Thursday, December 20, 2007

Networking and Subject Headings

I got to meet some new people yesterday. All of them were technical service librarians/digital librarians. And twice I heard the same comment/question: "What do you think about folksomonies?"
I think that they're a fad? I think that people only use them because they have no idea that other subject searching is available? I think that LCSH needs to stop being a browsing list?
I got the feeling, though, that the idea of controlled language "death" is very scary for librarians.
And then TODAY, I see this:
University of Chicago Libraries

Which is EXACTLY what I've been thinking about! Do a search in the UC catalog now, and you get not only the list of things the catalog thinks you might want, but the ability to refine that search within the LC classification schema. We have the classification scheme already laid out for us, which roughly corresponds to the LCSH , and why not use it to help make LCSH more hierarchical? I've been gushing over AAT since as long as I can remember, because it takes the headings and makes them hierarchical. I can actually use the headings to help me find more headings! What a concept!
Now, obviously LCSH hasn't always been this way. The books are actually pretty useful when it comes to finding other headings that might be useful. But when everything went online, we really lost that ability. There aren't nearly as many cross-references anymore, or see alsos.
We need to reclaim that heritage, and make our LCSH work FOR us again, instead of against us, and I think that folksonomies will end up following. All people really need is a way to understand a system for them to use it.
I mean, if enough people adopt it, everyone knows what "h8r" means, right? Why not understand subject headings?

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"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.