Saturday, September 20, 2008

Posted at the Library website

"Loving my current book - My Garden (Book) by Jamaica Kincaid! It's a
fascinating and nuanced reflection by this well-known author on her garden and
many related subjects.

HOWEVER... despite bearing a Dewey number 635 on its
spine (being a gardening book, hence the title), and despite my frequent
haunting of our library's gardening section (Dewey number 635) I would never
have found this book if it hadn't been sitting on a cart. Why?

Because the author is black - so it's shelved in the Black and Caribbean
Heritage section. Not only does this totally defeat the purpose of the
Dewey classification, but seems to reflect the worst kind of paternalism (ie
"black people need their own section of the library to feel confident and
proud").

I feel betrayed by the discovery that I may not find excellent books
by black authors in the "regular" sections of the library. What if I'm
looking for a book of guidance on a medical topic, but some authors happen to be
black? Where would those books be shelved? What about
Communications, Cultural Studies, Meteorology? Are all black authors
relegated to the BCH section, regardless of their subject matter?

I understand the rationale behind the special heritage collections. Yet,
despite the Jewish Mosaic collection, for example, there are many fine books by
Jewish authors throughout the library. I'm not sure what the criteria are
for "ghetto-izing" certain books by black authors, but in some cases - as with
this particular book - that policy should probably be re-examined.

I'd be interested in understanding this policy, and the decision to shelve this book in
the BCH section, a little further. Thank you!"
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