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Session Overview
#SK3: Advancing Library Collections Data Panel
Friday, 26/Jul/2019:
1:40pm - 2:40pm

Session Chair: Tyrica Terry Kapral
Location: Marquis C, Marriott City Center
capacity 60

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Advancing Library Collections Data: Scholar-Applied Data Layers, Humanistic Inquiry, and Reflective Practice

Kate Joranson, Tyrica Terry Kapral

University of Pittsburgh, United States of America

“Do you have any artists’ books by women of color?” A curator posed this question regarding the artist book collection at the Frick Fine Arts Library (FFAL) at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). This question has prompted three years of undergraduate humanities data work in the University Library System’s art library and is the foundation of our reflective practice of examining the intersection of discoverability, social justice, and ethical data practices. In these projects, undergraduate scholars in the Archival Scholar Research Awards (ASRA) program at Pitt have used the library’s archives, special collections, and primary sources to conduct original research, producing new metadata and scholarship for distinctive and diverse collections. Beginning with their own research questions, these scholars have generated metadata for materials that enable them to answer those questions. For example, former ASRA students have described the library’s holdings of the Black Panther publication to account for the presence of internationalism and issues regarding women’s health, women imprisonment, and the LGBT community in each issue. Currently, the work of these scholars is made available via library guides (LibGuides). This program has proven to be a robust avenue for engaging students in humanities data projects that explore the role of interpretive metadata in library collections data, and it demonstrates the great potential in collaboration between the library and humanities scholars. Building on the data of the traditional catalog records with scholar-applied data layers provides critical perspectives on materials that are not quite captured in the MARC record, which can enable scholars to ask different kinds of questions of collections and to pursue humanistic inquiry in new ways, including digital humanities methods.

Furthermore, the work of ASRA students extends the capacity of collections as data by generating descriptive metadata that can support computationally-driven research. Often, this metadata is interpretive, stemming from cultural and critical research questions concerning issues such as identity and embodiment. Because they are inherently subjective and not static, it is important to acknowledge them as such, which cannot be captured by collections records as they exist. In fact, it is not appropriate to incorporate this kind of interpretive data into collection records, since authorship of this metadata is key. The metadata itself becomes an artifact of particular inquiries at a particular moment in time.

As a result of the humanities data work of ASRA scholars, we are working to standardize the metadata and processes for creating scholar-applied metadata. Another related goal is establishing a means for hosting scholar-applied data layers that are linked to catalog records. We will briefly reflect on our work in progress toward these goals, including continued work with ASRA students, collaboration between library units (e.g., FFAL, Archives & Special Collections, Digital Scholarship Services, Metadata & Discovery), and navigation of the library’s organizational infrastructure. Questions we would like to discuss regard the challenges of interpretive metadata, integrating/linking scholar-applied metadata with library catalog records, the differences between library data creation practices and that of humanists, and the library’s role in facilitating the sharing of scholar-applied metadata.

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