Generating Lasting, Meaningful Change in Libraries & Archives

Why are we reimagining descriptive workflows, and why now?

OCLC is hosting a virtual, three-day convening June 22-24, 2021 (see detailed schedule). This convening seeks to bring together a diverse group of practitioners to begin laying the groundwork for lasting, meaningful change in this foundational area of cultural memory, preservation, and discovery.

Description, subject analysis, classification, authority control, and cataloging practices are part of a powerful naming and labeling process in bibliographic description. Most bibliographic databases are laden with outdated, harmful, and even racist terminology. Though many areas of librarianship and archival work have evolved, core ontologies and taxonomies at the heart of descriptive and classification practices remain biased. Obsolete or racist terminology causes harm and means that the experiences, memories, and achievements of communities may be mischaracterized or overlooked. Inclusive description practice is not an easy solution because of the various workflows and operational silos associated with collection and material types: archives, special collections, and general circulating collections; monographs, serials, archival materials, ephemera, etc. Positive changes have been made incrementally in all these areas, but efforts have not scaled beyond local or specific operational contexts. 

Is this meeting for me?

We are seeking a diverse group of people from multiple points of contact with descriptive workflows, from community users to library catalogers, archivists, librarians, and more. If you have been involved in creating alternative workflows that utilize inclusive vocabularies, created technical or process workarounds, are interested in finding alternatives, changing the way things work, or want to create something entirely new and different, this is probably for you. Please keep in mind that we have limited capacity, so applications are required.

Who is organizing the convening?

OCLC has written and received the grant to fund this convening and related research, and is providing matching funds to support it. Shift Collective has been tapped to design and facilitate the convening itself, modeled in part after similar work they have carried out with Architecting Sustainable Futures and the Cultural Heritage and Social Change Summit. Additionally, an advisory panel, listed below, will contribute their expertise to the convening and subsequent research.

Shift Collective Team:

  • Jon Voss
  • Jennifer Himmelreich
  • Asante Salaam
  • Tayo Medupin
  • Gerry Himmelreich

OCLC Team:

  • Rachel Frick
  • Marti Heyman
  • Merrilee Proffitt
  • Chela Weber
  • Mercy Procaccini
  • Bettina Huhn

Advisory Panel:

  • Dr. Stacy Allison-Cassin, Citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario;Assistant Professor Faculty of Information, University of Toronto; Co-Lead, CFLA IM, Joint Committee on Subject Headings and Classification; Co-Chair, CFLA Joint Task Group on Indigenous Subject Headings; Lead, IFLA Wikidata and Wikibase Working Group
  • Jennifer Baxmeyer, Assistant University Librarian for Metadata Services, Princeton University; Chair, Program for Cooperative Cataloging Advisory Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Dorothy Berry, Digital Collections Program Manager at Houghton Library, Harvard University
  • Dr. Kimberley Bugg, Associate Library Director, AUC Woodruff Library Center
  • Camille Callison, Indigenous Strategies Librarian, University of Manitoba Libraries; Chair of IFLA Indigenous Matters Section and Secretary of IEEE P2890™ Recommended Practice for Provenance of Indigenous Peoples’ Data.
  • Lillian Chavez, Library Director, Mescalero Community Library; President American Indian Library Association 2018-2019; Chair of ASCLA Tribal Librarians Interest Group
  • Trevor A. Dawes, Vice Provost for Libraries and Museums and May Morris University Librarian, University of Delaware
  • Jarret Martin Drake, Liberatory Memory Worker and PhD candidate of the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University
  • Bergis Jules, Senior Consultant, Shift Collective
  • Cellia Joe-Olsen, Heritage Advice Coordinator, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand. National Council Te Rōpū Whakahau. IFLA Indigenous Matters Standing Committee member
  • Katrina Tamaira, Research Librarian Māori, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand. Archifacts Editor: Journal of the Archives & Records Association of New Zealand Te Huinga Mahara
  • Damien Webb, Manager – Indigenous Engagement Branch, State Library of New South Wales