Unseen Labor



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The UMass Amherst Libraries hosts an exhibit, “Unseen Labor,” can be viewed through May 2022, in the Science and Engineering Library in Lederle Lowrise, Floor 2, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The exhibit is a library community-organizing art project created by UMass Amherst metadata librarian Ann Kardos, and consists of cross stitch and embroidery pieces that share stories about libraries, the theme of unseen labor, the work that metadata librarians do, projects they are proud of, and more. The exhibit represents approximately 60 creators from a wide variety of libraries: academic, public, museum libraries, and archives, from all over the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Metadata work is not typically seen as creative work, but rather work that is guided by national standards, best practices, policies, and guidelines in order to produce and maintain standard records for library resources that can be shared between institutions and vendors.

Metadata librarians create and maintain millions of library resources for patrons, with whom they may rarely (if ever) interact, and they provide valuable backend support for their public-facing colleagues. The project asked library metadata creators to examine stories and experiences that would center their unseen labor, both physical and emotional. A companion eBook exhibition catalogue will be available.

Ann Kardos has been a metadata librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst since 2017, where she works as part of a small team of dedicated individuals supporting access to approximately seven million records in the Five College Catalog. Kardos learned how to cross stitch as a child and took it up again during the pandemic for stress relief. In November 2021, she had an original embroidery piece on display at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, as part of the Badass Herstory exhibit curated by artist and activist Shannon Downey, who goes by the name Badass Cross Stitch.

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Unseen Labor



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