Quilting together at OCLC

If you’re attending the American Library Association annual conference in San Diego later this month, watch out for the colorful display of quilts. Each year the ALA Biblioquilters hosts a silent auction of quilts as a fundraiser for the Christopher Hoy/ERT Scholarship Fund, which awards a $5,000 scholarship each year to an MLIS student. 

There you will find a colorful color wash style quilt comprised of 480 blocks and more than 2500 pieces entitled “Quilting Together,” donated by the OCLC Quilters. The quilt was designed, pieced, assembled, and financially supported by a team of twelve current and retired OCLC employees from across the organization. Each quilter dug into their own fabric stash to make the 3” blocks, which were then assembled into this colorful and unique creation.

Four people holding up a colorful patchwork quilt
The “Quilting Together” quilt, displayed by four of the twelve OCLC quilters

This isn’t the first offering by the OCLC Quilters. Last year we created a scrappy cat-themed quilt called a “World of cats,” obviously inspired by WorldCat. It raised $775 to support the scholarship.

Photo of quilt with cloth comprised of numbers
The data-inspired quilt backing

This year’s quilt is also inspired by WorldCat. We’ve borrowed the title of this quilt, “Quilting Together,” from a title in WorldCat, Quilting together : how to organize, design, and make group quilts, which is held by more than 200 libraries worldwide. And, like the record for this book, and all of WorldCat, this quilt is backed by data. Take a look at the numerically themed backing fabric!

Making a group quilt requires special considerations. For example, to be inclusive, the block chosen should be simple enough to accommodate sewists with a broad range of skills. Furthermore, a scrappy style allows participants to use their own leftover quilt scraps in their own fabric “stash” without having to purchase materials. An ample supply of scraps was donated by experienced quilters for anyone in need of supplies. Finally, as with other collaborations, it’s critical to recognize that not everyone has to contribute in the same way. While some employees were engaged at every stage of the quilt-making process, others contributed by making blocks, while others donated money for the professional longarm quilting.

An image of the OCLC quilt that shows how the OCLC logo has been incorporated
An OCLC logo is incorporated into the quilt

A cataloging colleague pointed out to me that group quilting seems to have parallels to cataloging in WorldCat, as each contributor is part of a larger community that collectively enhances the object. And quilts, just like bibliographic records, are made up of a lot of components, with their own terms, like blocks, backing, binding, and much more. I like that. 

I hope you’ll not only stop by the quilt auction in San Diego, but that you’ll also get out your wallet to bid on it. You’ll get a one-of-kind item made by a group committed to the vision of collaboration in libraries. And quilting. 

Since thanks to Kate James, Program Coordinator for Metadata Engagement for her input on this post.

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