Please join us for Authors, Authority, and Identity: Facilitating Self-Identification for Discovery and Inclusive Knowledge Production,” a virtual symposium sponsored by Harvard Library, on Wednesday November 3, from 11am to 4pm Eastern time. Please register here for a Zoom link and event updates.


One way libraries can contribute to diversity and anti-racism efforts in academia is by increasing representation and inclusion in collections and services. But how, practically speaking, can we diversify collections without knowing who is being included and who’s not? Identifying aspects of authors’ identities such as race and gender is vital to this work; equally vital is enabling the authors to do so for themselves by adopting practices and tools that amplify authors’ identities in their own voices.    

This symposium will explore issues surrounding author (self-) identification by examining existing research and work in this area. Speakers, panelists, and participants will share knowledge in order to build a cross-institutional community to lay the groundwork for future working groups or development.  

Speakers and panelists will include: 

Amber Billey, “Recording Gender: An Ethical Cataloging Conundrum” 

Julia Bullard, “Ambushing Authors with the Catalogue: What Creators Can Tell Us about Identity Terms” 

Hannah Carton, “Identifying Adoptee Research: Adoption Thesis Compilation” 

B.M. Watson, “Naming Names: Facilitating Inclusivity for Authorial Self-Naming" 

Ciyadh Wells, “Accountability and Evaluation: How to Review Your Work and Do Better for Your Community”

Each presentation will be followed by Q&A. All presenters will participate in a panel discussion, followed by a breakout session. With the exception of the breakout rooms, live transcription will be available for all sessions. In addition to video recordings, slide decks, and notes, the output of this symposium will be captured in visual “sketchnotes.


We’d love to hear your questions for the panelists! Please use this form to submit questions and the events team will review and select a few for the event.


More details are available in this document, which will be updated continuously with information for participants, including a forthcoming compilation of (optional) readings for participants, as well as a summary of internal use cases compiled by the project team.


This symposium is part of Harvard Library’s Advancing Open Knowledge initiative, which aims to further diversity, inclusion, belonging, and anti-racism through open knowledge and innovation.  


Presenters and presentations 

In alphabetical order by presenter name. Details are subject to change; see this document for the latest. 
Amber Billey Systems and Metadata Librarian, Bard College 

“Recording Gender: An Ethical Cataloging Conundrum” 

Over the past decade, Resource Description and Access (RDA) introduced new cataloging instructions, models, and goals to the library profession, leading catalogers to record gender and gendered information about creators and contributors in library metadata. But for what purpose? And at what risk, and to whom? This talk will review the history of this practice and its use, discuss the risks and potential harm caused by recording gender in library metadata, as well as explore possible solutions through which to facilitate and promote diversity and inclusion in library collections through metadata.  

Amber Billey is the Systems and Metadata Librarian at Bard College in beautiful Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Billey currently serves on the transitional Leadership Team for the ALA Core Metadata & Collection Section, and is Co-Chair of the Core Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Billey is a member of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) Task Group on Identity Management in the Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO), and PCC Advisory Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She is the founder and member of the Open Cataloging Rules project. She is also on the Advisory Board for the Digital Transgender Archive, and the editorial board for the Homosaurus – a linked data thesaurus for the LGBTQ+ community. Prior to joining Bard, she was the Metadata Librarian at Columbia University Libraries from 2015-2017 where she worked on the Linked Data For Production (LD4P) project contributing to ontology development, tool testing and development, and MARC to RDF mapping. 


Julia Bullard Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia School of Information 

“Ambushing Authors with the Catalogue: What Creators Can Tell Us about Identity Terms” 

Reporting back on early findings from two related interview studies, I will discuss what we find when asking authors to comment on the accuracy and authenticity of subject headings on their published works. From a study focusing on subject headings for Indigenous topics, we find identity and creators’ relationality entangled with headings about their works. From a study focusing on queer identity, I will share some of the complexities into moving to an author-centric cataloguing approach. Inviting authors into the cataloguing process is a departure from typical practice with many inherent challenges; this talk will outline some of these as well as the joy and potential of connecting with authors through their representations in the catalogue. 

Julia Bullard is an Assistant Professor at the UBC School of Information where she examines how communities instantiate their values in infrastructure, particularly through the design of knowledge organization systems. Her current work focuses on how catalogues can more fully represent LGBT2QIA+ identities and how traditional subject description represents Indigenous topics. She holds a PhD in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, an MLIS from the University of British Columbia, and an MA in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory from McMaster University. 


Hannah Carton Chinese adoptee community organizer and creator of a digital repository for adoptee-led theses and dissertations 

“Identifying Adoptee Research: Adoption Thesis Compilation” 

This presentation outlines the strategies and challenges of identifying adoptee research through the case study of compiling an adoption-related dissertation database. Adoption research historically has been dominated by research focusing on the adoptive parents and the narrative of rescue. As adoptees have become researchers themselves, the research focus has shifted towards adoptee perspectives. With that, adoptees conducting adoption research has become more common. Using the development and maintenance of a compilation of adoption-related dissertations which identifies if authors are adoptees as a case study, the strategies and challenges of identifying adoptee research along with importance of including adoptee voices are discussed. 

Hannah Carton is currently pursuing a Master of Applied Science degree in Civil Engineering at York University in Toronto, Canada. Her research interests include wildfires, human behaviour in fires, evacuations and evacuation management. Carton is an intercountry Chinese adoptee. She was adopted from China in the late nineties by a white Canadian couple. While she is not an adoption researcher herself, she is interested in adoption research, notably in adoptee naming practices and adoptee language (re)learning and how they may affect identity negotiation. She created a thesis/dissertation compilation of adoption-related research, with a focus on intercountry and transracial adoption. 


B.M. Watson PhD student, University of British Columbia School of Information 

"Naming Names: Facilitating Inclusivity for Authorial Self-Naming" 

Names and naming are not bias-free scientific terminology—they reflect our innermost desires and our highest outward goals. In this presentation B.M. Watson will discuss three interlocking projects that seek to facilitate inclusive knowledge organization and authorial self-identification: the Trans Metadata Collective (TMDC), the Name Change Policy Working Group (NCPWG), and the Homosaurus International LGBTQ+ linked data vocabulary. 

B.M. Watson (@brimwats) is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia's iSchool focusing on queer nomenclature, histories of information, and equitable cataloging in GLAMS (galleries, archives, libraries, museums, and special collections). They are the Director of, a free and open access resource for the history of sexuality, and serve on the editorial board of Homosaurus, an international linked data vocabulary for queer terminology. Additionally, Watson serves as the Archivist-Historian of the Consensual Non-Monogamies Committee of the American Psychological Association. 


Ciyadh Wells Associate Director & Head of Development, Institute For Composer Diversity 

“Accountability and Evaluation: How to Review Your Work and Do Better for Your Community”   

Accountability is an essential part of doing work that creates lasting, equitable, and sustainable change within our various communities. Without accountability, review, and continued evaluation, we cease to have meaningful dialogue and stop improving. In “Accountability and Evaluation: How to Review Your Work and Do Better for Your Community,” Ciyadh Wells will discuss lessons from carrying out an internal organization review, the efficacy of such practices, and how to carry out a review within your own organization. 

Ciyadh Wells is a multifaceted musician who prides herself on not only being an artist but also an activist and a scholar. As a scholar and educator, Wells believes everyone deserves access to diverse and inclusive art, which she advocates as being essential to society. Ciyadh’s mission is to utilize the impact of music old and new, to manifest moments of meaningful change, and to inspire community therein. She is the Artistic & Executive Director of Margins Guitar Collective, the Associate Director at the Institute for Composer Diversity, and a former member of the Sphinx LEAD program. Ciyadh is one half of the guitar duo Duo Charango, and lives in Austin, Texas where she works in organizational development and fundraising. 


Christine Fernsebner Eslao

Metadata Management

Harvard Library Information & Technical Services

625 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge MA 02139


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