cataloguing in Bodo 2014



size, the “world of books” collection (mirknig) had around thirty thousand files, and there were around a
dozen other smaller archives, each with approximately 10 thousand files in their respective collections.
The Kolhoz group dominated the science-minded ebook community in Russia well into the late 2000’s.
Kolhoz, however, suffered from the same problems as the early Fidonet-based text collections. Since it
was distributed in DVDs, via ftp servers and on torrents, it was hard to search, it lacked a proper catalog
and it was prone to fragmentation. Parallel solutions soon emerged: around 2006-7, an existing book site
called Gigapedia copied the English books from Kolhoz, set up a catalog, and soon became the most
influential pirate library in the English speaking internet.
Similar cataloguing efforts soon emerged elsewhere. In 2007, someone on rutracker.ru, a Russian BBS
focusing on file sharing, posted torrent links to 91 DVDs containing science and technology titles
aggregated from various other Russian sources, including Kolhoz. This massive collection had no
categorization or particular order. But it soon attracted an archivist: a user of the forum started the
laborious task of organizing the texts into a usable, searchable format—first filtering duplicates and
organizing existing metadata first into an excel spreadsheet, and later moving to a more open, webbased database operating under the name Aleph.
Aleph inherited more than just books from Kolhoz and Moshkov’s lib.ru. It inherited their elitism with
regard to canonical texts, and their understanding of librarianshi


cataloguing in Medak, Mars & WHW 2015


bout the revolution will never again
be the return of a planet or a star to the same point
from which it departed. Revolution bootstrapped,
revolved, and hermeneutically circularized itself.
Melvil Dewey was born in the state of New York in
1851.05 His thirst for knowledge was found its satisfaction in libraries. His knowledge about how to
gain knowledge was developed by studying libraries.
Grouping books on library shelves according to the
color of the covers, the size and thickness of the spine,
or by title or author’s name did not satisfy Dewey’s
intention to develop appropriate new epistemologies in the service of the production of knowledge
about knowledge. At the age of twenty-four, he had
already published the first of nineteen editions of
A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing
and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library,06 the classification system that still bears its
author’s name: the Dewey Decimal System. Dewey
had a dream: for his twenty-first birthday he had
announced, “My World Work [will be] Free Schools
and Free Libraries for every soul.”07
05 Richard F. Snow, “Melvil Dewey”, American Heritage 32,
no. 1 (December 1980),
http://www.americanheritage.com/content/melvil-dewey.
06 Melvil Dewey, A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a
Library (1876), Project Gutenberg e-book 12513 (2004),
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12513/12513-h/12513-h.htm.
07 Snow, “Melvil Dewey”.

Public library (essay)

77

His dream came true. Public Library is an entry
in the catalog of History where a fantastic decimal08
describes a category of phenomenon that—together
with free public education, a free public healthcare,
the scientific method, the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, Wikipedia, and free software, among
others—we, the people, are most proud of.
The public library is a part of these invisible infrastructures that we start to notice only once they
begin to disappear. A utopian dream—about the
place from which every human being will have access to every piece of available k


of
perfection or at least were so satisfactory that serious
changes need not be contemplated. This may have
been so up to the end of the last century. But for a
score of years great changes have been occurring
before our very eyes. The increasing production of
books and periodicals has revealed the inadequacy of
older methods. The increasing internationalisation
of science has required workers to extend the range
of their bibliographic investigations. As a result, a
movement has occurred in all countries, especially
Germany, the United States and England, for the
expansion and improvement of libraries and for
an increase in their numbers. Publishers have been
searching for new, more flexible, better-illustrated,
and cheaper forms of publication that are better-coordinated with each other. Cataloguing enterprises
on a vast scale have been carried out, such as the
International Catalogue of Scientific Literature and
the Universal Bibliographic Repertory. [2]
Three facts, three ideas, especially merit study
for they represent something really new which in
the future can give us direction in this area. They
are: The Repertory, Classification and the Office of
Documentation.
•••

88

Paul Otlet

2. The Repertory, like the book, has gradually been
increasing in size, and improvements in it suggest
the emergence of something new which will radically modify our traditional ideas.
From the point of view of form, a book can be
defined as a group of pages cut to the same format
and gathered together in such a way as to form a
whole. It was not always so. For a long time the
Book was a roll


cataloguing in Thylstrup 2019


It becomes something expected rather than
unexpected.”84 It appears, then, that computational methods have introduced
historians and literary scholars to the same “beaverish efforts”85 to
domesticate serendipity as the hard sciences had to face at the beginning of
the twentieth century.

To my knowledge, few systematic studies exist about whether mass digitization
projects such as Europeana and Google Books hamper or foster creative and
original research in empirical terms. How one would go about such a study is
also an open question. The dichotomy between digital and analog does seem a
bit contrived, however. As Dan Cohen notes in a blogpost for DPLA, “bookstores
and libraries have their own forms of ‘serendipity engineering,’ from
storefront staff picks to behind-the-scenes cataloguing and shelving methods
that make for happy accidents.”86 Yet there is no doubt that the discourse of
serendipity has been infused with new life that sometimes veers toward a
“spectacle of serendipity.”87

Over the past decade, the digital infrastructures that organize our cultural
memory have become increasingly integrated in a digital economy that valuates
“experience” as a cultural currency that can be exchanged to profit, and our
affective meanderings as a form of industrial production. This digital economy
affects the architecture and infrastructure of digital archives. The archival
discourse on digital serendipity is thus now embroiled in a more deep-seated
infrapolitics of workspace architecture, influenced by Silicon Valley’s
obsession with networks, process, and connectiv


cataloguing in Weinmayr 2019


book is close to the original format, cover and weight. However,
it has a crafty feel to it: the ink soaks into the paper creating a blurry
text image very different from a mass-produced offset printed text. It has
been assembled in DIY style and speaks the language of amateurism and
makeshift. The transformation is subtle, and it is this subtlety that makes
the book subversive in an institutional library context. How do students deal
with their expectations that they will access authoritative and validated
knowledge on library shelves and instead encounter a book that was printed and
assembled by hand?[97](ch11.xhtml#footnote-429) Such publications circumvent
the chain of institutional validation: from the author, to the publisher, the
book trade, and lastly the librarian purchasing and cataloguing the book
according to the standard bibliographic
practices.[98](ch11.xhtml#footnote-428) A similar challenge to the stability
of the printed book and the related hierarchy of knowledge occurred when
students at Byam Shaw sought a copy of Jacques Ranciere’s Ignorant
Schoolmaster and found three copied and modified versions. In accordance with,
or as a response to, Ranciere’s pedagogical proposal, one copy featured
deleted passages that left blank spaces for the reader to fill and to
construct their own meaning in lieu of Ranciere’s
text.[99](ch11.xhtml#footnote-427)

This queering of the authority of the book as well as the normative,
institutional frameworks felt like a liberating practice. It involved an open
call for pirated books, a set of workshops and a series of
lectures,[100](


//andpublishing.org/PublicCatalogue/PCat_record.php?cat_index=69>

[97](ch11.xhtml#footnote-429-backlink) Of course unconventional publications
can and are being collected, but these are often more arty objects, flimsy or
oversized, undersized etc. and frequently end up in the special collections,
framed and categorised ‘as different’ from the main stack of the collections.

[98](ch11.xhtml#footnote-428-backlink) When The Piracy Project was invited to
create a reading room at the New York Art Book Fair in 2012, a librarian from
the Pratt Institute dropped by every single day, because she was so fixed on
the questions, the pirate books and their complex strategies of queering the
category of authorship posed to standardised bibliographic practices. Based on
this question we organised a cataloguing workshop ‘Putting the Piracy
Collection on the shelf’ at Grand Union in Birmingham, where we developed a
new cataloguing vocabulary for cases in the collection. See union.org.uk/gallery/putting-the-piracy-collection-on-the-shelves/>

See also Karen Di Franco’s reflection on the cataloguing workshop ‘The Library
Medium’ in Francke and Weinmayr, Borrowing, Poaching, Plagiarising.

[99](ch11.xhtml#footnote-427-backlink) See Piracy Project catalogue: Camille
Bondon, Jacques Rancière: le mâitre ignorant,
.
Rancière’s pedagogical proposal suggests that ‘the most important quality of a
schoolmaster is the virtue of ignorance’. (Rancière, 2010, p. 1). In his book
The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation Jacques
Rancière uses the historic case of the French teacher Joseph Jacotot, who was
exiled in Belgium and taught French classes to Flemish students whose language
he did not know and vice versa. Reportedly he gave his students a French text
to read alongside its transl


cataloguing in WHW 2016


a Institute, Zagreb, 2015, p. 78.
See Matteo Pasquinelli, Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, and Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2008.

290

What, How & for Whom / WHW

virtues of the information economy with no concern about the material
basis of production, the information economy is a parasite on the material
economy and therefore “an accurate understanding of the common must
be always interlinked with the real physical forces producing it and the material economy surrounding it.”10
Public Library emancipates books from the restrictive copyright regime
and participates in the exchange of information enabled by digital technology, but it also acknowledges the labour and energy that make this possible. There is labour that goes into the cataloguing of the books, and labour
that goes into scanning them before they can be brought into the digital
realm of free reproduction, just as there are the ingenuity and labour of
the engineers who developed a special scanner that makes it easier to scan
books; also, the scanner needs to be installed, maintained, and fed books
over hours of work. This is where the institutional space of art comes in
handy by supporting the material production central to the Public Library
endeavour. But the scanner itself does not need to be visible. In 2014, at
the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, we curated the
exhibition Really Useful Knowledge, which dealt with conflicts triggered by
struggles over access to knowledge and the effects that knowledge, as the
basis of capital reproduction, has

 

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