Core Collections in Genre Studies: Romance Fiction 101

Neal Wyatt, Editor Georgine Olson, Kristin Ramsdell, Joyce Saricks, and Lynne Welch, Guest Columnists

Building genre collections is a central concern of public library collection development efforts. Even for college and university libraries, where it is not a major focus, a solid core collection makes a welcome addition for students needing a break from their course load and supports a range of academic interests. Given the widespread popularity of genre books, understanding the basics of a given genre is a great skill for all types of librarians to have.

It was, therefore, an important and groundbreaking event when the RUSA Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) voted to create a new juried list highlighting the best in genre literature. The Reading List, as the new list will be called, honors the single best title in eight genre categories: romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, horror, historical fiction, women’s fiction, and the adrenaline genre group consisting of thriller, suspense, and adventure.

To celebrate this new list and explore the wealth of genre literature, The Alert Collector will launch an ongoing, occasional series of genre-themed articles. This column explores the romance genre in all its many incarnations.

Five librarians gathered together to write this column and share their knowledge and love of the genre. Each was asked to write an introduction to a subgenre and to select five books that highlight the features of that subgenre. The result is an enlightening, entertaining guide to building a core collection in the genre area that accounts for almost half of all paperbacks sold each year.1

Georgine Olson, who wrote the historical romance section, has been reading historical romance even longer than the thirty years or so she has been recommending good reads to fellow readers, and is a regular contributor to NoveList, editor of Fiction Acquisition/Fiction Management: Education and Training (Haworth, 1998), and chair of the Alaska Library Association Adult Readers Roundtable. Kristin Ramsdell, who wrote the Regency romance section, works at California State University, East Bay, and won the 1996 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Librarian of the Year award. She also is the romance review columnist for Library Journal. Joyce Saricks won the RWA Librarian of the Year award in 2000 and is the author of two groundbreaking readers’ advisory titles, Readers’ Advisory Service in the Public Library and The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. Lynne Welch, who wrote the paranormal romance section, reviews for Booklist, contributes to NoveList, and was the 2004 RWA Librarian of the year. Neal Wyatt, the Alert Collector editor, contributed the contemporary romance section.

Note: Romance titles are frequently republished. Publication information is given for the newest in-print version of each title listed. Out-of-print titles are indicated with o.p.–Editor

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