Bonnie Parks | University of Portland

Bonnie Parks


Bonnie ParksIf you’ve ever checked out a book, read an online article, or used an online database at Clark Library, you have used systems or data that I maintain. My job is to create and maintain the metadata and systems that support the scholarly and research needs of our students and faculty.

I was inspired to enter the field when I was a student working on research papers. I discovered how important reliable library catalog data was to what I needed. Once I decoded the structure of the catalog cards and saw how each element worked together to describe a resource and provide access to similar materials, I was hooked! When I got to grad school, I realized that this process had a name: cataloging. The added element of online search and retrieval added another layer of complexity, which made me even more intrigued—so much so, that I focused my graduate studies and career on creating and providing access to high-quality metadata.

Catalogers and metadata creators use controlled vocabularies to describe what a resource is about and to describe the people or organizations who create the resources. The principles behind controlled vocabularies are to organize information and to provide consistent language for retrieval. One term or phrase is used as the heading, and the others link to it. This ensures all resources on a given topic are grouped together.

My current research examines controlled vocabularies in subject cataloging to identify problem areas. The goal is to represent more inclusively the diverse lived experiences of our communities. While the syndetic structure of cataloging is sound, it is important to consider that there is great power in naming people and things, and this power is not without bias. Too often, subject terms used in our library catalog do not represent the diversity of our users or their lived experiences. 

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