Monday, 28 September 2009

the view from the specimen jar

After a nice weekend in deepest Oxfordshire, I'm shuffling pieces of paper around and wondering where this week will go. To start with, let's look at the state of play with the Campaign To Rescue Books With Transsexual Content From Stupid Categories In The Dewey System.

Must think of a snappier and acronym-friendly title. Hmm.


As mentioned earlier, it appears that biographies and autobiographies of people with a transsexual history tend to get lumped into Social Sciences: Culture and Institutions. That's if they're lucky. If they aren't, they might well find themselves among the paedophiles over at Mental Health: Personality Disorders.

Previous posts are here, here and here.

I have written to Bristol Library, whose stock officer accepted that the latter category 'is now incorrect and unacceptable', but stated that Becoming Drusilla, the book in which I have an interest, is about a change of sex, and is therefore correctly assigned to 306.768, where it can presumably be studied by students of social science. He expressed the hope that it clarified things for me.

Alas, it did not, as my reply explained.

But answer (from Bristol library) came there none. And two weeks later, Jan Morris' Conundrum is still listed in the 'incorrect and unacceptable' 616.858 category in the library catalogue.

I still await a reply from the British Library.

Thanks, though, to SteveL, who posted the link to this article, which deals with ways of ordering information, and which introduced me to the word ontology, which is a good word.

I feel rather less alone when I realise that 'othering' is an inevitable side-effect of hierarchical ordering, performed by 'experts', as in the Dewey System; here, for instance, is the category Religion

Dewey, 200: Religion
210 Natural theology
220 Bible
230 Christian theology
240 Christian moral & devotional theology
250 Christian orders & local church
260 Christian social theology
270 Christian church history
280 Christian sects & denominations
290 Other religions
...can you see what it is yet? -as Rolf Harris used to say....

As Nose In A Book commented,
I assume there is a biography section in the Dewey system? What's in there? Perhaps it's considered lazy to use it; not trying hard enough.

How come plays all get classified under 'plays'? Perhaps Hamlet should get moved to 'mental health disorders'. Most of David Hare's output could go under 'politics'...