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Critical cataloging, library classification, alternative classification schema


Library classification systems frequently fail librarians and patrons because they do not provide space for the depth and breadth of topics both about and created by people within marginalized communities. This presentation explores three classification systems, created in North America between 1930-1975, that were produced by people in and for the communities that they represent. In 1930, Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley, a librarian who helped to build the collection at Howard University, also created a classification system to better represent the works by, about, and for Black people. During the same time period, Alfred Kaiming Chiu was creating the Harvard-Yenching Classification system at Harvard University because the Library of Congress classification system could not accommodate Chinese Language materials and non-European knowledge organization. In 1974, A. Brian Deer began his work in creating classification systems that not only improved the depth of the classification but also adjusted the framework of classification to better fit the way Indigenous knowledge is structured to be more intuitive for Indigenous patrons. These examples, some nearly 100 years old, emphasize the need to uplift and champion the voices of people within marginalized communities as we continue to do work toward reparative cataloging and classification.


This presentation was given at the Core Virtual Interest Group Week session on March 7, 2023.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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