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Sat Jul 25, 2015, 03:42 AM

A brief history of homophobia in Dewey decimal classification

Libraries in more than 138 countries organise their resources according to Dewey decimal classification, or DDC for short. This proprietary system is the most widely used in the world. The DDC number reflects specific subject areas. Browsing shelves for books on similar topics, grouped together to make them easy to find, is both the beauty of and the frustration with the Dewey decimal system.

Once upon a time and yet not so long ago, LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) topics have variously been assigned to DDC categories such as Abnormal Psychology, Perversion, Derangement, as a Social Problem and even as Medical Disorders. Is it any wonder that someone browsing ‘similar’ library items in this area could feel alienated?

Addressing inclusion and alienation, in June 2015 Linda Rudell-Betts of the Los Angeles Public Libraries wrote a post on making sure its LGBTI Collection was assigned DDC call numbers from the twenty-second edition, so that its users are not confronted with earlier, demeaning classifications:

Dewey decimal classification (DDC) itself would assign lesbians, gay men, bisexual people and transgender people (LGBTI people) to a call number, 301.4157, as a kind of ‘abnormal sexual relations’ (modified fourteenth edition of the DDC).

Admittedly the fourteenth edition of DDC was published in 1942, but nonetheless, the spectre of earlier hurtful classifications can linger even when improved numbers have been assigned.

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Reply A brief history of homophobia in Dewey decimal classification (Original post)
Behind the Aegis Jul 2015 OP
dsc Jul 2015 #1
Behind the Aegis Jul 2015 #2
irisblue Jul 2015 #3
MillennialDem Jul 2015 #4

Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sat Jul 25, 2015, 11:19 PM

1. I actually remember looking for books on homosexuality when I was a kid

and yes, it was pretty disturbing to have to look under those kinds of terms. Have to say I haven't really thought of it lately though since I tend to search on line or at the lgtb center for those things now.

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Response to dsc (Reply #1)

Sun Jul 26, 2015, 01:58 AM

2. I called it the "Homo Queer" section because the call letters were "HQ".

I used to look for things when I was younger too and had to plan recon missions to get to books I wanted. When I was in college, for the first few years, I did the same...then, I said "fuck it" and would plop down right in front of the section and read on the floor.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Sun Jul 26, 2015, 06:19 PM

3. huh...interesting article. thanks

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Wed Jul 29, 2015, 08:51 PM

4. At the college I teach at, the abnormal psych TEXTBOOK mentions trans people including

 

autogynephilia.

Thankfully I don't teach psych. I've considered calling it out, but I'm trans and don't want to out myself.

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