January 24, 2005
Back in the 1970s, Sanford (Sandy) Berman, the head cataloger at Hennepin County Library in Minnesota, did something librarians rarely do: He started making up his own subject headings.
Flouting the prevailing Library of Congress cataloging standards, Berman sparked a movement of radical librarianship determined to loosen LC's federal grip over the catalog. Articulating his philosophy of personalized cataloging, Berman argued passionately against putting too much faith in institutional classification systems:
Berman gained such a following among other catalogers that his tags gained widespread adoption in libraries all over the country, threatening LC's monopoly on classification. Berman's headings proved so influential that one LC staffer felt moved to describe him this way:
> more on Sanford Berman
Addendum: Whit reports that "at the Observer (Ocean County, not 'London') a long-gone librarian memorably had created a file titled 'Perverts' into which she dumped a few clips about pedophiles."
* Correction (6/25/07): Alert reader K.R. Roberto of the University of Denver's Penrose Library writes in to set me straight on the above quote, wrongly attributed to a Library of Congress member. It turns out the quote is a fake; it originated in a humorous essay by Will Manley entitled "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sandy Berman But Were Afraid to Ask.
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