Ways of Knowing
Oral Histories on the Worlds Words Create
Editors: Amanda Belantara and Emily Drabinski
Ways of Knowing: Oral Histories on the Worlds Words Create Cataloging and classification sits at the heart of the library project, shaping how materials are described and organized and how they can be retrieved. The field has long understood that normative systems like Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress do this inadequately and worse, deploying language and categories that are rooted in white supremacy, patriarchy, and U.S. imperialism. Ways of Knowing presents unique and timely oral histories of alternative thesauri created in response to the inadequacies and biases embedded within widely adopted standards in libraries. The oral histories tell the stories behind the thesauri through the narratives of the people who created them, revealing aspects of thesauri work that ordinarily are overlooked or uncovered.
The set of oral histories included in the volume document the Chicano Thesaurus, the Women’s Thesaurus, and the Homosaurus. The authors recorded hour-long oral histories with two representatives from each project, documenting the origins of each thesaurus, the political and social context from which they emerged, and the processes involved in their development and implementation. Introductory essays provide a context for each thesaurus in the history of information and activism in libraries. The book and accompanying digital files constitute the first primary source of its kind and a unique contribution to the history of metadata work in libraries. Capturing these stories through sound recording offers new ways of understanding the field of critical cataloging and classification as we hear the joy, frustration, urgency, and seriousness of critical metadata work.
Amanda Belantara is an audiovisual artist-anthropologist and librarian at New York University Libraries. She aspires to cultivate community and social change through creative exchange. Prior to joining NYU, Belantara worked as a creative producer and teaching artist, collaborating with cultural heritage institutions to create interactive audio installations, audio tours, and oral history projects. Her work often incorporates sound recording to uncover perspectives that are missing from written works. She brings this to her research in library and information science, using sound to explore, document and communicate the social construction of library practices. Her work has been supported by Arts Council England, The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Agency for Public Affairs, Government of Japan, The New York Metropolitan Library Council and New York University. Her work has been exhibited at places like The John Rylands Library, The Whitworth, Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Akiyoshidai International Art Village, SFMoMA, Microscope Gallery, Castlefield Gallery and her documentary films have screened at festivals and galleries around the world. Belantara holds an MA in Visual Anthropology / Ethnographic Documentary from the University of Manchester, UK and an MSLIS from Pratt Institute, NYC.
Emily Drabinski is Associate Professor and librarian at the City University of New York. Drabinski publishes and presents widely on topics related to knowledge organization, information literacy, and critical perspectives in librarianship. Since 2011, Drabinski has served as series editor Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies, a book series from Library Juice Press/Litwin Books, organizing three related colloquia, convening hundreds of scholars and practitioners interested in these questions. In 2015, she received the Ilene F. Rockman Instruction Publication of the Year Award for her work on qualitative time in the information literacy classroom. In 2020, Drabinski received the award for Career Achievement in Women and Gender Studies Librararianship from the ACRL Women and Gender Studies Section. She will serve as President of the American Library Association in 2023-24. Drabinski is a contributing writer to Truthout.