Session 1: Outreach and Inclusivity in Digital Libraries and Institutional Repositories

This is session 1 of the two -part ALCTS Virtual Preconference Diverse, Inclusive, and Equitable Metadata. View information for session 2.

Date & Time ALA Annual 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. CT

Learning Objectives

  1. Participants will be able to identify ways to increase cultural inclusiveness of their metadata, leading to enhanced description and better representation.
  2. Participants will be exposed to new frameworks that will enrich their practices for creating descriptive metadata.

Presentation 1

This was presented on June 6, 2017. Access the recording and presentation slides here:


Digital Project as Community Outreach: A New Way of Approaching Metadata

East Carolina University’s Joyner Library recently embarked on a project entitled Beyond Bricks & Mortar: Revisiting Sycamore Hill, which attempts to document the mostly African-American community that once stood in the area of town that was transformed in the 1960s into the Town Common park. Library staff have done oral history interviews with former residents of the area, and will be conducting a community scanning day this spring, to which community members are encouraged to bring photos and other family memorabilia for scanning.  All digital resources generated by the project will be added to the library’s digital collections database with full metadata. The library’s goal for the project is to document a piece of local history that is in jeopardy of being forgotten, while also forging ongoing relationships with community members.

Because of the importance of assigning metadata that is respectful, informative, and accurate, metadata personnel will be attending the community scanning day and assisting in the intake of information from donors, hearing firsthand the stories behind the resources and the identifications of people and places. This methodology represents a departure from that followed by the library’s previous large-scale digitization projects, in which materials have been selected from our special collections holdings, and metadata personnel have had to describe resources well after they are created, relying on whatever reference sources are available for context. The Sycamore Hill project, however, presents a rare opportunity to include the donor families in the metadata creation, hopefully with the result of more informative and accurate metadata.
This presentation will describe all parts of the project and discuss our experience as metadata personnel participating in it, as well as comment on the impact of the donors on the metadata. Along the way, we will explore some issues we have had to grapple with since the beginning of our Digital Collections, such as the challenges of incorporating material relating largely to a particular ethnic community into a general repository, the limitations of Library of Congress Subject Headings, the question of which descriptive details are pertinent, the significance of which communities are envisioned as the users of these resources, and the significance of who is creating the metadata. There will be fewer answers than questions.


Patricia DragonPatricia Dragon, Head, Special Collections Cataloging, East Carolina University 
Allison Miller SimondsAllison Miller Simonds, University Library Technician, East Carolina University
Amanda VinogradovAmanda Vinogradov, Special Collections Cataloger, East Carolina University



Presentation 2

This was presented on June 6, 2017. Access the recording and presentation slides here:


Doing Justice to the Humanities: Increasing Inclusivity with More Specific Subject Description

This year, we have begun the transition from ProQuest Dissertation Subject Categories vocabulary to FAST for assigning subjects to the items in Academic Commons, Columbia University's institutional repository. The vast number of subjects in the FAST vocabulary as well as the ability to identify people and uniform titles makes the vocabulary especially important for clear and useful description of humanities content. This presentation will outline our efforts to describe existing content with the new vocabulary and our program for training novice catalogers to think carefully about subject assignment.
At around 400 headings, the ProQuest vocabulary is not very specific and is particularly sparse on subjects relating to the humanities. The ProQuest Dissertation Subject Categories vocabulary describes humanities content in three major disciplines - Area, Ethnic and Gender Studies, History, and Language and Literature. The subjects within these disciplines are formed with basic adjectives attached to the field. Thus, the list provides subjects such as "Slavic studies", "American history", and "Middle Eastern literature". These broad categories obscure the richness of humanities scholarship and make it harder for users to access related materials. The categories also leave entire peoples, genres and ideas out of our index or hide them in large subject groups where no user would be able to predictably find them.
The primary challenge in adopting the new subject headings has been moving toward higher granularity. This has presented two problems to us. The first is enriching the 16,000 records that were cataloged using the ProQuest vocabulary. The second is training catalogers that are accustomed to broad categories to think carefully about rich description of records with more specific categories.
We have made headway against the first problem by using natural language processing tools to parse abstracts to find likely subject matches. While this has been helpful, we haven't found any process to beat the discerning eye of a cataloger. We began addressing the second problem by asking catalogers of varying levels of experience to assign subjects to a selection of humanities resources. We collected these responses in an online survey and compared the results to see where novice catalogers need help to deal with the massive subject list in FAST. The surveys showed us that novice catalogers stuck to general topics for humanities and often missed thematic topics that can be described with the vocabulary. Starting in the fall 2015 semester, we implemented a new cataloging training procedure that emphasizes aboutness, theory and theme to help novice catalogers navigate the FAST vocabulary.


Brian Luna LuceroBrian Luna Lucero, Digital Repository Coordinator, Columbia University Libraries





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