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Marie Elia’s “Silence in the Library”

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Processing Archivist Marie Elia’s “Silence in the Library” was published online in Queen Mob’s Teahouse:

“Naming is powerful. A name can be a gift or a burden. Choosing or discarding a name can make you feel free. A nickname can make you feel loved or crushed. What people call you shapes how you see yourself, and teaches you how to navigate the world. But the moment you name something, you limit the possibilities of what it can be. Librarians and archivists who catalog and describe collections have the great responsibility of choosing names for things that provoke interest and further understanding. We call this ‘creating access points’ – little lights to guide you, from whichever direction you might approach. But what if the roads were built ages ago and are no longer passable? Or what if they lead in the wrong direction? The limits of language, particularly the specialized, slow-to-evolve jargon of cataloging librarians and archivists, can create more barriers than pathways. Naming a thing with the wrong words can cut off various paths; it can silence necessary questions. In a choose-your-own-adventure text, this would be the part where you would die, have to start over again and opt for a different route next time…”

You can read the full text here.