Sommer Browning is a Library Technician at the National Institute of Corrections
For most of my library career, I’ve been employed as a cataloger. It’s a livelihood I knowingly stumbled into, if that’s possible. But whether my affinity for order and detail came before my years of examining the minutia of books, I’m not sure. I remember washing the bottoms of my shoes when I six and I remember living in an out-an-out hovel just after college. But regardless of the reasons, I want to ask: How might one catalog page 26 of The Source? How would, or more creatively, how could one catalog a cento? What categories, which shelves & call numbers, do we designate for spiritual-linguistic pursuits? Oh, maybe it sounds lofty, but we’ve been doing it for thousands of years.
To catalog is to assess an item’s cultural relevancy, to place it in time and history and location.
Gaddafi’s Green Book cataloged in Benghazi or in Pensacola.
A few flowers of Baudelaire’s, suppressed in France for a hundred years; an emphatic not-cataloging.
The Austin Powers Penis Pump I cataloged for the Museum of the Moving Image.
The following is an example of a library’s cataloging record for a short story collection by José Miguel Varas:
MARC Leader #####cam a22#####Ii 4500
o 001 sky233120714
y 003 SKY
y 005 20101015000000.0
y 008 101013s2009 cl 000 j spa d
i 020 9789560001139
i 020 9560001132
y 040 NjP|beng|cUBY|dEMU|dUIU|dUBY|erda
y 049 EEMR
c 050 4 PQ8097.V314|bH82 2009
y 050 4 PQ8097.V314|bH82 2009
a 100 1 Varas, José Miguel |q(Varas Morel), |d1928- |eauthor.
t 245 1 3 La huachita :|bcuentos /|cJosé Miguel Varas.
e 250 Primera edición.
p 260 Santiago :|bLOM Ediciones,|c2009.
r 300 164 pages ;|c22 cm.
r 336 text|2rdacontent
r 337 unmediated|2rdamedia
r 338 volume|2rdacarrier
s 490 1 Narrativa
n 505 0 Estos trece cuentos — La huachita — Cosmopolita 1 — Crónica policial — El frente femenino — Los clientes del abuelo — El grito — La cosa de la cultura — Informe sobre un sondeo — Venidos a menos — La muerte del cangrejo rey — El músico — Sordomudos en Praga — Cosmopolita 2.
n 583 cat|bd rda|c20101013|ksa|5UPB
d 655 0 Short stories, Chilean.
s 830 0 Narrativa (LOM Ediciones)
Space signified by lines, categories of information signified by numbers further signified by delimiters, delimiters signified by letters signified by ink signified by shape signified by symbolic meaning signified by warmth, light, your mother’s face above the crib. From formless to formed and back again, but for a while, please, can we relax in the abstract?
Imagine cataloging the words ‘is’ and ‘are’. I may say they are small, and infinite. I may say they are two eyes of the same deadly beast. I may say ‘is’ means we are. ‘Are’ means this is.
Cataloging is overburdened with rules. I take this as a sign that it’s a pointless endeavor. A little like TSA passenger security checkpoints or the scaffolding supporting an obsessive-compulsive’s light switch flicks. For instance, with pseudonyms, there are different rules for cataloging each of the following situations:
1.1 The person uses one pseudonym and never uses the real name.
1.2. The person uses the real name and uses one pseudonym.
1.3. The person uses more than one pseudonym and may or may not use the real name.
1.4. The pseudonym represents a joint collaboration by two or more persons and the catalog does not contain items by those persons under their real name.
1.5. The joint pseudonym represents a joint collaboration by two or more persons each of whom also use their real name and there are items in the catalog under the real names.
1.6. The pseudonym is used by several persons working independently of each other.
Rules are made to be broken.
There are no rules here, we’re trying to accomplish something.
It’s not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them.
As soon as something’s established, so is the path around it. God, the source, begat atheism. To catalog is to apply rules. So, how would one catalog the creative urge? Impossible, yet automatic.