Hannah’s post on Levy

In the section of “Cataloging in the Digital Order” called “A Changing Order,” Levy expresses emotionally weighted opinions on the stakes of change in the demands on catalogers while seeming to describe those stakes in carefully objective terms. The final paragraph of the section answers a group of rhetorical questions posed earlier by suggesting that any changes in cataloging practice will have to follow conventions shaped deliberately by political authority for a purpose of its own. Although he chooses to say of himself only that he is “not at all sure that the future can be extrapolated” and justifies his apprehensions with a historical analogy, we cannot help noticing that his representation of past developments in cataloging seems deliberately selective.

It is entirely possible that my mistrust of his account about the evolution of “the order of the book” is due to ignorance of the specific policies he claims have influenced it. Nonetheless, I am reluctant to give the political leaders of revolutionary France all the credit for the changes that have produced that order as we know it today. The educational policies they acted on were indeed closely linked to ideology, but it seems shortsighted to discount the role that technology and economics played in promoting literacy to such an extent that cataloging conventions might be relevant to the population at large. Similarly, while the proposed government regulation of the Internet would naturally play a crucial role in determining how and when people sought information through digital channels, it seems premature to discount the influence of people’s current relationship to the Internet, which is often half-facetiously called the native territory of today’s adults.

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