WSS Research Committee
ALA Midwinter Meeting, Boston
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Marcia Barrett (chair), Jennifer Gilley, Caitlin Shanley, Susan Wood, Rebecca Hankins (visitor)

Review and Approval of Annual 2009 Minutes
The minutes from the 2009 annual meeting have been approved.  They were emailed to members before the midwinter conference and are available on the WSS website.

Calls for Additions to the Agenda
There were no additions to the agenda

Old Business

1.  Poster Sessions/Research Forum Planning (Washington, D.C. 2010)
The committee reviewed the call for proposals from last year and made changes to the dates and contact information.  The submission deadline will be March 31, and the notification deadline will be April 30.  Members agreed to publish the call for proposals in the following venues:

Marcia will look at regional association near the conference location for other appropriate publication possibilities for the call for proposals.

2.  Update on FTF/COSWL/WSS Research Project (Report from Dolores Fidishun)

This project is looking at gender representation in ALA programs by examining data from three years of ALA Conference programs.  The deadline for data entry was December 20, but a number of people have not completed their assignments.  Dolores may be looking for additional volunteers.   Both Susan and Caitlin are interested in participating in the project.  Marcia will send their contact information to Dolores.

3.  Updates for Research Committee Webpage

Jennifer has compiled and maintained this resource and volunteered to update with 2009 information.

Jennifer explained the original methodology for the project.  Research Committee members identified current research using Library Literature and LISA.   Members divided and read the relevant articles, identified needed future research as cited in the articles, and assigned subject headings. 
Jennifer worked with a class on Feminism and Librarianship.  Class members chose projects from the WSS Research Agenda, and their projects have been posted to update the Research Agenda webpage.  Jennifer converted the page to a wiki, in hopes that responsibility for updating the agenda would be collaborative.  That hasn’t yet happened.
Committee members thought it would be helpful to write an article promoting the wiki for the spring WSS Newsletter.  Also, Jennifer will locate the original spreadsheet for the project, and the committee will look at updating the agenda using the same methodology.  Specifics about this will be discussed at the annual meeting in June.

The committee will add a link to Dolores Fidishun’s blog.   This was not intended to be a section that maintains current calls for papers but rather a place to link to websites that do.

Jeanne, Marcia, Caitlin, and Susan will look at these two sections and come up with recommendations for additions

New Business
1.  Indexing and Abstracting Black Feminist Writings Project (Rebecca Hankins)

Prior to the midwinter conference, Rebecca Hankins had contacted the chair about her research project proposal for a Digital Feminist Name Authority project, and Marcia had forwarded the citation of Rebecca’s article (RUSA v.48, no. 3 Spring 2009) “Uncovering Black Feminist Writers 1963-90: an evaluation of their coverage in research tools” to committee members. 

Rebecca brought a written draft proposal to the meeting that explained her project proposal (appended to the minutes).  She asked for feedback from the group and explained that it would be 3-4 months before she would be free to begin work on the project.

Appendix – A Proposal to ACRL’s Women’s Studies Section Research Committee
Digital Feminist Writers Indexing/Abstracting Project:
Name Authority and Thesaurus
Online Resources for Discovering Feminist Writers

Rebecca Hankins

January 17, 2010 at ALA Midwinter Meeting



Digital Feminist Writers Name Authority Project
In the article “Uncovering Black Feminist Writers 1963-90: an evaluation of their coverage in research tools” (RUSQ, v. 48, no. 3 Spring 2009) the author identified a number of obstacles encountered while attempting to find the writings of Black feminist writers.  There is a critical need to develop a comprehensive tool for indexing and abstracting black feminist writings.  A tool that offers assistance in discovering feminist writings of writers that often have names similar to other authors or those with such common surnames that make it difficult to identify the author, are issues researchers often encounter in feminist research.  An excerpt from the Web of Knowledge site succinctly states the seriousness of this problem:  “Name ambiguity is a recurring issue that impacts research accuracy and quality, career advancement and tenure, global collaboration among researchers, and identification and attribution of individual authors”  A number of the 40 writers highlighted in the article not only had common first and last names, but there were a few authors that had the same name as other authors who also wrote on feminist subjects.  For example, the well known feminist Angela Y. Davis was often confused with another feminist writer Angela E. Davis.  Discovering the correct Davis required looking at the record or knowing the writings of Angela Yolanda Davis.  A number of the 12 database resources did not make the distinction of including the middle initial or name.   The commonness of names such as Pat Parker and Barbara Smith provided more significant difficulties because they don’t use middle initials. 

This proposal suggests one tool that will assist in resolving this problem in the form of a cooperative effort to develop an authority file for feminist writers.  This tool could be used by indexers, catalogers, and researchers for discovering the works of feminist writers.  The Digital Feminist Name Authority project will provide a listing of feminist writers, with a comprehensive listing of their works, include the various forms of their names, and if available, the location of their archives or papers.
Digital Feminist Writers Thesaurus Project
The structure of a thesaurus can facilitate understanding of a subject area by showing the interrelationships between concepts.  The online environment provides an ideal setting for development of a thesaurus that would be useful to catalogers and researchers.  A web based tool that incorporates terms already known, but could be updated as terms are created and others are retired.  For example, the terms womanist, liberatory feminist critique, and feminist deconstruction theory and application are all new terms that should be added to a thesaurus on feminist writers. This proposal suggests contacting the authors of Women in LC’s Terms: a thesaurus of Library of Congress subject headings relating to women by Ruth Dickstein, Victoria A. Mills, and Ellen J. Waite for permission to upload their work and add to it as an electronic resource.  This work is the most comprehensive thesaurus, but it was published in 1988, over 20 years ago.  Since that time there have been a number of new terms added to the genre and the need to update this work would be greatly reduced by including work already done.

Digital Feminist Writers Name Authority Project

The proposal suggests that the Women Studies Section create a webpage similar to the GNOA project where a form would be made available for those wanted to include information on feminist writers.  The initial page can start with links to the initial 40 writers mentioned in the article.  The sections could be divided into 1st Wave, Second Wave, Pre-Third Wave and Contemporary Writers or it could be preferably an alphabetized listing with links to their writings.  Links could also be included to their papers, ie Alice Walker papers at Emory, Octavia Butler’s at The Huntington, etc. 

A thesaurus by its nature is a dynamic document to which new terms must be added as they arise.   In keeping with this idea, the proposal suggests the thesaurus should be compiled using the inductive method “terms are admitted to the thesaurus and are used in indexing as soon as they are encountered in the literature” (pg 146-Thesuarus construction).  This method works best in an online environment where we develop a web based version of the thesaurus that could be updated more frequently. This would also make it readily available to potential users.

One objective is to develop a database at WSS that will allow WSS to maintain the authoritative version of the DFWT and a second objective is to publish the DFWT on the Internet.  The tasks are as follows:


Again, the structure could be modeled on the Dickstein book and its use of standardized forms found in LC’s classification, encyclopedias, lexicons, dictionaries, glossaries, and other terminological databanks such as journals and indexes..  Terms would also be derived or solicited from experts in the field, terminology found in the literature, and

Name Authority Projects

Barbara Love’s Pioneer Feminists Project- - Supported by the Veteran Feminists of America, this database documents primarily Second Wavers and relies on participants to submit information that is added to the listing.  Questionnaire available with subject listing for participant to check off those areas they were involved.
Hal Hall’s major authors of science fiction database  This database is primarily to identify the location of author’s papers it can be useful as an addition to the name authority project.  This is the overall science fiction resource that is something to consider for the future.

JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) Names Project (
 -similar to OCLC’s Name Authority

Greater New Orleans Name Authority Project ( –project to build up an informal personal name authority file for use in processing and cataloging original materials produced or collected by individuals connected to the New Orleans area.
Thesaurus Development
Canadian Feminist Thesaurus.  The Canadian Women’s Indexing Group, 1990.
Women in LC’s Terms: a thesaurus of Library of Congress subject headings relating to women  Ruth Dickstein, Victoria A. Mills, and Ellen J. Waite, 1988.

Thesaurus Construction and UseA Practical manual. 
Jean Aitchison, Alan Gilchrist, and David Bawden, 2004.

Rebecca Hankins
Assistant Professor of Library Science
Africana Studies Librarian/Curator/Archivist
Texas A&M University’s Libraries
College Station, TX 77843-5000

Submitted January 17, 2010

WSS Research Committee
Marcia Barrett, Jeanne Armstrong, and Jennifer Gilley


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