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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cultural Bias Is Everywhere--Including Our Libraries

In response to my recent post, "Poetry and Prose for Native American Heritage Month," Broadwater Elementary School Librarian Marla Unruh shared some interesting thoughts about how librarians catalog and organize Indian-related material. She particularly noted how traditional cataloging choices can marginalize Indian material and, especially, relegate native peoples to the past rather than recognizing them as active, culturally and politically, in the present.

She wrote:
While searching for a Dewey Decimal classification for Birthright: Born to Poetry – A Collection of Montana Indian Poetry, I came across an article titled “Classification, Bias, and American Indian Materials,” by Holly Tomren. She asserts that both the Dewey Decimal and the Library of Congress classification systems do not have adequate categories for Indian literature, marginalizing basic Native concepts by using outdated terms and relegating Indian works to the past, placing them on the history shelves.
As I look our school district catalog, I find the overwhelming preponderance of books and resources in 970.004, the history section reserved for all things Native American.
I decided to put Birthright into our poetry section rather than segregating it from other poetry.
This is something I had never thought about and so I am especially appreciative to Marla for writing. How is the Birthright collection cataloged in your school library? Where do you think it should be?

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