From the catalogs of babes

{February 24, 2009}   I guess Dewey was never a drag queen

One of the latest hot topics of demand in our library is drag queens. I don’t know if it’s a specific class assignment or just a coincidence of interest, but in the past several weeks we have received a number of requests for books about drag queens. Since we only had one at the time, our collections librarian ordered more to supplement the demand.

3 or 4 titles arrived in the last shipment and I’ve been busily downloading records for them. However, I’ve come to a bit of a standstill as to where to class them. The records I’ve seen vary widely. So far, I’ve seen:

306.77/8 : sexual and related practices; transvestism (class here cross dressing)

305.31 : interdisciplinary works on the social groups of men

792.028 : acting and performance, including impersonation

And, our original title held, a book of drag queen paper dolls, at 391.00866 : clothing of persons by sexual orientation*

While I understand that, technically, the books should be classes based on how drag queens are treated in the work, I think it’s really better for our students if we can keep them all together as much as possible. I’d like to pick one number to lump them under, but none of these numbers seem to fit quite right. I looked up “drag queens” in the index; of course it was not there. I tried in LCSH and was redirected to

Female impersonators   (May Subd Geog)  [R S D]
Here are entered works on men who impersonate women, generally for purposes of entertainment or comic effect. Works on women who impersonate men, generally for purposes of entertainment or comic effect, are entered under Male impersonators. Works on persons, especially males, who assume the dress and manner of the opposite sex for psychological gratification are entered under Transvestites.
UF  Cross-dressers
  Drag queens
  Impersonators, Female [Former Heading]
  Impersonators of women
  Queens, Drag

The LCSH leads me to believe the most appropriate number would be 792.028. But the “UF Cross dressers” reference bothered me. I’ve known drag queens and I’ve known cross dressers and they are not the same. Wikipedia backs me up:

A drag queen is a person, usually a man, who dresses (or “drags”) in female clothes and make-up for special occasions and usually because they are performing and entertaining as a hostess, stage artist or at an event. This is in contrast to those who cross-dress for reasons other than as a source of entertainment for others or transgender people who are not necessarily drag queens or cross-dressers but sometimes fit into those labels.


Another term for a drag queen, female impersonator, is still used—though it is often regarded as inaccurate, as many contemporary drag performers are not attempting to pass as women.

Now, I try not to get too moral about my classification. I know, in the scheme of things, it’s just a number and a shelf label. Does it really matter if I class the books in the 300s , the 700s, or really, anywhere, as long as they’re together for browsing and the patrons have access to them?


*This number is a holdover built by our previous cataloger. I probably wouldn’t have built the 391s that way, but it’s not really doing any harm and we’re too deeply entrenched in it to change.


There is currently a movie out about a man whjo played female roles at the time when women were not allowed on stage. Then by royal decree his carrer is gone when women must play female roles. Could be the reason for the sudden interest.

Gina says:

Apparently something in the ether… we’ve also had a few queries recently related to gender identity and transvestites in photography.

Ivy says:

Apparently so! I just noticed I’ve been getting a lot of search hit here for drag queens, and even one for “306.77 dewey,” which I thought was pretty funny.

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