Note on the role of knowledge
David Bade sent me the following note about some LC cataloging that demonstrates (though absence) that librarianship requires more than just knowledge of tools and technique but also knowledge of subject matter. I will write more at some point on the way we can mislead ourselves and others about our role and our skills when we say “I don’t know the answer but I know how to look it up.” David writes:
Just found LC copy in OCLC for a Russian book (translated: The political (“Asiatic”) mode of production: its nature and role in the history of humanity and in Russia). The LC cataloger had this as Slavery—Asia—History; Forced labor—Economic aspects–Soviet Union. Apparently s/he was not familiar with the old theory of “Asiatic mode of production”? Does such knowledge date me as having lived in, known and studied the world prior to 1989? This kind of disconnect? ignorance? carelessness? in cataloging just leaves me reeling in disbelief. At least in the old days (pre 1989) LC had a bunch of cold warriors who knew exactly what was under discussion.
Usually I think about the role of general knowledge and subject knowledge in reference service, but this shows it applies equally to cataloging.