What does critical cataloging mean to you? In what ways is cataloging important to the user?
Critical cataloging sheds a light on the current drawbacks of cataloging that exist due to a history of oppression and the use of outdated prejudiced language in aspects of cataloging such as subject headings. As I discussed in last week’s blog post, I learned a lot about the impact of harmful language in subject headings by watching the Change the Subject documentary that discussed the dehumanizing Library of Congress subject heading for undocumented citizens that was only recently updated. In my understanding, critical cataloging examines the existing classification systems we have in place and makes changes according to the current perception of what is accurate and respectful language to describe categories. Language evolves, and so does culture, so it is important to stay up to date with our language, especially when it comes to referring to groups of people. It can be extremely hurtful for a user to be trying to access resources on a certain group of people they identify with and have to search using language that makes them uncomfortable or feel dehumanized. This is what happened to one of the students who started the movement to change the “Illegal aliens” subject heading — but it shouldn’t have to hurt people first before the wording is changed.
I also never realized before working on the back-end of cataloging how much cataloging really matters for the user in terms of access. The way a cataloger assigns subject headings directly impacts the user’s ability to find the materials they are looking for. Including a summary and table of contents in a MARC record can help mitigate the effects of problematic subject headings, as the language used in the content of the resources will be directly accessible through a search.