On Allies and Cataloging Practice

While watching my favourite weekend morning show, the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC, I was struck by the idea of cataloging practice and how it can be demonstrative of a critical point in social movements. This moment of clarity, however fleeting, made me giddy in knowing that I may have truly found my calling. Finally.

So, to better demonstrate my point: the topic at the top of the show was on “How to be a good ally”, referring to social movements in general, but the marriage equality movement specifically. In order for movements to move, for lack of a better term, there needs to be allies from outside the community. Harris-Perry used Viola Liuzzo as an example of an ally to a movement. Liuzzo, a white woman from Tennessee (by way of California) joined the march in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, and was gunned down for her ally-ship. She was in the midst of driving marchers back from Selma to their far reaching locations, when she was shot. Being an ally is not always a good experience, and sometimes, as demonstrated in this situation, can be deadly, but it is still important and necessary work. It is something that one does because they are moved to, as Liuzzo was, regardless of the consequences. Ally-ship is important work, but movements must reciprocate.

In cataloging, this would be referred to as a cross reference. Without the broader and narrower terms, we cannot find the information we need. Information seekers cannot understand the whole picture of what they are searching for, if the sources are not cross-referenced.

For example; a book is received in circulation that has many topics it deals with. Perhaps it is a Sociology text that deals with social movements. This book would encompass such topics as civil rights, feminist theory, marriage equality, socio-economic status, and race relations. According to Library of Congress subject headings, the cataloger needs to determine the broad purpose of the text and catalog it within that subject heading. So, the book would appear on the shelf in the Sociology section, sub section: Social Movements. But cataloging does not end there. It is merely the beginning. The book deals with more narrow subjects such as civil rights and marriage equality. In order to assist information seekers in finding this book when they are searching for gay marriage, a cross reference needs to exist for this narrower term. In the catalog, when searching gay marriage this text should appear, just as it should appear when searching the broader term of social movements.

This demonstrates the same concept within social justice. If you look at the full social justice movement as rows of stacks, with a network of individuals as the cataloging system, we see how ally reciprocation (cross reference) comes to be of the utmost importance. If one organization assists another in their struggle, but the struggling org does not reciprocate we lose the cross reference. This weakens the network (catalog) and movements lose steam. So, both cross reference, in cataloging, and ally reciprocation, in social movements are not just important, but imperative.

Overall, the understanding that comes out of librarianship and social justice is the need to work together as a community. If there is a crack in the system everyone loses. Social movements are a web of activity that needs to remain intact for the good of all. Without civil rights, there can be no equal rights. Without equal rights for minorities there can be no marriage equality or reproductive rights. Without marriage equality and reproductive rights there can be no healthcare reform. Without health care reform, there can be no workers rights. Without workers rights, there can be no environmental justice. Without environmental justice, there can be no local food movement. You see the point. It is a huge network of active participants that needs to overlap and dovetail and continue to strive toward cohesiveness in all things human. For the overall movement should be, just as Sociology was the broad term for the text in my previous description, Human Rights.

So, let us struggle in solidarity toward this main goal of equality for all, and along the way we can pick each other up, assist in individual goals for each community, and move toward a better world for everyone. We must work together as a community of progressives if we expect the goals of peace and justice can be achieved in our lifetime. The struggle continues, but we don’t have to go it alone. We always have each other.


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