Teaching the Radical Catalog

I had Emily Drabinski for my Reference class last semester, and reading her article was a happy reminder of how she brought a critical rigor to a topic that otherwise can be a bit dry. Knowledge organization, cataloging, and the very structure of the English language are all rooted in the hegemonic, patriarchal, white supremacist Western tradition. I agree that librarians should not be promoting an ignorance about the ways in which this is occurring; biased language structures are universalized and made invisible through our education for a great portion of our lives.

“We cannot do a classification scheme objectively; it is the nature of subject analysis to be subjective.” I love this point, that classification is a subjective act, and that taking this fact for granted is dangerous. Hierarchical structures are loaded with meaning, when we gather what is the same and separate what is different or secondary to a subject. I’m interested in methods of faceted classification that take user input/folksonomies into consideration. Of course, classification is still necessary, for search engines and information indexing algorithms have not yet supplanted this need. There is far too much information to make sense of. Still, there needs to be a way for subjects to be accessed (especially historically sensitive ones) without coming up against top-down hierarchical erasure.


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