In the OCLC Research Library Partnership, we have a practice of “Learning Together” – we listen for issues that form a shared challenge space within our global partnership, then we synthesize and share findings, and seek to define a path forward, when appropriate.
What we have heard, for some time, is that describing collections in a respectful and inclusive ways is a challenge. We saw this reflected in a survey we conducted in 2017 on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) efforts at OCLC RLP institutions. Although institutions responding to that survey had active efforts in many different aspects of EDI, they struggled to gain traction in the area of describing collections in respectful and appropriate ways. This explains why webinars we have organized on these topics have been so popular, and why so many people view the recordings and slides of these sessions. People are hungry for tools and models to advance their work in this area. This is also a topic that our Metadata Managers Focus Group has returned to, time and again. To learn more, we undertook a series of interviews last year to better understand the specific challenges that are faced by those who seek to implement respectful and inclusive descriptive practices centered around Indigenous people and materials related to them.
Over the last few years, we have adjusted our own practices and approaches to research, using a more consultative and community-based approach than we had previously engaged in. We are also actively working as a team to educate ourselves so we can better advance racial equity.
I’m delighted to share with you the great news that we are undertaking a new project in this area, funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. You can read the official announcement below. Several of your OCLC RLP team members, including our Executive Director, Rachel Frick, along with Mercy Procaccini, Chela Scott Weber, and myself are engaged in the project. We are doing this work because of what we’ve learned from you, and in response to the needs of the OCLC RLP. Thank you for the inspiration, and thank you for your support through Partnership dues which helps make our work possible!
I hope you will share news about this project in your networks. We are ALWAYS happy to answer your questions, and will be sharing more about this work here so stay tuned!
Reimagine Descriptive Workflows, a new project from OCLC underway
OCLC has been awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to convene a diverse group of experts, practitioners, and community members to determine ways to address systemic biases and improve racial equity in descriptive practices, tools, infrastructure and workflows in libraries and archives. The multi-day virtual convening is part of an eight-month project, Reimagine Descriptive Workflows. Read the press release.
Working in consultation with Shift Collective, a nonprofit consulting group that helps cultural institutions build stronger communities through lasting engagement, along with an advisory group of community leaders, OCLC will:
- Convene a conversation of community stakeholders about how to address the systemic issues of bias and racial equity within our current collection description infrastructure.
- Share with libraries the need to build more inclusive and equitable library collections.
- Develop a community agenda to help clarify issues for those who do knowledge work in libraries, archives, and museums; prioritize areas for attention from these institutions; and provide guidance for those national agencies and suppliers.
Learn more about the initiative at https://oc.lc/reimagine-workflows
Merrilee Proffitt is Senior Manager for the OCLC RLP. She provides community development skills and expert support to institutions within the OCLC Research Library Partnership.