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 (functionally the 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, supporting projects of the Cataloging and Metadata services department, and helping others reuse our data for their work. I have previously worked with library repositories, as the Digital Collections Librarian at the University of Notre Dame and as the Metadata Librarian at NASA Goddard. I’ve been working in libraries, part- and fulltime, since 2001.

While still in graduate 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 participated in the Art & Rare Materials Bibframe extension project, advised NISO on ways it may support and advance the use of linked data for information providers and consumers, and created materials for Wikidata work. 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.

My research agenda has long been driven by concern for the working conditions of colleagues. Sometimes this concern rises to the surface of the research, such as with the Collective Responsibility Forum; other times it clearly underlies it, as in my interviews with library system maintainers or my essay Repository Ouroboros; and even when it is not at the forefront, concern for labor and morale often motivates the underlying question, such as my survey on rates of faculty self-deposit into institutional repositories. I am currently researching the longer-term impacts of library systems migration on staff who use these systems daily.


  • Labor and maintenance
  • Linked data
  • Cataloging and metadata ethics
  • Quilting and texile arts
  • Ham radio (KC3AF)


  • Master's Degree in Library Science, 2013

    University of Maryland iSchool



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

Penn State University Libraries

Sep 2017 – Present State College, Pennsylvania

Assistant Librarian, September 2017-June 2023

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. Designing auxiliary applications, such as a My Account app which brings together regular checkouts, holds, and interlibrary loans.
  • Providing guidance on the implementation of linked data within library data projects. Leading wikidata workshops and projects within the cataloging and metadata department.
  • Solving complex data reuse and reporting projects with data from sources including the library’s catalog, ArchivesSpace, and WorldShare.
  • Working with campus partners to understand how their data may become more discoverable, whether through library contexts or on the open web.

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.


Collective Responsibility Labor Forum


The Ethics of Sustaining Linked Data Infrastructure

The development of linked data vocabularies and infrastructure remains primarily project-based. While such experiments and short-term initiatives move the field forward, they often overlook the demands of ongoing maintenance and sustainability. Because linked data infrastructure and vocabularies are fundamentally interdependent, the deprecation or disappearance of one project cascades to damage other vocabularies and systems which had incorporated it into their design. Such losses undermine the development of a robust semantic web, particularly harming those who don’t have the expertise or infrastructure to adapt quickly. In this chapter, we review several key cases of loss and rescue and propose maintenance and sustainability as core ethical responsibilities in linked data development.

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.

Selected Presentations

Between Exports and Infrastructure: Linked Data Systems in 2022

When you’re used to having the tools you need, it’s easy to expect things to just work. And unless you specialize in thinking about how systems come together or study how they were made, it may be hard to identify all the things that have to get done between “we have a BIBFRAME standard” and “we can make BIBFRAME records” or “we can make BIBFRAME records” and “we can use BIBFRAME with the same degree of friction as we use MARC now.” This makes it tricky to attend a presentation where someone is talking about linked data or BIBFRAME and evaluate what they’re saying or what it means to you. I hope that this presentation is not only informative but will give you some framework for understanding where future updates fit in and how to evaluate what you hear.

Introducing Discovery Systems

This is the text of a presentation I recorded for an IST 616 course at Syracuse’s library school. I was asked to introduce library discovery in 10 minutes, or less, with some focus on how metadata is created and used.

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.

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.