Despite the sweltering summer heat of New Orleans, I had a great time at ALA Annual 2018. In addition to attending conference programs, I enjoyed the wonderful cuisine for which the city is known, reconnected with former colleagues who have moved on to other universities, and attended events that celebrated and honored my former (Wanda Brown) and current (Lauren Corbett) Resource Services directors.
My first full day of the conference was spent attending the ANSS (Anthropology and Sociology Section) All Committees Meeting as well as two other ANSS sponsored programs. At the Anthropology Librarians Discussion group, anthropologist Rachel Breunlin shared how she founded in 2004 the Neighborhood Story Project (NSP), a nonprofit organization in partnership with the University of New Orleans that teaches classes in writing nonfiction, conducting oral histories, and photography to assist interested individuals and organizations in the creation and publication of books about their communities in New Orleans. Royalties from the sales of NSP titles are paid to the authors. At the co-sponsored ANSS and PPIRS (Policy, Politics, & International Relations Section) program Southern Food Culture & Politics, panelists discussed the political and cultural issues surrounding food and drink in Southern culture.
I also sat in on several cataloging/metadata sessions, and the insights I received from these are described below:
- Metadata Interest Group – Violet Fox discussed and demonstrated Cataloging Lab, a wiki that she created where catalogers can collaborate to formulate proposals for new Library of Congress (LC) subject headings. After a proposal is received, it is evaluated, and if accepted, Violet will then submit the proposal to the Subject Authority Cooperative (SACO) program. Getting more people involved (e.g. library staff in Reference and/or Access Services) in the proposal process allows more diversity of thought in the introduction of new headings. LC can’t do it alone, and we are all responsible for the vocabulary we use. Ms. Fox recommended an LCSHathon as a way to involve non-catalogers in the creation of lists of subject headings that are needed or ones that individuals find annoying.
- Cataloging and Classification Research Interest Group – One panelist presented on the topic of creating item level metadata supplied by the donor of a collection for a digital project. Some things to consider before undertaking this sort of project: training donors in metadata creation, the medium used to collect metadata (per the panelist, Excel is a lousy tool), and the reasons for and against using donor created metadata. The panelist remarked that a library/archives should not do it for donor relations or to be nice. Donor metadata is emotional. Complicated and passionate feelings on behalf of the donor can arise. A bonus to using donor created metadata is that it can potentially be more granular than what the expert metadata specialist would have created, and that a donor’s voice can be captured in the creation of photo captions.
- CaMMS Forum – Intercultural Competence in Knowledge Representation – Dr. Athena Salaba, iSchool faculty member at Kent State who specializes in information organization, discussed biases and neutrality in knowledge representation (i.e. cataloging and classification) of ethnic groups, indigenous cultures, gender, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, alternative lifestyles, etc. Catalogers can misinterpret or misrepresent a resource through their own biases in the assigning of subject headings and call numbers. Members of the library profession need to investigate how we as a group can become more interculturally competent.
- When Crisis Comes: Rapidly Acquiring, Describing, and Preserving Community-Created Digital Collections – Librarians from UVA reported that they are in the process of building a national toolkit for this specific kind of work which was prompted by their library’s response to the Unite the Right rally that took place on UVA’s campus on August 11, 2017. A Digital Collecting Emergency Response Group was formed with representatives from various library departments (e.g. Special Collections, Preservation, Metadata, Digital Humanities, Technology, in-house attorney) with clearly defined functions. Public Services library staff assisted in collection intake and provided input related to access needs/concerns. An online collection form was developed to collect contributions of video, photographs, and images along with user-contributed metadata. Contributions could be made anonymously. Challenges involved with this project included:
- the emotional toll on the staff (one staff member was hurt)
- what to name the project
- ethics of collecting – General counsel was consulted about language; transparency was a necessity for this project as this collection could possibly be used to put individuals in jail. Terms of service language was created that granted UVA rights to preserve and provide access for research and teaching.
- library security concerns and server capacity
- formatting of a publicly accessible site