Essay on Overcoming Bias While Promoting Hospitality in the Subject Catalog

Essay on Overcoming Bias While Promoting Hospitality in the Subject Catalog

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Overcoming Bias While Promoting Hospitality in the Subject Catalog
Is it possible for the subject catalog to remain hospitable to users while also striving to be unbiased? This question has undoubtedly been raised in many professional circles during discussions surrounding subject analysis and the subject catalog. Perhaps the key is acknowledging the inherent subjectivity of subject analyzation and therefore acknowledge the continual existence of a certain amount of bias and inhospitality within the subject catalog. When such an acknowledgement is made, a system of checks and balances can be devised in order to work towards overcoming bias, on both the parts of the cataloger and the user, while promoting hospitality in the subject catalog.
There are some who suggest that it is indeed impossible when engaging in subject cataloging to both please the user and be without bias. As Prevost points out, in her 1946 article in Library Quarterly, the public is both very large and very diverse. She goes on to explain that figuring out the “public mind” is impossible. Prevost asserts that the principle of common usage is too illusive and subjective to consider in the midst of such a diverse and changing public, therefore it is best to catalog subjects keeping librarians and “intelligent users” in mind. This thought process seems contrary to Cutter’s focus on the reader which is a focus held in high regard by the ethics of many a library and librarian.
There are others who suggest that there are ways to objectively catalog and analyze the subject of works, therefore bias can be eliminated and relevancy can reign in the world of subject cataloguing. Patrick Wilson describes the techniques and strategies catalogers have employed in or...


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...inually evolving, the new term phasing out the older term, the cycle continuing indefinitely. Given the subjective nature of the subject catalog this is a realistic and beneficial solution. It is a solution which depends in great part on the “system-user interface” as Bates suggests in her article on the topic of subject cataloging in the online environment. The success of the proposed solution depends on the user friendliness of the interface. Increasing the guidance of users from unauthorized terms to authorized terms requires a well organized and hospitable interface. In conclusion, it is obvious that a solution of checks and balances by way of continually evaluating and updating the cross-references is not an inexpensive one, but it is a solution that will lead the subject catalog in a way that is unbiased, hospitable, and relevant in an ever-changing world.

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