Adler, Melissa. "Eros in the Library: Considering the Aesthetics of Knowledge Organization." ARLIS (2019): 67-71.
I am convinced that dismantling systems that support patriarchy requires not simply updating, revising, or adding to them, but inhabiting and re-inscribing spaces using techniques and language from outside of those systems. This involves taking the idea of a maker-space/incubator into the entire library, into the stacks themselves to work intimately with the textures of the books and to nurture relationships.
I will suggest that we might regard Pamphila as an early feminist cataloguer, who, instead of organizing her histories according to categories, introduced a method derived from weaving and embroidery. Her organizational method privileged beauty and pleasure, along with historical accuracy and usefulness.
She combined as much of this material into her Commentaries as she thought worthy of note and preser- vation, not dividing up each piece along the lines of its original design, but writing up each one at random, as she came across it. This was not, as she says, because she found it difﬁcult to divide the material according to genre, but because she considered a mixture, an embroidery, more delightful and more enjoyable than material of only one genre.
Admittedly, it is impossible to know very much about Pamphila, but from these reports of fragments, it seems we ﬁnd an early radical cataloguer, whose tech- nique was associated with the domestic space, the loom, and embroidery. In other words, her histories were organized according to what would have been regarded as feminine practices and principles in her era.
Where Photius writes ‘she thought that the mixture and variety (ποικιλαν) more agreeable and more gracious than the unity of a plan, ’he is marking a distinction between conventional systems for organizing knowledge and Pamphila’s method.
In today’s libraries, critical classiﬁcation research has demonstrated the ways that the reduction of materials to singular subject categories not only impedes access to the varied and complex kinds of subjects and media that artists work with, but also carries hetero-patriarchal assumptions into the practices of doing librarianship, the arts, and research. Poikilia seems simultaneously queer, feminist, and ancient— beautiful, useful, intersectional, and complex.
Might weaving or embroidering the library space – not metaphorically, not in the craft room, and not in online networks, but in and along and across the stacks, with threads of many colours, with books, and with other people – afford different erotic encounters in the library?
Our intertextual encounters might be thought of as imaginary threads, or desire lines, that refuse or dismantle the disciplinary lines.
The existing classiﬁcations can teach us about history and the epistemic structures on which power is built and sus- tained, and they can be aids for thinking through ideas about how to invest the library space with other kinds of power. The kind of technique I’m suggesting also brings into view the processes by which hidden infrastructures like classiﬁcations become so deeply entrenched and hard to undo, and it serves as a case to show how patriarchy and racism becomes systemic.
The ordered shelves might be considered the weaver’s warp. And the lines that readers draw across texts are the weft. But rather than straight lines that run neatly perpendicular to the warp, readers’ lines are unruly. They intersect and are likely to get knotted up in dif- ferent parts of the library, depending on any reader’s desires and interests.