Rhetoric in Library Science

In college I took a course focused solely on rhetoric. Throughout this course, I have come back time and again to lessons and discussions we had at that time.

Does rhetoric create the situation or does the situation create the rhetoric?



Both can be seen to be true – as is the case with most undecidable arguments.

In the included photograph – (full articles can be found at http://race.iheartsociology.com/2012/10/images-of-katrina-and-the-black-criminal-finding-vs-looting/ & http://www.salon.com/2005/09/02/photo_controversy/)  – In this photograph the rhetoric of “loots” vs. “finds” can be easily traced to an association with race, OR is it that existing prejudices throughout society are responsible for this assumption – how do we make the jump?

One of the most frequent examples we have discussed in class has been with regard to the Library of Congress and the list of tags for cataloging. If, for example, “Homosexual” is labeled an ailment, it stands to reason that both the situation created the rhetoric – societies long established stereotypes and intolerant views would have perpetuated this view as fact and so mindlessly, and thoughtlessly (and unconscionably), spread such beliefs. If the rhetoric created the situation – it would stand to reason that the first deciders had the power to choose to perpetuate their own beliefs and so today’s users are thereby influenced by what they are exposed to.

It is interesting to consider both sides of this argument, but what really interests me is simply the power of rhetoric and just important it can be. The inability of traditional cataloging systems to be kept up to date and easily adaptable to change is society is truly a fundamental flaw. Change – particularly with current technological and innovative trends ceaselessly being developed – seems to be one of the most constant and reliable aspects of society. Librarians and the hierarchical system we have developed seem to be getting in our own way. The nature of these systems isn’t all bad, in fact it has the potential to create a very functional platform for information retrieval. However, in its current system, librarians seem to be getting in their own way, limiting their own usability, deterring users from wanting or even being able to utilize their resources. It is a sad state, in my opinion, because of all the good it can do, and hopefully it will be resolved in the – hopefully near – future.


2 thoughts on “Rhetoric in Library Science

  1. I think this is a perfect example of why folksonomies and social tagging are becoming so important. Since traditional methods of cataloging seem to be failing us the idea of user-created tags seems like a pretty great idea. Hopefully in the future when users have issues with certain tags and don’t believe they’re comprehensive enough they can just add their own!

  2. I agree with the comment above. I belive that folksonomies are a way to incorporate “radical cataloging” into OPACs. Adding social tagging features to the library catalogs can ameliorate many of the problems Sanford Berman had with LCSH. Folksonomies are decentralized, democratic, use natural language, reflect current trends.


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