The Politics of Classification
Instructor: Melissa Adler
Dates: April 3rd to 28th, 2017
Credits: 1.5 CEUs
To classify is to make a statement. In libraries we assign subject headings, call numbers, and other labels to the materials to which we provide access. Any given classificatory act is a statement regarding the "aboutness" of a work, how it relates to other works, how it is likely to be discovered, the discipline to which it belongs, or who the anticipated readers are. In this course, we will unmask the political aspects of structures and naming practices in library classifications, including the Library of Congress Classification, the Dewey Decimal Classification, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and social tagging. We will situate these systems in the historical moments in which they were created, as well at the present, and we will look at key moments in which library activists effected change. The course is organized around a few specific headings and classifications that demonstrate political and cultural conditions, events, and ideas. For a final project students will independently investigate a heading, section, or category.
Melissa Adler is Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science and affiliated with the Committee on Social Theory and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky. Her book, Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge, will be published by Fordham University Press in April 2017. Her articles have appeared in Knowledge Organization, the Journal of the History of Sexuality, and Information & Culture. She has worked in libraries for over seven years, primarily as a cataloger. Interview with Melissa Adler
This is an online class that is taught asynchronously, meaning that participants do the work on their own time as their schedules allow. The class does not meet together at any particular times, although the instructor may set up optional sychronous chat sessions. Instruction includes readings and assignments in one-week segments. Class participation is in an online forum environment.
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