By Jon Jeffryes
Some of the University of Minnesota Libraries’ rarest and most unique items pass through the hands of Christine DeZelar-Tiedman. From Civil War journals to guestbooks featuring the signatures of literary giants like Sinclair Lewis, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas. Christine works with a team of librarians to review rare objects and make sure they are discoverable by the researchers that need them.
As Metadata and Emerging Technologies Librarian, Christine coordinates a team of library staff to create records for the rarest and most unique items that the Libraries own. These allow Libraries’ search tools to connect the items to researchers’ search queries. Along with managing projects and workflows, Christine also works on “some of the more complex original cataloging.”
Most cataloging focuses on a book’s content — describing what a book is about. There’s an extra layer of complexity with Archives and Special Collections materials as they “are collected and researched not only for the content, for the ideas within them, but as objects themselves.” This means that Christine and her team may need to research and describe book bindings, marginalia, and previous owners to connect researchers directly to the history of the object.
Along with creating comprehensive descriptive records to enable researchers’ discovery of historical treasures, Christine must also guide her team through changing technology. As Christine notes in her recently published book chapter, “Discovery of Special Collections Materials at Web Scale: Opportunities and Challenges for Metadata Librarians” in New Directions for Special Collections, “… special collections catalogers have been challenged to find ways to make their materials findable in today’s environment of web scale discovery and mobile device-friendly interfaces.”
‘Knowledge for the purpose of bettering the world and for bettering individuals.’
Christine values knowledge and the role she plays in the University’s work in “knowledge for the purpose of bettering the world and for bettering individuals.”
In addition to the role she plays in supporting the learning and research of library patrons, Christine appreciates the opportunity that her work gives her to learn. “In order to do a good job I need to learn more about the subject area or the person who gave us the collection or the company where it originated.”
She also enjoys interacting with the old rare books that come through her desk — “the old rare books are just beautiful objects themselves.”
Outside of work, Christine has a lifetime love of theater. She acts in community theater and other smaller theater venues and is an avid theater attendee as well. Christine also loves to travel and read. Library Journal named Christine one of their “Reviewers of the Year” in 2015.
‘Find those things …in the vast sea of data’
As technology changes, Christine embraces new challenges. She’s recently started working with “large scale data remediation” which identifies errors or other needed updates in library records and creates “ways to fix those in a more automated fashion.”
No matter the technology, Christine’s work has a powerful theme.
“What I do helps people, hopefully, to be able to find those things …in the vast sea of data that we have out there.”