Hope A. Olson

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Hope A. Olson
Born Watertown, South Dakota
Residence Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Nationality American
Fields Information science
Institutions University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Alma mater Gustavus Adolphus College, University of Toronto, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Hope A. Olson is Associate Dean and Professor at the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. She was previously a professor at the University of Alberta.

From 2000 to 2004 Olson was the editor-in-chief for Knowledge Organization and she currently serves on its editorial board. She also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Library Metadata. Olson has authored or co-authored over thirty peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and has published three books: Subject Analysis in Online Catalogs, 2nd ed., co-authored by John J. Boll (Libraries Unlimited, 2001); Information Sources in Women's Studies and Feminism, editor (KG Saur, 2002); and The Power to Name: Locating the Limits of Subject Representation in Libraries (Kluwer Academic, 2002).

She received a B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College, an M.L.S. from the University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. (1996) from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Olson's research focuses on critical analysis of subject representations and classification systems. Using feminist, poststructural, and postcolonial perspectives, she examines the biases inherent in hierarchical organizational structures.

Critical analysis of library classification[edit]

Olson draws on deconstructive theory to question the functionality and legitimacy of traditional knowledge organization.[1] Employing Drucilla Cornell’s adaptation of deconstruction (“the philosophy of the limit”), Olson examines the marginalization imposed by the structural limitations of library catalogs.[2][3] In her research, Olson explores the ethical consequences of inadequate representation and emphasizes the desirability of using knowledge organization as a change agent for the enrichment of users.[4]

Feminist approaches to knowledge organization[edit]

A central tenet of Olson’s writing is the overshadowing effect of a patriarchal worldview on organization systems within the western world. In the 2001 article “Sameness and Difference: A Cultural Foundation of Classification,” Olson describes how the dichotomous principles of western philosophical heritage create classification systems which privilege the mainstream, majority view.[5][6] She argues in favor of a less hierarchical and more contextual and interconnected structure of knowledge, employing Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger and Tarule’s concept of connected knowing.[7]

The Power to Name[edit]

Olson’s most notable work is her 2002 book The Power to Name: Locating the Limits of Subject Representation in Libraries. In it she provides historical context to modern library classification by reviewing writings by library classification pioneers Melvil Dewey and Charles Cutter, highlighting the rigid universality they found desirable to achieve consistency and control. Olson argues that Dewey and Cutter’s insistence on a universal language is “a harmful characteristic in the sense that it marginalizes and excludes Others – concepts outside of a white, male, Eurocentric, Christocentric, heterosexual, able-bodied, bourgeois mainstream.”[8] Olson goes on to illustrate shortcomings of applied subject headings by analyzing selected Dewey Decimal Classification and Library of Congress Subject Headings representing concepts of gender, race, and ethnicity. She concludes with a call for a more “eccentric” approach to subject access, including techniques to “breach the limits” of library classification systems by making them more permeable, open, and dynamic.[9]

Recent research[edit]

Olson’s recent research has further explored the gender bias within the Aristotelian logic that informs traditional classification and syndetic structures.[10] She has also collaborated in research addressing consistency in the assignment of indexing terms.[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Olson, Hope A. (1997). "The Feminist and the Emperor's New Clothes: Feminist Deconstruction as a Critical Methodology for Library and Information Studies". Library & Information Science Research. 19 (2): 181–198. doi:10.1016/S0740-8188(97)90042-6. 
  2. ^ Drabinski, Emily (2008). "Teaching the Radical Catalog". In Roberto, K.R. Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 198–205. ISBN 978-0-7864-3543-2. 
  3. ^ Olson, Hope A. (2002). The Power to Name: Locating the Limits of Subject Representation in Libraries. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 226. ISBN 1-4020-0776-0. 
  4. ^ Olson, Hope A. (2000). "Difference, Culture and Change: The Untapped Potential of LCSH". Cataloging & Classification Quarterly. 29 (1-2): 53–71. doi:10.1300/J104v29n01_04. 
  5. ^ Olson, Hope A. (2001). "Sameness and Difference: A Cultural Foundation of Classification". Library Resources & Technical Services. 45 (3): 115–122. doi:10.5860/lrts.45n3.115. 
  6. ^ Deodato, Joseph (2010). "Deconstructing the Library With Jacques Derrida: Creating Space for the “Other” in Bibliographic Description and Classification". In Leckie, Gloria J.; Given, Lisa M.; Buschman, John E. Critical Theory for Library and Information Science: Exploring the Social from Across the Disciplines. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited. pp. 75–88. ISBN 978-1-59158-938-9. 
  7. ^ Olson, Hope A. (2007). "How We Construct Subjects: A Feminist Analysis". Library Trends. 56 (2): 509–541. doi:10.1353/lib.2008.0007. hdl:2142/4586. 
  8. ^ Olson, Hope A. (2002). The Power to Name: Locating the Limits of Subject Representation in Libraries. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 142. ISBN 1-4020-0776-0. 
  9. ^ Miksa, Francis L. (2007). "The Power to Name: a Review Essay". Libraries & the Cultural Record. 42 (1): 75–79. JSTOR 25549382. doi:10.1353/lac.2007.0013. 
  10. ^ Olson, Hope A. (2007). "How We Construct Subjects: A Feminist Analysis". Library Trends. 56 (2): 509–541. doi:10.1353/lib.2008.0007. hdl:2142/4586. 
  11. ^ Olson, Hope A.; Dietmar Wolfram (2008). "Syntagmatic relationships and indexing consistency on a larger scale". Journal of Documentation. 64 (4): 602–615. doi:10.1108/00220410810884093. 

External links[edit]