Skip to Main Content

Inclusive Language

Library Catalogs

A library catalog is an important tool within the library as it contains the bibliographic information of all materials which a library holds. This makes materials findable to the patrons and allows libraries to organize and structure their collections. Libraries often follow multiple standards within their collections. For example, the Pratt Institute Libraries uses the Dewey Decimal system for classification. This organizes Pratt’s collection by subject - so materials are divided between different subject classes which have a correlating decimal number.

In addition to the Dewey Decimal system, Pratt Libraries also includes Library of Congress Subject Headings which is a controlled vocabulary of subject matter that can be applied to library materials. While this controlled vocabulary does not relate to the physical organization of the library as the Dewey Decimal System does, these subject headings are included in the library catalog to assist users when they are searching for materials on certain subjects. While there are many standards and controlled vocabularies used within different libraries to catalog their collections, these standards are never neutral. The way information is classified, organized, and labeled always reflects bias - whether it's bias built into the cataloging standards themselves or from the cataloger who is using them.

Critical Cataloging

Critical cataloging is a movement that focuses on developing critical practices around cataloging which can mitigate harmful ideology present in library catalogs, cataloging standards, and controlled vocabularies. Critical cataloging acknowledges the power structures which have historically been codified and neutralized within cataloging practices – from colonization, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism and other forms of oppression. The movement seeks to understand how these forces continue to perpetuate harm within our libraries and find solutions to these structural problems within library catalogs. 

  Report a Problem with this Page