ICYMI: “Diverse and Inclusive Metadata: Developing Cultural Competencies in Descriptive Practices” sessions at the American Library Association Annual Conference

Our ICYMI series provide summaries of presentations, publications, webinars, and other educational opportunities that are of interest to I&A members. We keep a running list of upcoming events. If you’re interested in writing a post for ICYMI, please refer to our sign up sheet. In this post, Liz Woolcott and Anna Neatrour recap the “Diverse and Inclusive Metadata: Developing Cultural Competencies in Descriptive Practices” program, held during the American Library Association Annual Conference this past June.

The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) Metadata Interest Group met at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in June for the “Diverse and Inclusive Metadata: Developing Cultural Competencies in Descriptive Practices” program. The Metadata Interest Group sponsored two sessions featuring four speakers discussing diversity and inclusivity in metadata practices.

Hannah Buckland, from Leech Lake Tribal College, spoke first about the “Impacts and Limitations of Culturally Responsive Subject Headings in Tribal College Libraries.” (Her slides are available here: http://connect.ala.org/node/256170) Ms. Buckland first described the issues facing small, underfunded libraries and the reliance on established controlled vocabularies (like the Library of Congress Subject Headings or LCSH) to create records for collections. The Bezhigoogahbow Library, of which she is the director, serves both the college as well as the local community and relies on grant funding for all of its support. Ms. Buckland remarked that grant funding can be obtained for programs, but rarely covers metadata or cataloging, which are the “unseen” services. Therefore, there was a heavy reliance on established records, headings, and classifications. However, many of these cataloging elements are Eurocentric and do not recognize many Native American tribal designations, languages, or customs. For instance, they do not usually reflect Native American tribes that are not federally recognized, but view themselves as distinct from other tribes. She described the issues surrounding the use of subject headings and classification schemes for Native American topics. As an example, Ms. Buckland cited the classification of Ojibwe language material, which is prominent at the Leech Lake Tribal College, as being classified under PM, which is a Library of Congress call number category that is also used to describe “artificial languages.”

Rachel Wen-Paloutzian, from Loyola Marymount University, presented on “Hidden Stories, Inclusive Perspectives: Describing Photographs of Jewish Refugees in Shanghai.” (Her slides are available here: http://connect.ala.org/node/256171) Ms. Wen-Paloutzian spoke about a project to archive a collection of 600 photographs backlogged in the Department of Archives and Special Collections at Loyola Marymount that documented the Jewish refugee experience in Shanghai, China, between 1937 and 1949. The project can be viewed here: http://digitalcollections.lmu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/sjrc She discussed the ethical challenges of assigning both descriptive metadata and controlled vocabularies to photographs based on the assumptions or interpretations of metadata specialists who may not have experience with the culture. For example, making the assumption that all subjects depicted in a photograph were, indeed, Jewish refugees or presuming relationships between subjects in a photograph. She discussed the use of crowdsourcing to both help identify images and counter misinterpretations in the metadata. Ms. Wen-Paloutzian emphasized that in order for diverse viewpoints to be reflected, professionals need to develop awareness of the cultural context and see metadata as not static, but responsive, adaptable, and dynamic.

Sharon Farnel, from the University of Alberta, started up the second session on Diverse and Inclusive Metadata with her presentation: “Digital Library North: Engaging with Communities to Develop Culturally-Appropriate-and-Aware Metadata.” (Slides are available here: http://connect.ala.org/node/256025) Ms. Farnel presented on Digital Library North (https://sites.ualberta.ca/~dln/), a site dedicated to providing increased information access in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. Partnering with the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre, the site is designed to serve six communities that are geographically dispersed. Farnel explored practices of gathering descriptive information about cultural heritage materials while partnering directly with a community. Issues of privacy and acknowledgement are deeply important. Existing frameworks for knowledge management are likely to contain hidden biases that don’t accurately represent the materials connected to the community.

Tiewei Liu, from California State University, Fresno, wrapped up the session with her presentation “Creating Inclusive and Discoverable Metadata: Practices at Fresno State.” (Slides are available here: http://connect.ala.org/node/256026 ) Ms. Liu described emerging practices in building an inclusive institutional repository at Fresno State, designed to reflect the diverse student and faculty body at the institution. Issues of disambiguating name authority records are dealt with by engaging directly with researchers. Liu also discussed future directions and needs for institutional repositories in developing inclusive metadata, including the need for a comprehensive authority tool, and interest in developing a multilingual search interface.

Inclusive metadata is an area of growing interest and concern for many people in technical services. The sessions sponsored at ALA sparked a great deal of discussion between the speakers and the attendees. One common theme that emerged was that through incorporating inclusive practices and partnering with the larger community, metadata becomes not just of higher quality and more comprehensive, but also more discoverable. The session planners are hopeful that this conversation will continue and will contribute to the development of a larger community-driven tradition of inclusivity and awareness in developing descriptive metadata.

You can see the Twitter conversation for these sessions at Storify: https://storify.com/LizWoolcott/diverse-and-inclusive-metadata-creating-c

Anna Neatrour is a metadata librarian at the University of Utah Marriott Library. She received a BA from Kalamazoo College and a MS in Library Science from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. She has worked on a variety of digital collections and initiatives in the mountain west region, including the Western Soundscape Archive, the Western Waters Digital Library, and the Mountain West Digital Library.

Liz Woolcott serves as the Head of Cataloging and Metadata Services for Utah State University Libraries and has worked in cataloging and metadata coordination for 12 years.  She currently serves as Vice-Chair of the ALCTS Metadata Interest Group and is the co-founder of the Library Workflow Exchange.  Her research interests include workflow analysis, project management, and impact assessment.

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One thought on “ICYMI: “Diverse and Inclusive Metadata: Developing Cultural Competencies in Descriptive Practices” sessions at the American Library Association Annual Conference

  1. Pingback: Metadata, metadata, software – Colette Leung

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