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Parenting Meets Cataloging: Up Close with Danielle Allison

Interview by Kathy Stewart

Part of the NoveList team since 2009, Danielle Allison not only catalogs juvenile fiction and nonfiction, she’s the team lead for collecting and recording author web references to add to NoveList. She regularly contributes postings on books she’s reading and is a member of NoveList’s Juvenile Brain Trust, a weekly collaboration to coordinate cataloging and content for those who work with youth.

And, through reading with her two-year-old son, Gabe, she’s gained a renewed appreciation for subject headings. She provided insight about the juvenile cataloging world in a recent interview.

Danielle and Gabe reading together

KS: What are headings (subject, appeals or both) you’ve found you rely on to find books for Gabe?
DA: One of the reasons I love working at NoveList is our vocabulary. We have a ton of headings for various types of construction equipment, but we also have very specific headings like boys and trucks (useful on Good Morning, Digger as one example). We have construction equipment, work vehicles, and tractor-loader-backhoes as headings, all of which I never gave much thought to until I had a little boy.

When we're cataloging children's titles at NoveList, our catalogers focus on both broad and narrow headings for children. This might seem like overkill, but as a parent or librarian it’s really helpful to look for either tractor-loader-backhoes if that’s what the child is interested in, or just more general construction equipment picture books. As a parent and cataloger, I totally see the need for multiple headings. I know that’s pretty cataloger-specific, but having a child and searching for books either in a very broad way (or more narrow when he’s feeling very picky) really hammers the point home about quality access points.

The genre headings, "stories in rhyme" and "humorous stories" are very useful. When Gabe gets older I’m excited to be able to use our many character education headings ("sharing", etc.) to help reinforce life lessons and manners. I also really appreciate the appeal terms sweet and feel-good.

KS: Can you explain more about what appeal terms might mean, in terms of books for the very young?
DA: The appeal of a book, which we capture in our cataloging here at NoveList, points to the “feel” of the book instead of just its subject matter. I think that our appeal factors work well, especially for kids’ books, because the feel of books is what really keeps kids interested. Subject matter is important, but Gabe especially appreciates attention-grabbing books or silly books. To find books for Gabe, searching via subjects in a catalog is just a starting point. If I want to get the “feel” of a book before getting it from the library, I check in NoveList to see if it has appeals. This is a part of cataloging that you don’t get to do anywhere else but NoveList and it really is pretty fun!

I really enjoy adding appeal to titles since this is just another way to access books that children will love, either as a parent or as a librarian.

NoveList screenshot

KS: So much about picture books for the very young is about a book’s tone, which is conveyed by art style and language. Are there any headings that would help NoveList users with finding what they’re most interested in?
DA: Currently, searching for “Picture books for children” along with searching for tone appeal terms, such as sweet, feel-good, upbeat, or silly would provide excellent books for young children.

We’ve also been working on developing a vocabulary and adding illustration appeal terms to picture books to appear in NoveList at a future date. This vocabulary will touch on art styles and colors that appeal to picture book readers and help them search those terms in NoveList.

KS: So tell us a good search using both genre and subject headings that you’d use to find books your son would like?
DA: In the search bar, type in SU “Construction equipment” AND AP “Noisy”.

Or you can just search by the term, ‘construction,’ then narrow the results by Tone (on the left panel of your search result list) by selecting Noisy (the first result). In fact, I just discovered that the author of Roadwork has a book, Demolition, that I think he’d love.

KS: What part of your NoveList work are you especially interested in?
DA: I really enjoy adding author web references. This year I’ve developed a project (with assistance from our Australian content specialist) to attempt to locate and add author websites for all authors in NoveList from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This of course doesn’t mean we’ll find web references for all authors, but we’re checking. This is a good blend of two my responsibilities (adding author websites and my focus on Canadian content).

KS: Are there specific titles you read over and over?
DA: Yes, here is a list of my recommended books for reading with toddlers.

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of our Kids & Books newsletter. Subscribe to Kids & Books.


Kathy is a juvenile content specialist at NoveList. She is passionate about children's literature and secretly yearns to be the next J.K. Rowling. Kathy devours books for teens and reads adult nonfiction in her interest areas, gardening and food. She fits in adult fiction whenever possible.