Last week’s class talked a lot about the nature of archives and archiving, and findability vs. usability. (I confess it was weird to present myself as any kind of authority on archival techniques, which I emphatically am not.)
In the great information organization throw-down, Clay Shirky presented (some) of the problems of traditional library organization, while archivist Kate Theimer protested the casual use of “archive” to describe (most) digital collections. The modern foibles of library organization were largely left out of the conversation, likely because this is a class of and for museum studies students.
That said, it’s important for anyone thinking seriously about how to organize cultural materials to think about where they stand on authority and its role in classification and cataloging. I strongly recommend reading A. Matienzo’s To Hell With Good Intentions: Linked Data, Community and the Power to Name. (This is a written version of their keynote for the LITA – Library Information Technology Association – Forum in November.) It gives a clear state of the field in terms of how library metadata (catalog records, description, etc.) does or does not reinforce unjust and often oppressive paradigms.