I had some concerns about attending this year’s ALA virtual Annual Conference. Not falling asleep during sessions was a big one. I’ve attended many webinars in the past, and it is not an uncommon occurrence for me to doze off midway through one. With ALA being virtual, I would essentially be attending lots of webinars. Multiple ones on most days. Fortunately, most of the sessions I attended kept my interest, and not once did I travel to the mythical Land of Nod. I experienced a few connectivity issues with my ISP and was kicked out of a few sessions that I was attending. Most of the time I could get back in, but a few times I was unable due to session capacity (300 attendees) being met. With virtual sessions, I found it difficult at times listening to the speakers while at the same time trying to take good notes and reading the informative and insightful comments in the chat box. So, I apologize in advance if my recap of a few of the sessions I attended seem a little disjointed.

In the Catalog Form & Function Interest Group session, the topic of name authorities was discussed. One speaker suggested that individuals should have the power to have data about themselves changed. With the threat of identity theft, individuals may desire their personal identifiable information (e.g., date of birth) to be excluded from name authority records created about them. To distinguish individuals from each other, references to an individual’s works created by them or about them as well as their occupation or geographic location could be used instead. Incorporating a unique alphanumeric string identifier (e.g., ORCID) into a name authority record is an additional way to distinguish a specific individual who is an author. It can be tricky to establish a consensus of what self-representation is. According to another speaker, who is a published author, they remarked that in the policies for name authorities, the individual is considered the ultimate decider as to what personal data is included or retained in their authority record.

Metadata and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) values framed the discussions held during the Metadata Interest Group session. Below is a list of current and in-progress initiatives undertaken by libraries and/or relevant points and suggestions mentioned by session participants:

  • One library had changed their catalog’s public display of the authorized Library of Congress subject heading (LCSH) “Illegal aliens” and related headings to the term undocumented immigrants.
  • Develop local practices on how to include headings found in Homosaurus, an international linked data vocabulary of LGBTQ terms, to improve discoverability of LGBTQ resources in catalogs.
  • Consortiums wanting to create a local headings database can use Google Docs to capture broad and narrow terms and scope notes for further consideration.
  • Use Data Studio instead of diversity audit
  • Indiana University Bloomington’s Digital Collections Services are creating a harmful language/content form to assist with description. The reporting form will be linked on the department’s web site, finding aids, and in collection and item level metadata in their digital archives. They are looking at how and where they should include content and trigger warnings for audiovisual materials.
  • Librarians at the University of British Columbia (BC) utilize a locally developed classification and subject headings system to describe and organize materials in their collection on indigenous tribes. Assistance in creating local name headings for indigenous tribes was done in consultation with members from the BC First Nations.
  • A librarian who is NACO participant stated that she is focusing her time on creating name and title NACO records for underrepresented creators in a music collection.
  • Consultation and communication are important, especially for libraries that share a catalog but are administered separately.
  • Consider emotion and pain in redescription. It could be traumatizing for those individuals doing the work. Emotional labor that goes on behind the scenes is not always addressed.
  • Devoting time to cataloging DEI initiatives requires buy in from library administration.
  • Encouraging and recruiting underrepresented communities to join the library profession and participate in the creation of metadata is needed. Establish and fund paid internships.
  • Greater flexibility in OPACS. Vendors need to be part of the conversation with librarians to hear their views from a metadata perspective.

Breakout rooms were utilized in the Role of the Professional Librarian in Technical Services Interest Group session. I joined the one titled Addressing Systemic Racism in Metadata. Some of the points addressed in this session included:

  • If a library plans to incorporate a metadata schema other than LCSH in their catalog, it is imperative to know will the headings be indexed and how will they display or be labeled in a record display.
  • For a consortium wanting to implement a local authority database, several things must be taken into consideration: training, time, ability, consensus, and staffing for updates and maintenance.
  • When creating local authority name and subject records, communication with external stakeholders can be tricky but is necessary. Librarian pushback for changing headings may occur. Technical Services employees need to better communicate with their library colleagues in other departments. If your library is a member of the PCC, LCSH must be in the catalog.
  • As things and names do change regularly, local subject headings must be fluid.
  • A librarian from the University of Denver mentioned that Ex Libris’ Alma can incorporate and display local authority records. An authorized heading will be changed on both the Alma and Primo side. However, the indexing of related terms will continue to bring up the same results regardless if one uses the LCSH or the local heading. His library wanted to change the catalog’s public display of the LCSH Indians of North America to Indigenous Peoples of North America. He and his colleague presented their work on this project as a poster at ALA’s virtual Annual conference. Additionally, he stated that catalogers must be cognizant of legal terms that law libraries use.

Below are some links to sites that were referenced in some of the metadata sessions that I attended. If interested, check them out.