UC Berkeley School of Law Library Reclassifies Indigenous Materials, Giving Them Their Own Place on the Shelves
From Berkeley Law:
As part of its broader commitment to considering and fostering diversity and inclusion within its storied stacks, the Berkeley Law Library staff have taken on one prominent example of bias: Reclassifying books, periodicals, and other materials that cover America’s Indigenous people to their own place on the shelves.
Library cataloger Kate Peck was inspired by a presentation at the American Association of Law Libraries’ annual meeting last summer. That talk, and the Berkeley project, stemmed from changes the Library of Congress made in 2014 to expand the classification system for Indigenous materials within the K class for law materials.
In 1969, the Library of Congress developed KF as the umbrella subclass for all American law topics — with just 28 call numbers for all works involving Indigenous law, echoing the exclusion and erasure of the people, tribal nations, and sovereignty issues in our society at large. (By comparison, Peck says, that same schema included 148 call numbers for federal income tax law and 90 for laws involving the U.S. Postal Service.)
Pushed to the bottom of the main category and squeezed into a tiny space, this treatment has been described by some in the cataloging community as “marginalization” and “ghettoization.”
After years of discussion and debate, the 2014 classification scheme enacted by the Library of Congress opened up a huge new space, literally and figuratively. “Law of Indigenous people in the Americas” now spreads from KIA to KIX, allowing for specificity at the continental, country, regional, and tribal level.
“This new system treats Indigenous laws as the valuable living systems that they are,” Peck says.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.