Remote Digital Library Work Discussion Notes 06/25/2020

  • The discussion today was focused on conscious editing and what our training needs around conscious editing are.
  • It can be difficult to select appropriate subject headings and descriptions when you only have an image. You cannot make assumptions about whether or not someone is African American, they may be Cape Verdean or Bahamian, Haitian, etc. and not African American. Without a label these images may not be locatable again in this context. How do you choose appropriate labels?
  • LOC subject headings have been problematic for a long time and are slow to change.
  • Questionnaire to give examples of descriptions in our collections to give the speaker an understanding of where we are and what we need to improve. A good way to surface challenges we are encountering.
  • The systems we use can sometimes make it difficult to implement changes in our metadata.
  • Metadata working group is meeting later today to discuss conscious editing and how we can help make some of these changes easier for organizations in Florida.
  • The DPLA Network Council Metadata Working Group is also working on these questions and issues for the national network. So we are definitely part of communities working to realize this work into practice.
  • Seeking feedback from those in our communities. Understand what they are able to find and not find with the search terms that we are using in our records. What terms would be more useful for those in our communities to find materials that pertain to them?
  • FIU worked with Virginia Key Beach, formerly segregated beach in South Florida. Many residents in attendance at a forum to discuss the history of the beach and their experiences at the beach. In talking about the archives with residents they received unexpected feedback, particularly concerning descriptions of unidentified individuals. Mislabeling gender or age of individuals in photos. Difficult to implement changes because answers to those questions are unavailable due to the individuals being unidentified. Be cautious with our labeling practices when trying to describe materials so that they are searchable.
  • Thinking about sharing and aggregation where materials are presented out of context.
  • Is there an opportunity for crowd-sourcing in our communities to help with appropriate labeling? An opportunity in our networked environment to help with the community engagement.
  • Even identified people in our collections are being misidentified. Example of records related to Free Blacks in South Florida. These men are Bahamian, but are identified in the records as African American. This highlights limitations in subject heading availability, knowledge gaps among those writing descriptions (volunteers, students), and user searching behavior.
  • How do we educate our users to use the search terms that are being corrected rather than older terms?
    • Example of a record that had “slaves” in the description, it was replaced with “enslaved people”, but there is a hesitation to remove “slaves” altogether due to user behavior.
    • Place these antiquated terms in a hidden field in the records so they can still find these terms but they are not visible.
    • Not all digital library systems have the ability to do this. CONTENTdm allows for this.
  • Are there grants we can pursue as a set of organizations that can help is developing broader statewide practices for conscious description and potentially also provide smaller grant opportunities for the work to get done?
  • Are there ways we can affect change in LOC headings to improve the problem areas?
  • What format would we find most useful for training on these topics?
    • Series starting with a presentation with background and introductory information about these concepts
    • Second session with more practical applications
    • Potential experts on this topic include Dorothy Berry at Harvard University and Jackie Dean at UNC Chapel Hill, look into the group of individuals who worked on developing the Archives for Black Lives documentation as well.
    • Panel of representatives from different communities in Florida represented in our collections to facilitate community conversations around description preferences.
    • Edit-a-thon
  • Potentially create a subgroup of experts in Florida and across the DPLA network to help develop guidelines.
  • Try to design a process that not only provides education around the subject, but evolves into actual practical application. Training and discussion often bring about more questions than answers. Having more engaging workshops and dedicated time to work out issues in an engaging and applicable way.
  • Challenges in working in archives that have only told the stories of one part of the population and don’t tell the whole history of a place.
  • Instances of altered transcripts that do not accurately reflect oral histories. Creating transparency in practice when reflecting what oral histories are saying.
  • We’ve only been talking about data and its role in discovery. But There are some good points about the erasure of voices, and our roles to collecting and surfacing those voices

Our next discussion will take place on Thursday, July 9 from 1-2pm ET. You can register here:

View notes from our previous conversations in our news section:

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