Thursday 28 March 2019

Understanding the World

There's got to be another way - maybe a better way
Way back before Dau.I became a librarian, I wrote a Blob comparing the Dewey Decimal Classification System with the LCC employed by the US Library of Congress. Dublin City, like The Institute, uses the DDC and after decades of academic life, I'm familiar with where I am in that world. Well actually, not so much: as a man should I be in the 570s under Biology or in 301 Sociology and Anthropology? It is instructive to note that there is no DDC section for The Patriarchy, although 306.85 incorporates patriarchal families between extended families and matriarchal families. Why instructive? because Melvil Dewey was an archetype for The Patriarchy and so that concept was the invisible background in which he swanned around. He was a notorious groper of young women: but had the double-standards of his time: Furthermore, a major reason Dewey wanted women to enter the field was because he felt women were ideal for the repetitiveness of library work and "didn't cause trouble." . . . and wouldn't seek promotion too strenuously. Maybe his desire to hire women as librarians could be simplified? Furthermore, a major reason Dewey wanted women to enter the field was because he felt women. [*]

What's interesting boring and disturbing is how easy it is to map the LCC on to the DDC: Like Dewey [Amherst], Putnam [Harvard] and Cutter [Harvard] who invented the LCC were Brahmin Patriarchs and had the same worldview as all the dip-shit Old Etonians who are currently selling the UK down the river to make the fortunes of currency traders - also from Eton. Is that all there is? Is that the only way to view [and classify] the world? And remember that single category classifications are a challenge for librarians: do they file A History of Dublin's Libraries under Irish History [947.5], Local Government [320.8] Local Education [379.1] or Library Systems [025.1]? You can bet that librarians in Geneva or Saskatoon will have a different ideas about where to shelve that book. As a young library assistant, anxious to make information available to all sectors of society, Dau.I is catching some of the frustration about where books should be shelved to maximise their use and, indeed, their utility. Being close enough to the demographic she is particularly concerned about how to expand the horizons of young adults and teens. She refuses to fob them off with Stephanie Meyer's vampire sex and Suzanne Collins' teenage Hunger Games blood-letting; regardless of the decisions made in the cataloguing department, Dau.I wants to intercalate these obvious best-sellers with more challenging fare; and not necessarily fiction.

One of the gripes about DDC and LCC is that they were both conceived in the 19thC before television; molecular biology; decolonialisation; moon landings; Knots Landing; LGBQRSTU+; Twitter or Twerking. In particular, minorities are aggravated to be pushed to the periphery, shoe-horned together and treated as an irrelevance to the Patriarchal Centre. It turns out that there is an alternative cataloguing method called BDC, invented by a Mohawk called Brian Deer [L]. It goes:  Reference Materials; Local History; History; International; Education; Economic Development; Housing and Community Development; Criminal Justice System; Constitution (Canada) and First Nations; Self Government; Rights and Title; Natural Resources; Community Resources; Health; World View; Fine Arts; Languages; Literature. Brian Deer, as the horse's mouth, reckons that is closer to the natural interests of First Nationeers in Canada. Looks peculiar to me, but then I am The Patriarchy, so it would, wouldn't it? Brian Deer died this last January, having made a difference for his people and the world. Any system that shakes us out of our complacency and makes us face, and even embrace, The Other is a good thing.

BDC is employed in the X̱wi7x̱wa library in Vancouver BC, and that serves as a bit of a Mecca for indigenous people who want to find out where they stand, where they came from and what the future holds. Each of those parameters is different from mine but equally wonderful.

Another anti-DDC/LCC system is employed in the Prelinger Library in (you guessed it) San Francisco. Prelinger makes no pretence at universality, although it archives a shit-ton of material: it is rather designed to allow readers to browse through to the unexpected. Here's a long-form article from Harper's via Panix.

You may now re-orient your sofa to watch Wade "TED" Davis [another Canadian] on cultural diversity and ethnographic extinction: And in the end, then, it really comes down to a choice: do we want to live in a monochromatic world of monotony or do we want to embrace a polychromatic world of diversity? Margaret Mead, the great anthropologist, said, before she died, that her greatest fear was that as we drifted towards this blandly amorphous generic world view not only would we see the entire range of the human imagination reduced to a more narrow modality of thought, but that we would wake from a dream one day having forgotten there were even other possibilities.  Wade Davis? [prev on navigation] I'm a total groupie.

[*] old joke: Seven dwarves in the bed feeling Happy; Happy got out and felt Grumpy; Grumpy ran away.

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