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Can There Be Neutrality in Cataloging? A Conversation Starter


About The Webinar

How does one create awareness of the bias that may be introduced into automated systems? This session will look at the selection of vocabulary in establishing taxonomies and ontologies. What is the real nature of the issue? How might establishing, maintenance, and use of a thesaurus contribute to a more inclusive search/discovery process? And where should responsibility lie for developing such ostensibly neutral tools?  How can we bring more diverse voices into the development/maintenance of these resources?

Confirmed Speakers: Erin Leach, Librarian, University of Georgia; Amber Billey, Systems and Metadata Librarian, Bard College; Jill Hurst-Wahl, Associate Professor of Practice, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University

Event Sessions

Power, corruption, and lies: bias and neutrality in metadata creation


Erin Leach

Special Collections Cataloging Librarian
University of Georgia

As catalogers, we are taught to strive for unbiased description of library resources. But is unbiased description of library resources even possible? In this talk, Erin Leach will discuss the ways that lived experience impacts the work of metadata creators as well as the ways in which existing taxonomies reflect the power structures in which they were created. Using critical discourse analysis as a lens through which to view metadata creation, Leach will also discuss the ways in which acknowledging cataloger’s bias and the power dynamics inherent in controlled vocabulary can lead to more critically conscious metadata creation.

Just Because We Can, Doesn't Mean We Should


How much information is really necessary in order to record enough about persons and to accomplish the FRBR-LRM and RDA user tasks? With the adoption of RDA, library catalogers have the technical ability and are encouraged to record much more information about people than ever previously required in name authority records -- but should we? With additional attributes associated with persons, there are additional opportunities to record personal information that could unknowingly harm an individual. Furthermore, the information in name authority records travels beyond library use with linked data into domains and disciplines outside of our control. In light of the recent news about data breaches and personal information being misused for marketing and political reasons, librarians should be more careful than ever about what metadata is recorded about persons in name authority records.

Access Requires Subjectivity


Jill Hurst-Wahl

Associate Professor of Practice, School of Information Studies
Syracuse University

While we bring our life experiences to cataloguing, our community members also bring their life experiences to their quest to locate needed information.  Does our impartiality serve the needs of our communities?  Would subjective cataloguing provide better entry points?  What could go wrong?

Additional Information

  • Cancellations made by Wednesday, April 4, 2018 will receive a refund, less a $35 cancellation. After that date, there are no refunds.

  • Registrants will receive detailed instructions about accessing the virtual conference via e-mail the Friday prior to the event. (Anyone registering between Monday and the close of registration will receive the message shortly after the registration is received, within normal business hours.) Due to the widespread use of spam blockers, filters, out of office messages, etc., it is your responsibility to contact the NISO office if you do not receive login instructions before the start of the webinar.

  • If you have not received your Login Instruction e-mail by 10 a.m. (ET) on the day before the virtual conference, please contact the NISO office at for immediate assistance.

  • Registration is per site (access for one computer) and includes access to the online recorded archive of the conference. You may have as many people as you like from the registrant's organization view the conference from that one connection. If you need additional connections, you will need to enter a separate registration for each connection needed.

  • If you are registering someone else from your organization, either use that person's e-mail address when registering or contact to provide alternate contact information.

  • Conference presentation slides and Q&A will be posted to this event webpage following the live conference.

  • Registrants will receive an e-mail message containing access information to the archived conference recording within 48 hours after the event. This recording access is only to be used by the registrant's organization.

For Online Events

  • You will need a computer for the presentation and Q&A.

  • NISO uses the Zoom platform to deliver its virtual events.  Audio is available through the computer (broadcast) and by telephone. We recommend you have a set-up for telephone audio as back-up even if you plan to use the broadcast audio as the voice over Internet isn't always 100% reliable.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your system is properly set up before each webinar begins.