Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Remembering the Howard University Librarian Who Decolonized the Way Books Were Catalogued

African-American History | Cataloguing |Racial bias

by Zita Cristina Nunes

American Historical Association's Perspectives on History

Smithsonian.com

November 26, 2018

Dorothy Porter challenged the racial bias in the Dewey Decimal System, putting black scholars alongside white colleagues 
 
 
 
In a 1995 interview with Linton Weeks of the Washington Post, the Howard University librarian, collector and self-described “bibliomaniac” Dorothy Porter reflected on the focus of her 43-year career: “The only rewarding thing for me is to bring to light information that no one knows. What’s the point of rehashing the same old thing?” For Porter, this mission involved not only collecting and preserving a wide range of materials related to the global black experience, but also addressing how these works demanded new and specific qualitative and quantitative approaches in order to collect, assess, and catalog them.

As some librarians today contemplate ways to decolonize libraries—for example, to make them less reflective of Eurocentric ways of organizing knowledge—it is instructive to look to Porter as a progenitor of the movement. Starting with little, she used her tenacious curiosity to build one of the world’s leading repositories for black history and culture: Howard’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. But she also brought critical acumen to bear on the way the center’s materials were cataloged, rejecting commonly taught methods as too reflective of the way whites thought of the world.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/remembering-howard-university-librarian-who-decolonized-way-books-were-catalogued-180970890/#pY8YYwIXYHSpxhcc.99
 
 

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