Response Post – Scarlett Taylor

The major questions raised by this week’s readings is, of course, “how?”. Drabinski’s “Teaching the Radical Catalog” was so on point with how we need to think about our work critically and how it can actively or passively enforce, or deconstruct a kyriarchal status quo. The excuse of an established vocabulary in our classification of works and organization of systems is insufficient in making sure that privileged groups are not overrepresented (more than they already are in the history of collections). I really enjoyed the anecdote about how in LC black women are negro/African-American/black women while white women are just women, as this is an attitude toward the invisibility (by virtue of being dominant and default) of privilege that permeates all of our society. We think of libraries, particularly due to the whole public library model, as places of equalization, above the crass biases of general society because they deal only in truth and knowledge, but they are, in fact, highly political.

That said, Doyle’s “Naming and Reclaiming Indigenous Knowledges in Public Institutions: Intersections of Landscapes and Experience” raised the issue of entirely new schemes. In this case, it was one that was culturally sensitive to the population that her particular library was serving. I am very interested in how we can do this kind of classification, that from how she phrased it seemed, to an extent, stand-alone, within a larger scope. How can Doyle’s library’s classifications be worked into a global system? How can this kind of specific organization, conducted by and for very specific groups, be combined to make one system that makes sense? Is it possible to integrate into Dewey and LC, as it is difficult to seeĀ libraries moving away from these to a new system entirely in the near future? Even the people who created these initial classification systems were systemically privileged, so it is patently unjust not to listen to the voices of the people represented by works being classified. But changing hegemonic systems is so difficult. Merely changing racist phrases, as Drabinski cites, certainly shows progress. However, if the entire system is based on a flawed premise (which, admittedly, is getting more into my own personal politics than libraries, as I do think some parts of our current classification systems are worth saving. Classification, unlike society, always has room for more subject headings. And frankly, people are less invested in maintaining power structures in cataloging, I imagine), should we keep it at all? Does this in fact demand a complete systemic overhaul?

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