BPS Desegregation Project: Using metadata to support collaborative collections

Posted by: Giordana Mecagni


The following is a series written by archivists, academics, activists, and educators making available primary source material, providing pedagogical support, and furthering the understanding of Boston Public School’s Desegregation history. This post explains the technical underpinnings of the BPS Desegregation Project’s collaborative collection.

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Subject headings

The simplest way to collocate our materials in a shared portal like Digital Commonwealth or DPLA is to consistently apply an agreed upon subject heading. There are numerous Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and Thesaurus of Graphic Materials (TGM) topical terms that could be applied to desegregation materials, including:

  • Busing for school integration [LCSH]
  • Busing (School integration) [TGM]
  • Segregation in education [LCSH]
  • School integration [LCSH and TGM]
  • Segregation [LCSH and TGM]

Working in a vacuum, one institution could decide to apply the term “Segregation in education” to all desegregation materials, while another could decide to apply “School integration,” making it more difficult to connect these materials in a shared system. As a collaborative, we chose to apply “Segregation in education — Massachusetts — Boston — History” as an umbrella heading that can be used to collocate items related to desegregation and busing across institutions.

Recognizing that relying on a single subject heading may be too simplistic an approach for some collaborative collections, we’re also planning to explore the possibility of creating a DPLA App that would allow us to pull together a result set that combines multiple subject terms, which DPLA’s search functionality does not currently support.

Locally controlled list of names

Participating libraries agreed to apply name authorities from LCNAF whenever possible; however, many of the key local players in the desegregation movement do not have authority files with the Library of Congress. To ensure that we are expressing these names consistently, we created a shared document where we can list new non-LCNAF names used in our digital collections as they come up. In these cases, names are formed according to RDA rules.

Geographic data

Desegregation in the city of Boston is a particularly place-oriented topic; the issues, experiences, and reactions to busing differed greatly from one neighborhood to another. For this reason, we felt that adding geographic information, at least at the neighborhood-level, would be an especially valuable enhancement to our metadata records. We chose to express geographic data using TGN codes because it easily allowed us to apply values at the neighborhood level that would be automatically displayed in a linked, hierarchical form in Digital Commonwealth.

For example, applying the TGN code for the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston (7015008) to this record results in the following linked, hierarchical display on the user end:

Places:  Massachusetts > Suffolk (county) > Boston > West Roxbury

This geographic data will also allow users to visually explore items plotted on a map.
— Written by Jessica Sedgwick, Metadata Project Manager at the Boston Library Consortium

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Serendipity


Women’s History Month Recommended Reading

Posted by: Kaley Bachelder


In honor of Women’s History Month, check out these global, talented women and their stories.

Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

A novel by Chilean-American author Isabele Allende, Eva Luna follows the titular character, a gifted storyteller. Living in post-WWII Latin America, Eva narrates her own life of brothels, lovers, and guerrilla warfare, weaving an enchanting tale of one woman’s arduous but beautiful journey. As a beautiful and feminine figure, Eva epitomizes that which women surviving in post-war Latin America are expected to be. Yet at the same time, she acts of her own accord, making autonomous decisions that highlight the gender disparity still present in society. Find this captivating read here.

Beautiful Things by Sonia Faleiro

This nonfiction work by Mumbai-based writer Sonia Faleiro sheds light on the veiled and illicit sex industry of Bombay (now known as Mumbai), India. Reading more like a novel than a news report, the book follows Leela, a proud bar dancer, as she squares up against gangsters, other bar dancers, and the sudden sweep of morality that decimates her trade. Providing a look into the yet-unseen underbelly of Bombay, Faleiro rightfully humanizes sex workers, who are often looked down upon by much of society. Find it here.

The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde, famed advocate for black, women, and LGBTQ communities, pens her frustration with the treatment of marginalized communities in this collection of poetry. Much of her work focuses on exploring identity, as can be seen in “Portrait.” Other highlights from the collection include “A Woman Speaks,” “Coping,” and “But What Can You Teach My Daughter.” Find this collection and other work by Audre Lorde here.

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti

In The Purity Myth, Valenti argues that the notion of virginity is given harmful emphasis in American culture, defining women’s worth by nothing more than their chastity. Using her own research on various aspects of American society, such as abstinence-only sex education programs, she examines virginity as a social construct and the ubiquitousness of the term itself. Demonstrating what many suspected but few could put to words, The Purity Myth explains the negative effects of our culture’s fixation on women’s virginity. Download the e-book here.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Arguing that the international oppression of women is “the paramount moral challenge,” authors Kristof and WuDunn take to Africa and Asia to report on women around the world. They highlight individual stories, such as a Cambodian girl sold into sex slavery, to advocate the importance of unlocking feminine potential both economically and culturally. Half the Sky is not just a report but a call to arms, inciting readers and activists to take on this challenge. Kristof and WuDunn have inspired a movement of the same name, dedicated to raising money for the liberation of women through cross-platform initiatives, creating websites, games, and educational tools that raise awareness. Find the book here and check out the Half the Sky movement here.

The Beauty Myth: The Culture of Beauty, Psychology, and the Self with Naomi Wolfe

In this TED Talk-esque adaptation of her book of the same name, Naomi Wolfe discusses the prevalence of “beauty” in our culture, and what that definition of beauty means for women. Addressing gendered expectations from both psychological and anthropological perspectives, Wolfe breaks down what it means to be “beautiful” in America, and the harm that standard can have on individuals. Watch the presentation here through Kanopy, a streaming collection available through Northeastern University Libraries.

Posted in: Serendipity


Check out the New Homepage!

Posted by: Kaley Bachelder


Have you heard? Our homepage has a new look! Check out all the great improvements we’ve made!

1.  No more hovering

Ever gone to our website on your phone and gotten stuck in the drop-down menus? I can’t be the only one. Now, our menus open when clicked (it used to be on hover) so you won’t be trapped in ‘News & Events’ forever!

Menu Screenshot


2. Pretty tiles

Our finding aides are much easier to…err…find. The most-used research aides now have fancy tiles right below the search bar, letting you start your research right from the homepage. Don’t know where to start? Check the Subject Guide for your topic! Crafted specifically for the Northeastern community by our subject librarians, Subject Guides offer an overview of over 80 subjects as well as links to relevant resources.

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3. news@Snell

There’s now a nifty box just for all the happenings coming up in the library! Get the scoop on all our events, from informal office hours to free workshops.

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4. Talk to us

Lastly, see what this button says?

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.19.53 AM

We really mean it! This new homepage is designed to make your library experience more rewarding. Something not working right? Let us know!

Posted in: Library News and Events, Serendipity, Staff Interests, Tech Alerts


Snell’s 2016 Presidential Election Guide is Here!

Posted by: Sam Quinon


News and information about the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election is everywhere! It’s practically information overload, and for you, a busy member of the Northeastern community, it’s probably just one other thing to stay on top of or avoid completely. To help make the time leading up to the primaries and election more manageable, Snell Library has created a 2016 Presidential Election Guide. It’s your one-stop-shop for news, voting how-tos, candidate and campaign information, debate analysis and transcripts, important dates, a refresher on the Electoral College system, and more! So much more—in an easy to use and fun (yes, fun) web resource. There’s even a poll to determine which candidate the NU community would like to see elected. Aren’t you curious? Check it out HERE.


And remember: the Massachusetts Primary Election is this Tuesday, March 1st. So get out there and vote if you are a resident of this state! And if you aren’t, remember to vote in your home state’s primary if you haven’t already done so. You have to be registered to vote to do so, and while the deadline for voter registration for the primaries has passed in most places, it’s not too late to become a registered voter and let your voice be heard in the Presidential and/or (the always important) Congressional Election in November. Snell’s 2016 Presidential Election Guide has all the information you need learn how to register, along with where and when to vote.

Posted in: Serendipity


Spring 2016 Neighborhood Matters film and lecture series

Posted by: Giordana Mecagni


Spring 2016 Neighborhood Matters Film and lecture series announced!

Neighborhood Matters is a lunchtime series that celebrates the ways in which community groups have shaped the neighborhoods surrounding the Northeastern campus. This series is co-curated by the Northeastern Center for the Arts and the Archives and Special Collections at the Northeastern University Library.

Redlining: stories from the The Boston TV News Digital Library: 1960-2000

Tue, Mar 22, 2016 12:00 pm Snell Library 90

Free & Open to the Public.  Lunch served.
In the United States, redlining is the practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices, to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic makeups of those areas. The term “redlining” was coined in the late 1960s by John McKnight, a sociologist and community activist. It refers to the practice of marking a red line on a map to delineate the area where banks would not invest. As a consequence of redlining, neighborhoods that banks deemed unfit for investment were left underdeveloped or in disrepair. Join us for a conversation about the history of redlining in Boston, and the community organizing that forced Democratic candidate Michael S. Dukakis to order statewide disclosure of mortgage-lending patterns by zip code, which revealed suspected the discrimination in Boston and lead to the passage in 1977 of the Community Reinvestment Act.


Special Guest: Mossik Hacobian


For 33 years Mossik Hacobian worked at Urban Edge and he now is Executive Director of Higher Ground Boston. Mr. Hacobian recognized leader in building and maintaining affordable housing in Boston.


La Defensa De La Tierra and Villa Victoria (film)
Wed, Apr 06, 2016 12:00 pm Snell Library 90
Free & Open to the Public.  Lunch Served.

In 1968, the city of Boston introduced an urban renewal initiative tht would diplace residents to create new urban spaces. La Defensa De La Tierra and Villa Victoria tells the history of Parcel 19, a plot in the South End. Gathering by the hundreds, Puerto Rican residents protested and won, creating an affordable housing community and social organization for residents.

Special Guest: Jovita Fontanez

Long time South End activist Jovita Fontanez helped found the South End Community Health Center and was the first Latina elected to the Electoral College of Massachusetts

A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts

Tue, Apr 19, 2016 12:00 pm Snell Library 90

Free & Open to the Public.  Lunch Served

One of the largest civic engineering projects in Boston’s history, the Big Dig uncovered gems illuminating the city’s archeological history. From cannon balls to chinaware, A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts places each artifact found at the site in geographical and historical context, offering a new and enriching look at Boston.

Special Guest: Joe Bagley Author and City Archeologist

As the City of Boston’s Archeologist since 2011, Joe Bagley is responsible for the below-ground cultural resources in the city.  He is also the Author of “A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts”

Posted in: Archives and Special Collections, Serendipity