Friday, April 15, 2016

Now they're coming after the librarians

From Daily Kos:

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) is, as I suspect most people know, a Teahadist moron. But it takes a special kind of moron to piss off librarians. That’s exactly what she did this morning, with the announcement that she would introduce a bill in Congress, mandating that,

“The Librarian of Congress shall continue to use the terms ‘Alien’ and ‘Illegal aliens’ in the Library of Congress Subject Headings in the same manner at they were in effect during 2015.”

Libraries'... ultimate purpose is not simply to be a storehouse of books, but to make those books useful to patrons. Now, “useful” can mean different things to different people, but for catalogers, one of the chief qualities of usefulness is simply: discoverability. No matter how “useful” a book may be in terms of its literary or informational qualities, if it cannot be found among the thousands of other books held by a given library, it’s not particularly useful at all.

In order to fulfill this mandate, catalogers maintain library catalogs...

When it comes to topical discovery, one of the most important tools that cataloging librarians have at their disposal is the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), which is a suite of controlled vocabularies that enable catalogers to record the “aboutness” of a given work. Because “natural language” is more or less inexact, the terms in the LCSH serve to cut out some of the noise by selecting certain terms as “preferred” and recording other, “non-preferred” terms as cross references...

Now, of course, providing subject access is, ultimately, a language game. And language, like libraries themselves, is an ever-changing organism...

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