I enjoyed the readings this week, particularly Emily Drabinski’s “Teaching the Radical Catalog.” Drabinski states,
“Library classifications use the hegemonic language of the powerful: they reflect, produce, and reproduce hierarchies; they order sameness and difference and prevent the full representation of minority literatures; they arrest the linguistic transformation in emerging fields of knowledge and identity production.”
These are classification systems that can never be completely “fixed” so she proposes that if we cannot change them, we should try to understand the problems, approach the system critically, and actively learn how to navigate the limitations as both teachers and students.
An especially interesting point in Drabinski’s article is the issue of power and the privileging of terms. This is a choice made at some point by a cataloger either consciously or subconsciously that affects who has access to a particular resource. This is an inherent problem with any hierarchically structured system. One term determines subsequent faceting within that term.
I also found Drabinski’s discussion of Berman’s approach interesting. Although Berman’s work has incited change and progress within the cataloging world, he perpetuates the hierarchical classification system by implying there is a “‘right’ language that could be universally understood and applied” when in fact maybe we should accept the limitations of and barriers created by language and focus on being aware they exist. As librarians it is essential that we take ourselves out of positions of power as organizers and providers of information to begin to critically learn and understand the system and all its issues.
Drabinski’s article was well-written, thought-provoking, and compelling all the way through. I look forward to reading more of her work.