Needle In a Library Stack
The ‘unseen labor’ that helps us find the data we’re looking for
You might not know exactly what metadata cataloguers do, but if you’ve ever looked anything up in a library database, you’ve benefited from their work.
Metadata is data about data—in other words, it’s information about books, articles, and other library resources, and it’s essential for helping patrons find what they need. Because of metadata’s behind-the-scenes nature, cataloguers’ work is often unseen, and those who are aware of it may see it as more mechanical than creative. But Ann Kardos, UMass Amherst metadata librarian, is hoping to change that with the community embroidery project “Unseen Labor.”
Library cataloging and metadata professionals from around the United States and several other countries answered Kardos’ call to share cross stitch and embroidery pieces inspired by their unseen physical and emotional labor. The pieces submitted were displayed in the Science and Engineering Library at UMass Amherst during the Spring 2022 semester, and are also available to browse in an online gallery. Here are a few highlights from the collection.