Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Re: [ACAT] Job Announcement: Head of Technical Services

Posting to Autocat

On 29/08/2011 23:50, Billie Hackney wrote:
There is no question that technical services librarians who serve on the reference desk often come back with a great idea or two for improving entries in the catalog. Where the unfairness lies is that reference librarians are not expected to do the reverse. A better knowledge of cataloging would be a huge benefit to reference librarians and yet, while you see many technical services positions advertised that require evening and weekend hours on the reference desk, how many reference positions do you see advertised that require cataloging knowledge and experience? I am willing to bet that if you go to a library jobs site right now and check the first few reference position openings, you are unlikely to see even one that requires a contribution in technical services. It's a double standard. I suspect that this is the reason why many good catalogers will not apply for positions that require reference work.
I don't think it's so much a double standard as a real change when computerized systems were introduced. From my research and conversations, it seems that before computers were introduced, there was more "back and forth" between cataloging and reference since reference could contribute to cataloging by filing cards. This was not such an easy task and demanded some thinking and training, was absolutely necessary, and the reference people learned things along the way. It appears that when computers came in and card filing vanished, there was less that an untrained person could really do in cataloging without close supervision. As a result, there was a loss of the former quid pro quo, nothing much was found to replace it and the cross-fertilization all but disappeared.

Of course, this led to the situation where the people who created the content (catalogers) wound up more and more isolated from the people who used their content (patrons and reference librarians) and misunderstandings on both sides grew and grew. So far as I am concerned, the best example of the misunderstandings is illustrated in the "FRBR user tasks", which my latest podcast tries to demonstrate are not the tasks that users want. http://catalogingmatters.blogspot.com/2011/08/cataloging-matters-podcast-12.html

With current systems however, perhaps much of this could be reconsidered. Since Web2.0 is such a big thing now, and if we admit that the main way people interoperate with the library's collection is, and will be, the catalog in whatever form it takes, I think the input of expert reference librarians would be crucial, by adding tags or comments, perhaps links to reviews or something. I am sure they would have their own ideas.

After all, if I am searching for Kurt Vonnegut or Herman Melville, I would be much more interested in the tags or comments of an experienced reference librarian/selector of American literature instead of some first-year student. I am sure there are others who would agree with me.

Re: How Google makes improvements to its search algorithm

Posting to NGC4LIB 

On 29/08/2011 14:54, Eric Lease Morgan wrote:
The comment above is very interesting because it begs the question, "To what degree are search results against a database or index expected to be objective?" Our profession has taught us there are right ways and wrong ways to do searching. As a corollary, there must be correct search results and incorrect search results. "If you search the database in the right way, then you will get the correct -- most accurate (precision) and complete (recall) -- results.

Yet our profession does not emphasis the inherent characteristics of the reader. (Increasingly I don't like writing the word "user".) If I put in the word "pizza" into Google, I get pizza things close to my geographic location. Our profession does make such assumptions, and we expect the searcher to qualify the query with a location.

In this way, Google is easier to use and why different research results will be returned for different searchers. Google sort of knows about you. Ironically, a good librarian will also know about their patrons, and they will create search results tailored for the individual. This is is what reference librarianship is all about. Unfortunately we have yet to migrate this expertise into a computerized environment. "That is artificial intelligence and it can't be done. That threatens me; I will lose my job if that comes to fruition. In order to provide that sort of functionality we will have to record characteristics of readers, and that violates privacy." In short, our own professional ethics have limited us, and others, who don't have these beliefs, have literally profited and grown without them.
These are some of the considerations why I think we need to look at the controls in the library catalog as aimed more at librarians (read "information expert") instead of members of the general public. I also don't think we should label the results of a catalog as more or less "correct" or "better" than a result from a full text search engine; that is a treacherous path since anybody can justifiably take issue with it.

What is "correct" and/or "better" is always subjective.

Results from library catalogs should be framed more in terms of "standardized" or perhaps "guaranteed". *If* a database has personal name authority control, this means that within certain parameters (i.e. currently, rule of three, and perhaps practices of analysis) it is possible to guarantee that all items authored by certain people can be retrieved by the catalog. This is achieved through standardization. The library catalog allows standardized methods of finding resources by other concepts, too: corporate names, various kinds of titles, subjects, and so on. Full-text retrieval tools do not allow this.

The existence of such a tool does not mean that an untrained person can retrieve those records successfully, just as an untrained person cannot necessarily use a band saw very effectively. They very well may need

Google does not allow any kind of "guaranteed" or "standardized" access--just the opposite. If the results vary for you and me, and even vary for ourselves depending on where we are searching from, plus it is tweaked almost twice a day, I think the public could possibly understand the argument for a more standardized means of access.

But I wouldn't call our results better.

Re: How Google makes improvements to its search algorithm

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 29/08/2011 14:31, Meloni, Julie wrote:
Training is done in a custom system using already-rated search results; if you get X number correct, you can move on in the process. All ratings have several sets of eyes on them, and even more if the ratings differ (say between a 3 and a 5 on a 5 point scale). There is room (and a requirement) that you argue for your rating in that situation. In my experience, fellow raters were educated, tech-savvy individuals with the ability to make logical arguments; they look for people with broad knowledge since you have to be able to rate results for Lady Gaga, tsunamis, cricket results, and space exploration equally well (as an example).
That is very interesting! You mentioned "if you get X number correct". In your opinion, was it pretty clear what was "correct" and what was "incorrect"? Although I am only imagining since I haven't seen it, it seems as if it would easier to figure out if one is "incorrect" instead of "correct". For instance, a query of "Mona Lisa" that retrieved a resource on herding reindeer in Finland could be labelled incorrect pretty safely. But determining what would be "correct" would seem to be more difficult: the painting or the song, or perhaps some words from a poem. For example, when evaluating the search "Mona Lisa" how would a high ranking of a page about Nat King Cole be considered? Or is this not the way it works?

I find this fascinating, by the way!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Writers who oppose agency pricing aren’t acting in their own self-interest

Comment to blogposting: Writers who oppose agency pricing aren’t acting in their own self-interest (Mike Shatzkin)

You write in one of your comments: "But big authors (and their agents) do the math and say, "what's making the customer buy my author's book?" and "what does the publisher contribute?" If they thought they could sell a lot more at a lower price, AND the print sale mattered less, AND the author could make as much or more per copy at the lower price, it might be taking the advance would be much less tempting."

In an online environment, the price per copy makes much less sense than in the print environment. Plus, many books are written for consumption today since in a year or two there will be lots more books for people to read--and prefer to your old book. When seen in this way, it's like marketing "perishables", i.e. milk and eggs and tomatoes and the like. The produce manager must sell his tomatoes pretty quickly because he cannot wait for a better time in a couple of months. While he may be very happy to sell his tomatoes for $1.50 a pound, the public may not be so happy about it and he probably won't be able to get his $1.50 once those tomatoes start to age and ripen too much.

It may really irk him, but he absolutely must sell his tomatoes soon, even if he has to sell at 50 cents a pound or less--because it's better than nothing, plus the hassle of throwing the entire mess out. As a result, when you run a produce rack and you are faced with this, instead of saying that you have lost $1.00 a pound, you actually consider that you have made 50 cents per pound profit because in a few days, those tomatoes would have gone into the trash! I am sure that publishers agree that lots of their books get "stale" like old tomatoes or milk or eggs.

With ebooks, a per copy price makes little sense: it costs the publisher exactly the same amount to sell 1 copy or 5000 copies. The question is: do you want a chance to get paid for the 5000 copy or would you rather let it sit and rot?

This is why when I see a price for an ebook that is just as high as for the printed version, my natural reaction is: this publisher is a dinosaur. They don't want anything to change and want to force everybody to buy their printed book. 

How Google makes improvements to its search algorithm

Posting to NGC4LIB


This is essentially an advertisement for Google Search, but still shows a few rather peculiar mindsets, at least from the librarian point of view. The first thing I noticed is where one of their specialists said that they are interested in getting the best results *for each user*, which actually reveals quite a bit I think.

Someone notices that a search "is not performing as well as they would like" and it goes to "ranking engineers" who work with it. Then it goes to "raters", i.e. external people who have been trained to judge whether one ranking is more relevant or higher quality than another. Then it all goes to a "search analyst" and a related committee, where the ultimate goal is "to provide an informed, data-driven decision and to present an unbiased view." Then comes a real example. Also, they claim they make over 500 updates a year to the search results.

So, from this short film there is an overall impression of search results that are changing constantly, i.e. updates of almost 2 a day; plus a great deal of subjectivity, i.e. the best results *for each user*, mixed with supposed objectivity (reliance on "experts" and data-driven analysis to get an unbiased view) that, when you consider it, doesn't really explain anything at all. For instance, who are these "raters" and who trains them and how? They seem to be the focal point.

I just discovered this (via a Google search!): Google General Guidelines for Remote Quality Raters (2007)
http://www.seobook.com/full-text-googles-general-guidelines-remote-quality-raters-april-2007 It was taken down along with some videos at Google's request! (That is revealing!) But I found a summary of it:

In spite of all this, it seems that Google remains completely a black box that takes in information and spits it out and no one, at least no one outside of the company, really knows why it ranks sites the way it does. What does it mean when they say a search "does not perform as well as they would like"? Still, reading those guidelines for raters makes me wonder if this is going to be what the Subject Heading Manuals will  become someday.

I hope not!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Re: Justification of added entries

Posting to RDA-L

On 26/08/2011 13:00, hecain@dml.vic.edu.au wrote:
Quoting James Weinheimer:
Worldcat has made one step forward, and an important one, but there remains a lot to do since it still effectively hides many records from searchers. I think there are many options to try to interoperate, and this shows one step on the path toward the realization of one of those options.
"Effectively hides"??

Jim, please explain. Style and consistency of names? VIAF worked out how to reduce that problem, they just need to apply the knowledge they already have.
Hiding resources, because the records are hidden by inconsistency (if that's what you mean), is nobody's purpose. It might be more productive to consider how many resources now appear in WorldCat because it's drawing on so many files, and to consider what are the first practical steps to draw records together, then what may be the next steps; meanwhile keeping a watch on bulk dataprocessing advances (like VIAF which I keep mentioning, I think it's brilliant).
Yes, that is exactly what I mean: if you click on a record with the name heading in the NAF form, you will not find the record I linked to, and if you click on the form in that record, you will not find the records with the NAF form. The same for subjects (and titles if any existed). I also love VIAF and hope that it will represent a practical way forward that will make a tremendous difference to our users that they can appreciate.

Are there solutions to this, which I think is a much more important need to our users than, e.g. O.T. and N.T., abbreviations, punctuation or relator codes. I have my own ideas, based a lot on VIAF-type thinking, but I am sure there are other options that may be better. We should think in terms of small steps however, instead of aiming for the huge "grand solution", but much more modest ones that aim simply at helping people find resources better than they can today. That is much easier to achieve. Then, when people can begin to see and understand how useful conceptual searching can be (i.e. using our authorized forms as they are supposed to function, and in new, innovative ways), whatever we make can evolve as we gain insights into how the public uses it.

Re: Justification of added entries

Posting to RDA-L

On 25/08/2011 22:53, Adam L. Schiff wrote:
Actually, in our catalog, WorldCat Local from OCLC, they DO look for journal articles, and they are there, from many different databases, with links to full text.
While I applaud this in many ways, many (most?) of the records for the articles are inconsistent with the rest of the database, to take only one example: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/442678260 with subjects that are not LCSH and the form of name varies from the Authority File: Sergunin, A. A. (Aleksandr Anatol╩╣evich). This is not singling out Worldcat, since this happens with almost all databases, and demonstrates the ideas and possibilities of the Semantic Web.

Worldcat has made one step forward, and an important one, but there remains a lot to do since it still effectively hides many records from searchers. I think there are many options to try to interoperate, and this shows one step on the path toward the realization of one of those options.

Re: Justification of added entries

Posting to RDA-L

On 25/08/2011 17:04, Kevin M Randall wrote:
Do you actually have any kind of an idea of what solutions are the correct ones, then? Continually saying that every solution being offered is the wrong one, but never hinting at the right one, isn't really helping.
I have offered several suggestions, in fact, in the posting you quoted from. At the bottom, I wrote:
How can we solve the matters of relators for our users? *Not* by proclaiming, "From this date onward, we shall add relator information to records we create originally" since our users obviously will see much more than that. Still, cooperation with other databases that already have that information, e.g. IMDB, may be possible. Why redo the work that someone else has already done?
Again, why redo the work that someone else has already done? Especially if we acknowledge that anything we make will take many years to equal IMDB's access, if it ever will. This is what is possible on the web today. What we have to understand and accept is that we are not alone, and there are both positive and negative consequences to this fact.

Kevin M. Randall continued:
Some changes will be able to be done en masse, some will take meticulous record-by-record work, most likely distributed across libraries throughout the world. Nobody knows how much will be easy, how much will be difficult, or how long it will take. But we are keenly aware that the data cannot be transformed magically, in an instant, and that is why we realize that *nothing* will happen if we *do* nothing.
This is an example of the old thinking, as I mentioned. Before the web, the solution you mention was pretty much the only answer but today, instead of rolling up our shirtsleeves and putting our noses to the grindstone, there are other options. We are *not* alone and we should utilize that possibility. We should try as hard as possible to *cooperate* with related metadata creators. IMDB is only one such project that could provide a lot of help and we should not ignore it. Broadening our horizons in this way is far from *doing nothing*, but it is substantively different from what we could do say, only 20 years ago. Nevertheless, these kinds of efforts should be undertaken only after the implementation of a sound business plan: to ensure that we are giving the public what they really want and need instead of basing everything on personal assumptions of what they need, and also, any decision will necessarily come at the expense of other possible services.

Another possibility is to simply declare that a normal library catalog does not allow that kind of access--it never has and probably never will. People need to be directed to other tools, just as they do not look for journal articles in the catalog (although many people have never understood this either). For people who want this kind of relator information for films, the library catalog is clearly not the correct tool and has never been. It cannot be the correct tool for a very long time, if ever, and to make it so would come at a cost. There is nothing wrong with such an acknowledgment of fact, just as stating clearly that JSTOR is not the best tool for the latest information on the current financial crisis.

Yet the situation is not so bad for people: IMDB allows access for relator information for films if someone wants it; Wikipedia may offer various solutions as well, but instead of insisting on redoing the same work over and over and over again as in the old days, we should be concentrating on: what are the value-added services that the library can realistically supply? There is, after all, quite a bit of expertise in lots of the areas of the library that could be very useful to everyone concerned.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Re: Justification of added entries

Posting to RDA-L

On 25/08/2011 00:26,  wrote:
Quoting Casey A Mullin:
Regarding the "extra time" argument, I will just say this succinctly. At Stanford, we did not use relator codes/terms under AACR2. We do under RDA (though, as previously stated, we have the option to leave them out if choosing one leads to agonizing). After our initial training period, in which the "burden" to add relator terms was only one among the suite of new/different practices, my productivity has
returned to previous levels. Several of my colleagues have reported the same.
Put yet another way: it's not a question of taking extra time, it's a question of encoding the fruits of our intellectual work in way that is friendly to humans AND machines, and thereby making better use of the precious time we have.
And IMO the time, even if significant, is worthwhile. In music, the roles of vocalist, instrumental performer, conductor, composer and editor are all significant, and one person may well occupy several of those roles in a lifetime. In textual works, the roles of author, editor, translator are likewise significant.
It's all very well to say that catalogues are too complicated; but that's because of the nature of the resources, reflected in the data. We need to begin to insist on plain, straightforward features to help users get the best out of our intellectual effort. Relationships need to be easier to follow; simply leaving them out is no benefit.
But my point is: adding relators goes far beyond the creation of original records. We are in a shared environment, and ideally, we should be able to share more widely. I shall accept that adding relators may not add much additional time to original record creation (although it has to in the aggregate: look at how we type only "Includes bibliographical references" instead of more indepth information to save cataloger time); I also accept that adding the relators when creating a record may be worthwhile. But that is far from the end of the affair. We are in a shared environment: what is someone supposed to do when they get copy? Are they supposed to add the relators? That will definitely take significantly more time, and who will be authorized and trained to edit those records? In the future, these records will hopefully come from many more sources than just libraries, with many more, perhaps very difficult, decisions to make.

In addition, we have catalogs without relator information now, so someone will click on e.g. Clint Eastwood as director and only get one or two hits because the majority of the records will have been made earlier with no relators. So, we run into exactly the same problem as we do with typing abbreviations in full: it will make absolutely no difference *to the users* of our catalogs because after any search, they will *always* be seeing older records with the abbreviations or no relator codes, so we cannot proclaim that this is a solution.

I agree that the idea of full abbreviations and relators would be mostly a positive thing for our users, but we must always see matters from *their* viewpoint. Changing what we do from one day to the next will certainly change things for *us*, but it won't change things for the *users*. This fact absolutely must be accepted and cannot be ignored. If we could snap our fingers and magically update our old records, and to ensure that copy received would not demand too much updating, that might be one thing, but we know that will not happen, and the result will be more inconsistency in the catalog which, from the user's point of view, the catalog will become, probably, weirder than ever. There will be bizarre links for, e.g. Clint Eastwood as director that they *know* don't work correctly, and can demonstrate it to you simply by going to IMDB where it works. How will we explain away that kind of problem, when every searcher can point to similar incoherence with any search result?

What is the real solution to this? In my opinion, these are the arguments of old solutions and must be avoided as much as possible. We are in another environment that may be able to solve the problems for our *users* instead of continuing to pretend that if we simply adopt a new rule, the problem is solved. Those old solutions have led to a lot of anger toward cataloging in the past because non-catalogers conclude that cataloging is focused only on itself. Why? It ignores the user and this fact can be demonstrated easily, as here.

How can we solve the matters of relators for our users? *Not* by proclaiming, "From this date onward, we shall add relator information to records we create originally" since our users obviously will see much more than that. Still, cooperation with other databases that already have that information, e.g. IMDB, may be possible. Why redo the work that someone else has already done?

I've already talked about abbreviations in earlier posts on some lists, somewhere.

Re: Spelling of cm. in RDA records

Posting to Autocat

On 24/08/2011 16:21, Mark Ehlert wrote:
James Weinheimer wrote:
At the same time, we are supposed to become extremely lax in matters of more import to the catalog: access points (rule of three changed to rule of one, and more based on "cataloger's judgement", oh wait! Except for illustrators of children's books and translators, again for some unknown, incomprehensible reasons that I prefer not to know about)
I'll tell you anyway: that's LC's thing. RDA doesn't say squat on the matter. If I had a large music collection to take care of, I'd raise hell about always including access points for performers and score editors. To each community their own preferred, expanded practice, tailored for their users--obviously.
That's right. RDA itself mandates only a single access point, while LC has decided to throw in the other two. I *guess* that's better. :-) If we are aiming for "each community" to have its own expanded/diminished practices, that would be fine with me so long as we all understand how all of this variability will fit into shared standards. In this case, there would be a highly restricted set of rules followed by everyone, while different communities, e.g. science, or theology, or graphic arts, or whatever, could decide how to expand upon these restricted rules in the best ways for their communities. Such a direction would be very positive, I think, and goes into the directions suggested by Michael Gorman at the rda@yourlibrary conference, but that is a different topic.
... but at the same time they mandate meaningless punctuation rules!
There are a lot fewer punctuation rules in the body of RDA compared to AACR2. The most I've seen appear in the "make a heading" chapters, which pretty much mirror AACR2. Then there's the appendix on ISBD. And if you want to continue using metric abbreviations, you can--RDA allows for that.

Again, if we're going bitch about RDA, let's get our facts straight before doing so.
I'm not defending AACR2. Never did. Of course it needs to change in all kinds of ways. I am questioning the mindset that continues to have catalogers focus on these types of tiny matters of no importance to anyone. Those days should (I hope!) be dying. Not only do they waste our time, it diverts us from important matters, and not least important, it makes us seem strange and anachronistic to non-catalogers, and as a result they have a tendency to discount what we say and create. With RDA, there is still this type of focus while at the same time, it is more relaxed on the points that really do matter.

True, we need to try to figure out what really is of no importance to anyone because no one really knows. (I won't repeat my rant about the FRBR user tasks) We need to discover what is important to the different communities of patrons (science, business, art, undergraduates, children, "men in haste" to use an older term, and so on and so on). What is important to the different communities of librarians (selectors, reference etc.)?

These questions have always been ripe with personal suppositions, but at least there does seem to be some research on patrons now with some of the "library anthropologists", e.g. a project of Illinois Libraries mentioned on NGC4LIB. See the article at Inside Higher Ed: http://bit.ly/nnUWHk

If it turned out that a project such as this discovered that people need extremely detailed punctuation all through the record, and they wanted it in the place of lots of other services we could provide, fine. I would be all for it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Re: Justification of added entries

Posting to RDA-L
On 23/08/2011 17:25, Kevin M Randall wrote:
James Weinheimer wrote:
When discussing practical issues, it's not out of place to mention that latest research reveals that user knowledge and abilities are very low. This article was just announced "What Students Don't Know" (referred to on another list, but there have been other similar research projects with very similar results), catalogs are already overly complex, and therefore, the display of the $e will be *only within the individual record*, and the records do that now more accurately with the 245$c.
James, I'm having a hard time following this argument. I can't figure out how the "therefore" connects connects the phrases before and after it. I don't see anything in the article cited that has anything to do with the matter of including relator terms in subfield $e--not the mention the idea that the relator terms will be displayed only in the individual records (where did that last argument come from?).
Sorry for this poor writing. Essentially what I was trying to say is that research has shown that people find our catalogs very complex already (which indeed, they are) and people have little comprehension of what they are looking at. Increasing the complexity of the displays will only make it more complicated for the searchers.
Have you ever used IMDb (Internet Movie Database), which is often mentioned in discussions on this list? I would be *extremely* surprised (shocked, even) if I were to find that the relator terms were not used in that resource. For instance, search for the name "Clint Eastwood" and under "Filmography" you get a list of his credits, arranged in categories: Actor | Director | Producer | Soundtrack | Composer | Miscellaneous Crew | Camera and Electrical Department | Writer | Thanks | Self | Archive Footage. This is exactly the kind of function that relator terms make possible.

I find it rather curious that you complain about people not using catalogs because they are not providing the kind of functionality that other internet resources provide, yet if we argue for doing something to include that functionality it's something that people don't want or need.
I understand how relator terms can function, and I had already mentioned that people in graphic arts say that this is important to them. My statement is: somebody must show that a substantial majority of people want and need these capabilities so badly instead of just taking it all for granted. We only have so many catalogers with only so much time, and numbers are not going to increase any time soon. We'll probably be lucky to keep numbers relatively stable. Any additional work we undertake will necessarily be at the expense of something else, therefore, there must be some kind of prioritization, otherwise we risk overreaching ourselves and inevitable collapse. It is obvious that even maintaining the current levels of cataloging standards has been too much for many libraries, so it only makes sense to question what would happen in reality if we take on additional responsibilities. If we do not consider practical issues everything remains safely locked away in the fairy land of theory and conjecture, while real people--both patrons and librarians--will have to suffer the consequences in the real world.

Perhaps in some areas, this information is more important, perhaps in films, but it still remains to be shown that it is so vital that we must devote the additional resources to adding that information at the obvious expense of productivity. Be that as it may, I cannot imagine that very many people would need to search texts by editors vs. authors.

In the case of the IMDB, if it is determined that people need relators so desperately, we can look at it in another, more modern, way: do we really have to redo all of their work, or would it make more sense to cooperate by inter-operating with their database in some way?

As I keep trying to point out: we have what we have. Catalogers stopped adding relator codes and maybe they shouldn't have but we don't have a time machine to travel back and convince them otherwise. Too bad in lots of ways, but that's the breaks. The first, very practical, task should be to make what we have *now* more useful to people. Then, once we have helped people substantially, to figure out what is missing or what needs to be changed. There is plenty of time to figure out eventual changes, but little time to demonstrate how we can really make a difference in people's lives.

Re: Spelling of cm. in RDA records

Posting to Autocat

On 23/08/2011 22:17, Mike Tribby wrote:
"Also, it should be pointed out that the JSC was not just making an arbitrary and unilateral decision to treat the metric symbols as symbols. The U.S. Metric Association has something to say about the matter:
"Or, if that appears to be too U.S.-centric, how about a higher authority?
"Excerpt: "Unit symbols are mathematical entities and not abbreviations. Therefore, they are not followed by a period except at the end of a sentence, and one must "neither use the plural nor mix unit symbols and unit names within one expression, since names are not mathematical entities.""
 My, such a lot of hand-wringing! Thanks for the nice links, but the point Jim was making (at least the point of his I apprehended) and the point I was making, was that to declare that metric<>word shortenings<> (since they're obviously _so_ not abbreviations)(even thought they look like, act like, and for all I know walk like abbreviations) are *symbols* and not abbreviations is an arbitrary choice. Therefore the suggestion that some other eminent body conveniently declare that other<>word shortenings<> are also symbols seems no more arbitrary and not a lot more contrived.

To say that something is a rule because it is a rule is a commonplace in cataloging, but not so much in the rest of the world-- assuming the rest of the world survives today's earthquake activity, the news of which is flooding the ether even as we discuss this deep and rewarding subject.
Gotcha! See how it works? There are no reasons given for such a "rule," it makes no inherent sense and makes no difference in comprehension or in searching. It only makes a difference to "those in the know". That's why I would laugh evilly to myself: this showed I was a member of a unique and special group. And a cataloger can really get into these Gotchas! which, once again, makes absolutely no difference to anyone using the catalog and can take up a lot of time, but more crucially: they make catalogers focus their attention away from critical matters to those of extremely marginal importance--if of any importance at all.

I always wonder how those august bodies go about determining matters of such great impact. How and who determined that these are not abbreviations? What were the arguments pro and con? Why did anybody care? (Probably the most interesting of these questions) Remember how Pluto was downgraded from a planet?
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060824-pluto-planet.html Nothing happened to Pluto--it is still where it ever was--the definition itself was changed. And how? A vote among the illuminati. What difference did it make to anyone? Well, textbooks had to be rewritten, so there was a lot of money to be made, and articles had to discuss matters, so there were careers that could be helped along. (Another confession: in my heart of hearts, Pluto is still a planet to me! I never understood why it couldn't have been grandfathered in.)

Having an historical point of view is handy in these cases. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if a new generation in 30 or so years reconsiders matters again and promotes Pluto back to a planet once again, maybe adding a couple of the larger asteroids into the mix. Why? Well, people will have to write and sell new textbooks and careers can be helped along....

RDA mandates precision in some very strange areas, and there has been a certain amount of discussion on these matters as we have seen. At the same time, we are supposed to become extremely lax in matters of more import to the catalog: access points (rule of three changed to rule of one, and more based on "cataloger's judgement", oh wait! Except for illustrators of children's books and translators, again for some unknown, incomprehensible reasons that I prefer not to know about); not having to add 245$b, and so on, but at the same time they mandate meaningless punctuation rules!

I was really hoping that RDA would help catalogers to focus on what was really important for managing the collection and helping our patrons find materials, but I fear there will be as many Gotchas! as ever.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Re: Spelling of cm. in RDA records

Posting to Autocat

On 22/08/2011 19:22, Mark Ehlert wrote:
James Bowman wrote:
I enjoy browsing the catalog of my undergraduate college library, Knox College. Here is an OCLC RDA record which spells out the abbreviation "cm."  Any comments? https://i-share.carli.illinois.edu/knx/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&v1=1&BBRecID=230070
It's (re-)abbreviated in the master OCLC record. Could be a case where a cataloger skipped over the part in describing the use of "cm", didn't find "cm" listed in RDA's Appendix B.7 ("Latin Alphabet Abbreviations"), and thought it should be spelled out. Since metric symbols (m, cm, kg) aren't considered abbreviations under RDA, they're not found in the B.7 list. Or the cataloger thought spelling it out would be more helpful to the catalog users. Though if this is a singular instance in Knox's catalog (or WorldCat), it's more likely than not a mistake.
This is one of those points that I have always called a "Gotcha!", i.e. a tiny, little, picayune point in cataloging that somebody missed, but it makes no difference at all to anyone, except to people "in the know"! I used to love "correcting" periods or other punctuation like this, "correcting" an abbreviation, while I laughed evilly to myself! I've gotten over that, though.

I'll divulge a secret: considering "cm" to be a symbol has never made any sense to me. A symbol is like $ for a dollar, or £ for a British pound. Another idea of a symbol is in definition 4 here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/symbol, but I think we can ignore them! An abbreviation is "a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole <amt is an abbreviation for amount> http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abbreviation. That seems to me clearly to include m, cm, kg and all of those other "symbols-that-look-like-abbreviations-but-are-not-for-some-reason". If "centimeters" would be rendered as § or ¶ or ¦, it would make more sense to me as a symbol. I remember reading a reason somewhere and still being completely bewildered, but I don't feel like trying to understand it again, if I ever understood it at all.

If RDA is putting so much reliance on "cataloger judgment", why can't these things be included? It doesn't make any difference if there is a period or not! I think the number of "Gotchas!" should be decreased significantly.

Re: "What Students Don't Know" - libraries and college students

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 22/08/2011 16:43, B.G. Sloan wrote:
Interesting article in Inside Higher Ed: "What Students Don't Know". The concluding paragraph reads:

"Librarians and teaching faculty certainly have an obligation to encourage good, thorough research...but they also have a responsibility to serve students -- and that means understanding the limitations of library idealism in practice, and acting pragmatically when necessary."

What a great project! This is the sort of research and attitude librarians need, asking openly and honestly: how do others view me and my profession, and what do others really want from the library and librarians? The answers may not make a lot of people happy, but its is absolutely vital to acknowledge them. One of the conclusions should be: when people say they can't work with our systems (as is very clear from this and similar research) catalogers *cannot* conclude that the problem lies with the *users* who need to be trained, thereby offloading the entire problem onto public services since *they* are the ones responsible for the bibliographic instruction/information literacy workshops, and if there are problems, the problems lie with inadequate workshops and *not* with our inadequate, antiquated systems. That mindset must be discarded completely.

If people take this kind of research seriously--and there have been several such projects lately, each coming to similar conclusions--librarians must reconsider what people actually want. For instance, are the FRBR user tasks what people genuinely and truly need? I have to mention this again because it is ostensibly what library cataloging is aiming for. If it turns out that the FRBR user tasks are alien to a majority of our patrons, wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that people want something else that has more meaning for them?

As I read these kinds of reports reflecting the reality of what public service librarians deal with, the kinds of problems students and professors come up against every day, I am reminded of my own pet peeve: this modern focus on production of the "research paper" which almost no student understands and, let's face it, is almost impossible to do correctly when you are only given a few days or weeks to do it, especially when they put everything off to the last possible moment--and later. Doing research and writing a paper on what you have discovered demands *time*: time for dealing with the problems of finding relevant information, arranging it in a way coherent for yourself, thinking and considering, reconsidering, finding more information and arranging it, re-reconsidering, finally making some conclusions and writing them up, and students rarely have that kind of time. Every one I have met starts with writing the paper! (As is mentioned in the article) That is totally backwards, but fully understandable when seen from their point of view. Naturally, once students are out of school, they almost never have to do it again.

Still, it is important, and perhaps more important than ever, that people become as independent as possible in their information needs. Otherwise, there is a real danger of everyone succumbing to "The Filter Bubble" (the current popular term), where people get information designed to make them happy, to further convince them of their own correctness, and not to make them reconsider matters, or to face different kinds of problems that they may find irritating or offensive.

The article quoted an outreach librarian: "This study has changed, profoundly, how I see my role at the university and my understanding of who our students are," says Lynda Duke, an academic outreach librarian at Illinois Wesleyan. "It's been life-changing, truly." This is the kind of research that gives me great hope for the future of librarians, no matter what words may be used to describe them in the future. If librarians can rise to that challenge, they will know that they are providing something necessary for society.

Re: Justification of added entries

Posting to RDA-L

On 22/08/2011 20:28, Casey A Mullin wrote:
Jim, you raise an interesting point with regards to the different functions of the 245c and the 700. However, I'm having a hard time reconciling this functional difference you cite with your subsequent comment about users' lack of ability in using our retrieval tools. Would this average user you invoke even be aware of such a nuanced distinction, then? These two arguments seem to contradict each other.

As for your second paragraph, I find it rather hyperbolic to say that such a display would be confusing to "everyone". Outside of the most poorly-designed system, I find it to be quite a bold supposition. This is not to say that such displays don't have the potential to be confusing to some, but again this says more about the system in question than about cataloging standards.
Concerning your first point, I completely agree that users do not understand the subtleties of 245$c and 7xx. But they don't need to understand, just as they don't need to understand a lot of the information in the catalog record and never have. I tried to demonstrate this in my "Conversation Between a Patron and the Library Catalog" http://catalogingmatters.blogspot.com/2011/08/cataloging-matters-podcast-12.html. There are two, equally important purposes to the library catalog: for the users to get a fairly good idea of what is in the local collection, and just as important: an inventory tool for the librarians. The 245$c is an example of information important to the librarians for inventory control, just like a lot of the rest of the information in the record. There is nothing wrong with adding information for librarians since we need to manage the collection.

But we should not try to justify our needs by stating that the users need this information too, and therefore, they need to be trained in information literacy courses to understand this information. No, they don't need the information in 245$c--at least, not 99.99% of the time--and they certainly don't need to know the difference between 245$c and 7xx. Why should they? I don't understand how my Italian water heater works, or even why the remote of my television set works at all. So what? I have lost absolutely no sleep over this lack of knowledge. The same happens with patrons and the 245$c and 7xx. I hope they know a bit how to get the 7xx to work, just as I know how to push the buttons on my remote or turn on the hot water, but that is not so much to know. If they want to know more, they can take on the task of learning, just as I might ask if I want to know more about how my remote works. But ultimately, I don't have to care about these things, and they shouldn't have to either.

The catalog can, and definitely should, be reconfigured to work when patrons know less than they are "supposed to." Simplicity should be the aim for patrons, but librarians still need their tools. We should not mix the two in our minds.

Selectors, reference librarians, and ILL are the main ones who need information such as 245$c since they can't waste their budgets buying materials already in the collection, doing ILL for duplicates on the shelves, or on the other hand, missing variant editions, and selectors and other librarians should not have to waste their time by running into the stacks whenever they have this kind of a problem. We have our own needs and we should make no apologies for any of that. But our needs are *not* the same as the needs of our patrons. They have other needs, and everyone's needs should be recognized and dealt with seriously.

In your second point, I use that kind of hyperbolic language because of my own experience with users, plus the recent research I pointed out earlier shows that the library catalog is becoming increasingly irrelevant and strange to the average user.  (here is another excellent one: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/publications/digital/) While it may be hyperbolic to say that such a display would be confusing to "everyone" (obviously, this doesn't mean literally "every single person in the world" but instead, the overwhelming majority of patrons and librarians), it is just as hyperbolic to say that such displays would *not* be confusing, since there is no research one way or the other that I know of. Still, the research that does exist suggests that most would have serious problems with such displays, while the need for that information has not been demonstrated and should certainly *not* be assumed. Consequently, it would not make any  sense to redo our processes to provide information that people do not need and would find confusing.

If there were evidence that people need the information, e.g. that searching by refinements such as "editor," "author," "compiler" and so on, is important, perhaps coherent displays can be designed to accommodate it. But it only makes sense to ask why do this extra work when it has not been demonstrated that people either want or need it, especially when these methods were discarded once already?

In my opinion, the real questions should be based on practical issues instead of vague possibilities based on disputable theories, and this refers to the first part of my sentence: "I still do not see how this would help anyone find anything." I still don't. Basing our considerations on practical concerns will allow us to know that our resources are being focused in the most useful directions. Would adding relator information make any difference to the vast majority of our patrons? Of course not! We should say this boldly. But what do people *really* want? That is when it all starts to get interesting, and we must open our minds to far more than the quaint FRBR user tasks.

One thing: I believe that people would love good, solid personal name authority control, but they would have to learn what that means since the concept has been forgotten by the majority of people because most use keyword searches. It has been discovered that very few use a catalog, and when they do, even fewer use it correctly. Yet, I think people would like authority control once they understood more or less what it means. Personal name authority will also have to be revamped to function in a modern information environment. At least some good solid research is being done now that can point us toward solutions.

Re: Justification of added entries

Posting to RDA-L

On 22/08/2011 17:29, Casey A Mullin wrote:
As Karen Coyle has often pointed out, it's extremely inefficient to input things twice, as data and text. RDA is actually an attempt to lead us away from this inefficiency, by downplaying free-text elements as not part of "core". The example I cited in my original post was intended to show a straightforward example of redundant entry.
If this is the example of redundancy:
"24510 $c ... ; [commentary by Joe Smith].
500__Commentary by Joe Smith.
7001_Smith, Joe, $e writer of added commentary.

I will state that it is not redundant. The 245$c has a completely different purpose from the 700. The 245$c is for correct identification of the item since, for those following the ISBD standards, it will be input exactly that way no matter who catalogs it. The 700 allows for controlled access. In Cutter's Objectives terminology, the importance of the 245$c is that it "assists in the choice of a book as to its edition (bibliographically)" (Third objective) while the 7xx allows the searcher to "find what the library has by a specific author" (Second objective). For instance, the 245$c may have Dostoyevsky's name in Russian, which helps to identify the item, while in the 7xx, his form is in English, which helps to find all works by Dostoyevsky. So, the information is not redundant at all, except for the information added in the 7xx$e, which restates the information in the 245$c.

Considering how a user will view the $e was pointed out very clearly by Mac. So, perhaps you have the same Smith, Joe who has authored another book, edited another book and was a compiler of another one. In the multiple author display, if the $e is displayed, this one fellow will look like four people: one is an editor, one a compiler, one an author, one is a writer of an added commentary. Even with URIs, I think it will still look like different people and trying to show different bibliographic functions will be terribly complex for unproven benefits to the patrons. I still do not see how this would help anyone find anything, while this would be confusing for everyone concerned, from casual user to master cataloger.

When discussing practical issues, it's not out of place to mention that latest research reveals that user knowledge and abilities are very low. This article was just announced "What Students Don't Know" http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/08/22/erial_study_of_student_research_habits_at_illinois_university_libraries_reveals_alarmingly_poor_information_literacy_and_skills (referred to on another list, but there have been other similar research projects with very similar results), catalogs are already overly complex, and therefore, the display of the $e will be *only within the individual record*, and the records do that now more accurately with the 245$c.

Demonstrating the practical usefulness of adding this kind of information should not be too much to ask. It's only a part of coming up with a valid business plan, especially comparing it to research similar to the article "What Students Don't Know". After all, if we are supposed to be worried about "redundant" information, shouldn't we be at least as concerned about information that goes unused?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Re: Justification of added entries

Posting to RDA-L

On 20/08/2011 21:52, J. McRee Elrod wrote:
Karen, you asked:
Mac, can you give more info on difficulties caused ...
Go to various OPACs and search by any prolific author. In some you will see the person's names displayed once, with titles alphabetically following. The name displayed is from the 100 or 700 of the first title listed. In others you will see the name searched displayed for each title; in others, the name displayed only if the main entry, so a 700$e could not replace descriptive justification for that added entry.

... [examples of Karen Coyle's publications]
These are great examples. I just wish someone would actually demonstrate what would be the impact on the public of adding the relator codes, plus, if the idea is to try to get other metadata creators to provide records that are useful to us (and ours to them), the ISBD statement of responsibility is easy and simple, and it will be exactly the same thing for everyone. Plus, copy and paste is possible today avoiding the old idea of double work.

I have never seen any research detailing the usefulness to patrons to *search* a name as an author vs. editor vs. compiler vs. whatever. I have seen it in graphic arts, where they often want to distinguish, e.g. Albrecht Durer as engraver or painter, but the general usefulness to searchers should be demonstrated somewhere, otherwise we are spending precious time and resources building things that will make no difference to anyone. Cataloging already dropped it once, e.g. http://imagecat1.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/ECC/cards.pl/disk19/1351/C4915?d=f&p=Einstein,+Albert+1879-1955&g=8273.500000&n=21&r=1.000000&thisname=0000.0021.tiff where we see Infeld listed as a "joint author" but there were plenty of these relators to be found in old catalogs. Even then, the purpose was display because the author cards were not subdivided into "author", "joint author", "editor" and so on, but with the exception of some graphic arts databases mentioned above, the relators were ignored for filing purposes.

So, if it is not for searching, the coding must be for *display* purposes, as it was in the card catalog; nevertheless, the usefulness of this too should be demonstrated somewhere by somebody, instead of  everyone apparently taking it for granted that this will make a difference to a significant number of members of the public. In my own experience, it wouldn't make the slightest difference to anyone and I doubt if many would even notice it. It must be pointed out that librarians themselves should have no difficulty with the current situation since they are supposed to understand what a statement of responsibility is all about.

Just because things can be coded doesn't mean it makes sense to do so, if it leads to no practical benefits for anyone. So, we return once again to a lack of a viable business plan for RDA: what are the problems, what are the solutions, why does this solution make more sense than others, and how does it rank in the list of priorities? All of this related to the available budgets. If we would follow a rule of, as Mac put it, "cataloger's whim", the costs of implementation and training would be substantially lower (no need for standardization) but the final product would doubtlessly become "... most foul, strange, and unnatural."

Re: Google Book Settlement is dead

Posting to Autocat

On 22/08/2011 04:15, Thomas Krichel wrote:
James Weinheimer writes
Again, with materials that are already on the web, everything is different since if Google had to get prior permission from each and every website before they could crawl any content, the web would be impossible to use.
I beg to differ. It would be more difficult to search, since indexing would be much more limited. But you could still use link collections, starting from a s(ite that you know, say for example your local library web page. Such link collections were popular in the early days of the web when search engines were not as good as they are today.
I see your point, and I don't want to belabor the issue, but if all we had were those horrible link collections like in the old days, the web would not be nearly as useful as it is now. I remember how much I hated them, and found them next to useless even then, when there were in fact, a lot fewer sites. Certainly, if that were all people had at their disposal, they would be used occasionally because it would be that or nothing, just as the library catalog was used much more when it was the only tool available. Lots of people would still choose nothing however, just as they often did back then with the web, clicking from document to document randomly, just as when they trolled (and still troll today) the shelves randomly in the library without consulting the catalog.

Anyway, what I was getting at is that if a web search engine had to get one-to-one permission from each website *before* they could index it, the practical issues would make it impossible, just as the same issue with printed materials may kill the Google books settlement. It is so often difficult even to find out who to ask and to get a working address (just like the printed materials), but with websites, the responsibility is squarely in the hands of the owners of the website to opt-out of Google indexing. If they do not add a robots.txt exception, it is assumed that they want their sites to be indexed.

It seems as the only answer will be new copyright laws, but seeing how matters stand now in almost all the world's legislatures, such new laws will be a very long time in coming. Again, it is sad because of the tremendous boon it will mean to society when it is done--not if, since it will happen sooner or later--but it may take a lot later now, to the disadvantage of everyone, including the publishers and the authors themselves, whose works will be far more difficult to discover and therefore will be less used.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Re: Google Book Settlement is dead

Posting to Autocat

On 18/08/2011 21:53, MULLEN Allen wrote:
Much discussed on Autocat in the past, if somewhat tangential:
"New York Law School's James Grimmelmann didn't mince words. "The Google Books settlement-any settlement-is now dead," he noted. "There is no square one: this case is going back to litigation."
Thanks for pointing this out. I have spent some time trying to understand (I am not a lawyer), but apparently, people believe that this case, in effect, "kills" the Google Books settlement because this case (i.e. Freelance) is a class action suit brought by freelance authors who sued certain publishers (New York Times etc.) along with certain electronic databases (Ebsco etc.). The authors claimed the publishers were denying them their rights to their own articles that had already been published (and paid for) in print, and that authors needed to be paid for the digitized copies sent to the Ebsco etc. databases. In other words, the authors demanded payment for the copy of their work transferred into an electronic database. This seems to be similar to Google Books in many ways.

The case was dismissed because two of the judges (of three) claimed that the authors in this suit (the plaintiffs) did not really constitute a class. The "class" that was thrown out here seems to be very similar to the "class" in the Google Book settlement, and this seems to be why people consider the Google Books settlement to be dead. Still, I am sure this judgment will be appealed (again!). There is a very interesting dissent by the third judge, stating that they actually did constitute a class. As a result, one person decided.

It is interesting that this case had been argued back in March 2007, and it took over four years to get a verdict! Plus the verdict was not even a real decision: they decided that one of the sides had no status to sue so the entire action was invalid! I am not a lawyer, but it seems that this should have been settled at the very beginning of the case (which is what the dissent appears to say). Finally, class action suits are not very popular in the judiciary right now compared to earlier times (I am thinking of the sex-bias case of Walmart vs. "female Walmart employees" case http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2011/07/27/188742.htm which was rather similar: the Supreme Court ruled that the group of women suing Walmart did not constitute a class and needs to be broken up). It all reminds me of Bleak House.

This does not appear to state that there is a problem with the Google Books project itself, or with anything Google did. It is rather a problem with the *plaintiffs*, who, after this ruling, apparently will not constitute a "class" in their class action suit against Google. If it is upheld, it very well may kill the Google Books settlement because there is no valid group with which to have a settlement, and it will be difficult to see how anything can go forward. Consequently, this is one of those complex rulings that resolves nothing and stops anything positive from happening. This, in spite of the fact that everyone agrees that making these texts available would help the entire society.

With materials that are already on the web, everything is different since if Google had to get prior permission from each and every website before they could crawl any content, the web would be impossible to use. We see the value of the opt-out option very clearly, since on the web, there is the very effective opt-out that people are expected to use if they wish (the "robots.txt disallow"). Naturally, not to allow search engines to index your site necessarily hides it from 99.99% of people in the world and most authors do not want that. Thank goodness the same rulings do not apply on the web, since otherwise everything would be at a standstill!

But of course, I may be wrong in all of this....

Cooperative Cataloging Rules Wiki include MRIs


This is to let people know that the Cooperative Cataloging Rules Wiki has been updated to include links to all of the MRIs written by Michael Gorman and J. McRee Elrod, who has made them available through SLC. Please note that there is free access to the MRIs but you must first create an account with SLC and log in. Once you have done this, the links marked MRI will work.

I also renamed the section from LC Rule Interpretations to AACR2 Outline, which more accurately reflects its purpose, to attempt to bring as many rule interpretations, etc. together as possible in one single place in a coherent way. There is also a short explanation on the main AACR2 Outline page.


Thanks to Michael Gorman and Mac for helping everyone!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Re: A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 18/08/2011 12:40, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
18.08.2011 11:13, James Weinheimer:
Completely correct. While this level of reliability is extremely important, I think that the public may consider it less seriously than it should be.
There you are, they are taking it for granted. And this at a time when, more than ever in history, philosophers and scientists insist that we can and therefore should take nothing for granted, when even the universe, every other week, turns out to not be what it used to be. And if they fail to get the public's attention, for the more mundane matters, how can we hope to.

But seriously, you confirm that your suggestions are on another level. Which we can turn to after we can take most of my list for granted ...
I don't see why we cannot attack on several fronts at once. In my personal opinion, it is becoming increasingly necessary to try to seize people's imaginations, to demonstrate that we are ahead of the curve, or at least, capable of it. The local catalog can be so much more than the local catalog, but it will take quite a bit of ingenuity--starting *now* because events are showing that time may be running short.

*If* we can't start on the newer, more novel, powers of a catalog until the other capabilities you mention are in place--and I still say this is much more a matter of rule *enforcement* than rule *creation*--we will be waiting for a long, long time, because enforcement of standards, although unquestioned in the broader world of business, is a novel, contentious idea in the traditional library world and will take some time to implement (if ever!). This, while the major part of the information world is moving away faster and faster from our traditional tools and methods. Maybe at first, they were moving away at the relative speed of a horse's trot or on a bicycle, but now, they are traveling at the speed of a train, and someday, perhaps soon (the Day Made of Glass example) they will be moving away from us at jet plane speed or even of a rocket. How would we ever catch up?

Yes, my suggestions are on another level, but they would make a difference in how people really view libraries and librarians. If we could demonstrate that we could supply services that people openly say that they want and need, budgets would cease to be the incredible problem they are now: your successes ensure that the resources are given to you; others want to cooperate, and solutions are much easier to find.

More than anything else, libraries need a real success they can point to.

Re: A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGCLIB

On 18/08/2011 08:49, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
And this brings us to your remark:
For instance, everyone will agree that they want "reliable" results (who would prefer "unreliable results"?)
I should have made that clearer. "Reliable search" means that one can always know exactly *how* to search in order to get a definite "yes" or "no" for an answer. The card catalog had that quality, but the *how* of searching was just much too restricted and arcane. You may say that's a librarian's demand, but known item searches are quite common and need to be supported in better ways than just ISBN access, now that we have megatons of old material and other stuff without such numbers. Web services that start from something else, found somewhere on the web, to find some library connection, depend exclusively on ISBN/ISBN now, and that must change.

Maybe I should have said "bull's-eye" searching or something. The human searcher, the naturally intelligent one, can do highly successful known-items on GBS, making use of phrases and "intitle:" and "inauthor:" and so on and so further, depending on the situation.

But the artificially intelligent web service cannot do this because it cannot analyse the situation in the same way. In the absence of more and better machine-actionable and machine-analysable data.
Completely correct. While this level of reliability is extremely important, I think that the public may consider it less seriously than it should be. This is why I keep mentioning standards when applied to our everyday commerce, e.g. that the corn that we buy was grown properly, stored properly, and canned properly or that on a television set, the electrical plug won't melt and start a fire. These are the sorts of things that we don't think about when picking up the can of corn or considering buying a television set, but instead, we take it all for granted. It doesn't mean that it is not vitally important since if we eat bad corn or the walls catch fire in our homes, we could die!

When someone buys the can of corn or the television set, they are thinking about how the corn will go into a salad, or otherwise fit into a meal they are planning. When buying a television set, people are concentrating on the programs they can watch, or the special functions that it has. They are not thinking about these more basic levels.

I think what you mention falls into these basic levels, e.g. that the title *really does* reflect the title of the item; that you *really can* find what items are in the catalog that a particular author has written, etc. Our rules allow for this right now, so long as catalogers follow the standards that exist. (I won't discuss yet again the directions of how I think the standards need to change, only mention that the solution for this is much more a matter of training, and primarily *enforcement*, instead of coming up with a new set of rules that will be ignored as much as our current rules) The problem is: from the discussions in the Language Log blog, and other comments I have seen on the web, I suspect these are the sorts of things the public tends to take for granted, much as we assume that the can of corn does not contain a death sentence.

From the patron's point of view, they are focusing on what they can do with the information after they have found it: how they can include it in one of their writings, how they can discuss it intelligently with their friends, or however they want to use it; in other words, they consider it like the person with the can of corn who is concentrating on how the salad will look and taste, or the person buying the television set is imagining how complete their lives will be when they can finally watch their sports games in split-screen or 3D.

I believe that if libraries want to appeal to the public, they must consider matters from the viewpoint *of the public* much more than we have, which FRBR purports to do but does not. Providing the basic levels will *not* furnish our patrons with what *they* want. So, we can furnish a catalog that supplies what you have laid out and it won't make much, if any, difference to the public. They don't want to think about melting electrical plugs--they want to experience 3D, surround-sound extravaganzas of Tyrannosaurus Rex tearing up Jurassic Park! This is the equivalent of what we should be supplying to the public, if we want to make a real impression on them.

But both aspects are equally important.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Re: A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 17/08/2011 11:33, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
We need to think in broader and more general terms, obviously, but not too general and too grandiloquent either. Down to earth but off the beaten track into all the accessible territory. But I can't think of an easy catchphrase to sum it all up.
Therefore, to get real now, how about these headlines, for a beginning:

   What should catalogs do?
   -- Produce reliable results
   -- Discriminate what is different
   -- Bring together what belongs together
   -- Present meaningful choices
   -- Locate what users choose
   -- Extensible services
... etc.

While I agree with this, I keep telling myself that I am a librarian, and I ask: is this what the *patrons* really want? For instance, everyone will agree that they want "reliable" results (who would prefer "unreliable results"?) but "reliable" can mean something quite different to each person; about similar vs. different: misunderstandings of what the the patrons consider to be similar vs. what is different are discussed in that "conversation" between the patron and the library catalog I made. These issues you mention seem to refer more to enforceable standards--something I think is absolutely necessary.

But going beyond this, what is it that libraries and librarians provide that nobody else does? As I keep pointing out, one thing that will bring patrons to use the library's tools is if it provides links to "reliable" resources. People are becoming very skeptical of what they read on the web and want some kind of help to sort out--quickly and easily--what is factual truth, what is opinion, what is superstition, and what is an outright falsehood. Of course, this is entering the area of "selection" but it relates to the very purpose of the catalog: without any doubt, the main thing that patrons want is reliable *information*. If they can do that without using the catalog or searching anything, so much the better!

As catalogers, we understand what "reliable results" are as opposed to "reliable information", and how a "reliable result" may *not* necessarily produce "reliable information". This is very difficult for a non-specialist to understand however, and for them, they tend to see the entire matter as a single enterprise: they are focused on getting *reliable information* and many will (and do now) consider the *search* to have failed if it leads them to unreliable *information*.  This is an example of why I think that it is vital to see the entire library as providing single services from the user's point of view, and not from the internal, organizational, hierarchical point of view.

Of course, this means that "library selection" evolves into something more evaluative than it is now, and/or that the metadata record would let searchers know that the information is perhaps obsolete because e.g. there is a later edition, or this author wrote another book on a similar topic, or there are other, later books on this same topic, or something like that.

Another finding of researchers is shown in this wonderful video by Renata Salecl about "The Paradox of Choice" http://fora.tv/2010/07/08/Renata_Salecl_The_Paradox_of_Choice_Animated from the RSA, or the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. (These RSAnimate videos are great, by the way!) Although this video becomes too political for strictly library purposes, what I am interested in is that it has been discovered that when people are confronted by too many choices, it makes them *more* anxious, and not less. It also leads to a certain passivity or paralysis in making a choice from everything available. This has certainly been my own experience working with undergraduates and higher-level researchers as well--a search that returns hundreds or thousands of items is actually horrifying to many of them. They want to ignore 99% of the results somehow so that they can concentrate just on what they "need"--this is a very natural feeling--and at the same time, they are always scared that they are missing something that will turn out to be vitally important. Often, there is a feeling that this vitally important bit is 10 or 15 pages buried inside a book that *everybody* just silently knows about *except them*! This will lead to failure on their research, their paper, everyone will be laughing at them, and so on and so on.

I feel exactly the same way and I am sure that lots of other people out there do too. It is very stressful.

Therefore, I have been considering another main idea of what the new catalog should do: to lessen the stress and anxiety on the information seeker. How could this be achieved? By reconsidering the purpose of selection, cataloging, and reference, and how best to interoperate with other projects on the web, such as full-text databases that will allow microdata and other options. I admit this is rather vague at the moment, but if successful, it would definitely provide patrons with a tool they would want.

Re: [NGC4LIB] A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 16/08/2011 15:13, McDonald, Stephen wrote:
So you believe that a corporate law librarian should try to fill whatever requests he gets, regardless of the stated purpose of the library and company policies regarding misuse of company services? In your previous message to which I originally responded, you stated, "If something is available at a click on the web for free (e.g. a scan, a database, a "something") does it mean that librarians have no responsibility to bring their patrons' attention to it?" In some cases, in some libraries, yes, that is absolutely correct--the librarians have no responsibility to bring their patrons' attention to it. Not all libraries are the same. I understand what you are trying to get at, but you are overstating the case by expanding it to all librarians and all libraries. You are weakening your argument. If you limit it to public and academic libraries, I will agree. I believe that Todd, in the message you originally responded to, was pointing out the exceptions.
I understand there are all kinds of libraries--I have worked in several different kinds myself. I also am aware that what I am discussing is a highly contentious issue, but this is not because I have simply decided to cause some friction--it is because the times we are living through are evolving at an alarming rate. I am trying to point out that we are experiencing a time of *change*--deep changes in the way people live their lives in practically *everything* they do and librarianship must adapt to this coming environment if it is to have a hope to survive. The Day Made of Glass video demonstrates how "information" will be used in a seamless way throughout our day. People won't even be aware of it. So, while I realize that Corning's purpose in making that video was only to be an advertisement to try to get people to buy whatever they produce, I consider the video to be a vivid illustration of how people will interact with information in new and unique ways. Whether it will be with glass from Corning or plastic from Ronco is beside the point.

I think that in such a world, a traditional library with its traditional searching and traditional services will be perceived as increasingly strange and obsolete. Libraries have been experiencing it for quite a while already with decreasing reference questions and other areas as well. Why are reference questions going down? Well, one thing I am sure of: it is definitely *not* that people know how to search the library catalog and don't need help with it! People are going elsewhere.

Many corporate-type libraries and specialized libraries are shutting down--in fact, I may become a consultant to help do just that for a specialized library. Incidentally, I just found this article: "'I Hate Reading' Facebook Page Earns 438,700+ Likes" http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/i-hate-reading-facebook-page-earns-437800-likes_b36149. Lots of people will really like Corning's vision of the future. We may well ask that in such a world as portrayed in the video, why would people *not* consider a traditional library to be strange and obsolete?

I am not trying to get people angry or insult anyone, but to try to get people to ask some serious questions because Corning may be right: it may not be all that long for a variant of their video to become reality. How would libraries--and their catalogs--fit in? Why would they need our "stuff"? I think that is a very worthwhile and apt question for this list.

The more libraries push people away to work things out on their own, the more danger there will be that they won't come back--this is normal experience in any business environment. In libraries, people may perhaps return to occasionally borrow a physical copy of some book that they prefer to hold in their hands for a few weeks, or to get a copy of something that the library will pay for--but this will be using only the clerk functions of a library and not using the library's deeper, more vital services. Therefore, if libraries are to survive beyond their clerk/inventory-type functions, they must push the envelope and demonstrate very, very clearly how they *can be* extremely important in people's work, in people's careers, and in people's lives.

For just one example, it was asked: "How is a general discussion of reference philosophy helping move forward to the catalog we all dream of?" My answer: in every, single way! Libraries should provide something that our patrons need and want, and thus, catalogs, reference, selection all blend together to form a whole. These tasks are separate *only* in the minds of the specialized librarians, primarily for bureaucratic reasons that reflect internal bureaucratic structures. This is not the view in the minds of our public, where it all blends together and becomes "the library". I believe that so long as we cling to the idea of separate library tasks with separate responsibilities, where the twain very seldom meets, we are limiting our own possibilities for what we--as librarians--can provide our users, and thereby, reduce our own ability to adapt to the new environment.

Am I weakening my argument by highlighting these issues? Perhaps I am and perhaps not, but I think librarians will have to confront such issues head on, and hopefully, well before the "Day Made of Glass" becomes a reality.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Re: A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 15/08/2011 22:26, McDonald, Stephen wrote:
James, you have completely misconstrued Todd's statement. What he is talking about is not like someone asking a grocery clerk where the canned peanuts are. Todd is saying that if someone asks a grocery clerk "Where are the nails", he will say, "I'm sorry, we don't sell that here. Ask down the street at the hardware store." Or if person asks a clerk in a private warehouse "Where are the canned peanuts", he will say, "I'm sorry, if you don't work for this company you are not authorized to get canned peanuts from us." Not every library is in the business of giving out any and all information to anyone and everyone. Yes, if it is appropriate for a particular library to be supporting access to free information of a particular type for its particular patrons, then they should do so. But it would be ridiculous to say that, for instance, a corporate law librarian is ignoring his patron's needs if he does not provide access to online Dilbert comics.
This is exactly what I meant. We are entering a new world, as shown in the Corning ad. What are patrons supposed to do if they want the Dilbert comics and cannot find them? Should librarians be able to pick and choose their questions based on how important the librarian thinks they are? If they hear the librarian say, "I cannot/will not/am not authorized to help you" many people will just continue on their own and conclude that librarians are useless for their needs.

Instead of ignoring the patron's requests and doing nothing, the reference librarian is expected to help the patron, even if this goes outside their own areas of expertise, and if nothing else, they try to point to someone or something that may help, e.g. with a Dilbert question, to an "expert" in comics. This would probably be a librarian in charge of a special collection in comics. Therefore, in a traditional print environment, you would send your patron to a special collection of comics, using the catalogs of these other collections (if they existed and you had them), or if nothing else, a directory of special collections, where you could find a name or phone number or address or something to help the patron. Today, this is easier than ever and you can use the web to find, e.g. http://www.library.yale.edu/humanities/media/comics.html or http://www.loc.gov/rr/news/coll/049.html or work a little harder. Users cannot be expected to do these things on their own. But the reference librarian should not just say that I cannot help you--you go far beyond the local catalog or the local collection to help the patron to go to someone else/somewhere else, where they can find the information they
need, or additional help. What I am pointing out is that, while this is much improved from 25 years ago, it can be improved still more by about 1,000 times from what we have today and while a solution would entail a lot of work and "new thinking", it would help everyone involved.

Would reference librarians want and use a tool like this? Of course they would.

As I wrote in the open letter, there is now an "internet collection" but it is the Google search box that fills the role of the "internet librarian". Are we supposed to just point our patrons to the main Google page and wish them good luck? That will be the road to oblivion, I think. Also, although I realize it has been happening for budgetary reasons, if we say that we should not help anyone outside of our local collections, is that a sustainable solution for the future (because continuing with this idea, nobody will help anyone outside of their own localities)? It seems that the only way out of the abyss is to genuinely cooperate, so while I understand the pressures to focus on our own patrons, it is probably not a wise path to choose. The only solution that I see is genuine and true collaboration.

Yes, sometimes reference librarians have no choice but to admit that they cannot help but this is only after they have exhausted their very best efforts, even if it goes outside the areas of their traditional responsibilities--and indeed reference librarians do this all the time, every day.

As I have pointed out many times, it is the patrons who pay our wages, and if we ignore their needs, they may wind up ignoring us, especially when they see more and more highly attractive options before them! Many of them for free.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Re: A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 15/08/2011 21:42, Todd Puccio wrote:
I would say that the : Fundamental purpose of librarianship is to help _their patrons_ (or users if you wish) find the information that they need _in accordance with the patron's relationship to the institution_.

By which I mean that each librarian works for various institutions with specifically defined collections and patrons (perhaps with varying rights within the institution).

I librarian archivist for a private "rare humanities book library" is not responsible for helping any and all people find fried-chicken recipes. They are not even responsible for helping their own patrons find fried-chicken recipes.

Librarians are responsible for fulfilling the mission and policies of the library they work for.
Thanks for bringing up this point Todd: it is really important. You lay out the traditional task of librarianship, linking it inextricably with the local collection, and this is something that I think needs to change: a redefinition of the meaning of "the local collection". I wrote about this in one of my "open letters" at http://eprints.rclis.org/bitstream/10760/13897/1/OpenMannDistinctive.pdf where I discussed the idea of the non-existent "internet librarian" (page 1 and it continues). To me, it is like someone who is stocking shelves in a grocery store, and you ask them: "Where are the canned peanuts?" (or fingernail polish, or coca-cola, or whatever it is) and the person replies, "I'm sorry, that's not my department", then continues with their work. They ignore you and your needs, and you are left completely on your own. I worked in grocery stores for many years, and that was definitely *not* considered a satisfactory answer to give a customer! (Although it may be today, I don't know)

Is the traditional attitude sustainable in the new environment? If something is available at a click on the web for free (e.g. a scan, a database, a "something") does it mean that librarians have no responsibility to bring their patrons' attention to it? Although in the past, if we referred someone to another collection, our own responsibility ended (as I discussed in my open letter), I believe it does not end once we consider the materials on the web. Yet, to include these materials is a huge undertaking, stretching all the way from selection to cataloging to catalog maintenance to reference and perhaps even conservation and outreach.

But this is part of the new responsibilities of the librarian, if we want to make a difference in this "new world". Otherwise, we just keep doing the same old things, the same old ways....

Re: A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 15/08/2011 19:43, john g marr wrote:
The problem, if one takes note of how easily the media and people in general can be manipulated and made thoroughly self-interested, is that "directions" coming from those having the most power to issue them (and enforce them) would be those that would be followed. So, the question becomes: how will "libraries" (in a modernized form) encourage their own use to perpetuate fact, individuality, innovation, curiosity, skepticism and critical thinking? To do that, and to perpetuate their own relevance beyond supporting conformity, they will have to become proactive now.
Since moving to Italy, I have been amazed at the number of younger students from the US who insist that they must pierce or tatoo themselves in order to demonstrate their own individuality! (I know I am leaving myself open to those younger out there, but so be it, and in fact lately, I have seen it in other nationalities too) The moment you leave the US, you discover that many who insist the loudest that they want to be "individuals" can be most easily pointed to by others as "Americans". There is certainly nothing wrong with being immediately  seen as an American, a Brit, an Italian, a German, or whatever, but the concept of how this relates to "individuality" must be reconsidered.

While I believe that librarians should be active politically as individuals, I am very hesitant to suggest that *librarianship as a profession* should become political. I have my own political beliefs and I hold to them very strongly. Sometimes, I may accidentally reveal a few of them in some postings, in spite of my attempts to hide them. This is not that I am afraid of expressing myself or anything like that, but that "librarianship as a profession" should include people of all political persuasions (at least, I hope it does!). So, while I hope almost every librarian subscribes to the overwhelming majority of the ALA Code of Ethics, we should not believe that all librarians adhere to the same political beliefs. http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics.cfm (Yes, I don't agree with all of these myself!)

The fundamental purpose of librarianship is to help people find the information they need. To clarify this extremely vague goal, most librarians will probably decide that, when it comes to adults, *those adult as individuals* are the ones who should decide *for themselves* whether some bit of information is the truth or a lie, and they can use any method they want to determine it: critical thinking, skepticism, religion, kabbalah, a ouija board, a dart board, listening to Glenn Beck or Noam Chomsky. This is entirely their own affair and the librarian's political opinions (and they have them!) absolutely must remain completely irrelevant.

Therefore, I think it is really important *not* to believe that all librarians represent a single political ideal since they neither represent a single political entity, nor should they. The moment they do speak out politically, they can become isolated by someone, somewhere, and at the same time they alienate a large number of the members of their own profession. While I may have some sympathy with your stance, I think that if librarianship adopted it, it would be detrimental to the profession.