Your Name and Title: Faye Leibowitz (General Languages Catalog Librarian)

Library, School, or Organization Name: University Library System, University of Pittsburgh

Co-Presenter Name(s): Abigail Gulya (English Language Catalog Librarian)

Area of the World from Which You Will Present: United States of America

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience(s): Librarians, Library Staff, and library users

Short Session Description (one line): Discussing the role that catalogers play in fairly representing topics, and the politicization of subject cataloging.

Full Session Description (as long as you would like):

  1. Personal experiences with cataloging biased material
  2. Subject Headings as gateway to information
    • Added importance due to increasing online-only patrons
    • Global impact due to shared cataloging
    • Value of controlled vocabulary
  3. Ethical responsibilities of the cataloger
    • Provide fair and equal access to information
    • Provide accurate and uncensored information
    • Provide personally and culturally unbiased information
    • Awareness of potential pitfalls due to "cataloger's judgement"
  4. Historical perspective
    • Terminology and classification reflects values of a particular historical period
      • LC Classification developed in 1897 - classification of LGBT subjects reflects late 19th century values; bias against Asia and Africa in specificity of topics compared to USA and Europe
      • Terminology is easier to change than classification systems (based on traditional use - shelving print materials)
        • Concept of "literary warrant."
        • Horrible, bigoted, outdated subject headings
          • Ex: "Yellow peril."
          • Ex: "Jewish question."
        • Sandford Berman petitioned Library of Congress to change these subject headings starting in the 1970s
  5. Political perspective
    • Even with ethical standards committing librarians to avoid bias, politics can sometimes get in the way
      • LC Subject headings are primarily USA-focused
      • U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring LC subject heading "Illegal aliens" to remain in force
  6. Considerations for searching information in the online environment

Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session: N/A

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