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Perspectives on geographic location: The Muslim West in two classification systems

Heather Lea Moulaison

(Submission #134)


Bias is inherent in classification systems because culture and worldview are linked. A Moroccan library’s specialized collection on the Muslim West (Ibn Rushd) offers culturally adapted intellectual access to materials through the Ibn Rushd Thesaurus (IRT) and accompanying classification scheme. This paper compares the specialized Moroccan scheme for describing location in the historical and modern Muslim West and the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) scheme’s notations for the same locations. The systems differ primarily in their approaches to grouping land masses and to considering history. DDC, when used in conjunction with the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names Online (TGN) easily provides access to 80% of Moroccan and Western Saharan locations listed in the IRT, to 92% of Iberian locations, and to other Moroccan and Western Saharan locations not mentioned in the IRT. The benefits of providing culturally-adapted access to a specialized collection include a more intuitive approach to access for users in accordance with the contents of the collection. Drawbacks include potentially isolating Muslim scholars from a globalized approach to describing location and reinforcing a specialized world view.


Program Track:  Track 2 - Knowledge Organization
Submission Type:  Short Paper

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