Race, ethnicity or religion (to name a few “identifiers”) parallel the gender field issue. Why aren’t we providing codified data on these “personal identifications” (a person can identify one’s self as “Black” no matter what their skin color is, or “American” no matter what their national origin is)?


Stephen Hearn notes that such elements are “fraught with difficulty as personal identifiers and much harder to demonstrate as a self-presentation from anything but personal verbal testimony.” That could be resolved by providing quotations from people who feel that their race, ethnicity or religion (etc.) play prominent roles in their writing (etc.).


The question, then, is whether we should be code-labeling (“for researchers”) everyone we establish who has some personal characteristic that can be codified with “established” terminology (but we’d have to pick between whatever labels are currently “politically correct”).


Of course, we really can’t label everyone can we? So creating a data base that is incomplete can also lead to “research” prejudices.  


John G. Marr


Zimmerman Library

University of New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM 87010

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         **"I really like to know the reasons for what I do!"**

                                             Martha Watson


Opinions belong exclusively to the individuals expressing them, but sharing is permitted.




From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Stephen Hearn
Sent: Monday, June 08, 2015 1:17 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Inevitable Caitlyn Jenner NAR question


There are two arguments in play here. One is that gender should not be a distinguishing category in the academic enterprise. That case is best argued in a wider context, where academics who belong to Women's Studies and Gender Studies and other departments can have a say.  The other argument presumes the first argument has been settled and that gender studies proponents have conceded, and therefore that gender should not be a category recorded about persons under RDA.  RDA's gender element thus becomes straw man, substituting for a more worthy opponent.


The RDA gender element should not be recorded on the basis of private or ambiguous information, and should not be confused with any claims about the complexity of a person's inner life.  It does get recorded when a person taking a public cultural and societal role chooses to offer a clear, gender-specific self presentation in that public context--which happens a lot.


This debate reminds me a bit of the Lady Godiva story.  Godiva entreats her husband to relieve the poor of a harsh tax.  Her husband offers to do so if she will ride naked through Coventry.  She does so, and the poor out of respect for her bravery on their behalf all turn away during her ride and agree not to look.  The ethical response to Godiva's ethically motivated transgression of social norms is not to see the transgression.


The problem is that Godiva is not the only person who rides through town. There is no ethical injunction in the story against observing riders and no suggestion that all riders are engaging in something transgressive.  The case for a more accepting, respectful attitude toward gender complexity is stronger when it encompasses the lack of difficulty which most people have with the concept of gender, and is itself more accepting of gender as a self-presentation option, at least in our present cultural milieu, which many public persons embrace and express.  The notions that gender is a simple matter and that gender is a deeply complex matter in all contexts are equally simplistic.


By contrast, race and ethnicity are much more fraught with difficulty as personal identifiers and much harder to demonstrate as a self-presentation from anything but personal verbal testimony.  Names, photographs, others' descriptions--all of these are much more problematic as evidence of race and ethnicity in the majority of instances than is the case with gender.




On Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 12:34 PM, Amber Billey <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Recording dates in association with gender is not ideal because gender identity is not a linear process, and it's certainly not a binary process which this method reinforces.

Look at Chaz Bono's authority record. We really don't know when exactly he decided that he was male, but we guess "2008?" -- but even that narrative in insulting. Many trans* individuals struggle their entire life with gender, and here we are simply assigning a date of when they decided to be "out" on their authority record. This raises another issue about trans* individuals who don't want to be out about their transition, and here we are recording it in their authority file.

I'll go back to the original argument that recording gender reinforces regressive ideas of binary gender identities that are tied to culture, time, and context. Recording dates associated with gender treats this lifelong complicated process is as simple as someone changing their name when they get married. And it's not that simple.

We need to think carefully and critically about how and why we record gender in authority files. I don't understand why we are recording gender for fictitious and mythical identities. I can see the research potential. I understand it's necessary and useful to distinguish names in certain situations (Chinese language names are a great example of this). But we're being asked as catalogers to use our judgement and guess something that is complicated and deeply personal for a some people.


Amber Billey
Cataloging/Metadata Librarian
Bailey/Howe Library
University of Vermont
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On 6/8/2015 12:27 PM, Benjamin A Abrahamse wrote:

My question is: given that MARC field 375 supports date ranges ($s start period, $t end period) why do we need to record "transgender" (as a noun or an adjective) at all? If we record the dates an individual identified themselves as one gender, and the dates they identified themselves differently, why is that not perfectly sufficient?


(Though quite honestly I'm not sure why we feel the need to record any gender information to begin with.)




Benjamin Abrahamse

Cataloging Coordinator

Acquisitions and Discovery Enhancement

MIT Libraries



From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Bellinger, Christina
Sent: Monday, June 08, 2015 11:46 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Inevitable Caitlyn Jenner NAR question


Chris Bourg, the new director of the MIT libraries spoke at the annual Boston Library Consortium meeting about “de-centering” the white, male bias in library collections.  Having access to gender and race information in authority records could be useful if one is trying to locate works by under-represented populations. 



Christina Bellinger

Metadata/Cataloging Librarian

University of New Hampshire Library

18 Library Way

Durham, NH 03824

603 862-0073

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From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michael Colby
Sent: Friday, June 05, 2015 2:51 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Inevitable Caitlyn Jenner NAR question


While several have expressed that recording gender in an authority record may not be a good idea, we also need to be aware that there are researchers who are very interested in knowing the gender of the creator of works. In the past few years I have been cataloging hundreds of scores, donated by a faculty member who specifically collected these works because they were composed by female songwriters.


In our bibliographic records, there is no good way to identify creators by gender. I have been diligently adding the 675 field to authority records to enable this kind of searching in the anticipated linked data library world.  I utilize several reference works in this endeavor that are specifically concerned with women composers, songwriters, and musicians.


Perhaps the desires of these researchers might be something to keep in mind.




Michael Colby
Principal Cataloger
University of California, Davis
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Stephen Hearn, Metadata Strategist

Data Management & Access, University Libraries

University of Minnesota

160 Wilson Library

309 19th Avenue South

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Ph: 612-625-2328

Fx: 612-625-3428

ORCID:  0000-0002-3590-1242