everything is miscellaneous

by David Weinberger

This book, for me, must be what it’s like for Brad Pitt to read Star Magazine. “Why do these people care about my job? Who would read this?” I mean I like my job, but who picks up a popular non-fiction book on metadata? I have no idea. Which is sort of the problem with librarians reviewing it, I guess, is because of course it’s simplified, it’s not FOR US. It’s for other people to understand what we do. I have no idea why they would want to, but it would be cool if one day I could explain my job to people in other fields.

That said, while this book is (literally) dedicated to librarians and generally very pro-librarians, I think the author has a prejudicially anti-traditional cataloging stance. I understand why, since Dewey is crazy. But still, just because we need to PHYSICALLY colocate things in the real world doesn’t mean we can’t also do a lot of awesome digital stuff away from traditional book cataloging FOR BOOKS. He seems to think it is one or the other–either you catalog physical stuff and are chained to something like DDC, or you are open to a wonderful world of user tagging. Why can there be no compromise?

This is generally how I feel at all discussions of this subject.

Also he seems to really dislike Melvil Dui. Okay, I get it he was racist and sexist, and kind of a crank, but he also did some awesome stuff. Not everything is bad just because you don’t personally like him.

Given that I have a personal stake in keeping some traditional cataloging perhaps I am biased. But honestly it makes me angry when people think we should just let everyone tag everything all the time. That works with many things. MANY THINGS. But it doesn’t with others. And why can’t there be both to allow for maximum access? Do we have to have a rap battle? Can’t we all just get along? Because of this I think all works that don’t move toward a combo of both are basically moot.

Also, he specifically mentions what he thinks the people doing what I do at the place I work should do. Which we are not doing. Which made me snicker. A book hasn’t really ever pointed its finger at me like that. In fact he referred to me and my coworkers as, “men in a well-lit room.” I think this is a funny characterization of my job as the vast majority of librarians are women and work in really dark confines.

My favorite part of the book is this quotation from Dewey:

“My heart is open to anything that’s either decimal or about libraries.” Way to use the Boolean, Melvil. Okay I am stopping before this all gets too biblioblogosphere and I have to argue about piddly things ALA does.


  1. Mark says:

    Best. Review. So. Far. AND By a Librarian.

  2. jennybento says:

    I blush!

    I’ll keep in mind grand statements about everyone else’s writing on the subject are moot makes you happy. ­čÖé

  3. jennybento says:

    btw mark, we are agreeing and not misunderstanding each other far too much lately online. how’d that happen?! ­čÖé

  4. Mark says:

    Wow! You’re right, and it’s not even a Thursday.

    I’m just going to have to embrace the rampant weirdness in my life. Now where did I leave that little 23-year old hottie?

    Oh, wait. We need some lines that shouldn’t be crossed in our lives; at least I do.

  5. I’ve heard Mr. Weinberger in person and I’m under the impression that he never was aware that librarians had a different card for each author and for each subject. He in fact talks about many problems we librarians have solved many decades ago (pre-coordinated and post-coordinated vocabularies and languages is one) as if they were still a deep failure from our part in appreciate and in solving… It’s our ‘image problem’ as you all know very well…

  6. Alexandra says:

    Nice job Jenny. Thanks for writing it.

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