Friday, October 30, 2009

FW: [NGC4LIB] Tim Berners-Lee on the Semantic Web

Alexander Johannesen wrote:
<snip>
As to records, the notion *will* break down. Each property will have
greater value on its own, and we will create ontological proxies to
bind their context together. We're already seeing this debate in the
RDFa world, where the URI of the page the RDF statements are in, and
what significance we should apply to that. It seems, rather
annoyingly, that nothing can stand on its own two feet. :)
</snip>

I can imagine this statement being rather alarming to many practicing catalogers. Everything we have done is based on the *catalog record,* and I know I would be concerned. Therefore I have tried writing something in a question and answer format that may address this. Perhaps others have done this already, but...

=========================================

What are the practical implications of a loss, not only of the traditional unit record, but of the bibliographic record as a separate entity?
In other words, how and how much will my work change?

It does not have to change very much. There will be far less manual typing and copying and pasting for example. Catalogers will still be adding names, titles, subjects, publication information just as today, *except* if the name, title, publication information etc. exists already as a reference somewhere, the record will use a URI. Many cataloging modules have some of this functionality right now using internal relational databases, where there is one authority record for Shakespeare, and the bibliographic records just display the 100 field of that record. Therefore, you are not copying and pasting, and you do not have to type in over and over again
100 1\$aShakespeare, William,$d1564-1616


In the new world using URIs, you will be able to link to and import information from different places, e.g. dbpedia, e.g. http://dbpedia.org/page/William_Shakespeare. from a library authority file, or from elsewhere.

If a record doesn't appear in the chosen one, then another one could be used, if available, e.g. http://authorities.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&Search_Arg=weinheimer%20james&Search_Code=SHED_&CNT=20+records+per+page (this is not a URI)

If the information is nowhere to be found, you will make a new one in one of the systems (even if it's local, but it would be much more useful to share it) and input whatever is necessary there. Also, you will be able to update the information, make references and so on. Just like today. So what will change?

As I mentioned, very little needs to change in this regard. New initiatives can take place on other levels where people can link related data together, e.g. the VIAF http://viaf.org/viaf/76320393 for Montaigne, which brings together the forms of names used in different national library systems. But these could be mutually linked in all kinds of ways to other initiatives, e.g. dbpedia.

Let's examine the record for Montaigne at dbpedia http://dbpedia.org/resource/Michel_de_Montaigne.

This is not a single "record" either, but consists of many links. (By the way, this dbpedia page could look completely different if they wanted) Just for one example, look at his birthdate, which is complete. Now, I notice an error: "birthplace" actually contains the links for his birthdate. If you click on the year, you will go to another page for 1533. Although this record appears to be of little use, at the bottom, you can go to the wikipedia page for 1533. Perhaps useful. Perhaps very useful, or in any case, it opens up new avenues for exploration. No matter what, this is definitely much more useful to the public than our current authority records, which have completely different purposes in mind.

What will these things that replace bibliographic records look like?
For the public display, they can look however you want. The coding behind the scenes will be completely different, but they could display to the public almost exactly as they do today. The links will go not only into the local catalog, but also into the wider information world (i.e. what is *really* available to people). (This is what I have tried to achieve with the Extend Search function in my catalog using less sophisticated technology)

Add to this the user interactivity (Web2.0) from expert researchers to the general public, and the sky is quite literally the limit. This is how the semantic web could work, but it is still in its infancy, and as we can see, it can use some tender, loving care. I submit, this is a place where all types of librarians could easily find a great number of very important and influential roles to play. Wikipedia's place could also become extremely important.

So why don't we do it now?
Our information structures do not allow it. For one thing, we have MARC "records" that you can probably (I hope!) now see need to come apart in the new environment because they are too limiting. Another major impediment is the MARC format itself, which can't be used at all for the functions described. Still, this does not mean that anyone's day-to-day cataloging interface will need to change drastically, if at all. It could probably look and work exactly as it does today with the current fields and subfields, if you want, but I am sure lots of people could come up with better displays and functions. You will still be able to discuss the 100 $c if you want. You will just have more places to take information from. Behind the scenes though, it will change a lot. For example, you will not *really* be taking information from these other places, but *linking to* that information. And concerning what the users see, this should be more interesting and useful for them than ever before. Authority work can take on an additional layer of importance in this new world.

RDA and FRBR
RDA and FRBR attempt to restructure our data by breaking up the data into WEMI, and each part has specified attributes, e.g. attributes of a work:

title of the work
form of work
date of the work
other distinguishing characteristic
intended termination
intended audience
context for the work
medium of performance (musical work)
numeric designation (musical work)
key (musical work)
coordinates (cartographic work)
equinox (cartographic work)

Concerning works, in our current uniform title *records,* (that word should always make us take notice) this information does not exist per se, e.g. date and form of a work is normally (if ever?) there. The dates, added only when necessary to differentiate editions (130/240 $f), applies to expressions (i.e. date of publication or printing if necessary), but still, a lot of the information related to the attributes listed above resides in various places within the separate MARC bibliographic records. The same goes for all the rest of the attributes, some of which are quite different conceptually from what we have always done, e.g. the summary note comes under the FRBR definition of *expression*:
"4.3.9 Summarization of Content
A summarization of the content of an expression is an abstract, summary, synopsis, etc., or a list of chapter headings, songs, parts, etc. included in the expression."

My own opinion
I have tried my best to sum up the current situation as fairly as I can and with a minimum of errors, although please correct me if I am substantially wrong somewhere. (I'm sure you will!) The primary reasons I am against RDA is that it does not change substantially the rules for input (i.e. titles are still the same, publication information, description, even headings and single main entry!), but it changes the organization of the rules into this information Weltanschauung of WEMI, which is definitely based on the traditional library-view of the world as it was in the mid-1990s (in-turn stemming directly from the 19th century and before) and is dubious today. As a result, I submit that you would have a *lot of problems* convincing other semantic web agencies to accept such a structure. Some have argued that even if the model is dubious, it is still necessary that we adopt it because we need some kind of model in order to enter into the Semantic Web. I would agree if implementing cost us nothing, but there will be major costs involved, and therefore, I believe we should be d***ed sure we get it right, because it could be extremely detrimental to the entire library world if, after substantial costs at a very delicate time, it ends up either almost completely wrong, or of no practical benefit to the public.

I believe there are two main impediments to our entering this new world of the semantic web: 1) the problems in our obsolete library formats and 2) the fact that we have not wanted to share our data. We should be putting our efforts into sharing the data that we have right now, and adding linked data whereever we can, i.e. linking into the authority files, which still are not up on the web in a useful format in their entirety, and this leaves developers no choice except to link into non-library tools such as dbpedia. To the question of: should we put our materials on the web in a comprehensible format for development even though they may not be as fully linked as they could be?, my answer is: So what? At least our information will be available to the community for reuse, and they will recreate it for their own purposes anyway.

Throughout all of this, I do not see that the actual rules for determining titles (which ones to choose and how they should appear) will have to change; the rules for publication dates will not have to change; the rules for explanatory notes will not have to change and so on and so on. It is the underlying structures that absolutely must change and certain administrative decisions must change as well, to open the data. Finally, the catalogers along with other librarians must fully accept and understand the benefits and responsibilities of working in the "global cataloging world" (as Alex put it). So, if the rules do not have to change drastically, what is the reason for everyone to be retrained to use RDA?

And that's why I initiated the Cooperative Cataloging Rules Wiki, so that we can continue to use the current rules, and hopefully, to open up their development with other metadata providers. In this entire discussion, there has been little mention of bibliographic standards, their importance and use, and what they mean in the new world. I think they are important.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

RE: [NGC4LIB] New Laws

Shawne said:
<snip>
James said:

<snip>
I was discussing the world-view of catalogers, who must look at the world beyond their local collections.
</snip>

That is an incredible disingenous statement, Mr. Weinheimer. Who exactly are your catalogers? Most of the catalogers I know look way beyond their local collections. My cataloging students certainly do not escape my classes without having that wide worldview seared into their brains. (Perhaps it is the administrators who are short-sighted and don't provide the resources to make this happen.)
</snip>

Really? Could you give me an example of that? I see very few records for worthwhile materials out on the free, WWW. Most records are still focused on the holdings of the local library, and the digital resources *the library pays for.* In essence, the catalog is saying to the users, "These are the materials that the library is paying for or has paid for. There are many, many, many (maybe even more) highly worthwhile materials available for free on the web, and perhaps some of them are even better, but you will have to use different, non-library tools to discover those things. Also, there are free digital copies of many of the materials currently held in the library, but we will not point you in that direction unless it happens to be in Google Books and we are using the Google API. Even then, a free digital copy may be roaming somewhere else out on the web, in American Memory, HathiTrust, Europeana, or Lord knows where."

I don't think our users understand in these terms, but they feel it and it makes them skeptical.

I reiterate that I am not blaming anyone for this situation because I understand why it is. Everyone is trying their best. Catalogers are overworked now, budgets are not going up and administrators are scratching for everything they can get. There are no equivalents of "book jobbers" who make money by selecting websites, so library selectors have very little help with a preliminary selection. But I still see this as the reality, and I think we need to change it. The only way of changing it is to find help from outside, and I think it is possible today.

I think this also answers the next statement. Since my school can't afford a Federated Search Engine, I have tried to fold in Google Scholar into my extend search. My patrons say they like it.

<snip>
But here is where I don't understand you---many library catalogs do these things already. Many academic library catalogs and public libraries allow users to search the local catalog and also a whole bevy of Electronic resources. Here at UNT we use a Federated Search Engine to search all of the journal databases at once, if so desired.
</snip>

<snip>
Ranganathan numbers each section in his chapters because he wanted his works to be accessible on that level. If all information resources in the world were completely digital I could see this happening. But, the REALITY is that they are not. And they will not be for a long time. Google can throw all the money they want at it. It's not going to help.
</snip>

Actually, there might be possibilities to do this today using web2.0 and web3.0 tools and letting the patrons do the work. We need to stop thinking in terms of huge organizations taking 100% responsibility for these matters. There are options that did not exist before.

I thank you for an excellent debate!

RE: [NGC4LIB] New Laws

Shawne Miksa wrote:

<snip>
James, with all due respect, this attempt you describe is faulty. Personally, I feel it is wrong Nothing has to be reset. We need evolution, yes. But, this worldview of "catalogers" --are you talking about how people view catalogers or the cataloger's worldview? If it is the latter then I agree some evolution of practices need to change, etc. If you mean how people view catalogers---so what? Let *them* think what they may---nothing will change that. It would be like telling a teenager to listen and learn.
</snip>

I was discussing the world-view of catalogers, who must look at the world beyond their local collections.

<snip>
What is the problem with separation? What is the problem with a diversity of resources? You want one big interconnected catalog for the world? I seem to recall similar thinking and attempts in our history. None successful. One example, the Classification Research Group (CRG) in the UK tried to create a universal classification system and eventually gave up because it was impossible to do---and it would be impossible to do now, in my opinion.

The reader have always had to go from one catalog or index to another....so you want one-stop shopping? That doesn't conform to the reality of the diversity of information resources---the resources that we pull attributes from to create the basis for a representation in our systems. Nor does it conform to the reality of the diversity of people and cultures and how they view information and use information resources and CREATE information resources.
</snip>

Here I'm afraid we have a serious disagreement. While people have always gone from one resource to another, I don't think they liked it one bit (I know I sure didn't when I had to dig things out of multiple volumes of journal indexes, go over to the card catalog, off to a bibliography, back to the card catalog, and then almost pull my hair out if I had to use an old citation index....) But people did it *only* because there was no choice. Now, there are many more choices out there and people expect very different things.

<snip>
I don't understand the need to remove the parameters between a library catalog and a journal index, or between a library catalog and a search engine. They are all different from each other. A library catalog is not a search engine and vice versa. People LEARN how to use different tools, LEARN how to analyze and synthesize information from different resources. Save the time of the user, yes, but don't try to erase the boundaries of things that are not the same.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Yes, ranting. Dead and gone??? OMG.
</snip>

The reason there is a parameter between the library catalog and the journal index (which contains many journal articles in the library) is because of lack of manpower. When the journals first came out, librarians tried to catalog each article, just like a book, but it soon became impossible to even imagine doing so, and therefore, they outsourced it to people like Poole, who came out with his Index; other indexes appeared and it went on from there. So, I see the separation not so much from inherent differences among the items, as for managerial reasons.

I firmly believe that a catalog should give access to materials in my collection. But, I also believe that an electronic book in the Internet Archive is just as much a part of my collection as some physical one on my shelves. My users want them; I want them. But not just books, there are a wondrous amount of resources out there: educational videos, interactive scholarly sites, and so on. There is more than I or an entire crew of catalogers could ever keep up with. Just finding them for selection is a practical impossibility. What happens when Google Books lets us see everything and many local collections will be 99% "subsumed" into that digital ocean? i want my users to have these things, but I ask: What will be the place of the local catalog? The catalog must have a solid relationship to all of these materials otherwise if it does not change its focus, it will be.... dead and gone. Sad, but I fear it is a *possible* future.

It doesn't mean we need one big catalog (I don't want that), but what we make needs to be connected in some way. Here are two examples I have done. In Google Books, the American Classical School at Athens has made lots of books available for free. These are especially useful to my students and faculty. I do not have time to catalog them all, and in any case, they seem to still be adding them. I made the following record: http://www.galileo.aur.it/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?bib=22971 where the 856 field uses a Google query. So, I cataloged it as a type of collection. Quick and dirty, I admit, but otherwise, the materials in Google can't be found. There are other publishers making their mateials available this way, but they have much less clear-cut subjects, so I have been considering how to deal with these.

The other example is my extend search. In the same catalog record above, just select some text and see what happens. It is designed to help people in a small, limited way, but my users like it. It's not perfect, but at least I am able to give my users some help. If these sites were linked semantically, it would be about 10,000 times better, but one must start somewhere.

Monday, October 26, 2009

[NGC4LIB] New Laws

These are some ideas I've been kicking around. I also have some explanations available, but I don't know if they are necessary, so I won't share those yet.

I realize this is completely pretentious, and I humbly ask forgiveness from the great Ranganathan, but....


The Five Laws of *Library Catalogs* for the 21st Century

1. The catalog must be relevant to the needs of its patrons.
2. The catalog must change as the needs of its patrons change.
3. As much as possible, the catalog must help its patrons understand what information is *really* available to them, not only what is held within the local collection.
4. If patrons do not come to the catalog, the catalog must go to the patrons.
5. The catalog must include the knowledge and information of non-librarians.


Five Laws of *Library Catalog Records* for the 21st Century

1. Catalog records must be created and maintained efficiently.
2. Catalog records must reuse relevant data input by other agencies.
3. Catalog records must work coherently (i.e. interoperate) with catalog records created by other cataloging agencies.
4. As much as possible, catalog records must work with resources made for non-library purposes.
5. Catalog records must be made freely available for use by other developers in the world.
Jim Weinheimer

Re: Wikipedia editorial policy changes signal maturity

On Sat, 24 Oct 2009 15:47:52 -0500, Miksa, Shawne wrote:

>This happened in August, but one of my students just clued me in and sent me this link--
>
>http://www.pcworld.com/article/170826/wikipedia_changes_editing_policy.html
>
>Last Sunday Mr. Johannesen and I were having a "spirited" discussion, a part of which involved Wikipedia's value. I am happy to see these policy changes in how Wikipedia is edited and its information validated and I happily admit my opinion of it was not based on up-to-date information.
>
>This policy change is more proof of how these type of social experiments mature and realize they must adopt the same sorts of practices that we have already instituted.

Wikipedia is another one of those areas where my thinking has turned 180 degrees. When it first came out and I realized what it was, I predicted doom and gloom and the end of civilization, but it turned out that I was wrong. It has turned out that it is not nearly so bad as I predicted and our society still seems to be standing (for the moment, and if it topples it doesn't appear that it will be because of Wikipedia). I suspect that the changes announced by Wikipedia have more to do with saving Wikipedia from defending themselves against libel than anything else, since it deals only with pages about people who are still alive. ("You can't libel the dead") It seems to me that if Wikipedia were really serious about improving quality, they would apply this to more articles. That would be a major renunciation of some of Wikipedia's main assumptions however, so I am not holding my breath.

Nevertheless, I think we all have to face facts: people will use Wikipedia because it's easy and free and up to date, and people will just ignore anybody who says, "Don't use Wikipedia!!!" That is, I sincerely *hope* people ignore such statements and make up their own minds. After all, if somebody wants information on Italian foreign policy, is it better to look it up in Wikipedia or in a book published by Cambridge University Press in 1968? Figuring out which sources are and are not appropriate is a very complicated task and just saying that peer reviewed publications are better than the rest is far too simplistic to be correct. The public isn't stupid: they can see for themselves the problems with the "authoritative' media from the NY Times to the predominance of "peer-review."

Therefore, instead of fighting an eternal, unwinnable war against the evils of Wikipedia; since we can't shut it down and I don't think we should anyway, plus people demonstrably like it, we should relate to it in a different way.

We know Wiipedia is widely used since people have made it one of the most popular sites on the Internet. I checked and according to Alexa, in the last 3 months, Worldcat got 0.00363% of the users on the web, while Wikipedia got 9.821%. LibraryThing got 0.0253%. (For comparison, Google.com got 34.461%) These numbers seem to point to the way of a solution.

Why don't librarians go where our users are and try to get involved in Wikipedia? Facebook is very popular, but I don't believe libraries have had much luck with institutional Facebook pages. It seems that using Wikipedia may be better. How could we do it? I'm not sure, but there could be many, many, many topics where librarians could point to our materials and sites. We could point to our research guides, or all kinds of resources. Who knows what people would come up with?

Wikipedia may go along with it in some way and provide us with some kind of special displays or powers. It seems to me that if we want to raise our profiles and have a real chance of reaching our users, this is one of the best ways to do it. Certainly it woul be much more productive for everyone than the tiresome preaching that people hear, where we are always saying that "our" stuff is better than "theirs." We could also make the catalog itself more relevant by allowing users to somehow utilize a Library API for our records. (I had to bring this back to catalogs!)

In my opinion, these directions would be highly fruitful for incorporating the library world into the world of our users. It would be cheap and pretty easy, using all parts of the library since public services would be really important, while I can imagine IT could experiment with some useful plugins for Firefox using Wikipedia and library tools.

Jim Weinheimer

Re: Tim Berners-Lee on the Semantic Web

On Mon, 26 Oct 2009 12:39:09 +1100, Alexander Johannesen wrote:

>On Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 12:30, Richard Wallis wrote:
>> In his earlier attempt to bring this thread back on track Jim said
>> "Implementing linked data, although it would be great, is years and years
>> away from any kind of practical implementation".
>
>"Linked data" is itself not an implementation, but as it is something
>your current systems must implement I think Jim's pretty spot on to
>current library infra-structure supporting it. Of *course* Talis is
>doing things right, but we're not all on that platform yet ... :)

Let me give an example of something I am doing right now. There was a report published in Jan/Feb of this year that I only recently discovered about Think Tanks: "The Think Tank Index" at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4598&page=0. This is a major ranking of the most important think tanks in the world.

One of the primary subjects my institution teaches is international affairs, so I have been very interested in making the materials published by think tanks (many for free on the web) available to my patrons, so this report was just the ticket for me and I did some playing.

Even though everything was in HTML or PDF, I took the sites of the think tanks and put them into a little "system" I have made which uses Google to search very easily the websites of the think tanks listed in the Think Tank Index. You can see the prototype at http://www.galileo.aur.it/opac-tmpl/npl/en/pages/news/thinktanks.html.

The technology is very simple, reflecting my own lack of greater abilities, but the final tool is still very useful. For example, I found a document of great interest to me--I searched "librarians" and found a publication of the Heritage Foundation "Ideas matter" by Robert Reilly (2009) p. 22 (pdf p 28) (http://www.heritage.org/Research/PublicDiplomacy/upload/SR_64.pdf#page=28).
This discusses librarians and what they have done at Guantanamo, so I plan to mention this report to ALA since they may not know about it. Although I personally am not a fan of this particular organization, that is beside the point: the information they have provided is extremely useful.

Is what I made perfect? Can it not be improved? Of course not! It only took me a couple of hours (finding the correct websites). It can be improved in a thousand ways, for one thing I can "tweak" the searches in Google. But in spite of this, it is useful today, right now. If the "index" were in a database format, if there were full identity control and linked data, of course it would be much better. But how long would that take, and this is far better than nothing at all, while it helps make the great work of U of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program more immediately useful.

These are the directions that things can take, once we decide to share. It can be really exciting!

Jim Weinheimer

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fwd: Re: [NGC4LIB] Cooperative Cataloging Rules Announcement

On Tue, 20 Oct 2009 10:26:50 -0500, ... wrote:

Shawne,

You raise some interesting issues. I'll do my best to answer them. But your final question is most important, so I'm dealing with it first.

>>I looked around for a genuine choice and found the Cooperative Cataloging
>>Rules, which provides the choice for libraries who cannot, or prefer not to
>>implement RDA.
>
>So, if RDA were offered for free then these libraries would use it? If
not, then who pays for training them with alternate rules such as those of
the Cooperative Cataloging Rules? I'm hearing that the major objection is
the cost of implementation? Just want to be clear.

This is the main point: if a library goes with the Cooperative Cataloging Rules, there is *no retraining* at all. These are the rules we currently follow. There is not a single new rule in there. While I cannot place AACR2 into the wiki because of copyright, the LCRIs are US government information. These are the rules followed right now (AACR2 + LCRIs) whenever somebody downloads an LC record. At one place where I worked, we called AACR2 "the index into the LCRIs" which I think is pretty much correct.

I also made links into the publicly available ISBD, which is the basis of AACR2. Therefore, there will be *no retraining costs* because these are using the same rules we use now. Along with this is the free access to the LCRIs. Consequently, this is the cheapest to "implement" since you will be doing what you have all along. All you will need with be a copy of the latest AACR2.

Reading the fabulous LCRIs is where I learned to catalog, along with some deeply experienced colleagues. This is one of the attempts to recreate this with the CCR Wiki.

But, you ask if RDA were free would libraries use it? A major obstacle would be eliminated in that case and that could be the tipping point for many. I don't know.

>>Nobody could have predicted the explosion that has occurred
>
>I beg to differ. We've seen this in the past--post WWII explosion of
scientific literature which in turn provided the stimulus for classification
research, automated abstracting, punchcard technology, etc. I would go so
far as to say this scenario has played itself over and over throughout
history. Perhaps we should say we didn't study our history enough to
anticipate the "explosion".

I must confess that I didn't see it and I was rather deeply involved. As I remember, I thought libraries had already seen the big changes with computerization but I didn't realize the significance of that little wire that linked everything together. I think I understood that everyone had a little printing press in their computer, but the concept of sharing through the billions of distribution points escaped me, which is the real change. So, I am not finding fault on this point.

>>the public likes the new tools and prefers them to ours in many, many ways.
>
>Which public? Show the data. Otherwise I feel it is just a broad
generalization based on the preferences of one group of users, those who are
online, as opposed to users across the board. Case in point, the OCLC study
on the perception of libraries---they only surveyed people who were online
but then generalized the findings as if it represented everyone.

There have been several studies with pretty much the same results. In addition to the OCLC study you mention, there are at least two from Ithaka, the one from U Minn that I mentioned in a recent post, and there was a very interesting project at U Rochester by Nancy Foster, a wonderful "library anthropologist" I met at a conference.
http://docushare.lib.rochester.edu/docushare/dsweb/View/Collection-4436.
There are lots of studies out there that seem to be reinforcing one another, and they also make sense to me as a professional. I don't have the time or resources to do (only online) definitive research from here, but may I ask if you have know of any recent research that shows that people prefer the library tools over the Google/Yahoo/Web2.0 varieties? Now THAT would be
interesting!

>>We may be looking at a time, perhaps very soon, a time period measured in
>>months instead of decades, when someone can get a bachelor's degree without
>>ever setting foot into a library. How much longer will it be before they can
>>get a master's, or PhD?
>
>This is already happening. But, perhaps it is too soon to see if these
method of education provides high quality people. I've seen undergrads who
boast getting their degrees without ever having set foot in the library---I
bet some of them on are Wall Street right now. The creators of Google are of
the same cut---in researching their beginnings I finally had to conclude
they were the type of guys who hated going to the library and instead wanted
the information to come to them so they started downloading as much Web
content as they could, gave up on their PhD's in computer science and got
financial backing. The rest is as we see it today. Brin's recent op-ed in
NYT proves he has no clue what library's can do, have done, and have done well.

Of course, this goes beyond the catalog and into the philosophy of education. I personally have concerns that students essentially want vocational education (to get a decent job--understandable enough!) and not being able to find one after getting a bachelor's, master's, or PhD, (as some joke here, all of these graduates wind up selling underwear at Porta Portese, Rome's big flea market). In particular, I am skeptical of the importance and ultimate usefulness to our students of information literacy (the non-library part of it, that is), which has assumed such a focus today. But this is really a separate topic.

These matters aside, as librarians, we simply help people find the information they ask for, ethically, objectively, without shoving it all down their throats, and let them make of it what they will. They can ask for something at a reference desk, through IM, or query our databases.

>It seems, as well, that there is a mixing of the construction of
bibliographic data and the DISPLAY of that data to the user. How do you
address this in your arguments?

I personally view display as an individual issue. Certainly, display of records in library catalogs right now varies a lot. I like the old ISBD card display since I find it elegant and readily comprehensible. and I have modified it for my catalog. Here's an example:
http://www.galileo.aur.it/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?bib=22216, where you can see that I use ISBD punctuation for the body of the entry and throw notes to the bottom. I plan in the next version to let people see the notes in a tab display.

>Also, you speak of the "new world" but I ask, again, whose (sp?) new world?
Does it include all users of information or just a subset who happen to be
online more so than someone who doesn't even own a computer?

I worked with this at FAO of the UN, where many of our users live in jungles with no access to anything. It turns out that internet access is still vital to them, but not for each individual. People may phone in, send letters, or walk to the library, where they find librarians to help them search, and then print out what they need at that end. FAO was putting all of their information online. But, if we are talking only about offline materials, AACR2 has more than proven itself highly adequate.

>Just playing devil's advocate. ;-)

That's great! You pitch and I'll do my best to bat them back! It is only through an honest sharing of ideas and opinions that we can reach understanding.

Jim Weinheimer

Fwd: Re: [NGC4LIB] Tim Berners-Lee on the Semantic Web

On Tue, 20 Oct 2009 11:16:37 -0400, ... wrote:

>I am confused by people saying they find it a 'minus' not a 'plus' that
>RDA is "based on FRBR". Let's be clear -- the 'based on FRBR' that RDA
>is based on the _conceptual domain model_ outlined in FRBR. For better
>or worse, the actual 'user tasks' in FRBR are just a sideshow, RDA isn't
>really 'based' on them, and the FRBR domain model itself isn't really
>'based' on them. It's a fiction. I am happier just ignoring the user
>tasks (regardless of how useful they are), because it's the domain model
>FRBR provides that is useful.

It seems to me that it is a basic axiom that an organization should ensure that what they are going to create will be useful to the public before they embark on some huge project to produce it. This is outside any "ethereal considerations" of whether something is "best" or not. For example, someone might come up with the idea of making the very best typewriter the world has ever seen. It puts all the others to shame. The result? It might have been a great idea 20 years ago, but today it doesn't matter how good the typewriter is because people have moved on. They will not use typewriters anymore, no matter how improved they may be. I am concerned that with RDA, we are building a new, much improved typewriter.

Therefore, we could continue with FRBR and force the information world into the 19th-century WEMI model (as Bernhard has demonstrated in his postings) simply because we don't have anything better, but will anyone find it useful besides librarians? This is the reason for the testing, which unfortunately should have been done long ago. While we could build these dubious models for people to take or leave if they wish (i.e. the traditional library model), it seems to me that we ignore user tasks (i.e. utility to the users) to our own peril. That path is much too dangerous.

>Simply expanding on AACR2 as rules for creating text is exactly the
>wrong approach. We don't need rules for creating text, we need rules for
>creating data elements in a defined domain model. That defined domain
>model is what allows catalogers or metadata creators to use their
>"cataloger's judgement", understanding what they're doing. And is what
>defines data consumers to understand what the data they've got means
>without having to be catalogers, and to pull the data elements they want
>out of the data understanding what those data elements are intended to
>mean. It's what allows us to create data that is flexible and will be
>useful in the future even for use cases we didn't think of previously,
>because we know what sort of data we were trying to create. Without such
>a formal domain model, you're just creating 'text', not 'data'. Which
>is indeed what we used to do, when the text was destined for printed
>cards or pages. But now we need data.

While this is true, where does the idea of "standards" fit in? By this, I mean superior data or inferior data, and at some level, this devolves to superior or inferior "text" e.g. 1st edition. Even using linked data, there is still text involved at some level, e.g. all the text available through
http://viaf.org/viaf/12307511. Therefore, there is some text that is standard (i.e. high-quality), and some that is not. If there are standards, then there need to be rules, and that is where I see that AACR2/RDA comes in.

Quality was discussed at some length in the Language Log posting and I believe even in the Chronicle, so it is considered important by the general public. This is a tremend ous opportunity for us, since we understand "high-quality metadata standards" as no one else. As I pointed out in my CCRW announcement, a reconsideration of what "high standards" means is in order because different metadata records following different standards get mashed together, as in a Google Books "overview."

>So if the FRBR data model isn't good (enough), you can expand on it --
>or you can even abandon it entirely and create a new one. Bu
t it should
>be noted that also, for better or worse, the FRBR domain model was
>intended to be compatible with our legacy data and practices -- it is a
>formalization of cataloging tradition.

This is a very good point, but we have been waiting for a long time to see how our records will fit into this new information world, and it has turned out that they don't (except relatively recently in Google Books, with poor results). I can't get the talk with Berners-Lee out of my mind, where he says to put up your data however you can because people will change it for their purposes, no matter what you do. This should be considered a good thing. I think he may be correct and it is causing a change in my thinking.

It seems to me much more important to enter the information world with something less than perfect than to enter it too late. It would be very interesting to see a major library put up their records for public download and manipulation using some kind of simplified format, such as qualified DC (full of that "text") and see what would happen as people worked with it. The full RDF formats could come later. I think the public understands the idea of improving a product and have come to expect it.

I'll bet if a library did that and let it be known, it would be widely popular. Of course, of even more popularity would be if it contained records for online publications that the user could access and a type of Infomine or Intute could be used.

But one step at a time.

Jim Weinheimer

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Research Librarians Discuss How to Sell Scholars on Open Access, and More

On a Chronicle article at: http://chronicle.com/article/Research-Librarians-Discuss/48870/

Seen from another side, the information world is going through changes the likes of which none of us has seen before, and to me, it is similar to a sci-fi movie I have imagined. In this, people are living at the end of the age of the dinosaurs, after the comet has struck and it is becoming increasingly clear that the dinosaurs are dying, while the smaller mammals are going to survive.

But the people are advocates for the dinosaurs, so everyone works frantically, trying to save the dinosaurs in Frankenstein-like fashion by grafting parts of the mammals onto the dinosaurs. The final products, which die anyway, are hideous beyond description. To me, this illustrates the information world we are creating.

The era that is based on an economic model that makes money by selling copies of intellectual creativity is coming to a close. The technology is not going away but will only become easier, faster, and more widespread. It is based on creating copies quickly and easily. I don't think anyone is suggesting that this will change.

Grafting new parts onto the old model is not working and is only creating things that nobody wants, not the author, not the publisher, not the librarian, and least of all, the consumer.

We must remember that there were other economic models before the printing press, and lots of authors, painters, dramatists, made very nice livings and their products were as great as any today without copyright. It is a new world, and the old world wasn't that great anyway. Some old favorites may completely disappear, e.g. I am a librarian and I'm not sure how libraries will fare in the new world. I think they are important, but we must adapt, and show the same ingenuity of the mammals of old, to fit into this new world. Other agencies will have to adapt as well.

Still, I think so far, the world of books is handling the change better than the world of music.

Re: Cooperative Cataloging Rules Announcement

On Mon, 19 Oct 2009 09:53:04 -0400, ... wrote:

>I have a question and a comment.
>
>You suggest that FRBR is obsolete, but that AACR2 is revisable. So, my
>question is: Why do you think a 31-year old standard, AACR2 (1978) can
>be updated, but not an 11-year old standard, FRBR (1998)?

Hi Christine,
Thanks for some good questions. I'll try to answer them:

FRBR is a theoretical framework, not a standard. It purports to define what makes a bibliographic record functional, or not. FRBR states that for a record to function, it must allow people to "find, identify, select, and obtain" "works, expressions, manifestations and items." It was never tested among the non-library community (that I know of) and what it says is certainly highly dubious in today's world, which has new tools that were completely unknown in the 1990s, e.g. pre-Google, pre-Web2.0. In my own opinion, what FRBR actually does is to describe the library-centric view of the information universe as it stood in the 1990s. (But I reiterate that I am not finding fault with anyone. Nobody could have predicted the explosion
that has occurred) Also, and this is very important: the public likes the new tools and prefers them to ours in many, many ways. Ever newer tools appear every day and we are living through a time of tremendous creativity, innovation and ferment in the information world. With the Google Books project and the popularity of open access plus new projects, we undoubtedly
are in for even more change, e.g. see the latest in http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/18/AR2009101802360.html.
We may be looking at a time, perhaps very soon, a time period measured in months instead of decades, when someone can get a bachelor's degree without ever setting foot into a library. How much longer will it be before they can get a master's, or PhD? I don't think too many people will maintain that it can never happen and perhaps it will come much sooner than we can imagine
right now.

AACR2 is a well-established standard that has been continually updated both with published revisions and the LCRIs, so it does not really date from 1978. Actually, it's FRBR that has not been updated. Although there is a theoretical framework operating in the background, AACR2 itself is not theoretical but a highly practical document, and does not talk about record structure or anything like that; it tells you what information is important and how to input it.

>Back in May, Tom Delsey, the editor of RDA, gave a presentation on
>AACR2/RDA at a CLA pre-conference. He stated that a lot of the content
>(of AACR2) hasn't changed. Rather the main change of RDA was structural
>(based on FRBR). Maybe retraining will be less cumbersome than we think
>if we emphasize the continuity of the two codes.

This is my understanding as well. Therefore, if things are changing so little, and retraining will be minimal (essentially learning how to navigate the reorganized rules and learning new rule numbers, which means that all local documentation will have to change as well), it is natural to ask: why do it at all? While our day-to-day work will definitely be disrupted and made more expensive with online subscriptions, what difference will it make to our users? Exactly what will someone be able to do with a record created in RDA that they cannot do today? Will RDA make it easier to get bibliographic records from other entities? Does RDA create anything that people want and is worth the cost?

Library catalogs (and consequently, I submit, libraries themselves) are facing very, very hard times indeed. Especially when there are free alternatives out there that people like and prefer at the same time as we are facing ever-dwindling resources.

My library, and many others out there, simply cannot pay for retraining and the subscriptions to the online RDA. It's that simple. Therefore, there is no choice for these libraries: they absolutely cannot implement RDA. In addition, I personally have very strong theoretical objections as to its
ultimate value to our library users or to librarians in general. That's why I looked around for a genuine choice and found the Cooperative Cataloging Rules, which provides the choice for libraries who cannot, or prefer not to implement RDA.

While we must change, it must be in new directions that promise cooperation and high-standards, and we make must be relevant to our patrons. I think there are many things we can do in this new world, and most ways are very inexpensive, but major decisions have to be made, e.g. do I put my data on the web for free in useful formats for free download and further use by the world? I confess that I find this potentially disturbing, as Tim Berners-Lee describes his view of things, where people will take your data and rework it in all kinds of ways they like. Still, while I may find it disturbing, that is just the price of admission to the world of-information-as-it-is-becoming (apologies to Kant!).

Does this answer your questions?

Jim Weinheimer

Monday, October 19, 2009

Re: [NGC4LIB] User tasks--outdated? Why?

While Karen and Eric brought up some good points (with which I agree) I am unable to shed my "historian" hat and prefer to discuss when Cutter's rules first came out. In his first edition (to see my saga of finding this item, see my post
at: http://www.mail-archive.com/rda-l@listserv.lac-bac.gc.ca/msg02048.html.
The link to the book doesn't work any more, but let's try this
one:http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/History/History-idx?
type=turn&id=History.PublicLibs&entity=History.PublicLibs.p0577&q1=brain
. If all
else fails:
United States. Bureau of Education / Public libraries in the United States of America; their history, condition, and management. Special report, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education. Part I (1876). Cutter, C. A.Chapter XXVII. Library catalogues, pp. 527) ,
Cutter prefaced his "Objects" and "Means" by discussing the questions people ask in the library.

I think this is what we need to do again. I do not presume to know how others are using the web, but there are some excellent people doing a lot of research in this area of "Scholarly Communication." This research is only being done now, and it is changing daily. For example, I discovered Diigo http://www.diigo.com/, which lets you mark up web pages. This is potentially really powerful, and my students *absolutely love it* when I show these things to them. How will tools like this fit into the tools of the future? How can the catalog records fit in?
What else will be out there tomorrow?

Also, when discussing the FRBR user tasks, I believe you cannot separate them from WEMI, that is: I can find, identify, select and obtain.... what? The two must go together, otherwise, it makes no sense--all the verbs are transitive. And then we are stuck with having to shoe-horn everything into an outmoded model, e.g. how do you fit one of those popular mashup pages into WEMI? It is just mind-blowing, and while it may be an interesting intellectual exercise, I think, it is practically useless.

Therefore, I believe the only valid conclusion concerning user tasks is: we don't know what they are. That is the only, truly honest conclusion that I can reach. So, we are at the same point as Cutter's 1876 edition, where he begins with the questions people ask. Only then can we begin to figure out what the real user tasks are and begin to change what we do in the directions that are a) possible and b) useful for everyone concerned.

This is why I think it's too early to spend extremely rare library budget dollars (or euros over here) on projects that are demonstrably obsolete or highly speculative.

Jim

> Jim--I'm a bit stuck on why the FRBR user tasks are "outdated"--I
> think that is how you described them. In just looking at the overall
> "picture" of how we've observed people interacting with information
> systems, what do you envison as more appropriate user tasks?
>
> For example, at the most fundamental level, don't people look for (find,
> locate) information that they need? They identify what is relevant and what
> isn't, tag (select) the relevant and then obtain or acquire the
> actual resources. This is very oversimplified, but it is how we
> approach teaching the user tasks in our basic information organization course
> ---the students create their own information system, based on a study of
the
> users of the system and study of the types and attributes of resources in
the
> system. We ask them to explain how specific attributes from the resources
will
> help users to accomplish the four tasks, etc.
>
> Svenonius (Intellectual Foundation of Information Organizatin, 2000)
discussed
> the objectives of a "full-feature bibliographic system" --redefining
> the "find" task to "locate" in order to better emphasize
> both the finding objective and collocating objective as discussed in Cutter,
> Lubetzky, and such. (this is my oversimplified quicky explanation of
> what she discusses in her Chapter 2) --her "tasks" include
> :
>
> (these may
not format properly--apologies in advance)
>
> -- to locate entities in a file or database
> as the result of a search using attributes or relationships of the entities:
> 1a. To find a singular entity-that is, a
> document (finding objective)
> 1b. To locate sets of entities representing
> All documents belonging to the same work
> All documents belonging to the same edition
> All documents by a given author
> All documents on a given subject
> All documents defined by "other"
> criteria;
>
> -- to identify an entity (that is, to
> confirm that the entity described in a record corresponds to the entity
sought
> or to distinguish between two or more entities with similar characteristics);
>
> -- to select an entity that is appropriate
> to the user's needs (that is, to choose an entity that meets the user's
> requirements with respect to content, physical format, and so on or to reject
> an entity as being inappropriate to the user's needs);
>
> -- to acquire or obtain access to the
> entity described (that is, to acquire an entity through purchase, loan, and so
> on or to access an entity electronically through an online connection to a
> remote computer;
> -- to navigate a bibliographic database
> (that is, to find works related to a given work by generalization, association,
> and aggregation; to find attributes related by equivalence, association, and
> hierarchy.
>
> It strikes me, too, that we talk of user tasks, but perhaps it would be more
> appropriate to speak of them as "objectives" ? I'm just
> trying to get a sense of what you would rather see in place of what FRBR
> currently defines.
>
> thanks,
> S.
>

Re: Cooperative Cataloging Rules Announcement

Karen Coyle wrote:

> If change = $$, then ANY change from AACR2=$$. I don't see why these
> rules would be less expensive to implement than RDA. So maybe that's a
> case that needs to be made. It could go something like:
>
> 1. AACR2 is no longer viable for xx reasons
> 2. RDA is not viable for yy reasons
> 3. CCR is better than RDA because.... and costs less because....

Because CCR represents an extension of AACR2 and therefore is subject to the least amount of change. In the wiki now, there are no new rules or procedures. Everything is based on LCRIs or currently used procedures. As I wrote in the original message:

"Still, libraries have legitimate concerns. They fear the old rules will no longer be maintained and updated, therefore, they in essence have no choice except to adopt RDA because if they don't, they will remain forever stuck in the year 2009 (or 2010 or so, whenever RDA comes out)."
.
"For these reasons, alternatives must be found and with the Cooperative Cataloging Rules, there is one. All that librarians need do is retain their current copies of AACR2, supplemented by the LCRIs, but now these excellent, tried-and-true rules can continue to develop in a genuinely cooperative, global manner."

The problem is: we don't know in which direction to turn. It is my opinion that RDA represents a turn in a seriously wrong direction, based on the reasons already given. We don't know what the best way is. Many, many libraries cannot pay for the changes. It's that simple. Libraries (including mine) need an alternative

If I felt that RDA offered substantial improvements, I could change some of my thinking (still not my budget), but it is based on obsolete models. This is why I think we need to stop and rethink, in conjunction with other communities, before we begin on major changes in *cataloging rules.* But that does not preclude working with what we currently have to take full advantage of what is there right now, because our records and other bibliographical tools are woefully underutilized.

In my opinion, task #1 is to liberate the records from our databases for development by the general information community. This is when we will begin to see some real innovation and advances, plus some excitement in the information world, as people can begin to see what they can do with our records. This could be achieved with a minimum of effort by simply opening it up and giving developers different formats. Develop some cool APIs for their own purposes and see what happens

These are the directions that I think we should go. It would cost libraries the least amount of money, be the least disruptive at a very delicate time, and generate some interest in the wider information community.

Jim Weinheimer

Re: [NGC4LIB] Tim Berners-Lee on the Semantic Web

On Mon, 19 Oct 2009 19:56:26 +1100, ... wrote:

>On Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 18:45, James Weinheimer <j.weinheimer@aur.edu> wrote:
>> There are several consequences to the library community from his talk,
>> ranging from formats to sharing. I am trying to imagine how the library
>> catalog will fit into the scenario he describes, a scenario that is working
>> itself out right now. The catalog records (the actual data) are obviously of
>> prime importance (format as well), and while I think the catalog itself can
>> play a highly important role, I'm still not sure how.
>
>I suggest to those who does *not* want library data shared openly that
>if they must, at least insist on MARC or MARCXML; that'll keep you
>obfuscated enough. :)

This is one of those issues where I have gone thorugh a 180 degree change in my opinion. Originally, I thought: "I don't care if some technicians don't know what a 245$c is. They can look it up because the statement of responsibility is a complex concept and it can't be explained in some stupid tag like

<statementOfResponsibility></statementOfResponsibility> or
<SR></SR>.

The same goes with each area. Everybody just needs to look it up and I don't feel sorry for them."

Yet, while a big part of me still believes this, and I certainly fear a general dumbing down, reality demands other modes of thinking. I think that it is absolutely vital for us to enter into the world of the Semantic Web, as described by Berners-Lee so well. For that to happen, we must provide
others with a format that does not put tremendous obstacles in their way, which makes MARC just too complicated, no matter what format (XML, RDF...) it may take. While libraries need their formats for their own, internal purposes, non-librarians need their data too, but in other formats.

What should that format (or those formats) be? That is not my area of expertise, but I think that if we were to do so, it would be relatively inexpensive; it would make our bibliographic data much more accessible and much more useful to our users and the rest of the information world than almost anything else we could do. I think that if we did find a format that others could use, we might be amazed at how quickly our records would be reworked and used in all kinds of systems and in all kinds of ways. Finally, with a general sharing, we would become more important in the semantic web and not less important.

Jim Weinheimer

Friday, October 16, 2009

The official announcement
http://coopcatwiki.blogspot.com/2009/10/official-announcement.html

Fwd: Re: [NGC4LIB] Cooperative Cataloging Rules Announcement

All,

First, I would like to publicly thank Shawne Miksa for her gracious comments. I deeply appreciate her feelings of openness in a delicate situation, and I was sincere when I stated how much I appreciate and admire the dedication and labor of each person who has worked on RDA. Certainly nothing here is against any of them. I only hope I have it within myself to
act in the same way.

Now, some clarifications:
One of the main purposes of the Cooperative Cataloging Rules, as I see it at this point in time, is to give libraries a real, genuine choice(!!) whether or not to adopt RDA when it eventually comes out. I understand current practices very well, being a practicing cataloger for several years in both AACR2 and non-AACR2, non-ISBD cataloging. One of my special interests has been library history, in particular the exceedingly detailed and rather boring methods of library technical services of the past.

A historical view of FRBR provides a case in point. In deference to its stated goals, FRBR says much more about the mindset of some of the most advanced librarians of 20 or so years ago than of any real intrinsic "structure of information." This is not finding fault with anyone or anything--it is simply a recognition of how bound we were (and still are) to library tradition, plus it shows how much we have changed in a mere 20 years. Of course, the phrase "a mere 20 years" also reflects librarian mentality: one that has measured change in terms more reminiscent of geologic eons than of the rate of change today. In today's information society, two or three years ago is simply past it.

Therefore, what relation does the structure of WEMI have to the information tools being made today, i.e., the same tools that did not exist 20 years ago, and couldn't even be imagined back then? The user tasks are even more obsolete. While these conclusions are rather obvious to us today (just find out what your undergraduate and graduate students are doing if you have any
doubt), these changes in information behavior could not have been foreseen back then.

Since many people are still researching how people find and use information, and what people are doing--and will be doing--is definitely in a constant state of transition at the moment, especially when the Google Books agreement will have tremendous consequences for the catalog, changes just as unpredictable as were those 20 years ago, it is my professional opinion that
we still do not know what to change our cataloging rules into. We only know, without any doubt, that FRBR reflects an earlier mentality and therefore, I believe it is highly unwise to change in a direction that we know is obsolete. In any case, we'll still be stuck with an antique, Model-T format for record exchange (ISO2709, and while it is a baby step in the right direction, its MARCXML Doppelganger is merely a reflection of the problems of ISO2709) plus, a mentality that does not want to share our metadata with other communities openly, which is totally out of step with modern realities.

I don't believe this means that we are scared of change--quite the opposite. Why don't we just open up our information for general development by others, for new formats, for use of URIs, taking what they want, just as is done now with all kinds of APIs. This could help us find out what our users really want. Also, we must work with all those other metadata creators out there?

We are not the only ones describing and arranging information resources.

Oh yes! And did I mention financial reasons that don't allow libraries to do the changes anyway? This is another point that can be viewed historically: when FRBR/RDA were being created, libraries were relatively flush with money. For most libraries, it is a completely different story today and will be for the future.

Also, in answer to Benie's query about "scholarly communication" I shall refer to an earlier post of mine about this: https://listserv.nd.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0909&L=NGC4LIB&P=R2239&D=0&O=D&T=0&X=56A81B05 59BB7D840F.
(one of my rambling posts. Look at the 5th and 6th paragraphs) I confess this is a real problem, and would love to come up with other terminology for this concept, but I cannot come up with one.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Posting to http://hangingtogether.org/

Posting to http://hangingtogether.org/?p=741

James Weinheimer Says:
October 5th, 2009 at 4:14 am

In my own experience, and in contradiction to much of what I have read, I find that users have terrible problems finding and relating to information they find, be it on the web, in a book or anywhere else. We tell them to be skeptical, to not believe everything online, but if it's in the library, they are supposed to believe that it's "all right" for some reason. I don't know what they think about that; are they supposed to put more faith into a book about U.S. politics that was published by Harvard University Press in 1953, or in a website of a right-or left-wing think tank that just appeared today? This is actually a complicated skill.

I think almost any librarian will agree that, while it is easier to find "information" today, it has become far more complicated to find what I shall call "coherent knowledge." I don't know if it really is that there is more information out there in the aggregate, but it certainly is easier to look in more places, it's also easier to access the resources when you find them, and so on.

But this is exactly the problem: based on a casual use of Google to find the weather tomorrow or to check out the NYTimes, many users seem to conclude that it's easy to find what they need and become completely confused when it comes to approaching the task more seriously. While they thought they were expert searchers, they find they are almost helpless, which makes the task of librarians exceedingly difficult. Often, patrons end up blaming the tools instead of admitting their own shortcomings and do not want to acknowledge their need to develop some skills.

I think traditional librarian tasks of helping people find what they need is just as important as ever–perhaps more so because it appears that many levels of society are accessing more and more information than ever before.

But yes, we need to change how we do what we do as well.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fwd: Re: The Library-Catalog Wars: 'Chronicle' Readers Weigh In

I like what Susan L. Gibbons wrote. Since my interest is in library history,
I've done some very quick, and "thoroughly unthorough" research to gather a couple of thoughts that I think are relevant to our situation today. Sorry for the extended quotes, but I think they are highly pertinent.

Incidentally, I got neither of these through a library.
From: United States. Public Libraries in the United States of America: Their History, Condition and Management : Special Report. Washington: Government
Printing Office, 1876, pt. 1. pg. xi
http://www.archive.org/details/pt1publiclibrarie00unituoft
"The Librarian as Educator

The influence of the librarian as an educator is rarely estimated by outside
observers, and probably seldom fully realized even by himself. Performing
his duties independently of direct control as to their details, usually
selecting the books that are to be purchased by the library and read by its
patrons, often advising individual readers as to a proper course of reading
and placing in their hands the books they are to read, and pursuing his own
methods of administration generally without reference to those in use
elsewhere, the librarian has silently, almost unconsciously, gained
ascendancy over the habits of thought and literary tastes of a multitude of
readers, who find in the public library their only means of intellectual
improvement. That educators should be able to know the direction and gauge
the extent and results of this potential influence and that librarians
should not only understand their primary duties as purveyors of literary
supplies to the people, but also realize their high privileges and
responsibilities as teachers, are matters of great import to the interests

I think this gives a good idea of how librarians have traditionally liked to
view themselves, and much of it is still quite true in many ways. But if we
reflect on how much the information world has changed from 1876 (i.e. when
the basis of the modern library catalog was created): shared cataloging,
shared collection development (which has been far less successful), and of
course now, the library is not at all where the "multitude of readers,
[....]
find in the public library their only means of intellectual improvement."
The librarian as educator, an idea with which I concur, must be completely
reconsidered.

The other quote is a longer one from Jesse Shera and deals more with the
sociological side of libraries.

Shera, Jesse Hauk. Foundations of the Public Library; The Origins of the
Public Library Movement in New England, 1629-1855. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago
Press, 1949, p. 247-248.
[By the way, there is very strange publication information for this in
Google Books that does not correspond with the item. But, the automatic
citation for this edition that I got from Worlcat gave me a date of 1994 for
some reason!]
http://books.google.com/books?id=B1NSQNKm1yIC&lpg=RA1-PA247&dq=public%20libraries%20democracy%20advancing&as_brr=0&pg=RA1-PA247#v=onepage&q=&f=false

"From this increasing pressure for the collectivization of library
facilities the public library emerged. It was born of the desires, needs and
experiences of the people. Derived from European origins, shaped by two
centuries of trial and error, conditioned by the economic and social life by
which it was surrounded and of which it was a part, the public library was
created because it was essential to the fullest expression of human life.
The objectives of its founders were specific and very real. They wished to
promote equality of educational opportunity, to advance scientific
investigation, to save the youth from the evils of an ill-spent leisure, and
to promote the vocational advance of the workers. In short, they were, as
Ralph Beals has pointed out, interested in normative ends--in the
improvement of men and women and through them of society. The hardships of
the frontier had fostered a democracy that was nourished by subsequent
generations--generations to whom the rigors of pioneer existence were remote
indeed. In the preservation of that democracy the library was to play its
part. Mann, Barnard and their followers held that an intelligent and
educated electorate is essential to a democracy, and in the great system of
public education which they foresaw the public library was to be a true
'people's university."

Judged by every standard and measured by every criterion, the public library
is revealed as a social agency dependent upon the objectives of society. It
followed--it did not create--social change. It was an outward and visible
manifestation of the spirit and ideals of the people. Borne on the rising
tide of modern democracy, it evolved as society itself developed, though at
a somewhat slower pace. As society attained greater complexity, as industry
developed and increased its diversity, as populations crowded into congested
city areas, as labor and economic life, largely because of the impact of the
machine, became more and more specialized, the functions of the library
reflected a corresponding intricacy and growing importance.

So the aims, methods, and ideals of the library were modified as life itself
underwent profound social changes. The library, in common with all social
agencies, moved through alternate periods of fluidity and convention but
always responded, in greater or less degree, to its environment."

This seems to be an almost Darwinian description about how public libraries
were born and developed. Shera's statement of, "So the aims, methods, and
ideals of the library were modified as life itself underwent profound social
changes." is especially important for us today and gives me a chance to
beat
(again!) the drum of rethinking the user tasks in FRBR.

Are those tasks, which reflect the purposes of the catalog as defined by
Cutter in 1876, *really* and *truly* what people want and need today? We are
undergoing profound social change, especially in how people communicate in
both social and scholarly ways. People are interacting and relating to
information/knowledge in completely different ways from how they did 50 or
100 years ago. As Shera mentions, libraries have changed but more slowly.
Now that things are changing faster however, and there are other information
agencies out there, we must change faster as well or risk being left as a
lonely back-water.

Still, to expect that anybody is going to sit still for a two-hour seminar
on how to use a traditional library catalog is a little like expecting
people to sit still for a seminar in how to shoe a horse. Some very few may
be interested, but the majority of people have moved beyond.

A few thoughts for a Friday.

Jim Weinheimer