Genre/Form terms describe what something “is”, rather than what it is “about “. The latter has been the traditional emphasis of the IFLA Subject Analysis and Access Section, but since genre/form terms also provide relevant information about the document, the issue was discussed on several occasions. Finally, the proposal for establishing a working group was presented in 2013, in Singapore, and formally established in 2014. Over the years, the Genre/Form Working Group became a joint working group of the IFLA Subject Analysis and Access Section and the Cataloguing Section.

Genre/form terms can assist the user “by providing access points for the forms and genres of expressions” (Frequently Asked Questions about Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT), rev. June 6, 2011; question 15). Still, genre/form authority data is not included anywhere in the LRM model, the Statement of International Cataloguing Principles (ICP), or RDA (Resource Description & Access). However, as our global survey confirmed, these terms are already used in different degrees, in several cataloguing traditions, such as the German, Swedish, and Anglo-American.

The primary goal of this working group is to monitor and provide information about usage, developments and projects relating to genre/form worldwide and promote and facilitate the knowledge about genre/form among the professional community.

Minutes of meetings

Projects and Publications

Fascinating Facets: Recent Developments in Genre and Form Vocabularies [Webinar]

A webinar titled “Fascinating Facets: Recent Developments in Genre and Form Vocabularies” was conducted on May 19, 2022 with approximately 250 attendees. Ricardo Santos Muñoz reviewed the history of the working group; Casey Mullin discussed the retrospective application of genre/form terms to legacy metadata, and Ryan Hildebrand presented on the ACRL (U.S.) Rare Books and Manuscripts Section’s Controlled Vocabulary for Rare Materials Cataloging, with attention to eliminating prejudicial terms.

Ricardo Santos Muñoz, Head of Technical Services, National Library of Spain. The IFLA Genre/Form Working Group, 2013-2022: A History [PPT]

Casey Mullin, Head of Cataloging & Metadata Services, Western Washington University. Iteration, Not Perfection: The “Long Game” of Retrospective Implementation of Faceted Vocabularies [PPT]

Ryan Hildebrand, Special Collections and Authorities Cataloger, University of Oregon. New and Reparative Work in Controlled Vocabulary for Rare Materials Cataloging [PPT]

Compilation of references and vocabularies related to Genre/Form [2018-]. Ongoing project

Beginning in 2018, this compilation aims to be a continuing bibliography of basic references (journal articles, presentations, manuals) on Genre/Form, in any language, related to any aspect of the G/F world: general overviews, methodological approaches, projects descriptions. The compilation also includes G/F related vocabularies, thesauri, and lists, online or physical, in any language, related to genre/form aspects, to be used as authoritative sources or reference sources to build other vocabularies, general or specialized in scope.

The compilation was initially assembled by section members, but it’s now open to the wider community. Suggestions for additions to the compilation can be made via the forms below.

Genre/form use in national libraries: a global survey [2017]. Closed project

From February to April 2017 a general survey was conducted to explore the use of Genre/form description in national libraries worldwide. The survey’s stated aim was “to examine and analyse cataloguing practices concerning genre/form terms and the use of genre/form vocabularies in national libraries worldwide”. The survey also examined the differences and the similarities of its application across libraries, as well as the perceived benefits and the hurdles.

The survey consisted of 87 questions, divided up into various sections, according to the different degree of G/F use. It received responses from 77 countries.


  • Richard Sapon White, Oregon State University Libraries, USA, Convener
  • Drahomira Cupar, University of Zadar, Croatia, SAA Information Coordinator
  • Philip Hider, School of Information and Communication Studies, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia
  • Iris O’Brien, British Library, United Kingdom
  • Darija Rozman, National and University Library in Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Aida Slavic, UDC Consortium, Netherlands
  • Jennifer Wright, Bibliographic Data Services Limited, United Kingdom, Liaison from IFLA Cataloguing Standing Committee