Advancing Equitable Cataloging


Advancing Equitable Cataloging


For nearly a century (1933 onwards), catalogers and others have engaged in discussions over the 'ethical' labeling of marginalized subjects in knowledge organization systems (KOS). In order to understand and contextualize contemporary conversations, I undertook a comprehensive review of this literature. The resulting project 1) synthesizes the broader history of these discussions, 2) examines its facets and subdomains, and 3) provides a foundation for the realignment of KO work towards social justice. To achieve these tasks, I replicated and expanded upon a now-unavailable database prepared by Hope A. Olson and Rose Schlegl in 1999. As this database suggests, the literature has expanded fivefold in the last two decades and taken a number of different directions. My analysis of these differences (here called KO 'subdomains') establishes a historiography of critical cataloging movements and a framework from which to understand them. It also demonstrates gaps in the literature, how contemporary authors have abandoned areas of early importance, and how certain subdomains have become nearly independent. Finally, my analysis indicates the insufficiency of a philosophical tradition descended from Ancient Greek Aristotelian “virtue” ethics as a method upon which to base twenty-first century KOS. Instead, I advance the concept of “equitable” knowledge organization and the realignment of KO work towards principals of social justice.


Brian Watson



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Brian Watson, “Advancing Equitable Cataloging,” Anti-Racism Digital Library, accessed May 27, 2022,