Mulling Over Multilingual Metadata: Making the Case for Ethical Compromise




Ballou, Jullianne Hughes
Polk, Theresa
Cofield, Melanie
Kung, Susan Smythe

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Descriptive metadata provides an initial filter through which users discover, select, and access information resources, often facilitated by use of standardized language and controlled vocabularies. However, multilingual and international collections can provide a particular challenge, as they do not always fit neatly within broadly accepted English and/or North American standards and schemas. Rather, blanket adoption of these tools can serve to embed bias, misrepresent cultural heritage materials, and marginalize the communities represented by them.

A panel of library professionals from different libraries and archives at UT, who work with multilingual metadata and international collections, will discuss ways to promote cultural competencies and inclusivity in metadata decision-making. Topics to be discussed include cultural bias in controlled vocabularies, international name authorities, content management system limitations to building multilingual collections, and system-agnostic best practices. We will discuss roadblocks we’ve come up against and workable solutions.

Panelists represent different perspectives and experiences with multilingual metadata. Jullianne Ballou, a project archivist at the Harry Ransom Center, will talk about building the Gabriel García Márquez digital archive in CONTENTdm with Spanish and English language metadata. Melanie Cofield, Metadata Coordinator at UT Libraries, will summarize challenges encountered working with metadata in two multilingual digital repositories (The Archive for Indigenous Languages of Latin America and Latin American Digital Initiatives), and share pragmatic, generalizable approaches grounded in best practice. Theresa Polk, Post-Custodial Archivist at LLILAS Benson, will discuss metadata decision-making in a post-custodial context, and implementation challenges with Islandora in the Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI) project. Susan Smythe Kung, AILLA project manager and linguist, will examine AILLA's attempt to represent indigenous voices in the digital repository by including metadata that is both in hundreds of different indigenous languages as well as about those languages.


Presentation slides from a panel session at the 2017 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries (TCDL).