The Feminist Search Tool* is a prototype of a digital interface that invites users to explore different ways of engaging with the records of the Utrecht University Library, putting forward the question: Why are the authors of the books I read so white, so male, so Eurocentric?
It has been developed by Read-in in collaboration with Hackers & Designers (James Bryan Graves, Anja Groten) in the context of the project Unlearning My Library. Bookshelf Research and functions as an awareness-raising tool to stir conversations about the inclusion and exclusion mechanisms that are inherent to our current Western knowledge economy.
To this end, the Feminist Search Tool invites us all to reflect about our own search inquiries, and how the latter may be directed by our own biases and omissions. More broadly, it raises the question about the different decisions taken that influence our searches: Who is taking responsibility for which part of the search process: we, the users, the researcher, the library, the algorithm, etc.? And how does this influence our search movements and search result?
TheFeminist Search Tool works with a search field, in which a search term can be typed in. The search takes places within a selection of the records of the Utrecht University Library of works published in the period of 2006 till 2016. The choice is made by Read-in and is based on a number of MARC21** fields on which the digital catalogue of the Utrecht University library is based on. More specifically the feminist seach tool attempts to speak to the question: How many female non-Western authors and female authors of colour are represented in the Catalogue of the Utrecht University library?, such as language of publication, place of publication, type of publisher, etc. Through an interpretation of these fields, Read-in aims to offer different filters, through which to look at the records of the Utrecht University library.
The Feminist Search Tool is not be seen as a replacement for the UU library catalogue , but a supplementary tool for any inquiring person to approach one’s own biases and taken for granted truths that one is reproducing whilst studying and researching.