What’s the Right Type of Princess?

For one of the projects I am working on as a part of my internship, I am developing saved searches and a read alike list for common questions at the children’s reference desk. The idea came about when my site supervisors realized the difficulty they were having with certain questions, like about princess books.

So what’s so hard about princess books? As it turns out, the question is far more complicated than you might imagine. Do they want fairy tale princesses as might be found in the 398s? Or does princess mean Disney princess? Or could Fancy Nancy fit in as a princess? Of course a good reference interview is key, but there is no way to search for “fluffy princesses” in most OPACs.

For my part, I have decided that the princess question is too complex to save as a single search. So far my breakdown includes a separate category for Disney princesses, which includes a keyword search and a list of possible titles. I am also including a list of Cinderella stories from around the world as well as a subject search for Cinderella, in case that catches interest. Cinderella exists in nearly every culture in the world, from Native American, like the Ojibwan story of Sootface to the Korean Pigling. Each of my searches so far are flexible to make sure they fit the searching style of the librarians that will use it as well as the needs of their patrons.

After all that, how do you decide what’s the right princess? That depends on your reader. As Ranganathan’s Second and Third Laws state:

  • Every reader his or her book
  • Every book its reader

A story about Belle, Ariel, Aurora and the rest might be right for one reader, but another might want a fractured fairy tale like Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella. What can be learned from this process is that sometimes something you think is simple, like a subject search for princesses — juvenile fiction, may not be. Princess stories hold something that still fascinates young readers today, so take the time to find some good ones, just make sure it’s the right princess for the right princess reader.

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