April 24, 2018

Carrie Bickner | Movers & Shakers 2003

Setting a Standard

Carrie Bickner’s soft-spoken confidence is emblematic of the apparent contradictions embodied in her work life: a techie who started out with an “unemployable BA in religion,” a force behind a massive and well-funded digitization project who in her spare time is finishing up a book titled Web Design on a Shoestring, an innovator who is passionate about the importance of adhering to standards. The conflicts disappear, however, as she talks about the New York Public Library (NYPL) and her work there.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she was hanging out in Ann Arbor and thinking of some future in academe, “but I am a generalist at heart.” Then a friend told her to check out library school. “It just clicked,” she says. “There was a strong intellectual component, but it was also general.” When the time came for a job search, another friend told her about NYPL. “I knew I had to be there,” she says. “He said New York Public is one of the only places that assumes that the intellectual life is open to anyone; I see that mind-set realized over and over again in my everyday work.”

While she supervises a staff of 25, her work nowadays is largely focused on a project to digitize and catalog 600,000 images from the four NYPL research libraries. Undaunted by the technical requirements, she finds that “the trick is item-level metadata.” This experience has reinforced her belief that “cataloging is the foundation of our field,” Bickner says. “It is even more important now, and the most important thing as a library student is to take cataloging classes.” Putting that belief into practice, she is sponsoring a group of Michigan students visiting her team for an alternate spring break. “I had such an excellent experience with a couple of mentors,” she says, “I want to do the same for others.”


Current Position: Assistant Director for Digital Information and System Design, New York Public Library

Degree: MILS, University of Michigan, 1998

Publication: The NYPL Online Style Guide, coauthored with Jeffrey Zeldman (www.nypl.org/styleguide)