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Staff Awards 2020

Community Cataloging Project
Special Projects

As a large land-grant research institution, we collect resources in a staggering number of languages. Our catalogers have many strategies for providing access to materials in languages we cannot speak or read, but these strategies are only effective to a point, especially with regards to languages written in non-Romanized scripts. To address a group of African-language materials remaining in our backlogs, Joshua Barton and Jessica Martin designed a creative solution. They worked with the Lansing Refugee Development Center to identify language speakers in the community who would be interested in working as on-call employees at MSU. In October of 2019, 7 community members came to campus and partnered with 8 catalogers from the CMS unit, sitting down to transliterate and provide subject access to 43 titles in Arabic, Amharic, Hausa, Wolof, and Swahili. These materials are not widely available and strengthen the cultural record in a traditionally underrepresented area.

The Community Cataloging Project demonstrated a number of our values and strategic directions: responsible stewardship of our materials, collaboration with community partners, improving discovery of our resources, and emphasizing underrepresented perspectives in our collections. The goal was not only to provide access to these resources, but do it respectfully. As Jessica put it, “We want to make sure we’re cataloging materials in ways that are culturally appropriate. Cataloging represents the official record of an item, and it’s important to do it right. Misrepresentations are inconvenient, and they’re harmful.” This project encapsulates what we mean when we talk about critical librarianship and critical cataloging.

Participants

  • Joshua Barton
  • Autumn Faulkner
  • Tim Kiser
  • Jessica Martin
  • Lisa Robinson
  • Emily Sanford
  • Nicole Smeltekop
  • Mary Jo Zeter