Skip Navigation Links  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
Recorded Sound Reference Center (Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division)
  Home >> Guides & Reference Aids

Radio Form/Genre Terms Guide

Compiled by
  Recorded Sound Section
  Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division
  Library of Congress

Page contents


See also:

Introduction--Radio Form/Genre Terms Guide

I. Background

The Library of Congress holds one of largest radio collections in the world. The process of bringing this collection under bibliographic control has been a continuing challenge to the staff of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. The division has cataloged a relatively small portion of its radio material in the Library's former MARC-based system, but with the implementation of its new integrated library system (also MARC-based) it will be cataloging even more. In addition, several years ago the Library designed a non-MARC automated system with which to catalog its huge NBC radio collection and other smaller collections. The acquisition of these systems and appropriation of additional staff have enabled the Library to start systematically processing its radio programs. These efforts naturally led to a standardized approach to cataloging radio and improved access to the programs.

Form/genre access to radio materials is very important for a number of reasons. Since subject access to radio programs is usually lacking, form/genre terms provide one of the few ways, other than titles and added entries, of finding and grouping programs. Categorization of radio programs is well established in the field so that experienced researchers are often looking for particular types of radio shows. A single, standardized list of form/genre terms and provisions for application are necessary so that catalogers, reference staff and researchers alike can use the same indexing and retrieval vocabulary.

The following thesaurus of radio form/genre terms offers controlled vocabulary with which to describe various types of radio programs. It reconciles variant terms, establishes relationships between terms, and guides users in the application of terms. It is used for cataloging radio materials in both MARC and non-MARC settings.

II. Scope and Purpose

Within the context of radio, form/genre terms denote categories of programs. They describe a program according to its content (Westerns, Biographies), style (Audience Participation Programs, Call-in Shows), topic (Crime or Mystery Programs), structure (Magazines, Anthologies), intended audience (Children's Programs), method of transmission (Shortwave Broadcasts) or combinations of these. A form/genre category suggests a common theme, motif, setting, situation or characterization that is easily recognizable.

A controlled form/genre thesaurus assists the researcher in searching for and retrieving information about radio, makes cataloging more consistent, and encourages specificity of description by providing standard terminology.

The term radio is used throughout this document; but it should be understood that these guidelines apply to the sound from television programs as well as radio programs.

III. Syntax and Structure

The radio form/genre terms represent single concepts and are plural nouns with phrases in natural order. The structure is intended to help processors and researchers select the term(s) most appropriate for indexing and retrieval.

The terms are in alphabetical order followed by scope notes and examples. Associations between terms are indicated by the convention of broader, narrower, related and used for relationships.

  • SN: scope note/definition of term
  • CN: cataloger's note (guides users in selecting terms; other misc. notes)
  • UF: used for (indicates a non-preferred term)
  • BT: broader term (indicates the more general class to which a term belongs)
  • NT: narrower term (indicates a more specific term)
  • RT: related term (associated term)
  • USE: leads from non-preferred to preferred term
IV. Term Selection and Formulation

The radio form/genre thesaurus is designed to provide terms for access to categories of radio programs. It is not an exhaustive list, yet hopefully it is specific enough to permit reasonably direct searches that will locate the most commonly requested types of programs. This thesaurus represents material encountered at the Library of Congress and is not meant to include every form/genre category that could exist. An attempt was made to use terminology that is understood both outside of and within the field of broadcasting. Radio reference sources were consulted when available (cited in the bibliography) to find common terms. Some terms and definitions were drawn from colleagues' personal knowledge. Other authorized thesauri, the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH); Descriptive Terms for Graphic Materials: Genre and Physical Characteristic Headings; Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II: Genre and Physical Characteristic Terms (TGM II); Moving Image Materials: Genre Terms; and the Moving Image Genre/Form Guide were consulted for comparison of terms, and for structure, layout and arrangement of the thesaurus.

The radio form/genre thesaurus consists primarily of terms pertaining to non-musical radio programs. In fact, there is only one term, Western art music, that addresses musical content directly. However, there are many form/genres that may contain music, such as Auditions, Children's programs, Outtakes, Rehearsals, Specials, Variety and others. Standard Library of Congress music headings (popular and classical) are used to describe the musical content of a radio program. The headings should be used according to Library of Congress practice and policies. The term Western art music is to be used when the musical content of a program is known to be classical, but, for whatever reason, the individual pieces are not identifiable.

V. Cataloging Applications

The following guidelines for using radio form/genres were formulated in the Recorded Sound Section of the Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. They are based on section practices and pertain to both MARC and non-MARC cataloging systems. In a MARC setting, the terms are used in field 655 with the appropriate source code assigned by the Network Development and MARC Standards Office. In a non-MARC setting, the terms are used in the Form/Genre field with the code "MBRS" in subfield |a.

1. Level of specificity

The most specific term is assigned to the material being cataloged. Of course, the degree of specificity is influenced by several factors, such as, whether the catalog record represents a single item or a group of items, staff expertise, knowledge of the material being cataloged, the size of the file in which the catalog records reside, and the intended use of the collection.

2. Exhaustivity in indexing

A form/genre term(s) is not always assigned to material as it may be difficult to ascertain whether a radio program falls into a particular category. In addition, it may be more appropriate to specify the topic of the program rather than the form or genre.

Often more than one term may be needed to describe the various categories to which a radio program belongs. The form/genre fields in both MARC and non-MARC catalogs are repeatable for this purpose.

3. 655 terms as subjects

Radio form/genre terms are placed in the 655 field of a MARC catalog record and the Form/Genre field of a non-MARC record. When a radio program is about something, even a particular radio form/genre, an appropriate topical heading is chosen from Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and placed in the 650 field for a MARC record and the Topical Subject field for a non-MARC record.

4. Subdivisions

Any term in the radio form/genre thesaurus may be subdivided in order to indicate certain information and to subarrange files. The four types of subdivisions are: general (MARC subfield |x); chronological (MARC subfield |y); geographic (MARC subfield |z) and form (MARC subfield |v). In a non-MARC setting the terms will be divided by double dashes. The following order of subdivisions is recommended, [form/genre term]--[general subdivision]--[place subdivision]--[date subdivision]--[form subdivision]. Subdivisions do not have to be used with all form/genre terms, nor at all times, but a consistent practice should be developed.

The following nine terms can be used as form subdivisions with the radio form/genre terms: Adaptations, Anthologies, Auditions, Excerpts, Outtakes, Radio, Rehearsals, Shortwave broadcasts and Television. Five of the terms (Adaptations, Anthologies, Auditions, Outtakes, Rehearsals) may also be used as the main heading in a form/genre string. The subdivisions Excerpts, Radio, Shortwave broadcasts and Television are used to modify the main form/genre heading. When the subdivisions Radio, Shortwave broadcasts or Television are used, they are the final term in the form/genre string.

The form subdivisions Radio, Television and Shortwave broadcasts are used to indicate whether the material being cataloged is the sound from a radio program, the sound from a television program, or the sound from a radio shortwave broadcast respectively. It is not necessary to determine whether the program was actually broadcast on the radio or television. If the format of the program is unknown, then none of these three subdivisions is applied. A general note may be used to indicate that the format is unknown.

Nationality may also be a general subdivision. The adjective form for the nationality (e.g., Propaganda--German--Radio) is used. A nationality subdivision relates to the origin or source of the broadcast and not to the program content (i.e., it is used for a broadcast from Germany or for a program produced by Germans, but not for an NBC program about Germans or Germany).

Geographic subdivisions are expressed "indirectly," i.e., with the larger jurisdiction preceding the smaller, according to Library of Congress cataloging policy. The geographic place indicates where the program(s) was made, not the place(s) depicted.

The date subdivision represents the date the program was made, not the date depicted in the program. Single years or date spans are used. Question marks, "ca.," or dashes (189-) are not used.

All of the appropriate cataloging documents are used to devise subdivisions for the form/genre string. These include, the USMARC code lists for geographic areas, countries, and languages.

5. Coding

In MARC records, a radio form/genre is entered in subfield |a of field 655. The Library of Congress has assigned the code radfg to this thesaurus. The code must is entered in subfield |2 of the 655 field.

In non-MARC records, a radio form/genre is entered in the first unlabeled subfield of the Form/Genre field. The code "MBRS" is placed in subfield |a after the form/genre string to indicate that it came from this list.

Form/genre terms from other specialized lists may also be applied in catalog records for radio programs according to all the appropriate Library of Congress cataloging rules and policies. In MARC records, the form/genre term is placed in subfield |a of field 655 and identified with the appropriate code in subfield |2. In non-MARC records the form/genre term is placed in the first unlabeled subfield of the Form/Genre field.

VI. Revisions

New terms, corrections, and alterations to terms, scope notes and references are welcome. Any new proposals should be accompanied by notes and references. Address correspondence to:

Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division Recorded Sound Processing, Rm. LM 119C Washington, D.C. 20540

Top of Page Top of Page
  Home >> Guides & Reference Aids
  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  November 27, 2012
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us:  
Ask a Librarian