February 16, 2018

Corey Harper | Movers & Shakers 2004


On the Cusp


He’s a self-described generalist but possesses ‘enviable technical knowledge and expertise,’ according to Mark Watson, associate university librarian at the University of Oregon (UO), Eugene. He’s a metadata specialist who believes vehemently that cataloging is about public service. He’s a ‘techie’ but is far more interested in content than the technology itself. He’s a cataloger who plays bass (okay, stereotypes die hard). At first glance, Corey Harper seems like a bundle of contradictions

A recent library school graduate, Harper was nominated by his colleagues at UO because of the key role he played in implementing digital collections. Along with technical expertise, says Watson, he brought with him ‘[an ability to] balance idealism with expediency, the striving for perfection with the need to satisfy competing priorities.’ When he arrived in September 2000, Harper was assigned to the metadata implementation group. ‘Almost single-handedly,’ says Watson, he got CONTENTdm, a digital content management software, off the ground.

Sounds impressive, but what does this mean? It means that the library could make available via the Internet some of its unique special collections like the Morehouse photographs, images of Native American life in Oregon around the turn of the century. ‘This cultural heritage work is so important,’ says Harper. ‘It’s a way to bridge cultural and geographic gaps.’ One of the objectives of the project is to give tribal people the opportunity to describe images in their own words, while still providing access to the general public.

The project also explains the apparent contradictions in Harper. The technology is important because it provides the framework for the collection, while the metadata structure, which accommodates multiple descriptions and thus multiple points of access, is just good public service. The chance to work with such fascinating content appeals to the liberal arts person who entered this profession to be a generalist.

Harper is also an idealist who believes that building this online collection is a social good. Native Americans in Oregon can create context and thus a better understanding of their history–and we will all benefit. It’s traditional librarianship, reinterpreted for an electronic age.

Today, Harper is busy working with DSpace, the open source digital library system, to house the university’s gray literature (e.g., conference papers). ‘There is so much that our profession can start doing, it’s just unbelievable,’ Harper says. ‘We’re on the cusp of expanding into the information age.’ And Harper is someone who will help get us there.




Current Position: Metadata Librarian, University of Oregon, Eugene
Degree: MLS, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), 2002
Mentor : Professor Jane Greenberg, UNC-CH