Personal names in the catalogue

Cover of Final Curtain
Ngaio Marsh’s novels are shelved under Marsh.

If you are a regular user of our libraries, you may have noticed that the writer’s name will usually be listed surname first in the catalogue. This order is important as an author’s fiction will be shelved under the part of the name which appears first in the catalogue listing.

Working out which part of the name is the surname or family name is usually straightforward, especially in the English-speaking world. It is normally the last part of the name, eg,

This general rule may be affected if the surname includes a separately written prefix (van, de, etc), or if it is a compound surname. The writer’s preference in the way in which his or her name is written is also taken into account.

Cover of Frog
Mo Yan’s novels are shelved under Mo.

However, a more common issue is that some nationalities follow different conventions. Therefore the last part of the name may not be that chosen for listing in the catalogue, eg,

  • Mo Yan is listed as Mo, Yan, not as Yan, Mo; and
  • Trinh Khanh Tuoc is listed as that, in direct order, not as Tuoc, Trinh Khanh.

For many, Icelandic names tend to prove the most bothersome when it comes to identifying which name the author is listed under. Icelandic names are in fact listed under the first given name, followed by any other given names, patronymic and family name, in direct order. Thus

Cover of Strange Shores
Arnaldur Indriðason’s novels are shelved under Arnaldur.

If you are unsure where to look for an author’s fiction on the shelves, you may find the answer in the catalogue – check the Full Record tab of a title in the catalogue and you will see how the author is listed.

Or, of course, ask your friendly librarian!

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