Alison Messier & Ann Kardos (Massachusetts)

Librarians vs. Robots


Cross stitch
Stitched by Alison Messier / Designed by Ann Kardos: robots adapted from DMC, font chart by Hayley Pierson-Cox

Ann: “I designed this pattern for my colleague who is a stitcher and advocate for technical services. It’s in reference to a former colleague, who has since retired. He would walk academics and researchers through my department and tell them ʻThis is where all the books get added into the catalog. You see all the empty cubicles because we don’t need many people to do this work anymore. It’s all automated!’ It’s upsetting to know that’s what a colleague told others about my department.

We don’t need less people to do automated work. We need people with the appropriate skills to automate and troubleshoot the work. The reason a process might be automated is because I automated it! People automate processes, and then if it breaks, it needs our very human skills to fix it. The work of metadata is not done by robots. The library catalog is maintained by people–people who have a certain technical skill set that they have learned and apply to their work.”


Alison Messier is the business and entrepreneurship librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The piece shows three colorful robots in the middle. The phrases, “Library catalogs are not compiled by ROBOTS or crawlers” — “They are made by LIBRARIANS” are above and below the robots.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Unseen Labor by Ann Kardos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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