Observing the Leo Baeck Institute

The information space I chose to observe for this blog post is the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI), my workplace.  The Institute is named after Leo Baeck, a Jewish Rabbi in Germany during the time of the Second World War and a survivor of Theresienstadt concentration camp.  Its mission is preserving the vast collection of documents, books, and artworks created by and describing the history of German-speaking Jewish people. Housed in the Center for Jewish History, LBI is one of five partner organizations that contribute to the expansion of access to Jewish history and culture.  My job at LBI is to physically process books to be added to our searchable collections and then page those books when requested for the reading room. I often get to work with many different people as my job goes through different parts of the museum.

I sat down one day and made notes about the exchange of information going on in the Institute.  Not only do I interact daily with my coworkers to complete tasks and learn new parts of my job, but I also watched how LBI workers interact with visitors and teach them about our mission.  As a reasonably small office, there are very few formal communication procedures between employees. Generally, if we must get in touch with someone that is not only a few desks away, we make use of email.  Usually, though, we can walk over and talk in person about a specific book or database question.

On a typical day, LBI receives about five to ten requests for books to be paged to the reading room that the Center for Jewish History shares among its partner organizations.  For patrons to receive the information they wish to research, they must call the material in Aeon, a workflow management software specifically for libraries. LBI’s website features a complete online collection of our holdings that patrons can browse.  Once they find a book they are interested in, they make a request, and I get an email from the system telling me which volume to pull from the stacks. Once I retrieve that, I bring it down to the reading room, and the librarians there give it to the researcher.  The process is straightforward, and the exchange of information is streamlined.

The Leo Baeck Institute is very privileged at the wealth of materials we have in our collections and available to researchers.  As we are focused on German-Jewish history, the collections librarians must scrutinize the donations we receive to make sure they follow this subject matter.  In the past, when we accepted a gift, the donor would give a whole stack of books, whether they had anything to do with us or not. The current librarians are much more critical of what we take in, but there is still a massive backlog of books waiting to be processed and cataloged.

Reflecting on our international theme, LBI has three branches spread out across the world.   The Jewish Museum Berlin has access to duplicate copies of our microfilm collection. Over 4,500 microfilms are housed there, making LBI’s collections accessible to researchers at the heart of our topic.  London and Jerusalem are also home to LBI centers, allowing our organization to maintain and deepen relations with scholars, Jewish Communities, and the wider public.

One of the things I find most interesting about LBI is the people I have met.  Our volunteers are a great source of wisdom and information. Two of whom are in their 90s, they are very sharp still and come in about once a week to work on translating documents from Hebrew and German, as well as telling their own stories from their home countries.  Every year the Institute takes on interns from Austria and Germany who come to New York to study. They translate documents from their original German and process other materials. I find it fascinating the way that their countries have dealt with the events of the Holocaust.  One intern who hails from Austria is working on a project on how her country likes to gloss over Austrian participation in World War II and pretend they were only following Hitler’s orders. She uses LBI materials to prove her view that Austria did, indeed, have a hand in the construction of the Holocaust.

This project reminds me of Sharon Macdonald’s article, “Is ‘Difficult Heritage’ Still ‘Difficult’?”  As a library whose materials deal with the perpetration of atrocities against a people, we must take extra care to adequately respect the subject matter while still being able to work around and with it every day.  Though we represent the Jewish people who have been subjugated throughout history, LBI has actually very few people who belong to that population. This poses a question of not only diversity practices, but what to do when white people represent a religious and ethnic minority.  In Jennifer Vinopal’s “The Quest For Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action,” she explores the needs for diversity in library workplaces. According to the International Federation of Library Association’s IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto, “libraries of all types should reflect, support and promote cultural and linguistic diversity at the international, national, and local levels, and thus work for cross-cultural dialogue and active citizenship.”  Despite the fact that our mission is very close to this statement, LBI would be better prepared to genuinely serve its visitors by employing librarians from the community it aims to help.

Overall, the Leo Baeck Institute is a library that provides valuable cultural and historical knowledge to those seeking to research German-Jewish topics.  Expanding on more than just WWII, LBI preserves the traditions and scholarship of Jewish communities.

Person, Place, Thing: A Lion, a Witch and a Wardrobe

The public library has played the role of a site of respite for my family, dependably familiar and inviting for us and countless others. This space, the children’s section of the library in particular, has inspired my venture into the study of information science. By entering the library, children and their caregivers are able to enter into a safe and cost-free place to engage and begin to form a relationship with literacy and community. 

My budding interest in information science enticed me to return to this city that I adore, New York, to study libraries and information science. An unfortunate but temporary consequence of this transition is that the vast children’s book collection we have accrued and weeded over the course of my daughter’s young life is currently spread out between three different storage locations for the time being. Even had we been physically close to our beloved books, my daughter and I our simply huge fans of browsing and borrowing to our hearts’ content, a habit we formed early on and continue to nurture. Since our very recent arrival to the city, we have slowly begun to explore a handful of libraries throughout the five boroughs. 

One of the contenders for a favorite children’s section is the marvelous and massive Main Branch in Manhattan, or, as it’s known by my daughter, “the library with the lion flag.” She’s not wrong. A single stone lion is, in fact, the library’s official mascot, and I have become very acquainted with this lion. What follows is a brief chronicling of my relationship to the NYPL children’s section: a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe.

A Lion

Patience, the lion, care of the NYPL website on the library lions

One lion accompanied by another, a pair of huge, imposing lions carved out of stone, oversee the masses below on New York’s Fifth Avenue, seemingly standing guard at the building’s scenic East-side entrance. A mirror image of the two felines is also replicated inside the children’s section, composed entirely of slate gray Legos. 

In my eyes, even their Lego incantations seem to emit an aura of nobility. Interestingly enough, they were given virtuous names, Patience and Fortitude, by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia amidst the Great Depression. The mayor’s reasoning was that these symbolic statues might inspire these qualities in the struggling citizenry during this challenging era. Today, visitors travel from far and wide to catch a glimpse or even a photo alongside this notable duo.

A Witch

The witch in this case uses her powers for good. Her role is more akin to that of Glenda of Wizard of Oz fame than that of the Wicked Witch or icy villain of Narnia. She is a public librarian. Like Glenda, the public librarian gently guides library patrons by listening to and interpreting their needs and providing a nudge in the right direction. Patience and fortitude are just as necessary for the librarian to embody as much as the next person. 

Librarians do not stand guard at the doors of the library as the large and lofty lions do, but they are also like guardians in many ways, for civic service is no easy feat. Often librarians today find themselves playing the roles of counselors, social workers, advisors, and are assumed to be experts on any number of bodies of knowledge. Though they are not human computers, they are rather exceptional figures in their own way. 

On a given day, the children’s librarian at any branch in the NYPL system could be leading a preschool story time for kids aged 3-5, which includes reading books, leading the group in song, engaging the crowd in some sort of hands-on crafting exercise, and otherwise expertly facilitating a bustling room full of toddlers and their caregivers, all within the span of an hour or so. Librarians plan programs, provide services, teach, listen, and so much more. How they manage to fit this all into one person’s job is as close to magic as something could get! 

The same, of course, could be said for librarians all over the country, from branches big and small. Their communities, however, are unique and individualized, and each library branch has their own special charms. I just happen to especially adore the NYPL Main Branch and its magical and benevolent witches, as have countless others before me. 

A Wardrobe

In a tiny corner of the children’s library in the central NYPL branch is a miniature puppet show station. With free play, the children can choose to alternate between the roles of puppet master and audience member as they please. The liminal spaces of the library provide a gateway to magical experiences, indeed, for people of all ages. In the first C.S. Lewis tale with its introduction to Narnia, the wardrobe functioned as a portal into a different world. It could also be said that books, in their many forms, can open up a gateway into new dimensions for anyone who takes the time to engage with them. 

Books can certainly be enjoyed from the comfort of one’s home, but there is something magnificent in the ordinary children’s room of a public library. From a child’s perspective, one can only imagine the magic and wonder that are evoked from hearing an entrancing story told by someone other than their guardian. The librarian themself might be just the point of entry needed to transport a child into the world of literacy. Their children’s room, when all works as planned, serves to act as a kind of magic wardrobe, transfixing and transporting young minds to new and thrilling environments.

Or so I would like to believe! As I have only begun my studies, I have much to learn, but if there’s one thing I am sure of, it is that we could all stand to use a little magic, patience, and fortitude in our lives. And thus concludes the short chronicles of NYPL kid’s services: a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe, as told by a mother and aspiring public librarian. 

Newman Library Observation

The Baruch College Newman Library is a prestigious building located off of third avenue and 25th street, near the Flatiron and Gramercy Park district of Manhattan. Their website advertises the school as being, “in the heart of one of the world’s most dynamic financial and cultural centers.” The variety of patrons that come in to the library represent that extremely well.

The largest portion of students that attend the school are business and finance majors, so most of the books are textbooks cater towards this, though there are other types of books available as well. The Newman library is one of the busier CUNY school libraries, as not just the Baruch students- but alumni, staff, and other CUNY students utilize it as well. Its location is also very conveniently near where most of Baruch classes are held.

Working there for over a month now, I have been exposed to the majority of what the library and staff deal with on a daily basis. I’ve met the regulars, given the fines, mastered the Library of Congress Classification system, and worked both the rushes and slow periods.


Entering and navigating the Newman library can be a challenge in the beginning, though most students are very familiar with the floor plan after their first year. Walking into the building, you can either enter through card-access only turnstiles on the first floor or upstairs on the second and main floor. Here you have the circulation desk, reference department, reading room, laptop loan kiosk, computers, scanners, printers, periodicals, and reserve sections of the library. You can then use the elevator or stairs to access the third, fourth, and fifth floors. These are where the general stacks books are located. Call numbers are broken up by A-E on third, F-N on fourth, and P-Z on the fifth floor.

The laptop desk is located on the third floor, and this is where laptops and chargers are rented out to Baruch students. The sixth floor is the technology department and computer lab that is open to Baruch students only. This is also where the Bursar and financial aid offices are located. The only way to access the sixth floor is through the elevators located on the first floor. The first floor has the security office, student eating area with vending machines, and lockers. This makes giving directions a bit more difficult for staff, especially to newer patrons.


Technology Rentals

The Newman library circulation desk is the center for the majority of the rentals available for students. Here Baruch students may check out cameras, tripods, recorders, microphones, three types of headphones, five types of calculators, DVDs and players, hdmi cables, and presentation remotes. Each type of equipment has its own rules and check out procedures.

The calculator options are graphing, financial standard or professional, basic, and scientific. There are semester long, two week, three day, and daily loans offered. Students check these out on a first come, first serve basis, which is why priority is given to current Baruch students, though the library has quite an impressive stock. Students may also rent Mac and PC laptops, though this is not done at the circulation desk. The majority of interactions with patrons at the circulation desk are for technology loans.

Rentals and Reserves

Reserve textbooks and DVDs are found on the shelves behind the circulation desk and must be requested by the patron to check out. They are organized by the course code that placed the material on reserve and alphabetically by the professor’s name within the course section. Patrons must know at least the title of the reserve book they want, and ideally the course number as well. If no course code is found, staff must search the Baruch catalogue.

Most materials are given for either multiple weeks, daily, and three hour periods. Reserve materials are only loaned for three-hours at a time, and most students keep them inside the library because of this. Other books are given to students for four weeks and are allowed to be renewed a maximum of three times- unless requested by another student. Faculty and staff may reserve for more extended time periods and are not as strictly held to renewal limits. Professors may rent books and DVDs but not technology or room keys. All returns, excluding tech rentals, may be given to staff at the circulation desk or dropped in the book drop. The patron must physically hand in technology rentals to a staff member.

Interlibrary loans (ILL) and the CUNY Book Delivery service (CLICS) are available here as well. ILL books are sent from any local library and delivered and processed separately from all other books. They have their own check out/in program, separate from Aleph. Students may also request books from any CUNY library and have them sent here, as well as return the books at any CUNY library. This is the CLICS service. These books are treated the same as the Baruch stacks books, except placed in a different location when returned or requested daily. All CLICS and ILL books are located behind the circulation desk on the shelves beside the reserve materials.

Late Fees

There are strict late fees that automatically occur when patrons return items late, and the size of the fee depends of the item in question. Calculators are the lowest charge, being $5 a day. This is done to ensure that the library stock does not run out, students are much more likely to return items on time when the fines are so high. The library does have a cap on student fines, so that the bills are not posted to the bursar office until they reach $25 or over. This helps make sure the bursar office does not get bogged down with paperwork and that students are not forced to pay for lower fines or being late for the first few times. The more in demand items have larger fees, so laptops and cameras are much higher. The items that are shorter rental periods like reserve textbooks and room keys have hefty fines as well, these are more frequently check out and needed by most students.

Study, Presentation, Interview, and Carrel Rooms

There are a variety of rooms that students have access to. There is an online reservation system on the Newman library website where students sign up for time slots in advance. There are small group study rooms and large group study rooms as well as graduate only rooms available for reservation on the site. The sixth floor also has a section for room reservations, though these are not locked and students may use them as they please. These time slots fill up fast, though staff is allowed to book rooms for patrons if there is open availability, a rare commodity. Students who book rooms must come to the circulation desk to check in and rent the keys. The study rooms can be booked for a maximum of two hours or a minimum of thirty minutes.

Presentation rooms are for small groups of people who need a projector and these rooms are not reservable, but loaned out first come first serve. This is the same for interview rooms, but these are small one-person rooms where students can practice for interviews as well as use for remote/Skype interviews. These two rooms can only be used and loaned out for one hour, with one renewal if no one is put on a waiting list. The carrel rooms are larger rooms with cubby sections for quiet study. There are separate graduate and undergraduate carrel rooms, and each room has multiple keys for each cubby section. These keys are daily loans and students may have them until the circulation desk closes.

Patron Catering

As stated earlier, the Newman library is primarily a space for the students, an incredibly wide array of amenities are offered to the Baruch undergraduate and graduate students, as well as certain loans reserved for Alumni and other CUNY students. All the technology, book, and room reservation rental services are available to Baruch students, as they are the first priority patrons. The goal is to make sure that the students are given access to everything they need to succeed in class. Students can use the space for studying, practicing presentations, homework, student group meetings, and even preparing for job applications and interviews.

The library circulation desk is open from 9am until 10 on Monday through Friday, as well as 10am to 8pm on weekends, while the main library is open from 7am-midnight everyday. During finals season the library is open continuously from 7 am on December 10 through 11:59 pm on December 21. This 24-hour policy only applies to Baruch students between midnight and 7 am, other patrons must wait until 7am to enter. This is done to ensure that Baruch students have priority to all books and study rooms, as well as to more easily allow patrons to enter using their Baruch id cards to gain access to the building after normal hours are over.


Overall the Newman library has a plethora of resources available to students and is a great space for students and faculty to work. The library has become much more than a place to rent books, and the way they have integrated technology, spaces to work, and book renting together is both successful and innovative. The resources offered here are very generous and surprisingly well stocked. This library has become an integral place for most Baruch students, providing them with more than enough to get through graduation and even after, as the alumni continue to utilize the services here.



By: Brianna Martin

“Archives, Advocacy, and Change” at the New York Academy of Medicine

“The archival profession is inherently an activist profession.” -Rich Wandel

Last night, the New York Academy of Medicine hosted a panel called “Archives, Advocacy, and Change” as part of their Changemakers series. The panelists were Jenna Freedman, founder of the Barnard Zine Library; Steven Fullwood, founder of In the Life Archive; Timothy Johnson, director of NYU’s Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives and co-director of Tamiment’s Cold War Center; and Rich Wandel (quoted above), founder of  The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center National History Archive.  Continue reading

Observation: The Internet Archive and the Question of Abundance

Historians, in fact, maybe facing a fundamental paradigm shift from a culture of scarcity to a culture of abundance. Not so long ago, we worried about the small numbers of people we could reach, pages of scholarship we could publish, primary sources we could introduce to our students, and documents that had survived from the past. At least potentially, digital technology has removed many of these limits: over the Internet, it costs no more to deliver the AHR two 15 million people than 15,000 people; it costs less for our students to have access to literally millions of primary sources than a handful in a published anthology. And we may be able to both save and quickly search through all of the products of our culture. But will abundance bring better or more thoughtful history? (Rosenzweig, 2013)

In the recent past, information wasn’t as available as it is today. In today’s age we can hardly imagine what it is like to not have constant access to information. The moment we think of something we don’t know the answer to or someone asks us a question we might not know the answer to we can immediately pull out a mere device such as a cellphone to look up the answers practically instantaneously. Information is constantly at our beck and call, and with the tremendous growth in technology we have many ways of accessing it, storing it, and archiving it, whether it be through computers, laptops, phones, tablets, and even glasses. In addition to that, there is still the “old school” method of simply going to a library and finding the text you need, which now is much easier to browse since you can do it from home, have a book placed on hold for you so it’s ready upon your arrival to the library. Insane! But not really, because we are so used to it.

Rosenzweig asks the question as previously quoted, “But will abundance bring better or more thoughtful history?” I like to agree with Jason Silva on this one. Jason Silva is a futurist who puts a positive light on technological advancements and how humans can and will interface with them. In one of his videos on the YouTube channel Shots of Awe, he talks about one facet of how technology is shared, through the Internet, and describes how it actually increases the flow of curiosity and creativity. Many people believe that technology is making us lazy, that the Internet makes us simply look for an answer and then just move on without much thought. However, Jason Silva makes a good point that the Internet actually offloads some of our mental faculties, so that we can focus on even more things. What he means is that by being aided by the Internet to get an abundance of information quickly, we can spend more time on greater things, such as more thought towards what we have learned from it. So I believe that the answer to Rosenzweig’s question is that abundance will indeed bring better and more thoughtful history.

As previously mentioned, technology has made even using the library quicker and more efficient. We wont be saying good-bye to libraries any time soon. But, not only can you access physical items through a library, but also one of the most widely growing areas is digitizing resources. Now we might not always have to set foot into a library if we are looking for a quick e-source such as an e-book, journal article, etc. Most libraries offer access to these things, specifically academic libraries. It’s gotten so far that there are some libraries that might not have a specific physical location for their patrons to come in, but rather they exist online. One such place is the Internet Archive, at https://www.archive.org

The Internet Archive is a non-profit Internet library that started in 1997 with the purpose to “include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.” Many may already know them for their Way Back Machine that has 439 web pages saved from different periods of time, but they also store formats from texts, video, audio, software, image, concerts, and collections.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 11.22.06 PM

Way Back Machine

The Way Back Machine was fun to explore. It was quite interesting to see websites such as yahoo, and amazon in its early stages. Yahoo, for instance was in no way visually appealing, and worked like a directory with a general list that branched off into more lists until you could narrow it down to the sites that you were looking for. It shows the gradual increase in our interfaces and how the Internet became much more user oriented as time went on, making it easier for humans to interface with it.

Old Yahoo

I also went ahead and created my own account for their website. The heading of the account creation page states, “Get a Virtual Library Card”. They treat their website as a library of its own, and your account is considered to be your Library Card. Having an account allows you to access other functions of the website. This includes favoriting, reviewing and rating items. The Internet Archive’s collections has a very straight forward browsing tool. When on a collection, each item has its own box which shows the item type, how many times its been viewed, how many times its been favorited, and how many times its been reviewed. This creates a very unique community, because with a physical library a patron doesn’t have any access to how many times an item has been viewed or how many people like it, or what people think about it. With this available to patrons, it can help them browse for popular items or less popular items or read up on what people have to say about it. Having the ability to write a review also allows patrons to leave very helpful tips. Through my observations, I’ve seen patrons give advice as to where to go to find more information on an item, as well as correct an item and informing the Internet Archive team about missing information from an item. At the bottom of each item you can also find what people have found after finding the current item. This creates a trend that can be very helpful for those with similar taste in books or whatever the item type is.

I’ve noticed that not all items are full text, but many are. I’ve even searched for “The Jungle Book” and was able to find the full original movie from 1942 and was able to watch it all for free! https://archive.org/details/JungleBook. There were also some very interesting finds just from browsing, like audio from NASA launches to be listened to in full. There are also tons of images archived on this website, even including your favorite music album covers.

As I browsed the site I was in awe of all the history we are able to store and access because of sites like the Internet Archive. But behind it all was the nagging question of how permanent can all this truly be? Their purpose states that it’s a permanent place, but in actuality all of this is stored on servers, computers probably in different areas and links back to other sources that they might have received it from. It would probably be really difficult to lose all of these files, but I can’t help but think that it is still possible. Technology is always growing and changing, leaving old methods of storage nearly obsolete; such as computers today not having a floppy disc drive to read files stored on a floppy. So, having archival websites like this one is a massive historical tool that can help many people to learn from the past and present. It probably wont be going anywhere for a long time, but I believe efforts should be made to observe ways to store these things in an even more permanent way, so that people in the future will also have access and not just for our time alone. This, too, can have issues with space to store so much information, but the trend seems to be that we are inventing smaller and smaller spaces of storage. Who knows how far we will go.


Internet Archive. https://archive.org. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

Rosenzweig, R. (2003). Scarcity or abundance? Preserving the past in a digital era. The American Historical Review, 108(3), 735-762.

Can We Avoid Biases in Library Classification Systems?

The problem of bias in library classification structures and subject language are, from a queer perspective, problems endemic to the knowledge organization project itself. If social categories and names are understood as embedded in contingencies of space, time, and discourse, then bias is inextricable from the process of classification and cataloging. When an item is placed in a particular category or given a particular name, those decisions always reflect a particular ideology or approach to understanding the material itself. [1. Drabinski, E. (2013). Queering the catalog: Queer theory and the politics of Correction. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 83(2), 94-111.]

As human beings, we are bound to our subjectivity. The way we shape the world is due to our upbringing, experiences, community, culture, and other social influences. I believe that, because of this, it is near impossible for us to truly see objectively. Every thought and idea we have is influenced by something else. This notion trickles down even to library classification and subject language use. It would be lovely if we could all agree on a universal classification structure that everyone mutually agreed upon, and that did not offend anyone, but how could we achieve such a thing? Language itself is subjective and not only is it difficult to get the exact same meaning between two different languages, but even between two individuals speaking the same language you will find that their experiences and influences has shaped how they interpret their language and it doesn’t always have the same implications between the two. In Drabinksi’s article, “Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction” she points out these important statements, pointing out the subjective nature of classification and subject language.

Why does any of this matter? Something Drabinksi says in her article stood out to me, as it was the first time I’ve ever thought of it that way. “As users interact with these structures to browse and retrieve materials, they inevitably learn. . .”. [1. Drabinski, E. (2013). Queering the catalog: Queer theory and the politics of Correction. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 83(2), 94-111.] Her focus is on the learning of negative stereotypes about race, gender, class and other social identities, however I can see it also being general. As people interact with a library, not only will they learn from the materials they are using, but there can also be the side effect of learning from simply browsing for their material. Some of our major classification systems like Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress were created through the white, Christian male perspective in the past. Because of this, classification systems pay heavy attention to the Christian religion but treats Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism as minor religions. Someone who is browsing will either, knowingly or unknowingly, observe and learn from this. This is the same for the marginalization of gay and lesbian sexuality, while making heterosexuality the normative.


This brought back a memory I had when I was in undergrad, doing research for one of my psychology courses for the first time. This particular library used Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). I was looking in the 500s because that was the science section. To my surprise, psychology was not located there. So I thought, perhaps it would be under social science, the 300s? No. Instead, I found psychology under the 100s as a subgroup of philosophy. [1. OCLC. (n.d.). DDC 23 summaries. Retrieved September 26, 2015, from OCLC website: http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/oclc/dewey/DDC%2023_Summaries.pdf] I understood that psychology had ties with philosophy, since it happens to have sprung forth from that field, and it was widely thought of as pseudoscience early on in its beginnings, but I didn’t think to find it still classified this way. It’s also the same in Library of Congress Classification (LCC), where psychology is under B, still a subgroup of philosophy, along with religion. [3. Library of Congress. (n.d.). Library of congress classification outline. Retrieved September 26, 2015, from Library of Congress website: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/lcco/] What’s surprising is that although psychology has prospered into its own field of science, its still portrayed in the classifications as less.

Drabinski makes excellent points about the biases contained within the classification and subject heading structures, she believes that the way we should combat this is by “queer theory”, which basically is an approach where instead of directly combatting the structures, we empower the users of libraries by teaching them to think critically and use the system critically. Although, in my experience, users don’t give much thought to the classification structures, this would still be a powerful thing to implement nonetheless, for those who do happen to engage with it and have questions.


Approaching the problem of library classification and cataloging from a queer perspective demands that we leave intact the traces of historicity and ideology that mar the classification and cataloging project. Such traces can reveal the limit of the universal knowledge organization project. . . [1. Drabinski, E. (2013). Queering the catalog: Queer theory and the politics of Correction. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 83(2), 94-111.]


At first, I thought Drabinski was saying that we should do nothing about making a change to the classifications, but as I took all her words in I believe I see her point. I may be wrong in my interpretation, but I believe she is trying to give a different approach, rather than having the responsibility on just catalogers, it will shift over to the librarians who engage with users and expose them to understanding that will inevitably put an eventual strain on making the change.


As previously mentioned, however, biases will always exist. We cannot come to a complete “finish” with this process. The process will be forever ongoing, and this is due to the subjectivity of human perspective. We can only continue the process and it will continue to reflect the zeitgeist of the time, or perhaps the previous time since every few generations will come up with their own ideas that will challenge the previous’, as we are doing now. It is impossible for us to have full neutrality within the Library. As Jensen implies throughout his article, whatever stance is taken even if its supposedly neutral, it is still a stance and thus making it non-neutral. [1. Jensen, R. (2006). “The myth of the neutral professional” in Questioning Library Neutrality, ed. A. Lewis. Library Juice, 89–96.] Applying that to the field of Librarianship or a Cataloger, no matter what direction we take in changing classification and subject heading language, there will always be others who disagree and who will have their toes stepped on by the changes. This doesn’t mean that we should not engage and challenge our current positions, but instead we should attempt to find means of progression where we can continually move forward with the times, and with current understandings. Drabinksi’s method is a great one, and I would even add that we should find ways to actively engage library users with the classification systems, because for the most part they usually come in with an idea of what they want, and quickly get it and then leave. If we found a way to engage them into learning, it will spread understanding and more people will take notice to the system, its flaws and its strengths.