David W. Bade

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David W. Bade was a Senior Librarian and Monographic Cataloger at the University of Chicago’s Joseph Regenstein Library until his retirement in 2014.[1] He is the author of the 2002 monograph Khubilai Khan and the Beautiful Princess of Tumapel (a study of the medieval Chinese and old Javanese accounts of the Mongolian invasion of Jawa), several bibliographies on Mongolia and the Mongols, a three-volume catalog of the books in African languages in the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University, and several books and articles about linguistics, libraries and librarianship, including Responsible Librarianship: Library Policies for Unreliable Systems published in 2008.[2]

In his writings on libraries, Bade’s research focus has been on the “processes of misunderstanding, mystifying and mythologizing technologies and how this allows a technocratic elite to turn convivial tools into tools for control and exploitation.”[2] He has written extensively about cataloging, bibliographic control, authority control, and misinformation, drawing upon the literatures of philosophy, linguistics, rhetoric, ergonomics and resilience engineering in making his arguments.

He is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Ubana-Champaign where he studied librarianship and linguistics.[2]

Library policies and misinformation in cataloging[edit]

Bade is concerned about the degradation of talent and intellectual breadth in the profession of cataloging and the result this has on the accuracy of information in library catalogs.[3] He has written critically of library administrative policies which contribute to the quantity-over-quality mindset in which hiring adequately trained catalogers (particularly those catalogers with subject and language specialty) is not a priority.[3] Bade writes, “the growth of misinformation will be directly proportionate to the incompetence of the misinformation providers” (page 8).[3] The result is that inaccurate bibliographic records are released into a widely shared cataloging system (for example OCLC’s WorldCat). Once this happens, the ability to search, retrieve, and select the record is compromised, or perhaps lost altogether, resulting in severe consequences for scholarly research.

In another paper regarding structures and standards, Bade summarizes his position on the role and purpose of library policies: “Library policies and organizational structures are largely designed to eliminate the exercise of intelligence, acts of interpretation and judgement because these take time and cost money; yet these are precisely the acts upon which all information technologies remain completely dependent because machines do not think, do not interpret, do not make judgements, make no evaluations and know no users” (page 10).[4]

In this same regard, Bade has also written with concern about the goals of the 2008 Report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control.[5] In that report, the Group’s first recommendation is to "increase the efficiency of bibliographic production for all libraries...”.[5] Bade objects to the goal of efficiency insofar as it ignores the need for robust, accurate bibliographic entries: “If the goal of bibliographic control is understood to be an activity in support of the scientific and scholarly practices of citation, literature search and exploration then the evaluation of efficiency cannot be separated from user success in those activities."[6]

The perfect bibliographic record[edit]

Related to concerns about library policy is a corollary argument about the purpose and product of bibliographic cataloging. The problems of misinformation in cataloging implies that the opposite, perfect information, is the goal of cataloging. Some have argued (see Intner 1990,[7] Hafter 1986,[8] O’Neill 1996,[9] or Deeken 2005[10] for examples) that this “perfect record” places an impossible task before the cataloger, and thus catalogers and patrons should be content with some appropriate margin of error (also known as “the imperfect record”).

Yet in this idea of the “perfect record” Bade finds a straw-man argument which attempts to dismiss, by way of this impossible ideal, any real concerns about “adequacy, fitness to purpose, truth, and usefulness” of bibliographic information (p. 129).[11] Instead, bibliographic records can be understood as having contextual integrity, even perfection, where quality is measured according to the purposes and needs of the cataloging system,[11] i.e. the system’s functional requirements.

The article in which he develops this argument, The Perfect Bibliographic Record: Platonic Ideal, Rhetorical Strategy or Nonsense?, won Cataloging and Classification Quarterly’s “Best of” award for the periodical’s Volume 46.[12] The awards panel noted that “others could build upon his methodology to attack other myths and straw men within the world of librarianship.”[12]


  1. ^ "Directory Entry for David Bade". University of Chicago Online Directory. University of Chicago. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Bade, David (2008). "Responsible Librarianship: Library Policies for Unreliable Systems" (Book). Library Juice Press. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Bade, David (2002). The Creation and Persistence of Misinformation in Shared Library Catalogs: Language and Subject Knowledge in a Technological Era. Champaign, IL: Publications Office, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 
  4. ^ Bade, David (9 May 2007). "Structures, Standards, and the People Who Make Them Meaningful" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control (9 January 2008). "On the Record; Report of The Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control" (PDF). Library of Congress. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  6. ^ Bade, David (17 February 2009). "Irresponsible Librarianship: a critique of the Report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, with thoughts on how to proceed". Music OCLC Users Group (MOUG) 2009 Conference (CONFERENCE PAPER) (Chicago, IL: (unpublished)). hdl:10760/12804. 
  7. ^ Intner, Sheila S. (July 1990). "Copy Cataloging and the Perfect Record Mentality". Technicalities 10 (7): 12–15. 
  8. ^ Hafter, Ruth (1986). Academic Librarians and Cataloging Networks:Visibility, Quality Control, and Professional Status. New York, NY: Greenwood Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 9780313248214. 
  9. ^ O'Neill, Ed (1996). "Matching and Validating Personal Names Authority Records". Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 22 (1): 99–100. 
  10. ^ Deeken, JoAnne (2006). "Quicker, Cheaper, Better: Pick Two. A Report on the ALCTS Heads of Technical Services at Medium Sized Libraries discussion group meeting. American Library Association Midwinter Meetings, Boston, January 2005". Technical Services Quarterly 23 (3): 81–89. 
  11. ^ a b Bade, David (2008). "The Perfect Bibliographic Record: Platonic Ideal, Rhetorical Strategy or Nonsense?". Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 46 (1): 109–133. doi:10.1080/01639370802183081. 
  12. ^ a b "Best of CCQ". Cataloging & Classification Quarterly. Retrieved 1 March 2012.