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Ruth Kitchin Tillman

Sally W. Kalin Early Career Librarian for Technological Innovations

Penn State University

I am currently the Sally W. Kalin Early Career Librarian for Technological Innovations (formerly Cataloging Systems and Linked Data Strategist) at the Penn State University Libraries. My role spans traditional and emerging technologies from launching a new version of the Libraries' catalog, to exploring opportunities in linked data, and otherwise supporting projects of the Cataloging and Metadata services department. I have previously worked with library repositories, as the Digital Collections Librarian at the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Libraries and as the Metadata Librarian at NASA Goddard. I’ve been working in libraries, part- and fulltime since 2001.

My MLS specialization is in archives, with a personal concentration on metadata and accessibility. I’ve self-described as a “platypus” because my career has spanned and split the worlds of librarianship and archives without being a traditional form of either and always involving various forms of metadata.

While still in school, I created EADiva.com, a beginner-friendly version of the EAD 2002 tag library. I have created an EAD3 version of the site while continuing support of the previous version. In my time as co-chair of the EAD Roundtable, I led the creation of an official FAQ.

More recently, I’ve developed workshops and led documentation projects which bridge library/archival description practices and Wikidata. I believe in lowering barriers to understanding metadata/descriptive practices. Many people who are intimidated by something sounding technical can learn if it’s presented in the proper fashion and with an assumption of their competence in other areas.

Interests

Education

  • Master's Degree in Library Science, 2013

    University of Maryland iSchool

Experience

 
 
 
 
 

Assistant Librarian - Sally W. Kalin Early Career Librarian for Technological Innovations

Penn State University Libraries

Sep 2017 – Present State College, Pennsylvania

Engaging with the libraries discovery, cataloging, and metadata systems to promote interoperability and identify opportunities for linked data. Research interests include: maintenance of cataloging and discovery systems, contingent labor, ethics in practical cataloging and linked data work.

Responsibilities include:

  • Leading a project to improve the libraries' discovery through the development of a new Blacklight catalog and Bento search.
  • Providing guidance on the implementation of linked data within library data projects. Leading wikidata workshops and projects within the cataloging and metadata department.
  • Engaging with library workers on additional methods of exploring and understanding our catalog data as linked data and Solr indexed data.
  • Working with campus partners to understand how their data may become more discoverable, whether through library contexts or linked data.
 
 
 
 
 

Assistant Librarian - Digital Collections Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame

Feb 2016 – Aug 2017 South Bend, Indiana

Implemented working digital collections infrastructure in CurateND, the library’s institutional repository.

Accomplishments included:

  • Consulted with librarians, curators, and external stakeholders to bring collections into the library’s exhibit platform and/or institutional repository.
  • Set development priorities for the library’s exhibit platform and institutional repository. Exploring integrations between library systems.
  • Developed and refined metadata for load into the institutional repository.
  • Developed and maintained pipelines for dissemination of EAD finding aids from Rare Books and Special Collections and Archives units through the institutional repository and into the library’s catalog and special collections sites.
  • Created documentation for users and processes for the library’s technical platforms.
 
 
 
 
 

Metadata Librarian II

Cadence Group at NASA Goddard

Jun 2014 – Jan 2016 Greenbelt, MD
Managed regular harvest and data management for the NASA Goddard Institutional Repository. Led project to create new collection of 488 digitized issues of the Goddard News, allowing researchers to access the first 40 years of Goddard’s history.
 
 
 
 
 

Serials and Continuations Specialist

Jacob Burns Law Library

Dec 2008 – Jun 2014 Washington, DC
Oversaw handling of serials, periodicals, and continuing publications from initial receipt through delivery to shelvers. Performed 18 months of original cataloging of law journal colloquia as monograph records.

Projects

Collective Responsibility Labor Forum

Recent Presentations

Beyond Implementation: Positioning Maintenance as a Core Commitment in Libraries

The 21st century academic library runs on an increasingly interconnected network of systems, from the traditional ILS to emerging technologies. While they support core library functions, these products are often implemented without a plan for their maintenance in the years or decades until their sunsetting or the next migration. Drawing from the emerging field of maintenance studies, this presentation will share results from qualitative interviews of 16 ILS maintainers and propose steps for building a workplace where core maintenance tasks are recognized and supported. This was recorded for CNI’s 2022 Project Briefing Series.

MARC Records vs. the Catalog

What happens when you try to build a new catalog based on the MARC standard? This presentation is a retrospective of experimentation, failure, and compromise in the design of Penn State’s Blacklight Catalog with lessons learned about designing for MARC data in the real world. This was presented at the ALA Core Catalog Management Interest Group on March 9, 2022.

Recent Publications

Indispensable, Interdependent, and Invisible: A Qualitative Inquiry into Library Systems Maintenance

Over 30 years after such systems were first developed, the Integrated Library System underlies most operations of an academic library. Yet in the literature, its day-to-day maintenance is often reduced to a list of tasks. Through interviews with 16 system maintainers, this study attempts to develop an experiential understanding of its maintenance. Findings suggest that most maintainers find such work meaningful but face barriers when colleagues and administrators don’t understand what they do well enough to support it. The article proposes steps toward building a workplace where core maintenance tasks are recognized and supported.

Pragmatic Principles for Archival Linked Data

Where does linked data fit in archival description? How do we get from promise to implementation? This article evaluates the benefits and limitations of current approaches to linked data in archival work. It proposes four pragmatic principles for the archival community to follow when determining how to pursue linked data. This approach engages with communities (both inside and outside cultural heritage institutions) already publishing linked data, accounts for institutional resource limitations, and recognizes the need for technological, educational, and social support for institutions and workers. Through an examination of the work of the Archives and Linked Data Interest Group with Schema.org and Wikidata, the article provides case studies which explore how these pragmatic principles for archival linked data create inclusive, rather than exclusive, communities.

The Power of Parallel Description: Wikidata and Archival Discovery

This paper proposes the use of Wikidata in archival description workflows to create linked data that can improve discovery of our collections and expand contextual information around the entities they represent. Wikidata offers an opportunity for opening up archival description to a public forum. We suggest that, rather than approach it as a means to drive traffic to our individual finding aids, archivists use it as a platform to transform information about entities already represented in our archival description into open data. In turn, other communities can engage with these contributions to enhance, redescribe, or replace oppressive or harmful language—with all of the potential for collaboration, as well as conflict, that this can entail. Community description is a fundamental departure from traditional descriptive practice. It may significantly shift descriptive work for archivists, and it requires engaging with the Wikidata community to understand the methods and purpose of the infrastructure. With so much to consider when assessing whether an archives should use Wikidata, the paper is supplemented by an actionable list of 50 items that archivists can consider to get started.

Another thing that’s true about me…

XKCD comic 208, everybody stand back, I know regular expressions

Regular expression cartoon under Creative Commons NonCommercial 2.5 Generic license, original image at XKCD.com.