Traveling to Chicago on Friday morning for ALA Annual 2017 began with a flight delay and then a cancellation altogether. Fortunately I, along with Susan Smith, was able to rebook my flight for later that evening, but like Steve, I, too, missed the Technical Services Quarterly editorial board dinner meeting.

Attending committee meetings and taking minutes for the Anthropology and Sociology Section (ANSS) as well as attending ANSS sponsored programming kept me busy for a good portion of my time at ALA. With the exception of its Executive Committee, ANSS held its first All-Committees Meeting where all ANSS committees conducted their business simultaneously in one room and ended with committee chairs sharing their plans and projects for the upcoming year to meeting attendees. This new meeting set-up allowed ANSS members to spend less time in meetings and more time to attend other ALA programming. Strengthening undergraduates’ critical thinking and information literacy skills and how one might employ the discipline of anthropology to challenge the idea of alternative facts/fake news were topics examined at the Anthropology Librarians Discussion Group. Suggestions included taking a secondary source and tracking it back to the original primary source as a way to demonstrate information creation and creating a fun, interactive game “Fake or Fact” for students. One point made during the discussion was the importance of educating students that past research, its interpretation and reporting, by prominent individuals in a field may have been influenced by the mode of thinking (e.g. nationalistic, religious) for that time period and may be considered inaccurate today. At the “Protest and Preservation” program, which was sponsored by ANSS and PPIRS (Politics, Policy, and International Relations Section), the speakers on the panel talked about the importance of and their experiences in documenting social activism. Furthermore, my 2-year term as ANSS Secretary concluded at the end of Annual.

I have always enjoyed attending the Cataloging Research Interest Group to learn about areas of research being explored by catalogers and to potentially get some ideas myself for future research. Communication between catalogers and other library departments was the theme for the interest group’s program.

The most interesting cataloging program I attended was “Power That Is Moral: Creating a Cataloging Code of Ethics.” Beth Shoemaker Emory, a rare books cataloger, stated that catalogers face ethical dilemmas daily (e.g. delegating the cataloging of explicit materials; receiving requests to reclassify materials, being watchdogs for copyright, assigning subject headings for marginalized groups) unlike those faced by library staff working in public services. While ALA has a Code of Ethics for all librarians, is it comprehensive enough for metadata creators? Catalogers can censor materials by not assigning appropriate subject headings. Areas needing further exploration and some comments following the speaker included:

  • Vendors need to implement our ethics in the development of library products and systems.
  • Do cataloging vendors adhere to ALA’s Code of Ethics?
  • Concern for privacy in authority records was expressed.
  • Should there be a code of ethics specifically for catalogers?
    • Pros: Could provide us a more united front in power structures; make LC more responsive to outdated/less respectful terms; solidify our clout and professionalism.
    • Cons: Employers wouldn’t care and would find code of ethics irrelevant; other priorities take precedence over pretentious ethics; the responsibility of ethics lies with an individual as opposed to the system.
  • Neutrality is unattainable and needs further discussion on how to get there.
  • Engaging with user groups can be challenging. Are we representing them accurately in LC subject headings and name authorities?
  • We need to respect catalogers who are uncomfortable and do not want to catalog violent or explicit materials.