Katherine M: Weekly Response Post #2

K.R. Roberto’s description and support of radical cataloguing was practical, there seemed to be little to argue against. Roberto admits to having difficulty defining ‘radcat’ but is quick to state one item he is against – doing away with controlled vocabularies.  His later notes on comically outdated terms used by Library of Congress, such as incandescent light over lightbulb, resonate because there isn’t necessarily political weight attached which would require cautious revision. This is an important discussion for a library student because it questions the authorities we are relying on as sources of innovation and best practice without asking for a truly radical destruction of their foundation. In light of the points listed as traits/behavior of radcats, the term ‘radical’ sounds misleading because the areas in question, which Roberto says are infrequently addressed, seem to be crucial to efficient cataloguing and collection maintenance.

Emily Drabinski’s Teaching the Radical Catalog introduces a more critical classification theory by reflecting on specific hierarchies within LC subject headings, describing “‘first terms’, that masquerade as neutral when they are, in fact, culturally informed and reflective of social power.” The example that we discussed in class was used, which was how ‘women’ (white women), located at the top of a hierarchy, holds power above the narrower terms running below.  These terms inform our approach to learning and research – how we locate information and present it. Cultural and ideological shifts lead to scholarly revisions in print, dictionaries, law, all institutions – why would cataloging be neglected when it seems essential to it’s purpose?


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