Response to Reading #7 – Elizabeth Frank

In the spirit of the readings this week, here is an online zine about Sanford Berman.

I’m very pleased to be introduced to this “activist librarian” and was engaged by his generation-long feud with the Library of Congress: “For 26 years, I duly forwarded to LC copies of HCL’s bimonthly Cataloging Bulletin, replete with full syndetic workups for new and changed headings, assignment citations, and quoted usage examples.” This is a Raganathanian effort!

Since the assigned article in large part was a response to this, I thought it might be helpful to read the original story, even though it’s rather old, and I’m the one who is always banging on about the age of things. I found Emily Drabinski’s article expounding on Berman’s struggle to be engaging, and her article as a whole coherent. The problem with library classifications and subject headings is the “hierarchy of sameness.” (“Yellow Peril” was an LC subject heading until 1989???)

“Naming and Reclaiming Indigenous Knowledge in Public Institutions,” on the other hand, I found to be overly-academic, repetitive, and obvious in its conclusions. “The Māori Subject Headings grew out [of] research on the information needs of Māori people and aim to provide access to the Māori body of knowledge held in institutions for Māori people.” Got it. But what kind of job is it doing, how are acquisitions made, how is it funded, how do its users use it, and who is doing the cataloging?

These questions were answered in full, meticulous detail in “Cutter & Paste” by Freedman and Kauffman, although to be honest, I more familiar with the Māori people than I am with zines, and what I know of the Māori, I know from movies.


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