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Review: Cruising the Library

7th March 2019

“Cruising the library is the only way to obtain books that address the intersectionality and complexity of sexuality and subjectivities,”
— Melissa Adler, Assistant professor in University of Kentucky’s School of Library and Information Science.

Melissa Adler’s own cruises through the stacks over the years has led her to books on sexuality and gender, while also making her aware of systems of classification that effectively ostracize these books. It is this eternally imperfect meeting of sexuality and classification that she explores in Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge.

Adler’s choice of “perversities” in the title reflects her specific focus on the Library of Congress classification system, which in 1898 began placing books about nonprocreative sex — everything from homosexuality to non-monogamous sex to pedophilia — under the heading “Sexual perversion.” Through the course of Cruising, she tracks these diverse texts as their subject heading changes to “Sexual deviation” in 1972, then to “Paraphilias” in 2007 — a particularly opaque heading that remains to this day.

Read full review by Mary Mann on Metropolitan Archivist.