Sunday, April 29, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Modern library cataloging does not see the forest because of the trees; WAS: Various other threads

Posting to Autocat

On 28/04/2012 14:42, Williams, Ann wrote:
This may sound odd, maybe heretical, but are patrons really that invested in our OPACs and bibliographic records? The journal databases play a much larger role in research and we have no say on the quality of those records. I would like accuracy, of course, more contents and subjects, maybe at the chapter level on the records, and I know series are important for fiction collections, but I'm not sure what changes other than full-text searching would make the patrons excited. Publisher's records are way too skimpy though. Looking at how fixed fields can be fine-tuned for qualifying/limiting searches would be more useful than punctuation and abbreviation changes. Is your catalog use likely to be growing? Is your book circulation? How many Shakespeare and Austen searching do users to make worrying about all the different manifestations worth while? I can't even recall any time name authority records made a difference for a patron I assisted (although the whole when to add death dates debate has been fun over the years). I've rarely had a patron say they can't find material on a given subject, and when this happens, it's usually a typo on their part (and we have spelling suggestion software now in our OPAC). Are you all seeing something different in circulation or reference?

These are great questions. I would like to bring up a recent interview on AlterNet with Noam Chomsky, who is a highly controversial figure, but in spite of that, he is nevertheless a widely recognized scholar. In an interview about the Occupy movement, there is one point where he gives a few ideas of his own about the internet, comparing it to the Library of Congress. I'll quote him here because his comments are very interesting:

"N.C. [Noam Chomsky]: ...On the other hand, the Internet is kind of like walking into the Library of Congress in a sense. Everything is there, but you have to know what you’re looking for. If you don’t know what you’re looking for you might as well not have the library. Like you can’t decide you want to become a biologist -- it’s not enough to walk into Harvard's biology library. You have to have a framework of understanding, a conception of what’s important and what isn’t important; what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense. Not a rigid one that never gets modified, but at least some kind of framework.

Unfortunately that’s pretty rare. In the absence of activist movements that draw in a very substantial part of the population for interaction. Interchange -- the kinds of things that went on in the Occupy community for example -- in the absence of that most people are kind of at sea when they face the internet. So yes, they can find things of value and significance, but you have to know to look for them and you have to have a framework of analysis and perception that allows you to weed that out from a lot of the junk that surrounds it.

JH [Joshua Holland, interviewer]: Separating the wheat from the chaff.

NC: Basically. That does require an organized activism. That’s the kind of thing you have to do with other people. You have to be able to try ideas and get reactions. You have to sharpen your perceptions. That really doesn’t take place without substantial organization. Now, there is interchange over the Internet, but it tends to be on the superficial side.

JH: That may be an understatement looking at the comments on our Web site."

I think his views are highly perceptive. In the past when someone walked into a library, they were absolutely overwhelmed with all of the possibilities open to them. They were expected to go to the reference librarian (or even better, the ever-watchful reference librarian would see their consternation and make the first move), who could help guide them. Reference librarians used the very important tool of the reference interview, where the librarian figured out (much of it silently) what this person wanted, if this person was a scholar, a child, a high school student, an interested citizen, and so on, to help move them toward some materials that this particular person may want. In this sense, the reference librarian would guide those who need it, to where they could find that "framework" Chomsky mentions. Simply sending people to the library catalog was never an answer, or if it was, it was only a preliminary one to let people see more or less what was available on a topic (or by an author), decide more clearly what they wanted, and return to the reference librarian for some more help. The role of the reference librarian was absolutely essential, as Chomsky implies above although he would probably say that faculty involvement was even more important. The librarians, although perhaps not so much experts on specific topics, were (are) the experts on the contents of the *collection* and how to use it.

My own opinion of library reference was always like the system of doctors. The first were nurses who could treat some things (the library information desk), but the nurse should always know when to refer people to the general practitioner (reference librarian), who in turn should always know when to refer someone to the specialist (all kinds of specialized librarians). The specialist librarians may in turn refer people to specialist scholars.

Unfortunately, reference questions have been declining and reference services have not been successful on the web. Yet, people need just as much help as ever, but everyone now interacts directly with the information and are left pretty much confused. People need help just as much as ever but are finding it less. Library-created tools such as our catalogs, were--and still are--expert systems, designed for people who know how they function. Of course untrained people get inferior results when they use our tools! How could they possibly use them effectively?

Why will it be any better in the semantic web, which will be a relative free-for-all?

I repeat that there are almost innumerable ways where librarians can provide substantial help, but we need to rethink what it is we do.

Re: [ACAT] Modern library cataloging does not see the forest because of the trees; WAS: Various other threads

Posting to Autocat

On 27/04/2012 22:28, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
300 $a1 score (232 pages)

and something like this (I made this up at the spur of the moment. People can differ on the terms, but changing the terms would not change the basic computer functionality)
     <formatExtent type="score">
     <physicalExtent type="numberOfPages">

Yes, computers would just love something like this but that is almost beside the point. It's not that hard to understand. The overriding question however, should not be focused on the machines but rather: is this useful for the *patrons*? I think this shows the difference between theory and practice pretty clearly. The second example definitely requires more work from the cataloger and added complexity.
Should be less complex. A good data entry form, with drop down menus or type-ahead features for the values, will make dealing with data elements much easier than learning the comparable amount of MARC coding PLUS punctuation which fills in semantic gaps, and then having little of that data open for validation or instant translation through registered vocabulary or applicable to machine-processing (which can benefit users directly or indirectly). Did you ever hear about the libraries who thought they could drop MARC subfield delimiters because they saw no user benefit to them? What do you think happened?
Of course, we are not discussing dropping any fields or subfields, but actually adding coding that will definitely take more time and be more complex, including increased training, and will make our current records obsolete to boot. All this during a period of sharply decreasing resources. Did you see this article about Harvard?

This is an incredibly serious step. Make no mistake about it. The fact is, nobody knows, absolutely *nobody*, if these additional levels of coding will benefit users either directly or indirectly. Nobody has ever done any study on that--at least, that I know of. Therefore, it is only a hope, or a faith, or a superstition, that such a level of coding will benefit the public, but it could just as easily be completely useless. Nobody knows.

I guess I need to put it more bluntly: is this an example of "perfecting the irrelevant"? Is it the equivalent of making a better typewriter? I have no doubt whatsoever that very clever and creative people could figure out new methods to make substantially better feather pens, or forge better horse shoes than any made by our forebears. Yet, those "improvements" would be completely wasted and have no impact on society at all. In cataloging, the above areas are the simplest parts and can be handled in a variety of ways, that is, if studies would show that these are problems that need resources devoted to them. And yet, I suspect that this represents something that could very easily fall into the category of "perfecting the irrelevant". Lacking any study, I guess that people are just supposed to smile politely and hope that all will turn out the best. Sooner or later however, theory must give way to practical concerns.

I can only wish that people had been putting the same effort into making the subject headings work again, and to get the syndetic structures of the authority files to function. That actually *could* make a difference since if done correctly, it could provide the public with tools found nowhere else on the web. But of course, the problem with all of that is not coding, it's display and functionality.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Modern library cataloging does not see the forest because of the trees; WAS: Various other threads

Posting to Autocat

On 27/04/2012 16:13, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
That's confusing the use of punctuation for semantic separation of data elements with the use of punctuation for easy eye-readable displays (or abbreviations for the purposes of compact, quick-to-scan displays on a catalog card or printed index).

Right now MARC tags, indicators, fixed fields, and subfield codes are still not enough-- punctuation plays a role in separating and defining elements. MARC and its catalog card origins are tightly bound together, and that historical basis is why catalogers care so much-- semantics are lost without the punctuation.

But RDA on the other hand begins the clean break. Elements are elements. Display is display. In the handful of areas where RDA falls short the blame lies solely with lingering AACR2 quirks (such as in Extent where content and physical carrier elements are confusingly still crushed together -- "1 atlas (3 volumes)" vs "1 score (232 pages)" vs "3 volumes" vs "232 pages". Here punctuation plays a role in providing a semantic breakdown of content units and carrier units and subunits of various types, which are required to go together following complex instructions.

It would be much simpler to break those all down into separate elements, as has been done elsewhere in RDA.

People can't have it both ways. They can't cling to punctuation rules as if they're the be-all and end-all and at the same time want to play in the big leagues of data management where elements sets and entity-relationship analyses and data schemas are prerequisites to join the club.

Just as a web programmer uses data and then cascading style sheets to change displays without changing data, so should catalogers begin to think in this way (and in many ways they are forced to already -- most online catalogs don't follow prescribed ISBD order and the explosion in enriched content is making the idea of a unitary, standard record vanish to insignificance).

Data is king, and it's time to stop thinking exclusively of the that eye-friendly, quick-to-scan, peruse collocated headings approach to catalog records as if we're still producing records for one implementation-- the card catalog.
My point was: who are we making these records for? For the public or for catalogers? You mention "... that historical basis is why **catalogers** care so much" [my emphasis] and I agree. Catalogers, including myself, do care, but does it serve the needs of the public? And yes, I understand about data and the supposed "problems" of mixing things up, but any practical problems have yet to be demonstrated. What I am trying to point out is that these matters should not be considered merely as ends in themselves: will anybody find it genuinely useful? More complex for the cataloger it will be, without a doubt.

Especially in the reality of this linked data universe that everyone is so gung-ho about, where the relatively paltry number of our records will disappear into the mush mixing with records made by all and sundry, it just seems to me that we should stop and think about where we are going, why we are going there, and what we are to expect once we arrive. For instance, let's imagine that we do recode everything so that "1 score (232 pages)" which is mixed up beyond belief (I guess) will be "better" when everything is coded separately, while at the same time in the reality of the environment of the linked data universe where there will be no agreement on much of anything at all. Theoretically, I believe almost everyone can see the difference between:
300 $a1 score (232 pages)

and something like this (I made this up at the spur of the moment. People can differ on the terms, but changing the terms would not change the basic computer functionality)
   <formatExtent type="score">
   <physicalExtent type="numberOfPages">

Yes, computers would just love something like this but that is almost beside the point. It's not that hard to understand. The overriding question however, should not be focused on the machines but rather: is this useful for the *patrons*? I think this shows the difference between theory and practice pretty clearly. The second example definitely requires more work from the cataloger and added complexity. What about older practices such as "5 p.l., 404, [1] p."? I know that some organizations still do this sort of pagination, or at least they claim to. In the linked data universe, our records will be expected to interoperate with all kinds of practices we can't even imagine.

Shouldn't some type of tests be done to discover the usefulness of this level of coding before we begin to go into anything like this? Has any user ever complained before that they needed this sort of encoding? Has anyone ever requested anything like this? Of course, adding levels of coding can go on almost forever. Keep in mind that breaking consistency with our earlier records in the catalog is always a *very serious* matter and should be considered very thoroughly. The reason it is so serious is because retrospective conversion will absolutely never, ever be done, and we immediately make those records obsolete. Therefore, it is a very serious decision to make a large percentage of your catalog obsolete, especially when that is its major value. Finally, lacking any evidence, we should assume that almost nobody else in the semantic web/linked data/whatever will be creating such levels of complexity. Of course, this shows only one of the simpler examples of this greater level of encoding.

When there are so many different challenges catalogers are facing today, and so many ways to go that could definitely help the public, why should we go looking for problems that may not even be there? Or do catalogers think they are actually leading, or lacking that, that they will be the leaders after these sorts of measures are implemented?

Modern library cataloging does not see the forest because of the trees; WAS: Various other threads

Posting to Autocat

After reading many of these postings concerning the new methods, the OCLC discussion paper and so on, the main questions that occur to me are: Exactly who are we creating these records for? And secondly, who is supposed to create these records? I don't know about anybody else on this list, but for me--and I have worked in different catalogs using varying rules under all kinds of different formats--the very least of my problems when cataloging anything were the formats or the punctuation. Sure, you had things to learn, but those were the easy parts. The hard parts were deciding what information was important to input and what could be ignored, where to input it, and how to do it. In some catalogs I have worked on, punctuation and abbreviations were not even an issue while the format was so simple you could learn it in just a few moments. The actual cataloging was still tough, though. So I am asking this sincerely: who really cares? In those cases when I worked in different catalogs, I neither missed those concerns nor felt particularly relieved.

I personally believe that if we made a rule that stated that there would be no more punctuation at all: no periods, no commas, no hyphens or anything at all, none of the public would really say anything, except of course, the librarians. To be honest, I would probably be among those who raised the loudest complaints, but I realize punctuation matters very little to the patrons. Mentioning this will probably hurt the feelings of many catalogers, but the simple fact is: very few patrons actually spend their time mulling over our records. For them, the records are only pointers to what they really want (the information resources), and the moment they find what they want, off they go and they forget everything the catalogers have done: all of the headings, all of the descriptions, all of the abbreviations, everything ceases to exist. Well, such is life.

In spite of all of the arguments to the contrary, it is clear to me the records that catalogers make are primarily for *librarians* so that they can manage the collections they are responsible for, and manage it efficiently. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with this but while the members of the public are free to use the tools we make, we should not kid ourselves that our tools are aimed at their needs. If our tools really were aimed at the public, they would be quite different.

How do we know this? From the Google-type searching and their interfaces. In contrast to library tools, the Google-type tools are really and truly aimed at the public and *not* for the purpose of Google ... [et al.] to manage their own "collections." Those agencies don't really care about their "collections" since their metadata--as with most business-related metadata--is wiped clean periodically and rebuilt from scratch. (What the Google-type businesses want to keep is not their information on their "collection" but their information on you and me--that is what they sell and keeps them in business) If a resource disappears in Google, it is no problem for them, except they need to clean out the URL that no longer works. Also, since their metadata is created automatically, they can create hundreds of millions of their "metadata records" in, quite literally, the twinkling of an eye, compared to the care of what we create.

In contrast to the Google-type databases, libraries really do care about their collections, and the major advantage a library catalog has over its Google competitors lay in its *consistency*. It is through this consistency that it leads searchers (or is supposed to lead them) to a reliable understanding of what the record describes--e.g. everybody is supposed to count the pages the same way so that all will have a reliable idea of the extent of an item--and the catalog allows searchers to retrieve materials reliably, so that they can reliably find "everything" authored by IBM including all of its subdivisions. To achieve this latter part however, you need a supplementary file of cross-references, something that is completely lacking in the Google-type databases, which has none of these capabilities.

Finally, although in the millions, the number of library-created records is almost infinitesimal when compared to the non-library-created records and especially with metadata that is automatically generated. As a consequence, if library records are added into all of that, they will be like a single drop into the ocean. This is the reality of the metadata universe that the public will search, and what they search today.

So, who are we creating these library records for? And who (or what) will create the records? Will professional library catalogers create those records? I can only hope so. But professional library catalogers must see the larger picture if their records are to be useful and appreciated by the public at large. Should we aim for a system that allows the public to find what they want, how they want, or are they doomed to traditional library methods as shown with FRBR?

As I have said before, I believe that the library catalog, and the library as a whole, actually supplies something different from what we have always been taught, and with the new information environment it is this "something different" that the public will really want. But it remains to discover what this "something different" is and to make the case for it, which if achieved, would be much more profitable than implementing the slightly-modified cataloging rules being discussed in RDA, or even taking our records out of our catalogs and placing them where they can be more easily found, such as in the so-called Semantic Web. I have never seen how either one will make any real difference. As an example of what people want, what I found striking in the OCLC research paper "The Use of Eye-Tracking to Evaluate the Effects of Format..." by Michael Prasse, was that when people used Worldcat, one of their main complaints was that it was too difficult to purchase the books online! p. 17-18

Of course, that is not really the idea of a library as opposed to a bookstore, but I think it is a great example of how much people have changed and what they want.

To me, discovering this "something different" that libraries and their catalogs really do is the real task ahead. Until we face it, there can be little progress.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Re: [ACAT] RDA cataloging or how to miss the forest for the trees -- statistics

Posting to Autocat

On 26/04/2012 16:59, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
Sample size can make these surveys unreliable. [RE: "Online Catalogs: What Users and Librarians Want"--JW]

Compare this to the math mistake the Gates Foundation made in promoting smaller schools:

The wrong conclusion was made. There was no causal link between smaller school size and grades-- there is only the variability to the extremes at either end that small samples produce. The phenomenon that some small schools were linked to more students with higher grades led to the false conclusion that all schools need to be small to produce good results. This math mistake and statistical fallacy cost the Gates Foundation millions of dollars.

It didn't only cost the Gates Foundation--what happened to the public was even worse. See "Bill Gates: Selling Bad Advice to the Public Schools": As this article states: "The main effect of Gates' policy has been to demoralize millions of teachers, who don't understand how they went from being respected members of the community to Public Enemy No. 1." and now, he wants to get rid of "bad teachers" based on, of all things, students' test scores.

The reason I am bringing this up is that it is an excellent example of the dangers of putting theory before practice. To be honest, I don't care if the Gates Foundation, or Gates himself, lost a few million dollars. I think we can all assume that those people will be OK. I am much more concerned about the teachers who have suffered from these theories, along with the students who are the real victims, since they now have to deal with lousy educations.

Yes, I see a cautionary tale with RDA and FRBR here.


Posting to Autocat

I don't know if printed books will really have a future, that is, once "books" are created with the primary thought of the virtual environment in mind. Today, books are primarily still made to be printed out and bound, but texts are changing surprisingly fast. I think that texts will tend to get shorter and more concise. What will take up the slack will be images, video and audio, interactive tools will be included in a whole variety of ways, perhaps game-type simulations, and of course comments that can be updated, links that go here and there, and so on. In this way, the "book" can be updated and never become obsolete, like physical books do.

My wife and I spent this last weekend in Paris and we went to the Louvre where we were able to see one of the most beautiful books ever created, the "Les Belles Heures du duc de Berry" from the Cloisters. It had been disbound and many of the pages were available for viewing. It is absolutely magnificent to behold.

But I can't imagine really sitting down, reading the thing, and getting the information out of it. For that, I personally would need a different format. Probably most others would agree. Consequently, I can imagine that as the virtual environment becomes less and less unique, people will find that interacting with the electronic device will become more natural. The result will probably be that people will come to look at a printed book as something inert and dead, and as a result, very limited and boring.

One added point of course, is that an ebook should not be compared with any individual book, but with a library. For instance, I own a tablet, and I have dozens of books on it. I easily took them to Paris with me, where, by connecting to the internet with the Internet archive, Google Books, and all kinds of other tools, I have access to more books through my device than I could read in 20 lifetimes. Many of the newest books are not available yet, but that can all be changed by just a few people changing their minds. All of the technical infrastructure exists and it could happen almost overnight. Sooner or later, it will happen. Yet, the big question for us is: how do traditional libraries fit in?

Publishers are worried about Amazon (just looking at the titles of the articles from this search shows the disputes, but libraries should be concerned as well. Amazon Prime allows someone to pay a set amount (currently $79 a year) to get access to all kinds of ebooks. A logical extension with a few relatively simple improvements (e.g. being able to check out more than one thing at a time, lower price, more choices, more formats), this could be a *very attractive* option for some individuals and even some communities. It would recreate the subscription libraries of old.

All of this could happen today. Again, all it will take will be for a few key people to change their minds. And it will happen sooner or later.

Re: RDA cataloging or how to miss the forest for the trees

Posting to Autocat

On Apr 23, 2012 2:15 AM, "Aaron Kuperman" wrote:
But what evidence is there that the current AACR/MARC is able to provide what users (public, patrons) want. It can't deal with the new sorts of connections and relationships that have come into existence in the last few years. Our current system looks like an attempt to "kludge" a 21st century system dominated by digital media into a system designed originally for card catalogs and printed books.
None. But why go from one kludge to another kludge that is more complex and more expensive? If we are expected to spend major resources, which will have major consequences on the decreasing budgets of libraries, we should have more than incomprehensible graphs and heartfelt testimonials to indicate that everyone is going in the right direction and that RDA and FRBR provide what the public needs. It is not only a theoretical exercise.

All of this just demonstrates more clearly that the pro-RDA camp does not want to be pestered by the need to make the business case for what they want, and it should just be accepted by one and all by universal acclamation.

Fwd: Re: [ACAT] RDA cataloging or how to miss the forest for the trees

Posting to Autocat
On Apr 21, 2012 10:11 PM, "Shawne Miksa" wrote:
Mac said:
We find ISBD/AACR2/MARC21 adequate for "assigning metadata to describe resources". Much less than 25% of our work is cataloguing print materials.
See, this is one of the most fundamental problems--"We". It is not about we/you/our. It's about the users and what they need. It doesn't matters what percentage one format makes up. It's not about format at all, other than to provide description for purposes of identification by the user.

You'll probably say you are very much in tune with the user, but with all due respect, Mac, and others, I don't buy it.
The fact is, there is absolutely zero evidence that RDA or FRBR provide what the users (public, patrons) want. That is the biggest problem. The so-called "user tasks" apply only to a small percentage of the searches of a small percentage of the populace. There would be no problem even in accepting this assumption if it were all theoretical, i.e. It had no consequences on the lives and careers of individuals.

But it will have severe consequences and there again is absolutely zero concern about the consequences of libraries spending money and devoting resources they do not have to achieve something that nobody wants. To disprove this would require a business case, which is something RDA and FRBR have very definitely decided *not* to do.

So let's not say that the users need RDA or FRBR, that is until some evidence is shown. It is clear that other factors are at work.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cataloging Matters Podcast no. 15: Cataloging Interfaces

Cataloging Matters Podcast no. 15:
Cataloging Interfaces

Hello everyone. My name is Jim Weinheimer and welcome to Cataloging Matters, a series of podcasts about the future of libraries and cataloging, coming to you from the most beautiful, and the most romantic city in the world, Rome, Italy.

In this episode, I want to talk about cataloging interfaces. Do we love what we have or do we hate them all? Can we imagine any other possibilities? What could an alternative look like and how could it work?

To begin, I wasn't sure if I should do this as a posting or as a podcast. It got pretty long for a posting and seemed short for a podcast. After much deliberation, I decided that maybe my podcasts are getting too long anyway, and I finally decided to do this one as a podcast. I can only hope it works. There are a few times when I refer to YouTube videos or images so you may have to look at the transcript a few times to really understand everything. I apologise for that, but I haven't been able to figure out anything else except for a video and I'm not ready for that. Of course as always, in the transcript you will find links to everything I refer to.

On the RDA list, and I believe in an article in Serials Librarian, Kevin Randall of Northwestern University mentioned how the interfaces for catalogers need to improve. These are the interfaces used by technical staff when they input records. Although I personally believe there are more pressing issues for catalogers that would have much greater consequences for the public, such as modernizing workflows, eliminating redundancies and most important, actually enforcing the cataloging standards that exist, the issue of cataloging interfaces nevertheless is a very interesting question and I would like to address it here by making a few suggestions that may turn out to have some promise, at least it seems to me that they could.

Lately, I have been trying to build some computer applications, or apps, and right now I am focusing on the Android operating system. I have been working with a rather remarkable online tool called “App Inventor.” It was originally created by Google, but they made it open source and it is now hosted at MIT To understand the motivation for this project, I need to provide a short background:
With the growth of mobile communications and the new platforms, iOS, Android, and so on, applications have become the current "hot" products for developers and everyone is now rushing around trying to make their own. Currently, separate applications are built for specific platforms, so an Android app will not work on an Apple Iphone while a app that works on the Ipad will not work on an Android device. And of course, there are other operating systems too, for Windows and Blackberry! So, we are looking at a major marketing fight.
Apple has a real advantage in this fight. Since Apple has retained control over practically everything including the software and hardware, as it always has, apps for the Apple products are apparently of much better quality, in that the coding is better done so that they work better. Apple's apps are also better designed or at least more consistently designed, and so on.
The Android market is different since everything is open: open source and open development. Because of that, where Apple has control, with Android there has been a corresponding lack of control, and it seems that the result has been inferior products: in Android apps, the coding is not so well done as in Apple products, the user interfaces have much more variability which apparently confuses people, and as a result the final products of the Android market are considered to be inferior. This was discussed in an article in Wired Magazine, MIT, Google Release New Tools to Fix Android’s Quality-Control Problem / by Mike Isaac, March 5, 2012.

Personally, I have practically no experience with apps from Apple so I have no opinion, but will simply accept that all this analysis is correct.

To counter these concerns, Google created a tool called App Inventor, which is supposed to ensure that at least the coding is reliable on Android platforms. How have they done this? App Inventor provides an interface for development that is almost entirely graphical and there is no need to know any coding at all, or practically none. So, for those who want to try to create an Android app, much of it consists of creating certain "blocks" of information, that is, of text, images, canvases to put the images on, and so on, and you can add all different kinds of functionalities, such as animation, GPS, phone calls, texting, changing orientation, timers, web browses and more.
As you build your app, you discover that some parts "fit" and other parts do not. This happens when you try to put certain blocks together and--remember that it's a graphical interface--the system makes it clear that a specific block cannot be connected to another block. So it looks a lot like when you try to connect pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that do not fit, except it is more obvious. Some blocks may require additional information of a specific type or even require other blocks. When you make an error, you are immediately made aware of the problem and given some guidelines for how to correct it. To see how this works, I provide a link to a short video tutorial on App Inventor. There are a lot of videos for App Inventor, but this is one of the shortest and simplest.

Although I have worked with this tool to some extent, I am still far from an expert. Perhaps because of some residual memories from my childhood when I would play with my beloved Tinkertoys, I find App Inventor to be very useful and in fact, kind of fun. When everything “fits” together, you can download the app onto your cell phone and watch it go!

Additionally, the Android community has created a "best practices guide" which is excellent. The design principles provided in this document are for developers to follow when they create apps. These principles seem to be based primarily on Web2.0 design principles that you can find in different places on the web. I give a link to one example I would like to list the basic guidelines here as given in the Android “Best Practices Guide” that a developer should keep in mind when designing the application. Of course, in the actual guidelines, each of these points go into greater depth:

  • Delight me in surprising ways
  • Real objects are more fun than buttons and menus
  • Let me make it mine
  • Get to know me
  • Keep it brief
  • Pictures are faster than words
  • Decide for me but let me have the final say
  • Only show what I need when I need it
  • I should always know where I am
  • Never lose my stuff
  • If it looks the same, it should act the same
  • Only interrupt me if it's important
  • Give me tricks that work everywhere
  • It's not my fault
  • Sprinkle encouragement
  • Do the heavy lifting for me
  • Make important things fast 
It remains to be seen if any of this will serve to be a genuine competitor to the apps from Apple, but to me at any rate, it seems like a worthy experiment. The person who creates an app in this way does not need to know any coding at all. Many reviewers are describing App Inventor as “apps for the masses” or they use similar terminology. Some reviewers definitely like it while others definitely do not. One problem with this tool seems that currently, you can only do relatively basic apps with App Inventor, and if you want to do something really intense, you would eventually have to get into the code. Still, since it is open development, there will definitely be improvements, and sometimes such developments can happen surprisingly fast. Some theorize that the capabilities of App Inventor will improve so much that it could end up similar to creating a blog or a website, which now can be done by people without a need to know any coding at all, although App Inventor has not reached that point yet.

At the very least, the idea of App Inventor is intriguing. It simplifies an entire range of highly technical functions and has this "best practices" guide that is well-organized and clearly written. Of course, the principles in the best practices section do not apply only to Android apps, but to many other projects as well.

I do not care to enter into a discussion whether Apple or Android is better or worse. I am interested in considering an App Inventor-type interface as a possible herald for a new cataloging interface. These are also not all of the problems with open source development of apps, I have placed a couple of links to relevant articles in the transcript for those who are interested.  

Why Google Android Can't Compete With Apple's iPhone, The Market Oracle, April 04, 2012  
Is Google App Inventor A Gateway Drug Or A Doomsday Device For Android? / Mg Siegler. Techcrunch, Sunday, July 11th, 2010.

Of course, the Android design principles that I quoted have a lot to do with the public interfaces of the catalog, and they will have much less to do with an interface for a cataloger, or at least, I guess so. Also, creating standardized catalog records is quite different from these simplified apps.

Many of the Android design principles come straight from what is called “Information architecture,” but there are some functions that definitely would apply to an interface for a cataloger, such as: only show what I need when I need it, make important things fast, and only interrupt me if it's important. One part, let me make it mine, is vital for catalogers to do their work: each cataloger needs to add his or her own notes, dog ear specific pages they refer to all the time, and so on.

So, in a normal workday for a cataloger in an App Inventor-type environment, I could see bibliographic records displayed graphically, so that the cataloger would just drag the name heading from another bibliographic record, or from an authority record, into your own record, or conversely, in doing some form of copy cataloging, dragging information into the wastebasket.

OK. I know pro-FRBR folks will probably say that with an FRBR structure, such a tool would let you drag a work or expression entity, including multiple authors, titles, and subjects into your own record all at one time. Of course, I reply that this will happen only in the case of a new edition of something that already exists, such as a new translation of Homer's Odyssey, or a new version of Shakespeare's Sonnets, which is currently less than 20% of the items in our databases. I personally can't imagine that this percentage will go up significantly in the future, such as to 50% or more, and will in all probability go down, that is unless the powers-that-be require everyone to start cataloging “internet memes” such as each version of the “Dramatic Chipmunk” or “Nyan Cat”.,

To be honest, I have never seen how FRBR structures would make a cataloger's actual work much easier, if any easier at all, as opposed to what is done now: that is, where the cataloger finds a record for another edition in the database and derives the new record from that one, tossing out certain parts and adding whatever new is needed.

Still, much of this is beside the point for our purposes. Far more useful I think, would be an App Inventor-type of tool in conjunction with the digital resources themselves. That is, those that have information in special metadata fields, or in some kind of XML format, or in any case that use some kind of structured metadata that could be accessed in some way, then the title could be taken directly from the item itself, or the dates, or any of the structured metadata. For instance, any information needed by ISBD could be taken directly from the item, perfectly transcribed, all in a graphical way.

Of course, it is no more difficult to catalog electronic resources than anything else, but just as any specific format has specific problems, electronic resources have their own peculiarities. One very basic task where I have always had trouble is simply examining the electronic resource. Examining an online resource is completely different from a physical item, such as a book or DVD. In fact, I don't really know what to compare it to. It's probably closest to examining a serial because with serials cataloging, you can only see part of the entire serial, and the cataloger can see the entire serial only after it is dead. But even while it is still alive, when you are working on it, you are nevertheless holding an entire issue in your hand. With a web resource, you can click around randomly but it is very difficult to get an idea of the whole and consequently, it becomes very difficult to describe. If a sitemap could be generated, and depending on the information retrieved, it could be used in conjunction with a cataloging interface based on App Inventor to get a better idea of the extent and structure of the site, and of course, to catalog it using drag and drop methods.

Finally, if a tool such as “App Inventor for catalogers” were created, would it be similar to what some are calling App Inventor now: instead of apps for the masses, it would be catalog record creation for the masses? Obviously, I do not think so but who knows?

Still, I want to go beyond App Inventor and try to figure out what could be used for a new cataloging interface.

It seems to me that an App Inventor kind of tool would not help much for the intellectual task of cataloging; that is, if you don't know cataloging in the first place, such a tool will not catalog a resource for you. It isn't that different from apps: if you have no idea what kind of app you want to create, App Inventor won't help you make it.

So, if you do not understand the concept of main entry, it does little good to give you the rules for determining it or even to provide the little “block” for it.  Such considerations are far more complex than experienced catalogers may realize. For instance, personally, I always thought that the guidelines for series treatments were relatively simple: when to use a 440 vs. 490 0 or 490 1/8xx, but I admit that it was difficult to teach it. The 440 has been phased out and LC even decided to stop series authority control. There are many far more complex issues than this relatively simple one, e.g. the appropriateness of a uniform title, what is a series, analysed sets vs. collective records, and so on and so on, which I do not believe could ever be handled by such a tool. Still, when cataloging a monograph, such a tool could turn out to be very helpful.

When it comes to subject analysis, that is, what is the subject of a particular item, and not only that, what is that subject in relation to a specific database that uses a specific thesaurus or some other type of authorized forms, plus following the correct levels of specificity and exhaustivity, all to ensure a level of consistent and reliable retrieval--such a tool probably cannot help much here either. But if we are talking about the creation of LC subject headings, when the cataloger must create the subject string, this tool could make the inputting much simpler because of the order of the subject string, and whether a specific subdivision can or cannot be used under a specific heading. The order of a subject string should not be important today, I agree, but it still is important and can be very complicated to do correctly. I think App Inventor could make this sort of task much easier.

Also, when assigning subjects, I have mentioned before about the existence of subject arrays, that is, where a subject on, for example, “the library reference question interview” actually gets the two subjects: “Reference services (libraries)” and “Interviewing”, or that an item about archaeology may require a whole number of other subjects. Finding these subject arrays so that searches retrieve reliable and consistent results, can be very difficult and time consuming, and it is something I have always felt would be suitable for graphic methods.

The way this could work would be with boolean-type circles, where the cataloger would search e.g. “library reference question interview” and the related subjects for the items would appear, but each would be displayed in separate circles. The cataloger will be able to see the circles coming together in various places, and the cataloger could click on those places to see the subjects used in those records. I provide an example of how it could work for searching “library reference interview question” and the cataloger has selected the section “library interview question”. When you would select, the subject headings used in those records could be displayed as a tag cloud, which the cataloger could click on as well. You may instead wish to look at “library reference interview” to get other headings. I have an example display in the transcript.

Since these kinds of tag clouds can be generated now, the only real difference from today would be the graphical interface.

Of course, a cataloging interface needs to be closely connected to the rules, but as long as the rules are in subscription databases, this sort of development will take place mostly within the organization that owns the rules. With more open development of rules however, much closer and personalized connections could be made.

Whatever happens, in the future, I believe that one of the main points for cataloging will be to realize that the records catalogers make will no longer be aimed for use only within a specific catalog. They will go out into all kinds of other venues and take on lives of their own. In the future, records must fit into the entirety of the metadata universe. As a result, library catalogers are going to have to become far more aware of rules and guidelines from other communities as the libraries and their catalogs cease to be such closed islands as they have always been. This will have to be reflected in their cataloging interfaces somehow.

Perhaps most important is the ability to ask questions of colleagues. I have mentioned this already in some posts, and have suggested that a system could be built up that allows professional catalogers to discuss technical questions by sharing through wikis, instant messaging and now through free internet phone calls. For efficiency's sake, it is important that these specialized discussions and decisions become archived and shared in various ways so that all may learn and search the answers, along with the discussions. Such types of professional portals already exist in some fields, for instance for radiologists and dentists, where they can post questions, get replies, and so on. and 

Skype allows people to share the desktops, but Teamviewer is another program that could be useful for catalogers since this program allows a remote person not only to view your desktop but even work on your machine! Such tools perhaps have more promise for training and remote reference services as it does for cataloging but still, they could be very useful.

In short, there are many tools that exist now that could help catalogers become far more productive, and at the same time make the task of cataloging itself become more enjoyable by allowing catalogers to see how the records they make, and how they themselves, all fit into the environment of global metadata. Almost anything can be done, and the main thing is to cultivate our imaginations. I brought this out in a number of earlier posts of mine, under the subject “In praise of lazy catalogers,” which caused a bit of a stir but I still believe what I wrote there.  

And on that note, I come to the end of this podcast.

The music I would like to end with is one of the most popular songs in Italy, and you hear it everywhere. It is called “Bella ciao” which means, “Goodbye, beautiful” and was a song sung by the anti-fascist partisans during World War II. There are many versions available on the web, sung by children or even by drunken young people at soccer games, but I think this song needs to be sung by a group of men. Fortunately, I found one at no less a place than, and there you can see the lyrics along with a translation.

That’s it for now. Thank you for listening to Cataloging Matters with Jim Weinheimer, coming to you from Rome, Italy, the most beautiful, and the most romantic city in the world.

Re: the platonic ideal of a radical cataloging course

Posting to RadCat

On 16/04/2012 23:37, KR Roberto wrote:
As some of you already know, I teach an intro to cataloging course for MLS students. It can be tricky, especially with RDA implementation lurking in the shadows; I'm sure instructors were having the same experiences 30+ years ago during the gap time between AACR2's publication and implementation, though, which is some consolation.

Here's a question for all of you who've taken such a course: what topics do you wish had been covered, but weren't? What skills do you wish you'd had as a new cataloger--or, conversely, what skills do you wish new catalogers had? I struggle with finding ways to introduce my students to all of the skills they'll need to be good catalogers--or to be good colleagues to catalogers--while simultaneously stirring them to think about these ideas in a progressive library context.

I'd like to hear any thoughts you all have on the topic.

Since I went to library school quite some time back, I don't really know what is taught there now. This is the way I look at it:

There is going to be a major change in the mental picture of cataloging--it has yet to occur within the regular cataloging community, and possibly the library schools will have to supply the foundations for this change. Library cataloging has always been in essence: I have this item, I have to describe it according to these very precise rules, then I have to provide these very precise "access points" created according to other very precise rules, then encode it in this specific format according to these other very precise rules; finally, I print it out on a card to fit it into my card catalog, or today, put this "virtual card" into my virtual catalog. This is the way it has worked since the earliest recorded catalogs, and is still being followed today.

This will no longer be sufficient in the future. Library catalogs will not remain separate little islands and whether we like it or not, our catalogs, along with their individual catalog records, will become part of the incomparably larger world of metadata. The information in this larger world of metadata is made according to almost countless types of rules by different kinds of people; in fact it is very possible that these metadata records are not made according to any rules at all and made by people with absolutely no training or even by machines. Look at the so-called "rules" for Dublin Core where anything goes. The larger metadata world is so enormously huge that it completely overwhelms the paltry few million records that library catalogers make.

And yet, library catalogs must go into this larger world because that's where libraries are going, and libraries are going there because that is where the public is going. Since that is where the public is going, if libraries and their catalogs do not go into this larger metadata world, they will be ignored and forgotten by the public. So, there is no choice. We must go there.

Therefore, in this new view of the cataloging world, the question is: how do libraries and their cataloging records fit in, and fit in in a way that is as coherent and useful as possible? This is some of what I meant in a paper I recently gave in Oslo, where I paraphrased a Russian avant-garde photographer,  ”Thousands of years of cataloging practices have conditioned us to see according to informational structures that are totally and literally outdated. A revolution must be performed on the librarians to teach them to see things from every angle and in any kind of circumstance.”

I believe that precise rules and standards will still be very important, but not as ends in themselves. These rules must be reconceived in the new metadata world. How will this work out in practice? I don't know, but it will have to go beyond only cataloging and involve the entire library somehow. It seems to me that it makes less and less sense to keep, e.g. cataloging and "public services" separate. The one absolutely must inform the other. And it seems that "public services" and "selection" must go together as well.

Again, how will this work out in practice? Nobody knows, but fundamental changes will have to occur and are occurring now.

I don't know if this helps you or not. I think it's going to be a wild time.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Think like a startup

Posting to Autocat

On 13/04/2012 21:01, Daniel CannCasciato wrote:
1) I know of no libraries that don't bill themselves as creative (review the job adds and that term is part of the boilerplate text almost always)
I have also seen this request for "creative" employees, and it is especially difficult in a bureaucratic situation, because creativity does not necessarily imply "success," or at least the way that "success" would be interpreted by many administrators.

I want to emphasize that this is not finding fault with the administrators, because it is their job to demonstrate progress and advancement in return for the resources they have invested. It is really hard to stand in front of the budget people and admit that, "Well yes, we put significant resources into this "creative" project but it simply crashed and burned. We learned a lot and the next project will be better." This is especially so today when each dollar (or euro) is so tightly controlled. Someone could easily see this as throwing good money after bad. It's only a difference in attitude.

This is, I think, the major difference between an entrepreneurial startup and a bureaucracy. The startup (in theory) should be able to deal with this kind of situation, which happens all the time, in a much more flexible way. In the paper of Brian Mathews, he mentions this a bit, saying that "everything is beta."

Returning back to my call for a business case for shall we say, "certain initiatives", this is the importance of having a clear business case for a project from the very beginning and reviewing it often. If it turns out that the project is not succeeding, it can be more easily changed and redirected if discovered early in the process, than after a tremendous amount of time, resources and money have been thrown into it. There can be all kinds of reasons for this change that are completely outside of anyone's control--perhaps someone else has discovered an alternate solution, or you get additional information that makes your original assumptions wrong to begin with. There is no fault here, but without a decent business case and without periodic review, it often turns out that your "creative project" has turned into a juggernaut that absolutely, positively, *must* succeed at all cost, no matter what new information you get or what alternative solutions may turn up because the consequences of admitting that it was wrong are just too dire to even imagine.

It can be difficult to include these kinds of considerations in a bureaucratic situation, although I don't think it is impossible, while in a true startup, matters are more flexible, or at least, they are supposed to be.

Re: [ACAT] Think like a startup

Posting to Autocat

On 13/04/2012 19:00, ... wrote:
There are some good points there. I believe that libraries should take chances, and they should go out on a limb to support the user. But I hesitate when I'm told to "think like a corporation"--that is not the spirit of the library.
While I agree with you, I think it is important to delineate more precisely why a library should not think like a corporation, especially a startup corporation that is willing to take real chances for substantial gain. Although it may be more or less obvious to us, it is people who are *not* librarians who will have to accept it and understand, since they are the ones who distribute the money, not us.

So, how is a library not like a corporation, or I would even say, not like a normal non-profit organization? For one thing, I would suggest:
Libraries must think in the long term, and in such long terms that normal corporations cannot understand. By this I mean, for a corporation, something from ten years before is essentially forgotten and obsolete, while the majority of the (perceived) value of a library comes from what the librarians acquired and did in the past, often 50 or many more years before.

As a corollary to this, much of the current labor of librarians may not really be used until many years in the future.

As an example, there was one place I worked (to be nameless) where I saw a very large collection of nicely-bound older materials (1950s and 1960s) that the head honcho wanted to throw away. I mentioned that this collection was very possibly unique in the world and I did a little bit of a search and found nothing anywhere. The response was that it had never been used. My reply then was that it had never been cataloged and nobody knew about it. If nobody knows about it, it cannot be used. The solution that I suggested was to catalog it, not as individual pieces (impossible with the resources) but at least as a collection.

It didn't work.

The idea that a library is not subject to the same laws as a corporation will have to be demonstrated sooner or later.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Think like a startup

I would like to draw people's attention to an excellent paper at, "Think like a startup" by Brian Mathews. In essence, he says that if libraries are going to survive, they must become more like startups and that actually means taking chances on new ideas that may turn out not to be successes, but libraries must undertake them anyway. A major problem I see with this approach is that normally, libraries are bureaucracies--either bigger or smaller ones--and bureaucracies are hardly known for their entrepreneurial spirit, but that is another matter.

On p. 2, he asks a series of very delicate questions:
  • What if Residence Halls and Student Centers managed learning commons spaces?
  • What if the Office of Research managed campuswide electronic database subscriptions and ondemand access to digital scholarly materials?
  • What if Facilities managed the off-campus warehouses where books and other print artifacts are stored?
  • What if the majority of scholarly information becomes open? Libraries would no longer need to acquire and control access materials.
  • What if all students are given eBook readers and an annual allotment to purchase the books, articles, and other media necessary for their academic pursuits and cultural interests? Collections become personalized, on-demand, instantaneous, and lifelong learning resources.
  • What if local museums oversaw special collections and preservation?
  • What if graduate assistants, teaching fellows, post-docs, and undergraduate peer leaders managed database training, research assistance, and information literacy instruction?
  • What if the Office of Information Technology managed computer labs, proxy access, and lending technology and gadgets?

Any or all of these scenarios are very possible. He then writes, "How do we help the individuals at our institutions become more successful? That’s the goal."

When I consider what he writes and what it means for the catalog, I keep in mind that the public does not want our catalog or our catalog records. What they want are the actual resources our catalog records describe. The public uses our catalogs only when they have to and is why people have always preferred browsing the shelves to browsing the catalog records. At the same time, I do not believe that these resources organize themselves and believe that automatic indexing that provides reliable search results is still a long way off into the future. While I hope that catalogers and the majority of librarians would agree with that last statement, many technologists and members of the public would disagree and they can easily point to the "successes" they have had with full-text searches and the "failures" they have suffered using library catalogs.

This is why I think it is vital that catalogers prove their point because otherwise, they risk being completely ignored. When asking the question "What is wrong with our catalogs?" and considering it in the context of "How do we help the individuals at our institutions become more successful?"--which is the correct way of approaching it--what are the answers? The right answers as well as the wrong answers?

In this sense, wrong answers are probably easier to come up with and can shed a light on some possible correct answers. For instance, subject access is one area that we can point to that is wrong, in that the traditional method of creating subject strings has become dysfunctional in today's tools. Of course, we shouldn't stop at this point, but delve more deeply into why it doesn't work and in this way, some solutions for subject access may arise.

Asking the question: "How do we help the individuals at our institutions become more successful?" seems to be an excellent focal point for all considerations about the future of the catalog.

I recommend the article.

Re: [ACAT] Death of the "Dictionary Catalog"? Was: Name order in access points

On 06/04/2012 16:30, Marian Veld wrote:
This is wonderful. If we could combine the visual ease of Worldcat's version with the intellectual depth of your version, we'd have something really useful. Having grown up in the card catalog era, I'll always prefer the alphabetical list, but the utility and intuitiveness of the word cloud is clear. I just wish the Worldcat version didn't contain so much duplication (same concept in other words). It just goes to show that our subject heading system is broken.

I'm glad you like it. It's not too bad. I also like the alphabetical order, but it just doesn't work for people today.

One thing that could improve in the Poe version I gave is that all of the subdivisions of subdivisions could be handled better, e.g. all of the Criticism and interpretation subdivisions. Maybe it could display just once and when you clicked on it, you would see the subdivisions somehow, or all of the subdivisions of Knowledge. But I don't know. It does seem to me to be a step in the right direction, and would certainly have more impact on the public than the changes that RDA intends to implement.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Death of the "Dictionary Catalog"? Was: Name order in access points

Posting to Autocat

On 05/04/2012 22:50, Goldfarb, Kathie wrote:
First, I want to say keyword searches can be wonderful. I just don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I want to provide a catalog that offers both options. I want to put in a word for one case when the dictionary catalog is very useful. When searching for information ABOUT an author and his/her works, the use of the subdivision can be helpful, e.g. a search for Poe, Edgar Allan brings up:
Poe, Edgar Allan -- Aesthetics 
-- Appreciation 
-- Criticism and interpretation 
And many more subdivisions. Who would have thought of searching the keywords edgar allan poe influence? And, if you are doing a keyword search in a large database, there will be a lot of entries, not only those by and about Edgar Allan Poe, but many other records were some or all of those words appear, anywhere in the record.

I personally don't care if it is first name first or last name first, though that dictionary list may help them find the 'right' author, despite misspelling his/her name.

A keyword search for edgar allan poe in WorldCat brings up 21,093 records. A Subject search: 6,984. We use WorldCat Local (the free version), and I find the options to limit that search to be, well, limited. I don't doubt that many of our students would find titles they can use. I am concerned about them not finding more titles they can use because they are too far down the list. I am concerned (we are a Community College, Freshmen and Sophomores) that our students are not that good at doing the complex searching they may need. Weighting of the search terms in a keyword search can be crucial.

Just some comments from one of the old fogies that got her initiation filing in a card catalog.

I completely agree that this is very powerful. This traditional type of access provides a truly "conceptual" search and has nothing to do with "text searching" since, as you point out, "Who would have thought of searching the keywords edgar allan poe influence?" It also provides a kind of access that is found nowhere else on the web.

But it doesn't work in today's keyword environment. When I have tried to demonstrate this to people, it is exceedingly difficult for them to understand it and I don't think it's just my own problems as a teacher. If and when they do understand, they genuinely like it and begin to question what keyword results with so-called "relevance" ranking really are. But they still do not like to search with a left-anchored text string search and will not do it. People who do not get this are not stupid, but I think it represents a fundamental disconnect between the way people think today, and the tools we make. What we need to do is figure out how to transfer this power from the library catalog into the modern world people now inhabit. Alphabetical order is one method that has mostly fallen away, but there are other options today and we should try to take advantage of them. Here is something I did, taking the subject subdivisions of Poe from the LC catalog, put them into Wordle played a bit with it and made them into a word cloud. Here's what I got:

Not perfect, but not bad for just a couple of minutes' work and a very first attempt to provide a searcher with at least some kind of idea of what is available without having to know the words to search beforehand, or "conceptual access": Homes and haunts, Raven Parodies, Knowledge Occultism, Alcohol use Physiological aspects, Ethics, and so on. This type of access actually spurs the imagination. In action of course, all of these terms would be clickable and do the correct search for you. I think this is certainly better than a regular keyword result.

If you go to Worldcat Identities for Poe and scroll to the very bottom, there is something similar but still quite different. Nevertheless, all of this can be improved immensely and could be one possibility toward taking a single aspect of the power in the catalog and transferring it into the modern world of information to provide something found nowhere else. And thereby perhaps make library cataloging a bit more important and respected?

Death of the "Dictionary Catalog"? Was: Name order in access points

Posting to Autocat

This issue actually raises an even bigger issue: what is the current condition of the "dictionary catalog"? The definition of "dictionary catalog," from Cutter's rules, 4th ed., rewritten (p. 19)
"Dictionary catalog, so called because the headings (author, title, subject, and form) are arranged, like the words in a dictionary, in alphabetical order".

Now with the rise of keyword and different kinds of sorting options, even the idea of finding information in a list that is alphabetically arranged is really strange for an increasing number of people. I know for me, to look for something in the alphabetically arranged yellow pages or white pages of the telephone book is a strange experience now. Also, when I would be at the desk and studenta would ask if they had books overdue, I would first ask their name (doh!) and then the answer was almost invariably, "Joe" or "Jennifer"! And I would have to ask, "What is your last name?"

But seriously, many of our cataloging rules are based on the dictionary catalog, which is based on maintaining access through alphabetical order. Have modern information search and retrieval methods made the alphabetical aspect simply obsolete? In Wikipedia, the page for Smith is arranged in alphabetical order but with forename-surname order For the word "Dog" there is a disambiguation page, which is in classified order, and then at the end of the main page of "Domestic dog", we see "List of dog breeds" and "Subspecies of Canis lupus" and "List of dogs" etc. Some of these pages have a default alphabetical order e.g. "List of dog breeds" but this list can be resorted by any field, country of origin and so on.

Does the dictionary catalog have much to do with modern information retrieval methods?

Google's Project Glass

Posting to NGC4LIB

Here is a video about Google's "Project Glass", which seems to be similar to Corning's "A Day Made of Glass," which I mentioned in a post and led to so

The blogging world is full of pros and cons about this. Google's project has people wear some kind of eyeglasses that appear to be worn higher on the head than normal spectacles, and you apparently look up to "interact" with the computer but I'm not really sure. There are pictures and opinions at;siu-container It seems to me that in terms of eyeware fashion, this seems to be a step toward modeling ourselves on Geordi La Forge from Star Trek

I think the comments I made to "A Day Made of Glass" still hold for my own opinion of Google's attempt, except that Google's project embeds their project much more intimately into our lives than what the Corning video shows. I can't even imagine "reading" a book on something like that, much less do any indepth research or studying, but who knows?

Apparently, contact lenses with similar capabilities are also being developed. I wonder what kind of batteries they will use? Or will people have to plug them in overnight?

Re: [ACAT] New rule implementation

Posting to Autocat

On 30/03/2012 15:41, wrote:
I've probably already shot myself in the foot a couple times on the list as I too am trying take in the learning curve of RDA and arguments for and against it, but I might as well blow the rest of my toes off. I will admit to "car crash" fascination to the whole debate. Hals statement "Let it rise or fall according to its value as implemented" struck a chord with me, as innovation precedes or fails on trial and error. I guess the argument against this is the cloud of urgency in the profession, that we have a very thin margin of error left to us, and that a misstep may be fatal. Whether, to take one side, giving RDA enough rope to hang itself, will also hang the profession seems to be the background fear. Of course, when there is disagreement on what exactly the misstep is, we take our chances. We are all damned in someone's theology. That said, with the valid concerns of libraries not buying in to RDA because of financial constraints, one wonders whether there are steps that might be taken to soften the split between rule sets affecting all the records circulating in library database. We will be stuck with "legacy records" one way or the other. Given the need to develop crosswalks, transformations, what have you for dealing with metadata of multiple and much more wildly different origins than the debate in hand, this might be a fruitful avenue of endeavor. It would be wonderfully instructive to have a summation/distillation of the arguments on each side of the debate. The sheer weight of vollies back and forth can make the head spin. Is there disagreement over the foundation principles of what our tools (whether rules, standards, and technology) should be accomplishing? Disagreement of over the applicability of the FRBR user tasks seems to point in this direction. Is there an alternate list of tasks that would suffice? Is "tasks" even the right word? Would a statement of problems be better place to start then deconstructing the current solutions?

I leave it at that for now. I really should be doing some (AACR2) cataloging.

At least I, for one, think you are asking some great questions. My own concern with Hal's post is, it seems to me, it just gives up, and the fact is, real people will nevertheless be forced to make some real decisions. I am sure these people won't want to make those decisions, but even if they refuse and resign, someone else will have to. And the people who make the final decisions whether to advance the funds for RDA subscriptions and training etc. will not be catalogers. That needs to be kept in mind. Catalogers are not in charge of their own funding--most of the time, anyway. The people who decide may not even be librarians. And those decision makers will be listening to all kinds of other folks who are telling them how important their own pet projects are.

Since the purposes and benefits of RDA are still so vague, it puts an enormous strain on people who may want to implement RDA but who have to make a case for the money, something that would in any case be exceedingly difficult, but especially so during these difficult times. What is a responsible decision in such a case? There is no smiling Daddy Warbucks doling out cash to everybody, so the decision is: what do you give up? And what do you get in return? Drawing graphs of the Semantic Web and talking about entity-relationship structures will probably not get very far with these people. They will (or at least should) ask: What will I be able to do in the future that I can't do now? How long will reaching that future take? What are the real costs involved, including the hidden ones? These are very normal, responsible questions to ask and catalogers will have to have some pretty good answers ready because cataloging has almost always taken a back seat to other endeavors.

This is why I said in the paper I gave in February in Oslo that librarians need to have a revolution in their minds. We have to see ourselves as we *really are* in the information universe, which is very small. It is humbling, that is true, but it can also show where you are unique. Libraries do provide unique information and tools.

There is a lot of work that can and should be done and maybe eventually it will turn out that we should change some cataloging rules. But cataloging rules do not represent the problems that libraries are facing. At least not at the moment.