Submitted to The Institute for Wishful Thinking in 2011
As Artist in Residence in the Institute of Museum and Library Services I propose to work with library law consultant Mary Minow to revise library policy relating to classification systems. To reflect the culture of participatory knowledge production embraced online, and to embrace democracy at a structural level, new libraries will hold local elections and the public will vote on a classification system.
Library Policy Revision for a Vernacular Information Architecture
Public libraries are government institutions exemplifying democracy and intellectual freedom. As a taxpayer funded system, I believe the public should be presented with the opportunity to vote and elect the classification system used in their local library.
The most popular current classification system in American public libraries is the Dewey Decimal System, developed by Melvil Dewey in 1846. Since then, language has evolved, technological innovations have changed our relationship to media and understanding, and our intersection with anthropology and taxonomy, as a society, has shifted drastically. In this information age, where the public is actively participating in structuring knowledge systems online, it is time to take a critical look at the legacy of Melvil Dewey, the “Father of Modern Librarianship.”
I propose that the Institute of Museum and Library Services develop an Office for Vernacular Information Architecture, dedicated to the implementation and support of community elected classification systems in future libraries. Federal support will be allotted to a national education campaign to facilitate a deeper understanding of library classification systems among the general public. The Office for Vernacular Information Architecture will work closely with libraries, offering legal guidance, financial and technological support, and design and planning assistance.
As artist in residence, I would like to work with Mary Minow to create an infrastructure for the development of a template for change. An expert in library law and public policy, Minow is on the board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and chairs the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the California Library Association.