as well as to furry characters that fans create? It'll probably get used in both contexts! Librarians can be very anal or very flexible. Uhhh - to details, I mean. For example, the LCSH entry for "Anthropomorphism" seems to have originally been meant in a narrow religious sense, but since then, many librarians have used it to describe a much broader range of books.
All right! So now what? Well, the bad news is, anything furry that's already in a library's computer system... probably won't get retroactively edited to include the new subject headings. If an older book gets released in a new edition, chances are a lazy librarian will simply copy and paste the old headings. Still, if a librarian is in a good mood and has some spare time (ha!), then yes, they might update an individual record they come across.
And what about new books? Well, it depends on a librarian knowing that the subject headings exist! LCSH created them last year, and I only found out about them yesterday, accidentally, while I was looking up something on sports fans.
When I say "books", I'm over-simplifying. A library's computer system can include records for DVDs, web pages, e-books, streaming videos, academic magazine articles... all sorts of things. Has anything been given the new subject headings? Yes! Not much (yet) - Here are some that I found after a quick search. (I was in a hurry though, so I wasn't able to get the details.)
- The 1990s furry zine Yarf!.
- Cairyn's three-volume 2001 novel Khiray of the river.
- The web page for Australia's FurDU convention.
- A critique of FurScience's research in 2011 in an article called "Furries and the limits of species identity disorder: a response to Gerbasi et al."
- Fred Patten's Already among us: an anthropomorphic anthology (2012).
- A 2016 thesis by Dustin Fleener at the University of Idaho, You take my paw and I'll take your hand.
- Joe Strike's Furry nation.
- Another thesis (?) - possibly at Chapman University in 2017 by Cory Rasmussen, Ink, lyrics, & fur.
- A manga series, Kigurumi guardians.
Anyway, this LCSH thing probably won't have a big effect on the fandom, but I'm happy that it showed up. However - if you're a furry author, and if you're working with a publisher, find out if the publisher creates any CIP data before the book comes out. If they do, ask to speak to their cataloging person, and insist that they try to include one of the new subject headings in the book's description!
I'll close this off with one of my favorite panels from J.P. Morgan's Fission Chicken comics: