• The Prejudices and Antipathies of Art: Teaching Students about Bias in the Library of Congress Fine Arts Classification During One-Shot Instruction

    Stefanie Hilles (see profile)
    Teaching, Racism, Critical race theory, Handicraft, Arts
    Item Type:
    Bias, Cataloging, library of congress, eurocentrism, 2022 ARLIS/NA Conference, Instruction, Race critical theory, Craft, Fine arts
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    The Library of Congress Classification System (LCC) and its subject headings (LCSH) are not neutral; they show the biases of the society that created them. Nor is this a new conversation in librarianship. As early as 1971, Sanford Berman argued that LCSH were deeply intrenched in white, male, Eurocentric power structures in his text, Prejudices and Antipathies: A Track on the LC Subject Heads Concerning People. But how does this apply to art researchers? How can art librarians with instruction responsibilities intercede so their patrons know they are dealing with a biased system? Especially if they only have a one-shot instruction session in which to do it? This presentation answers these questions by investigating how the Fine Arts (N) range privileges white, male, European art over art made by women and BIPOC peoples by favoring the “fine” arts over the “craft” or “decorative” arts. Art historians have argued that the higher status traditionally given to “fine” arts in comparison to “craft” arts in the West, something clearly seen in LCC, is a consequence of patriarchal and white supremacist power systems. Once this foundation has been laid, the presentation discusses a way to teach art history students about these inherent biases and power structures during one-shot information literacy instruction. This lesson, which can be scaled from 25-30 minutes, still leaves enough time to introduce students to the library resources they need to complete their research assignments. Assessment of student learning and students’ reactions to the instruction is also discussed. Presented as part of Confronting the Myth of Neutrality: Addressing Bias and Inclusion in Cataloging and Classification in Art Libraries panel.
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    1 year ago
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