All posts by Scarlett

Response Post, version Last: Scarlett Taylor

“the one with the lions in front” – I like this description in a book.

I did enjoy Weinberger’s indictment of Dewey in their article – we must always remember in these conversations about classification that it has all been built on a flawed, white Christian male supremacist lens of a base. While Weinberger does ask the question “why don’t we fix it?”, which, after reading too much detail about Dewey, I did not expect them to answer. But they did – saying essentially that even if we do revamp the entire structure in light of a hopefully less People-Like-Dewey-centric view, it will take work and people will still complain.

I am entirely unconvinced that this is a reason not to change a dated system that close to all librarians admit is problematically biased.  They say “But that isn’t a good enough answer if you’re organizing physical objects,” as though it is a good enough answer to any question. They also see (continued) greatness in Dewey’s system because it lets patrons in libraries physically explore “What We Know.” This seemed absurd to me because hey man, it’s 2007, there are different cataloging systems with less messed up classification that also allow readers to browse books by subject in a physical library setting. This was a revolutionary system at the time it was designed, but that is not an excuse to leave it untouched.


Weekly Response – Scarlett Taylor

(when I saw the title “How Is a Scarf Like a Dataset?” I was really hoping it would connect the process of knitting to this topic, which is an accessible analogy for me. I wasn’t disappointed!) In any case, while this article was wholly entertaining, I do not feel that I learned a lot about the creation of datasets, and am now really curious about what the “bind off” of datasets is. I did find it to be generally applicable to how I USED datasets in other classes. It was a fun article, though.

I also found the Heidorn article very interesting. As someone who works with government documents, and documents produced by government entitities (which do not always seem to be the same thing – the judicial branch never seems to be categorized with govdocs), I am so interested in how proprietary databases and products making these documents and data accessible work.

“Many scholars are unaware of the coming changes in the sociology of science and do not have the required skill sets to address the requirements in their new proposals (Cragin, Palmer, Carlson, & Witt, 2010). Worse, librarians know relatively little about current data management practices of scholars. Institutions have not yet established who will conduct data curation work.”

This is precisely why this kind of data ends up only functionally accessible by something like ProQuest. Equating scholars to government agencies and entitites is perhaps ignoring nuance, particularly that government data is publicly funded and that which is not classified should be free and easily accessable, but training librarians in specialized data management practices can only make information more accessible to the public.

In direct contrast to my last comment, I think it is so interesting that data collection (as in, making data part of the collection) by academic libraries is even happening. It is something that had never occurred to me. The idea that libraries should be involved from the start of data collection is so intriguing, and I see where the idea is coming from, but is that standard feasible for scientists who are not working under an academic umbrella? I am sure that many scientific organizations do have librarians, but, my point is, could a rise in librarian-aided research lead to preference for that data, and therefore research from smaller organizations may become even less represented? Is data collection with the help of a librarian better data, or just easier to integrate into a library?

Response Post – Scarlett Taylor

It really never occurred to me that controlled vocabularies are what can change user’s searches (as in the Leise, Fast and Steckel article “What Is a Controlled Vocabulary?,” from Elizabeth Burton to Elizabeth Taylor) to bring up relevant results; I had previously thought it was solely for the purposes of cataloging more efficiently and making sure an institution had controlled terms – so people weren’t, as discussed in the aforementioned article, just categorizing things all willy nilly, with even more subjectivity than is inherent in a catalog itself. I assumed its main purpose was to maintain an illusion of objectivity, and a reality of organization, that I keep harping on week after week (how is one to exist in kyriarchal societies without internalizing those biases and having them come out in even the most “objective” areas? I could literally go on for days). I saw this user-centered purpose in indices where I would be directed, upon looking up “this neat thing” to “see This Neat Thing’s Synonym in a Fancier Way.” It’s actually really cool to be told (even though I should have been able to figure this out) that computer cataloging search systems just do that AUTOMATICALLY. Wow. This is the future.

This article and the Broughton excerpt also made the exercise we were doing last week about hierarchies a little more concrete for me, interestingly (interestingly because usually hands-on does it for me). A hierarchical structure of terms is a lot simpler from further away than at the granular level of trying to model your own terms on LC’s hierarchy, and just kind of forcing it.

These two readings made me very curious about how a person learns their institution and/or field’s controlled vocabulary. I imagine it is a lot of practice, but reading about keyword lists made me wonder if there is one way in which they all make sense. No cross-referencing, as in keyword lists would obviously mean just memorizing a list. The hierarchies are much less involved, but then harder to memorize. Memorization is probably not desirable in this area, but as someone compelled to know everything about what I am doing and who is eager to reach peak efficiency, it’s so tempting. I wonder what the best strategy is to be the most efficient as quickly as possible.

Response 8(?) – Scarlett Taylor

Regarding the Thomas Mann article – I just must get this out first – I was consumed thinking about the cataloging implications of Yugoslavia as a subject heading, particularly how that reflects on our need to maintain (some) historical subject headings so that materials cataloged that way can still be found, and researchers working in a historical vocabulary can find them without translating to a current phrase. Would changing “Yugoslavia” to “Former Yugoslavia” be technically accurate? Yes. Necessary? Nio. This is, of course, a different case than blatantly offensive subject headings, but it interested me nonetheless.

Similarly, Taylor’s address of cultural subjectivity in subject analysis, while appropriately shallow for the scope of the section, was nice to see. I realize that this course’s reading assignments are overwhelmingly influenced by the professor, but I like to see such address of subjectivity in areas many people think of as objective – and it’s in our readings every week! I’m developing a skewed view of the library world as entirely full of very active social justice crusaders, and I really like it.

More relevantly to the week’s topic, Taylor’s address of “aboutness” and analysis of whether there even can be objectivity resonated with me. Again, libraries are thought of as these places of all knowledge, and therefore of course cannot have any bias, but they do. I had not thought of how even looking at the audience for a book that you have (subjectively) determined the subject of can be so very subjective, and how that audience influences the subject headings.

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 see 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?

Response 6 – Scarlett Taylor

I have become entirely enamored with Ranganathan’s PMEST. In light of Steckel’s article, I looked up how colon classification actually looks in practice, and wow no. That’s hard. L,45;421:6;253:f.44’N5 (example from the Wikipedia article on colon classification) is too much. In any case, I do really like the idea of facets like that in cataloging, and perhaps am swayed by the way they are named. They sound so broad and world-encompassing, emphasizing those things about information and knowledge.

I do still enjoy the Five Laws of Library Science, but have talked about them a lot over a few classes. That said, Steckel did a good job extending them into the realm of websites. I feel like it’s almost more obvious and easy for the internet, however, as making information accessible is a lot of why the internet exists. “Books are for reading” is a reminder better addressed to physical collections, in which we might be tempted to limit access for preservation or other reasons. The “library is a living organism” is also not as obvious in physical collections as it is on the internet, as libraries must integrate different technologies, where inherent in the internet is that it is moldable and ever-expanding. It was good to see the connection between the laws and digital information made explicit, however.

I had a hard time not maintaining a strong bias against Melvil Dewey in the article “What’s so great about the Dewey Decimal System?” as my first real reading on him was several years ago in the Bitch Magazine article “From the Library: Outing the Father of Librarianship” which concerns his more problematic behavior, as noted in the final paragraph of the biographical section of the assigned article.

And again, bias for the rest of this article! Neither DDC nor LC are particularly good for cataloging in a law library (though they generally use LC), because of the intersection of issues a book might cover and the discretion involved in putting it in one section. NYU had previously developed their own cataloging system for the law library that they are now converting to LC. I’ll admit – I so rarely used physical books in law school that I hardly noticed. However “The Library of Congress places much emphasis on cross-referencing. Battles comments that “those nesting, cross-referenced rubrics make up an epistemological labyrinth unto themselves” really does make it a more ideal classification system for law, in which subjects, international criminal law, for instance, potentially many subjects.

Response 5 – Scarlett Taylor

Pictures! Tillett’s “What Is FRBR” is the most conceptually easy article about structure we’ve had so far. The text was fine. Whatever. It was the flowcharts that really made it, each building off of each other so you could actually follow the process. Mentions of FRBR in other articles left me anxious and concerned that it would be insurmountable, but this made me feel almost comfortable. Then, very suddenly, I got over the glitz of actually getting the structure and realized that I don’t really understand what FRBR…. is. A method of record-keeping, surely, but is this almost arbitrarily different naming scheme even necessary? I get that it’s supposed to be more user-friendly, and is not in overwhelming use, but geez those highly readable charts sucked me in.

Project Proposal – Scarlett Taylor

Name: Scarlett Taylor
My group has chosen: Non-Western Cataloging Systems
I am interested in this topic because: I am interested in anything that challenges our ethnocentricity in this country.

Useful Sources:

Berman, S. (1993). Prejudices and antipathies: a tract on LC subject heads concerning people, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

Exner, F. and Little Bear. (2008). North American Indian Personal Names in National Bibliographies . In: Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front. Roberto, K. R. (Ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

Webster, K. and A. Doyle. (2008). Don’t class me in antiquities! Giving voice to Native American
materials. In: Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front. Roberto, K. R. (Ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

Based on my preliminary research, I have chosen to focus on the following aspect of our group topic: 

I wanted to focus on radical cataloging in the context of non-western cataloging systems because, honestly, I wanted us to do radical cataloging as a topic. My research mostly uncovered issues non-“Western” (I believe that our definition of “Western” is so narrow that Native Americans do not fit into it) communities have with Western cataloging, rather than alternative systems. Based on this research, I don’t believe that I will have to narrow my topic to one area or culture, as at this time I am unable to find enough scholarship on any one such area. I would like to read more about other systems, and connect that to this social justice aware critique of our cataloging systems, perhaps looking at how/if they address some of those concerns.

Response 4 – Scarlett Taylor

I was entirely prepared to like Eden’s “The New User Environment: The End of Technical Services.” I really was. It starts with the outlandish list of what users expect of catalogs at their local libraries – that they could possibly be as well-funded, and therefore as complex, as Amazon or Google is dreaming. But then, and I know this is kind of off the point of “technical services” or anything related to this week’s theme, he does not seem to understand why libraries need their own collections of “redundant” materials. I recalled a different course in which we discussed access vs. ownership, and how only providing access, which Eden seems to propose, leaves a library vulnerable to the owner of the material. If this digital material, hosted elsewhere, is changed or moved, the library providing access to it has an independent duty to find that out, whereas with individual library ownership of materials solves that problem. It is important for libraries to have their own collections. Furthermore, providing redundant materials, instead of solely curating special collections, allows more people to use them. This particular proposition bothered me as I thought of popular novels, that people wait for months to come off of a hold, and how it is, in a certain way, classist to say that we should only have digital copies (as not everyone has the means to access one for the time it takes to read a book) or one copy per library system (which only serves the name of “progress” or however Eden would characterize this idea, rather than the needs of the community). Eden, in this section, seems to prioritize the library’s service to the global community over that to the local community, which I believe is misguided. The global community almost invariably self-selects to mean academics, who are great, and I personally use other libraries’ online services frequently, but this is, again, a class issue.