Monday, December 22, 2008

Bookstores and libraries

As anyone on Autocat knows, there's been a bunch of posting lately on the difference between bookstores and libraries, and how they organize things. I don't post on autocat much (that's what blogs are for!), so here's what I think:

Anyone who says that bookstores do as good a job as libraries of organizing information is clearly insane. I mean, CLEARLY. A comment was made that the reason we catalog is to a) list everything we have in the stacks and b) find what we're after in those stacks.

And here's the rub. Bookstores only help you find the books you already know you need. As in, I need a copy of Jane Eyre. It's in the Fiction section, under Bronte. Congratulations, now pay us $10.

Now, if I were to say instead "I need a piece of English literature, written in the early-to-mid 19th century, and focusing on romantic love," the bookstore will not help you. The bookstore will look at you blankly and say "literature? Aisle 2."

The comment that was made about "finding what we're after in the stacks" is all well and good, but it presupposes that you already know exactly what you're looking for. Libraries and library catalogs are not built on the presupposition that you know what you want. They're built on the idea that you *kind of* know what you want. If you know exactly what you want, great! That's so much easier. If you don't know, exactly, we have people and catalogs that give you lots of information on subjects so maybe you can find what you need in a relatively short amount of time.

So the whole debate on bookstores and libraries is a bit silly, because they don't serve the same purposes at all, and to say that bookstores perform the same organizational tasks as libraries is ludicrous, and patently untrue.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Broken Record

I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but we had "Symphony" training yesterday. This basically involved just transferring our preferences from Unicorn to Symphony. Everything else is about the same. BUT, I learned that Web Reporter, which previously was just for the Cool Kids who used Horizon, is now available for Symphony (Unicorn), too. Other than that, I didn't see a lot of Horizon in the key enhancements.

We were asked to play with Symphony, pretending to do our jobs as if we were using Unicorn Java Workflows. So I did. Was there anything at all that was different? Nope. All steps, prompts, and menus were pretty much the same. I believe it will even still ask me if the "diskette is ready" when I go to import something.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Listserv egoism

A friend of mine recently said in exasperation, "Librarians are so stupid in their smugness." She was referring to what I call Listserv Divas. Divas is not gender-specific, by the way.

This is a real problem with listservs of all kinds, not just library ones, but I think it's particularly irritating in library listservs. Why? Because we are all trained in the same things, and belong to lists that (usually) reflect our interests and skills. And when I say we're trained in the same things, I'm talking the SAME THINGS...who hasn't read Michael Buckland's What is Information article? Or Arlene Taylor? Or the AACRII? We're all riffing off the same playbooks here.


I promise I'm not trying to be bitchy. But my friend has such a valid point. On two fronts.
Firstly, you have the people who assume that the people on the listserv are novices or idiots or something, and answer questions with built-in smugness and condescending attitudes. Mostly just an annoyance.
Secondly, you get the people who post questions on listservs simply to be validated against their peers in the real world. It's actually the second one that makes me more frustrated. "I said that it was this way, and my [stupid] colleague said it was this way, and I want you all to validate me and make me feel good about myself. Thanks!" What a freaking waste of my time. I read listserv posts because I think I might be able to help, not to break up cataloger schoolyard fights. And anyway, local practice dictates so much of what we do....if you want validation, go read the AACRII and then argue about it in the real world with your real peers. Having me tell you that you're right (or wrong) doesn't really solve the problem for you on a local level. Theoretical posturing doesn't get the work done.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Two Things

1.
If you are in the United States, GO VOTE ALREADY.

2.
Someone came to this blog yesterday through the google search "Sirsi sucks" (I'm on the first page!). I find this both amusing and comforting. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who gets a little frustrated with Sirsi.

Friday, October 24, 2008

oh! Symphony!

I can't believe I almost forgot to mention this: we're "moving" to Symphony over Christmas. I'd like to revisit what SD calls Symphony:
"SirsiDynix Symphony, blending the best of the Unicorn GL3 and Horizon 8/Corinthian systems, offers libraries and consortia the stability, quality, and performance they need to operate productively and efficiently, while equipping them to serve people and entire communities." (from here)
It is a "blending." Blending which parts of Horizon, you may ask? Good question! I have no idea, because here's how much of a big deal our move to Symphony is:

Our Unicorn administrator said this about the move:
"The Unicorn test system will be down for much of next week. During this time we will be performing an upgrade to the latest version of Unicorn software -- 3.2.1 “Symphony.”"

This cracks me up. He doesn't even pretend like it's different. I could swear that he's also said to us in person that it's "you know, pretty much exactly the same as Java Workflows."

Now, what also happened today (and which triggered this little quotation fest) was that someone posted on the Unicorn listserv that they are moving from Horizon to Symphony and would appreciate any input from anyone else who made the move. The Unicorn listserv is a closed list, so I guess the Unicorn list is now the Symphony list. Oh, Sirsi. Perhaps I was right after all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vendor webinars

OCLC had a webinar today. Here's the pitch:
"You are invited to attend a special program on innovative, emerging cataloging practices and trends that can help you build next-generation catalogs, expose your library's metadata and make your cataloging workflows more efficient.

Your host, Karen Calhoun, Vice President, WorldCat & Metadata Services, will offer insights on how your library can benefit from emerging cataloging innovations, including OCLC Contract Cataloging."

So a bunch of us catalogers attended this webinar. I should have known better, as I usually avoid vendor anything. But other people were sitting in, so why not?

I knew better, yet I did it anyway.

So the whole thing was about contract cataloging and Cataloging Partners. The only thing I want to say about their spiel is that OCLC apparently found, through some source, that it cost $45 per book to do original cataloging at a library. Does that sound high to you? It does to me. I make far less than $45/hour, yet it does take me about an hour or so to do a good original cataloging job, on average. While I was sitting there thinking "that seems kind of....off", my boss turns to me and says "two years ago, we did a study on how much it cost us to do cataloging...we came up with $10/book." Which, miraculously, is also what OCLC estimates are THEIR costs for cataloging a book. Weird, right?

I knew better than to attend a vendor seminar. My notes from the webinar includes such gems as "WTF", "anti-cataloger", and "how does this relate to cataloging?" Obviously I did not get a whole lot out of it. At least it was free!


**Addendum: I know that people from OCLC read my blog. I hope this post doesn't come off as being offensive towards OCLC. Because, here's the deal: OCLC is a vendor, and it's not their fault that they are a vendor and are trying to sell products. That's kind of the whole point of their existence. And I know that. I think everyone knows that (or at least, I hope everyone knows that). Most of my commentary is directed at myself, to help me finally come to terms with the fact that I do not enjoy vendor-sponsored events. I once spent an entire day sitting at an Elsevier-sponsored event and wanted to stab my own eyes out. And it was totally not Elsevier's fault. They were all very cute and Dutch.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Loaded Question

From Autocat this afternoon:
"Some staff here are convinced that "you
can't find anything" in our catalog. That it has become an unnecessary
expense since most patrons browse the collection anyway. If so, is it
the fault of the catalog, or the untrained user? Or both?"

What a huge question to just post nonchalantly on a listserv. What amuses me, though, is that this is the question at the heart of all the new-fangled discovery tools like Aquabrowser and iBistro and all that nonsense. This is a HUGE QUESTION, Palm Beach County Library System, and no one really knows the answer to it. In fact, I would argue that these questions are the very core of all the changes going on in the library world right now. I wonder if she'll get any responses. I certainly do not have the finger endurance to type out the kind of response that she needs....although, to be fair, probably no one does. But if I did, it would start out with "When Yahoo and Google started creating their own search engines in 1996..." and we'd just go on from there. My response would probably end with "and no one knows, even to this day, if the problem is the catalog or the untrained user, or both. Although I figure it's both."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Drowning

I am drowning in original cataloging. I may not survive. If I'm not back in a week, just assume that the LCSH has finally taken me to the Big Library in the Sky.

Save yourselves!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm Too Cynical

Some kind, loving soul posted to the autocat list today, and said (I quote):

"...like AIG, libraries are too important to let fail!"

Um. Libraries obviously aren't. They fail all the time. They have failed throughout history. People willingly destroy them, or neglect them, or just plain set them on fire.

Libraries are certainly valuable. I believe that libraries are valuable. Are libraries "too important" for a government, or a community, to let them fail? Yes, of course they are too important for that. Will people go ahead and let them fail anyway? YES, OF COURSE THEY WILL.

I've written about this before, I think....but really and truly, librarians always snuggle this little belief to their bosoms that if people were just educated, they would understand how valuable libraries are. Well, yes, that's true. But people aren't educated, and they usually don't want to be, either. Is that a cynical view of the world? A realistic view? A very sad view?

Yes.

I'll try to be more optimistic in the future, though. Much like the investment bank fiasco, this is depressing me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting ready

So, I'm way behind the times, and I know it, but I started reading the drafts of RDA last week. I'm not really that far in, and I know that it's only rough drafts, but I figured I might as well start, since at some point this is going to be a Big Deal.

Want to know what I've found so far? I may be simplifying (God knows I'm good at doing that), but I didn't find much that was earth-shattering or worldview-changing. The terms are a little different, but the rules themselves are pretty much the same, at their core. I could still use MARC. There are still statements of responsibility. There is no hand of a Library God touching down to wreak havoc upon us all.

Now, I haven't been through all of the draft documents yet, so maybe at some point I'm going to be blown away. In fact, I'm sure that will happen. Because I haven't gotten to any place yet where RDA starts looking like a FRBR mechanism. Right now it just looks like AACRII. I could only be so lucky.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

oh, SirsiDynix

You strike again, SD. Our serials cataloger pointed out that when working in Sirsi's Java Workflows, you cannot always get the html links in a marc record to take you to a browser. The link simply will not work. They are speculating that this has to do with links that include special characters, like an ampersand.

Our IT guy says, and I quote: "This is a bug at our current Unicorn patch level. it will be cleared after we upgrade to a new version in the coming Christmas holidays."

Point of order, IT guy! When links are broken that are supposed to work, and links are presenting themselves as being in working order when they are not, is NOT A BUG. It's a functionality failure.

Now, do I think that our IT guy is the one who called it a "bug"? No, I do not. I'm absolutely positive that SirsiDynix is calling it a bug, because they would often do the same thing when we had "bugs" in Horizon. I put "bugs" in quotes because those problems were really basic functionality failures. This isn't something like "oh, when I hit this and this and do this thing and then I try to enter a 520 field in the MARC editor, it freezes!" No. This is "our links don't work, but they're still made to look like they work." That is basic functionality, and it is broken. We shouldn't have to wait for the next upgrade for this to be fixed. It's madness.

Although I did escape most of the SirsiDynix craziness when I left my former job, at least I can rest assured that the craziness continues without me, and that it has not miraculously gone away now that Symphony is in full developmental swing.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Mapping thoughts

It's been a long time, blog. No, really, like 2.5 weeks! In my defense, I'm coming up on 4 months pregnant and have been feeling "under the weather" (an understatement) for some time. It's hard to think about libraries and metadata and whatnot when I want to throw up all the time.

ANYWAY.

One of my reference librarian peeps introduced me to a website the other day: Mindomo. It's a way to map research, or brainstorm, or just organize information. It uses Flash (of course) because nothing is simple these days, but it does allow you to put links and documents and graphics all into your map of whatever it is you want to look at. You can even make your maps public for others to reference...if you go to the browse tab at the top of the site it takes you to where the public ones are located.

At any rate, I think that it's a very cool take on the "brainstorming" maps we used to draw in middle school. And certainly useful for information professionals who have lots of information to organize and who would prefer to create a digital map of their stuff rather than just one in their head, or in a finding aid or something. I certainly hope to use it for future projects--maybe it could help us determine what kind of practices we're going to impose on materials before we start working on them, in a more intuitive and visual way. Or maybe I'll just finally get around to creating a map of the relationships between early modern philosophers. Whichever.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Best (Worst?) Meeting Ever

I just came back from a meeting about how to implement PREMIS in our institutional repository. We've been working on how to implement PREMIS for months. The result of this meeting was: we don't need PREMIS.

So was this the best or worst meeting in history?

The case for "best meeting":
We came to the conclusion that while PREMIS is probably very good for some things, in this case it wouldn't be capturing anything that we aren't already capturing in some other way. Thus, we don't need to add work for ourselves just for the sake of a standard. Verdict: SUPER productive meeting where we didn't make unnecessary work.

The case for "worst meeting":
We started out the meeting not using PREMIS, and we ended the same meeting, 1.5 hours later, still not using PREMIS. It took us 90 minutes to decide that we should keep doing what we're doing. Verdict: Ridiculous that we took that long to hash this out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

S56 is Singh

I have been cataloging a lot of books by Indian authors lately. So many in fact that I now know the cutter code for the last name Singh by heart. BY HEART, PEOPLE.

Luckily I am in the home stretch, the last two books of the 40-odd that I have been set to original-catalog.

It says something about the things I get assigned to catalog that I do not know the cutter code for Smith or Johnson or Baker. Nope. No idea. However, I now know Singh and I also know Werner (W47). There are a lot of German authors named Werner.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Card Catalogs

Have you ever noticed how the paper card catalog has become a kind of badge of honor among librarians? "When I worked with paper card catalogs" is like a golden stamp that means you are intellectually untouchable. You know All.

When I was in library school, all the professors assumed none of us had ever worked with paper catalogs. Sure, we'd used them until we were 15 or so, but we'd never really WORKED with them. We were but babes in the metaphorical woods of TRUE library work.

Of course, I had worked with paper card catalogs, in college of all places. I worked in an archive, and we weren't part of the ILS, so we used paper. I learned how to type out main entry cards, and what spacing, punctuation, etc. to use, and how far to scroll down on the card before putting the other terms on the back, and how to file cards (those metal rods really threw me for a loop for about 15 minutes until I figured out how to pop them out).


But I think that working with the paper shouldn't be such a badge of honor anymore. Working with the paper sucked, yes, but was it really such back-breaking work that we all should wish we could repeat it so that we can all "know" the hardship of working with typewriters and small index cards that inspire paper cuts just by being within 50 feet of a human being? I say no, and thank Goodness that we now have computers and databases to help us avoid such atrocities.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Finnish archives

Sometimes I come across books that make me very painfully aware of how little I know about archival theory. Today, that lesson was hit home when I had a book called "Records, Rules, and Speech Acts" come across my desk. It's by a Finnish archivist, Pekka Henttonen (a guy, by the way, for all of you Indo-European speakers who think that girls' names end in A).

The introduction was worth my reading (even though I'm really just cataloging the thing) because Hentonnen raised an interesting question: how do we define records, both positively (records are x) and negatively (records are NOT y). I have no idea how we define records, although I bet Hentonnen tells me by the end of this book, and somehow ties it into speech act theory, which he references in the summary, and is a linguistic theory about how saying something is doing something (example: I now pronounce you man and wife). How he connects the two, I have no idea, but I bet it's interesting. I hope that I can check this book out soon and try to plow through it.

Of course, the novelty of this archival theory book is that it's written by a Finn. Hello? Finnish people are exotic. He kindly includes some translations of terms like "records management" (asiakirjahallinto) and "archives formation plan" (arkistonmuodostussuunnitelma), which of course I just find fascinating because I'm three years old and different languages are weird and cool.

The descriptions of Finnish archival practice are really the best part, though, because they seem so modern and advanced to my North American archivally-trained brain: records management and archives are ONE profession, and these people take control of the documents throughout the life cycle. Hentonnen quotes J. Kilkki (another Finn, I believe) :"in Finland, archival fonds are not viewed from present to past, as something that is, they are viewed from present to future, as something that becomes. The accumulation of records into files, files into series, series in sub-fonds and sub-fonds into the archival fond of a records creator are all determined in advance, before the records are even created."

Does that sound like Archival Utopia to anyone else? Is Finland a magic land where archives make sense? I want to visit.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Power of Naivete

A person (who is very nice, I'm sure) just posted on Autocat asking what skills one must possess so that one might be proficient in "installing, developing, customizing, adding records, and maintaining" Greenstone or Dspace.
I just sat here for about 20 seconds, staring at her request. Um....the skill of Knowing Perl? The skill of being able to work around the 1,000 minute details that each of these programs will require you to know and fear in order to do anything at all?
I almost don't want to say anything at all, for fear of turning her off to digital repositories (I almost typed "digital repopsicles" there). Who am I to judge someone who wants to learn about these programs? Well, I'm one who came to digital library software much in the way that this gentle soul did:
"I'm fluent in HTML and I've digitized things into image or PDF formats; I've also used optical character recognition software with scanners. I've attended metadata workshops (but need to work on getting up to speed with XML)."
Little does she know. Granted, I used Greenstone back in 2004, when it was probably a lot more of a nightmare. I had all of the same skills as above, and it prepared me not even a little for Greenstone. We use Dspace here, now, and I know that our Dspace programmer is literally backed into a corner with all the customizing work that's thrown at him (in fact, I think we're hiring a new programmer soon because of it). So my experience with both programs has been....mediocre at best.
I guess this is the problem with the digital world generally--you have to just jump into the pool and fail a lot in order to eventually succeed in getting your digital stuff organized and available. I'm sure the trying will make this person a better computer person, and a better librarian. I know that working with Greenstone helped me see what a lot of effort goes on to create a "pretty" and "useable" search interface/database.
But man, it sucks to get there.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Another new thing

I'm mostly a cataloger, and sometimes I'm an archivist, and I'm always into structuring organization. And now, let's add to the list: marketing/training.

What?

Yes. I've been put on a team to write manuals, set up trainings on new search tools, and set up usability testing. We're getting one of those new-fangled research discovery tools and I'm apparently going to be part of the implementation, because my "skills" would be useful. I know I shouldn't deride myself, but honestly and truly, even though I'm excited as hell to be included on this, I know nothing about usability testing or training.
I do know something about writing procedures and manuals, though (I've rewritten the procedures and policies at every job I've ever done)....maybe they'll let me take a stab at that. Subtext: please don't make me do statistical analyses. That will end in heartache for everyone.

Monday, July 21, 2008

440

This is just a short post, to give us all something to think about. I don't know if this is true, but when Joel Hahn tells me something over Autocat, I believe him. Silly of me, I know. Anyway, there's this huge discussion going on about how they're getting rid of the 440 series field, and Joel says (and I quote):

"...given the programming headaches using the 440 for both transcription and tracing
was causing with OCLC's controlling headings functionality (as, when the
authorized form changes, 440s can't just be automatically updated like
every other traced field can, whereas if every series were a 490/830
combo, then this field would work like every other entry field does when
it comes to applying authority control and changed headings), the
benefits to programming and the ease of teaching new catalogers how to
handle what currently is an exceptional case make this worth the
duplication (which won't be true duplication as far as some ILSs are
concerned, as they never did index the 490 and often don't display the
8XX)."

Um, I'm sorry, are we changing the way we catalog because it doesn't work with OCLC? If we were changing it because it doesn't work intellectually, that's one thing. But we're going to change everything because this "private" company's database isn't built correctly? ARE YOU KIDDING ME, JOEL?

Ahem. Sorry. Food for thought. Incidentally, I'm not blaming Joel Hahn. He seems very nice.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Information literacy

I read The Impact of Digitizing Special Collections on Teaching and Scholarship by Merrilee Proffitt and Jennifer Schaffner.

It was good, I recommend anyone interested in the connections between special collections and users check it out. But it has this fatal flaw that made me, at the end of the article, just sigh. Why is it always the librarian's fault that faculty don't care about teaching their students to be researchers? Why do we have to make sure that we "don't embarrass" the faculty? I've never seen a faculty member go out of their way to keep from embarrassing a librarian (or anyone else, for that matter). I suppose I'm jaded, but it always gets me that we're supposed to treat PhDs like they're made of glass. Yes, I understand that we are a service industry, but in reality, so are teachers of all kinds. The quote from the faculty member at Temple, at the beginning of the article, was what really got me thinking--they said that it's a waste of time to teach information literacy. Really? What if I called it "research skills"? Would that make a difference?

The article didn't talk at all about how librarians might get faculty to start learning about research strategies to pass on to their own students. Maybe this is like the medical profession's problem: experienced doctors are unwilling to allow new doctors to have normal hours, because the experienced doctors didn't get any breaks when they were new, so why should these young whippersnappers. I feel like many faculty members are perfectly willing to let their students flounder about in a sea of information, without teaching them a thing about doing research. All the while, the students are floundering way more than their teachers ever did, because we are, at present, drowning in information.

In my last job, the information literacy librarian was starting to tackle this problem, by training the faculty in new research strategies and how to teach others how to use the technologies that now exist. She realized that she couldn't get to every student, and that having one hour per semester with one class to talk about library resources wasn't helping anyone. You can't teach that many students when you have a small staff. But you CAN teach the faculty, which represents a much smaller population. She also embedded herself in one class, but that took probably 10 hours of her weekly work, which is not really viable for most libraries. Her work with the faculty was by far the most promising, but I'm sure that somehow she "embarrassed" some of them. Quel horreur.

Anyway, it's an interesting article, and I guess since it got me thinking about all of this information literacy stuff, it did its job.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Research project!

The University of Texas got a cool grant to give scholarships to four people who want to do a doctoral program in digital librarianship. That isn't particularly up my alley, but it sounds really cool, nonetheless. It got me thinking about where were the best programs for learning about the theory of organization as it's applied to libraries, and metadata more generally. This is shockingly hard to find out. Does such a beast even exist, or do people have to carve out their own niches within their PhD programs in order to learn about it? I honestly don't know. More research on my part is obviously required.
It's times like this that I wonder if I am just too dumb to find the information that's out there, because I think that different PhD programs should be easy to find, rather than taking up a lot of my time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Catalogers are not the enemy

One of my colleagues was at ALA, and sat in on a session sponsored by LITA called "There's no catalog like no catalog," or something like that. She said that she was in a minority by being a cataloger at this session, but that it was the attitude of the presenters that made her the most uncomfortable. She said that catalogers were portrayed as being inflexible, reactionary, and backward-thinking. She also said that she wanted to stand up and say "the real problem is that the library systems we use have never caught up to what catalogers actually need to do their jobs." That made me laugh. True.

But here's the thing: my colleague wasn't witnessing some small, misguided group of people who think of catalogers as Luddites and reactionaries. She was witnessing a microcosm of the thought of most of the information technology people out there today. I feel bad for all the catalogers when I hear talk like this (so I guess, really, I just feel bad for myself). Catalogers aren't backwards, they just want to create metadata for their objects, like anyone who has an object that they want other people to see. We use MARC for that. And let's face it, there isn't another metadata format out there that can rival the completeness of MARC. Most of the new metadata standards are still working out problems that this standard figured out 20 years ago.

I don't like the idea that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. MARC is not the greatest, I realize that. Neither is AACRII, or LCSH. But they're not terrible, either. Speaking strictly from metadata schemas, MARC is still pretty awesome. It still does things that DC has never even dreamed of (and which we've been trying to squeeze into qualified DC with mixed results).

The need to create metadata is not going to go away just because someone decides that catalogers are obsolete. I don't know how some people think that we will get our information about information in the future, but one great example of the need for metadata comes from images. An image doesn't actually tell you anything about itself without you looking at it. So how do you search a database of images? You search the metadata that was created by someone who cared about creating metadata--ie, someone from the family of catalogers. You can call them something else if you want; data analysts or metadata-creation experts or whatever, but it's the same thing.

Anyway. This is my soapbox. I sigh a lot when I think about how abused catalogers have become at the hands of the techies. It's not like catalogers have created the downfall of civilization or the corruption of technology. In fact, we often wish that the search-mechanism creators would find a way to use the information we give them more profitably. Does that make us reactionary?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The career question

I think the hardest thing about having a career is not letting it define your life. I'm pretty young, but have had a good career so far. I like where my career is going. But. If I were to have a child, I think I would leave my career to "take care of the kids." I know that this sounds crazy to at least some people (judging from the looks of thinly-veiled horror on their faces), but for me it makes a lot of sense. I just know that I would rather raise my kids myself than hand them over to anyone else (no matter how awesome they are).

But this puts me at an odd crossroads as to my career. If I define myself by the work I do, then leaving my career is basically to put my entire life on hold for a child. I think I need to tweak that mentality, though. My life isn't on hold. It's still happening, whether it's being recognized in the workplace or not.

I don't like the idea that the only way to live a meaningful life is to have a career and become well-known in my field. I don't like the idea for men anymore than I do for women; I think both are wrongheaded. Why is someone like Ronald Reagan considered more successful than my grandfather, who ran his own farm for 50 years?

The problem, of course, is taking all that societal training and throwing it away. Finding a way to define myself without the need to have a "career" or something else that puts me on the map as a "successful" person. It's just a hard thing to do. But really, if I were to still be a busy person, who has a garden and takes care of children and is happy and productive and can still find time to learn and participate in society, isn't that enough for the world to recognize that I'm contributing to society?

These questions are tough to answer.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

JHOVE again

So luckily, we have an awesome IT guy here who can work Java magic, and who installed JHOVE for me. Of course, the user interface is, well, not that great, but it does the job if you can work around the fact that it's not intuitive at all and gives you no instruction or prompting. But I digress.
I ran a tiff file through JHOVE, and it pulled out all kinds of preservation metadata. Like, it pulled out the number of pixels per line of the image, and listed it all for me in the xml document. EVERY LINE. Sound crazy? I thought so too. However, I will say: Job well done, JHOVE people. This program is the most thorough I've ever seen for extracting preservation metadata. It just takes an expert to install.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

JHOVE

Okay, I have to say this...we're looking at preservation tools here, to automatically identify formats and spit out metadata about the size of the files, etc. And one of the tools we're looking at is JHOVE. And I quote: "JHOVE provides functions to perform format-specific identification, validation, and characterization of digital objects."
Which is right up our alley in terms of what we need. So I download it, and start to read the installation instructions when I click on the file and nothing happens. And guess what? JHOVE doesn't have an automatic installer?! You have to go into the config file, and the home directory, and change lines to get it to work.
Um....hello? It's 2008. I don't mind doing this to set up a piece of software, but if you want people to use your system (especially in libraries), you might want to make it just a TAD easier to use.
Did I mention that you can use the command line to use this product? They have a GUI, too, but come on...any system that says "you can use command line!" is not going to have a great GUI. It's just a gut feeling. This reminds me of early Greenstone software, where you had to know PERL just to make it work at all. The GUI was a joke.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm Out

Dear Blog,
I'm going away for a week. Don't cry! I promise to be back in the land of the electronic very soon. If my parents' house had any kind of internet connection (or computer), this scenario would look very different.
Keep your chin up,
Scribe

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I've been cataloging....

A LOT. Dear Lord, so much cataloging. It's actually shocking how much I need a meeting every day in order to break the monotony of cataloging. I haven't had even one meeting yet this week. And I like original cataloging, I do, but when you come across the 17th book that simply has no copy of any kind, with no discernible author, published in a city I've never heard of in India, and it's the cheapest paper around, and maybe is unpaged....ughhhh.

I know all you catalogers out there feel me. Sometimes it gets hard. But since I'm going to be gone all next week...well, sometimes you just have to keep going. Let's do this, Class-separately-serial-publication-in-
6-languages-with-two-editors-and-all-descriptions-in-Spanish!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

FRBR and FRAD and RDA, Oh My

If any of you are also lurkers on the DC-RDA listserv, you've seen this discussion that has bloomed up over the past two days. For those who are not on the listserv, this discussion is totally worth throwing out to the masses.
Here's the deal, from the end of the conversation: FRBR and FRAD do not actually define a person in the same way. In fact, their definitions of a person seem to be opposed to one another. (If you don't want to read the definitions, but would rather see the color commentary, skip down to below the dotted lines)
=================================================================
4.6.1 (FRBR):
"A person may be known by more than one name, or by more than one form of the same name. A bibliographic agency normally selects one of those names as the uniform heading for purposes of consistency in naming and referencing the person. The other names or forms of name may be treated as variant names for the person. In some cases (e.g., in the case of a person who writes under more than one pseudonym, or a person who writes both in an official capacity and as an individual) the bibliographic agency may establish more than one uniform heading for the person."
FRAD:
"Person : An individual or a persona established or adopted by an individual or group. [FRBR, modified] : Includes real individuals. Includes personas established or adopted by an individual through the use of more than one name (e.g., the individual’s real name and/or one or more pseudonyms). Includes personas established or adopted jointly by two or more individuals (e.g., Ellery Queen — joint pseudonym of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee). Includes personas established or adopted by a group (e.g., Betty Crocker)."
================================================================

As smarter people than me said on the listserv, if you read these closely, with an eye towards personas (think Mark Twain for Samuel Clemens), you will quickly see that these two standards (which came out of the same institution!) are not similar, and deal with the idea of personas quite differently.

The issue, then, is...RDA is only taking its person definitions from FRAD. For me, this is just another signal that RDA, which is kind of supposed to be based on FRBR, is falling farther and farther away from FRBR, while all the regular librarians out there are still trying to wrap their heads around FRBR in a vain attempt to understanding how RDA will work when it comes out. How gratifying it will be when RDA comes out and all the people who thought they understood what was coming, don't.

Yes, I'm a naysayer. But this little issue (which is not actually little at all) worries me.

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Fork in the Road

I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't a fundamental difference between scholars and practitioners that has always been there, and I have been denying.
When I started my post-high-school career as a "scholar" (I use the term loosely, since I was after all but a humble undergraduate), I put my professors up on a pedestal. That was wrong of me, of course, because scholars and professors are certainly respectable, but they are not Gods. They are just people who happen to do very well at analysis of different kinds of data, who also happen to be very good at writing papers and books. A small skill-set, to be sure. The other thing that characterizes these educated souls, is that they are, at core, not interested in practice.
That's a not a pejorative statement, by the way. Why? Because when you spin it the OTHER way, and say that most practicing librarians are not interested in creating theory, no one seems to mind.
Anyway, while I was in undergrad, I put these people up very high, and I put practitioners at some sort of "lower" rung. When I got to graduate school, I finally started seeing that it wasn't a hierarchy, but rather a difference of opinion about how it was best to spend one's time.
The longer I work with "academics", the more I see that this basic divide is a real problem for any kind of project between practicing professionals and the theoreticians. Why? Because the theoreticians say "we want X" and the professionals say "Oh. Well, X isn't actually possible." And the theoreticians say "but you asked us what we wanted!"
Now, I don't think that either side is "right" in this particular debate, because on the one hand, you can say that the theoreticians aren't grounded enough to see that what they desire and what they can have are different, but you could just as easily say that the practitioners aren't allowing themselves to dream enough in order to innovate.
So the two sides are constantly at loggerheads, and it takes some very adept people to keep them both happy and productive and working towards a common goal. And it's so, so easy to put these two groups against each other. "Their heads are in the clouds!" "They just don't want to change!" And neither of those mentalities are constructive, and neither of those mentalities are true.
I think we see this all the time. The Working Group for the Future of Bibliographic Control is a great example. Well, not them, per se, but the response to them. We have the very, very practical side saying that we need to scrap RDA and just focus on cataloging, and we have the extreme other side who are completely content to just "try it out" and let things run their course, because hey, why not?
There are more examples out there. They're always there.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Listservs

I'm on quite a few listservs. The bulk of my email every day comes from listservs. I like them, in fact. They're like little snippets of the world outside of my office. But I have to say, I'm getting kind of tired of the archivists' listservs.
How many times can we rehash the same old argument about how digitizing something does not count as "preservation"? I mean, come ON. It happens like every other week--someone writes something about using digitization as a preservation method, and then 10 people jump on that person and tell them that it's not a viable preservation strategy.
I have two problems with the above scenario. One, the person who still thinks that digitization is going to solve their crumbling paper problem. Sit down and read something, anything, about preservation that was written in the past 3 years and you will read that digitization is not a miracle cure. In fact, it's more like giving up the common cold in favor of getting tuberculosis. Sure, your stuffy sinuses will clear up, but you'll have a hacking cough for the next 10 years, and end up in a sanitarium in Colorado.
The other problem I have is the 10 other people. Seriously, one person's response is enough. Do we all need to jump on the bandwagon and let everyone else know that we know what we are doing? As some very smart person said, "Don't ever miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut." I don't want those 10 self-congratulatory emails in my inbox. I don't really need even one of those emails, but I suppose someone has to tell the person who is considering contracting TB that they're about to get really sick.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Where I've Been

I've been really, really sick. That's where I've been. But now I am back at my desk, with my good keyboard and dual monitors, and things are looking better. No fever! No infections! No nausea!

It's the little things.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"The Really Obvious Stuff"

The other day, I'm sitting in a conference call, and we're talking about the creation of metadata for our big metadata project. And someone says "well, of course we won't be putting brackets around the supplied titles."
This stopped me in my note-taking tracks. We're not--what? What ELSE aren't we doing and why am I just now getting this sinking feeling in my stomach?
So I kind of keep quiet and ask my boss later, thinking that I'm just a silly new person who didn't realize that we're not doing this stuff according to AACRII. My boss comes back with "what??"
Hm. A conundrum. How did we get almost 8 months into this project without anyone knowing that we're not creating metadata according to AACRII rules?**
Well, very easily, in fact. It says quite explicitly in our metadata rules for the project that we're creating content by the DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), and not by AACRII. Now, this makes perfect sense, because DACS is written with an eye towards machine-readable rules, and AACRII is written for cards. So things like brackets around supplied titles are fine when you're putting it on a card, but a database can't figure out that you didn't mean to include a bracket in the title, and will sort its indexes accordingly.
What this also means, though, as I found out in the meeting, is that we're not using abbreviations, or acronyms, except in cases of, and I quote "you know, the really obvious stuff."

I'm laughing right now, just typing it out again. "really obvious stuff"? Seriously, that's our rule? Is "cm" obvious? Is "Mr." obvious? What about "NJ", or "misc."? Man, I just laughed and laughed about this rule. And then I put my head down on my desk and cried.

I'm finding, more and more, that I'm banging my head against a brick wall just trying to explain to people that there is more to cataloging than just putting some random words down to describe an object. In fact, I also had a person say "how hard can it be to do subject analysis?" Holy Jesus, apparently a lot harder than you thought.





**While we are eight months in, we're just starting to create metadata, so this was actually a very opportune time to have this particular revelation.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Newsflash: libraries aren't cool

I want to explore an idea.

I've read about four blog posts in the past week that talk about how libraries are going to manage to keep our users "interested" in libraries (of course, there was also a nay-sayer who remarked "they're already uninterested"). We want to make our catalogs more like Amazon, encourage social tagging, et cetera et cetera. But WHY?

If we've already resigned ourselves to the idea that not everyone in the world, or even most people in the world, care about libraries, why are we fighting so hard? Libraries have never ever been for everyone. They've been for scholars, for researchers, for the rich (who, subsequently, have lots of free time to be scholars and researchers). Why is this a bad thing? Is it because we're disenfranchising people? Do the people feel disenfranchised when they're denied access to a college library? They already don't want to come in, but I suppose people feel like they just need to go somewhere when they're not allowed. So keeping all these libraries open to the public is probably only keeping people away. They'd be banging down the doors if they felt like their rights were being infringed upon and we were trying to keep them out.

Anyway, that's not my point, really. My point is that we're trying to make libraries the coolest place around, where everyone will flock and love books and reading. But libraries have NEVER been that way, and the majority of people have NEVER been that keen on reading. I feel like we're trying to make people think that the library is something it isn't. At the core, libraries are about providing knowledge to a group of people (be it the public or a select group). But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him read.

Why are we trying to be like Amazon? Because people like Amazon better than they like libraries? Is this a popularity contest? I've never really found Amazon's search interface any more efficient than anyone else's--but people like Amazon because it allows them to buy lots of useless junk for themselves. A library will never offer that kind of service. A library, even with a cool interface and lots of gadgets, will still just offer you books and multimedia, for 2 weeks. Sure it's free, but you still go to a library to LEARN. No one goes to Amazon to learn, they go there to shop.

I know that public libraries were started as a means of "educating" the people of the nation who were not "privileged" enough to get education on their own. But no one asked the people if they wanted it. And since all things are self-selecting, libraries will continue to have problems with attracting patrons because people self-select themselves out of going to the library, or learning, or being engaged in their world, or doing research. Knowing what's best for people isn't always enough to get them to come to the library. And I'm sorry to say, adding folksonomies and social tagging and bright lights and chat windows isn't really enough to get them to come to the library, either, because you can't play video games, shop, or eat food at the library.

Don't get me wrong, I know that libraries serve a very unique and important role in our world--the preservation of knowledge is one of the most needful things, especially in today's society where we throw everything away. And if we're going after new search strategies and technology for the pursuit of that knowledge, then I'm all for it. But...if we're pursuing this new technology just so that we can feel like we're "cool", then I think we're doing it for the wrong reasons, and in any case, that technology will probably fail to do what we want it to. I hate to break it to everyone, but libraries just aren't cool. Important, yes; cool, no.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

RDA and the Mystery of the Old Clock

So. RDA.

In case you didn't already know (and for my own memory later), there has been a lot of activity in the past week or so regarding RDA. Let's see, first LC, NLM, and NAL issued their statement about the Final Report from the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control (you can read it here if you haven't read it yet; it's the only place I can find it all written out fully. Which is odd.). It's been a long time coming, but it was good to see it, I suppose. They're basically saying that RDA should get published first, so that a "systematic review" can be attempted. Ok. Yawn. Apparently the implementation of RDA into the Big Three won't happen before the end of 2009, and that's assuming that all the usability testing and whatnot go smoothly.


Also, a lot of vocabulary from RDA has been coming out. I have to be honest, I've doing a lot of actual work lately, and so haven't been paying much attention to the vocabulary lists. But you should go look at them if you have the desire and/or time.

(Sometimes I wonder if the reason that these new schemas and things come out at all is because librarians are far too busy with their actual jobs to be bothered with this kind of stuff. I think I wrote a long time ago about this. I don't see how anyone gets a job where their only responsibility is to go out and make up policy for other librarians. I can't imagine any job being like that. It sounds cool, though.)

Friday, May 02, 2008

If you read yesterday's post....

You should also read the comments from the Devil's Advocate post, because they are actually about the post on Unicorn. In fact, it's a comment from someone at SD, and my reply. FYI.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

More Talk about Unicorn

I hadn't been hearing much from the SirsiDynix world lately, but today, I heard a whole lot. My boss is on a committee to investigate new search portals to lay over top of our existing GL 3.1 (Unicorn) ILS, and just attended the Sirsi SuperConference. Here's what I learned today:

From my boss: Aquabrowser and Primo and even Encore are much better developed than Sirsi's search portal (which is called EPS, I believe). Although my boss thought that Sirsi doesn't have federated searching, from looking at their website I think that they do, it's just not bundled in with their portal. Which I think is really stupid. Although, in an effort to keep their customers from running to open source or other options, I think that people at SD are trying to scare their customers--my boss has it in their head that open source software usually has no support attached to it. When actually, lots of third-party vendors are starting to support open source. Seems like a scare tactic to me.

The other interesting thing is that we talked a lot about how SD is going to stop supporting the C client version of Unicorn at the end of 2009, and that means everyone needs to either get onto Unicorn Java client, or face the fact that they are going to be left without support. Makes sense. C client SUCKS.

And while listening to all this, my boss also said "They're changing the name of Unicorn to Symphony. But it's just a name change."
Finally, real confirmation that Symphony is not the "blended model" that SD claimed it was to the Horizon users. I'm sure this is no surprise to any Horizon user anymore, but I do think it's interesting that Sirsi customers are getting all this comforting talk about how it's not changing at all, and Horizon customers were getting all this comforting talk about how Symphony is going to be great for them and how it ISN'T Unicorn (when many Horizon customers didn't get Unicorn for very specific reasons).

So anyway, thought I'd put all this information out into the interwebs. Fly free, little information!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Devil's Advocate

Ranganathan once wrote, of Charles Ammi Cutter's Rules for a Dictionary Catalog: "Rdc is indeed a classic. It is immortal. Its influence has been overpowering. It inhibits free-thinking even today." (Headings and Canons)

Ranganathan saw something in Cutter's rules that I think most people don't even see today: that we're still going in the same directions we've been going since Cutter wrote his rules, and we're not somehow coming to a new dawn of cataloging when we talk about FRBR or RDA. Now, lots of cataloging scholars also see this (William Denton's chapter in Understanding FRBR is a great example of this--his whole chapter is about how FRBR developed out of the past).

But I feel as though a lot of OTHER people just aren't seeing this relationship to the past. Many librarians are very worried about RDA, just as FRBR worried them 10 years ago. Why are they worried about RDA? Because it's being touted as this new, groundbreaking initiative that will change everything about cataloging as we know it.

Except that it won't.

Ranganathan's words still ring true. Cutter's rules, lo those many years ago, set us up for using card catalogs, author and subject indexing, and helping the user to find what they need. LC based most of their standards on Cutter's work, and the ALA based most of its work on LC standards, and let's face it, Cutter wouldn't find very much to be shocked about in the AACRII.

RDA likely won't be THAT shocking, either. I mean, to look at it from an outsider's perspective (say, the serials cataloging community), it's just more of the same, wrapped up in new terminology. Will the new terminology help us to catalog various formats better? I have no idea, although from looking at the vocabularies list that came out recently, I suspect it will not. They have a separate term for music publisher numbers. No term for other kinds of publisher numbers, though. Where is the overarching idealism in something like that?

I frequently worry that the library community has been stuck in a classification rut for over a hundred years, but that the reason no one is truly willing to step out on a limb and create something totally new is because it's just easier to do everything like we've been doing it**. As the amount of information increases, and we become more and more invested in one system, it gets harder and harder to scrap the concepts. When I even think about conceiving a new classification system, I usually end up (mentally) drawing away from the idea. Dr. Miksa once bemoaned the lack of true theoretical learning in the cataloging world, telling us that one big reason we would never change our systems is because we're no longer training anyone to do it. We're just training everyone in the same traditions, and letting everyone go along thinking that this is the only way to organize information. He mused that when someday a new format comes along that everyone wants and it doesn't fit into any of our organizational schemas, there will be no one to make the leap and conceive of a new system. We've been very resourceful so far, fitting the new formats into our old ways of doing things, by renaming or expanding or just tweaking the same concepts over and over. But it may not always be enough. And I feel as if I (and others, of course) have been led to believe that RDA is supposed to lead to some new, more open era of cataloging. But the more I think about it, the less I believe it.




**(this is not a new idea, by the way...somebody very recently was saying that the reason people don't want RDA is because it will lead to a change in our system requirements, and that change will cost money that people don't want to spend)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Which I Ramble A Lot

I've been really busy these past few days....you know, cataloging everything. I've been cataloging a lot of German-language material, which you might find laughable once you hear that I don't actually speak German. Not very well, anyway. It's gotten to the point where I sigh in relief when something crosses my desk that is in French. FRENCH. So you know how desperate my situation has become.

Really, though, this is a great exercise in cataloging. It's very hard, but it forces me to understand the book in my hand thoroughly before attempting to do analysis of it. Luckily for these books, I've been cataloging in German for awhile, ever since my first professional library job, in fact. Again, let's recap: I don't speak German except in cases of ordering Turkish kebabs at the Christmas market in Aachen. Since that went well, though, I figure I'm good.

So besides the cataloging, I've been simultaneously working on creating html versions of our cataloging manual, and continuing to sit in on the class that's teaching TEI, and working on that metadata project that at one point ate my entire professional life but has since calmed down a little.

I used to think library work was boring, can you imagine? Funny story: when I started college, "they" wanted me to work in the archives of the college, because I had worked in a state historical archives in high school. What "they" didn't know was that I spent my entire volunteer time alphabetizing request forms by patron name, and shelving microfilm. I actually said to my mother, "I would rather do dishes than work in a library. Libraries are like math--they make my head hurt."

But since I am a conflict-avoider, I went ahead and did what "they" told me to do, which was to work in the archives. And sooner or later I learned that only student workers shelve microfilm, and by my sophomore year I was actually the "senior" worker in the archives, because the archivist moved away. And then I realized that I really liked organizing things. The End.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Conversation with a Serials Librarian

It went like this: I sent our serials librarian the link to the "FRBR for serials" paper (pdf!), which is apparently quite the rage at the CONSER operational meeting. She said, "oh, yeah, it's nice to see CONSER taking this on, since ever since FRBR came out, it hasn't addressed serials."
Um....?
And THEN she says "It took them about 40 years just to address serials and continuing resource questions in AACR! That's the whole reason CONSER exists."

The more we talked, the more we both came to the conclusion that FRBR is, as the serials librarian said, "a fancying up of old ideas." When I think of FRBR and I think of all the examples that FRBR has been used to describe, it's still based off the basic idea of one work that can be expressed in multiple expressions/manifestations/items. But it's still ONE WORK that was created by ONE person/group/corporation. Serials are just not like that, so it falls to CONSER to (yet again) make their own rules, and tweak concepts, just like they had to do when the library community ignored their needs back in the mid-century with AACR. I don't have a problem with FRBR being tied to traditional ideas of bibliographic control, but they should probably acknowledge that straight off.

This goes back to something I wrote about awhile ago--that archives and museums will have no interest in RDA. And it's dawning on me as to why (besides the obvious one that RDA is kind of imperialistic). If RDA is based off the conceptual framework of FRBR, and FRBR starts everything off with the term "work," we're automatically shutting out everyone who is not part of the one-book-one-author universe. Archivists, curators,and serials librarians just don't respond to that kind of terminology. It doesn't really matter if you have "addressed" their needs--you're starting from the wrong place.

I think that our serials librarian is right, in a way. FRBR, even though it seems to be trying to philosophically embrace all kinds of information, just doesn't do that. Where do archival collections fit into FRBR? Serials? Pith helmets? They don't fit, and will never fit. And that's ok. Because I'm not saying that FRBR isn't an excellent way of conceptualizing the creation of creative works. It is! But if the concept doesn't even fit one of the largest "anomalies" in the library world (serials), then why are we using it as a base to build a new set of rules about cataloging?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Searchability

Interoperability is a buzz word. A really, really important buzzword (unlike, say, "paradigm"). And I feel like I'm banging my head against it. I know the old saying: "There's the right way, and then there's our way." I think that this applies to this institution's approach to digitization projects.
Now, don't get me wrong: this place is the most awesomely together place I've ever worked with regards to digitization projects. They have very clear projects and expectations, if perhaps not quite enough staff to go around. But that's a common problem everywhere, and we all know it.

But the more we talk about this new project, the less happy I am with the way we're communicating. The TEI initiative isn't meshing with the metadata initiative, and I feel like, while they're not exactly working at cross-purposes, they're certainly duplicating work and ultimately making things harder for a user. The TEI people have no concept of controlled vocabularies, and the metadata folks are certainly not going to give into the natural language camp, and the more I think about it, the less I like the idea of one side doing their thing and the other side doing their thing, isolated.

So how do we get ourselves out of this predicament?

I'm teaching a class soon on the basics of cataloging for non-librarians. I'm hoping that this helps to clarify, for these natural-language people, just where we metadata folks are coming from in our need for controlling everything, and also how beneficial it can be to control terms and names and places. I think that many users never really understand how much controlled headings help them. Someone the other day asked me why we "bother" with controlling names or subjects, "when Google is right there and you can just let the software do that stuff for you." I think this person didn't really know what he was suggesting. THe beauty of the controlled heading is that I can put in something like "Dostoevsky" and get all the OTHER versions of Dostoevsky's name as well. Or that I can type in "New Amsterdam" and get the references to New York City. These are things that people think "software" can do, but in reality, it can't. Someone still has to map these things out in order for the references to exist.

So when the TEI people say "well, can't we just put Emperor Maximilian" and everyone will know what they're looking at?" I can honestly say "No--because what about the people who just write Maximillian, or the people who are looking for the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, or the people who are looking for the "emperor" of Mexico? Or the prince of Baden? Or Maximilian the saint?"

 If there's an easy way to solve the problem of searchability...I can't wait to learn about it. But for now, we're going to have to settle for interoperability, and making our metadata and TEI mesh in very concrete ways. And we're not at that point yet, unfortunately.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Future trends, past traditions

The new paper put out by Richard Gartner this month in the JISC is....well, it's not saying anything that we don't already know. I've noticed that much of academic writing is just common sense stuff put down into words. If I could ever figure out how to do that, I would be a great and accomplished academic writer.
Anyway.
The paper is interesting; you can find it here (warning:pdf).
Basically, to use a metaphor (simile?), metadata schemas are like the parts of a car (simile!). METS is the frame, MODS is the engine, DC is the transmission, MIX is the mirrors....this simile is breaking down, a little, but you get the point. Gartner's idea is that once we figure out a way to bolt all the pieces together in a systemized way, we'll have a car and then everyone will be driving. So, once we finally, as a library community, decide to systematize all these different schemas and link them together and decide upon common access points, we'll have something akin to MARC and AACRII, where all the records can transfer to any library system, and everyone uses the same rules, and we can trade records and federate searches and everyone will eat ice cream every day and there will be puppies at every computer terminal.

The thing is, he's not that far from reality. I figure it really is just a matter of time before we come up with a standard for digital object description that uses pieces of MODS, or DC, or PREMIS, all within a METS wrapper. I mean, we're there NOW, we just haven't codified it yet. Who doesn't use those metadata schemas? It's the most organic kind of creation, without rules, yet we all follow a kind of Pirates' Code where we try to take into account all the traditions of library cataloging, use LCSH when possible, etc. (Also, if we could call this new code that will someday be created the Pirate Librarians' Code, I would be cool with that). There is a ton of tradition behind new metadata creation.

RDA is certainly our first step towards a system of creating metadata content that is standardized, and will work with both paper and digital, and is not based on the idea of catalog cards. At least I hope that they ditch all those crazy rules that only come from the idea of having a finite amount of space to write. I'm sure they will, the RDA group seems pretty smart. Much like AACRII and MARC, though, someone is probably going to have to come along and write one of those books like "Cataloging with AACRII and MARC21", because the RDA people will not want to tie their content standard to anything concrete, and all the librarians will just be sitting there wondering how in the hell they translate their rules from physical to metadata to digital. And I imagine that in five years, my reference shelf will have a copy of RDA, and a copy of "Cataloging with RDA and MARC" and a copy of "Cataloging with RDA and MODS" or something.

Ooh, maybe I can write one. Then I will be a Great and Accomplished Academic Writer.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Where the MARC meets the XML

TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) is not new. At all. It was born in 1987, although wasn't put into XML format until this century, I believe. Mostly, English nerds love it. It allows them to find patterns in literature that's been encoded, and differences across editions and versions. It warms their nerdy little hearts, and at the same time allows for the writing of more literary criticism than ever before possible. This also fuels the academic cataloging departments, of course, so I'm not complaining. Much.

Anyway, for this big project we're working on, we're taking scholars and having them do TEI markup on printed works and handwritten manuscripts of all kinds, and then everything will be searchable by keyword and etc etc. I think that tomorrow I'm going to write about TEI, and put in links and things, because I think that not enough librarians know a lot about TEI. But today, I'm going to talk about the relationship of TEI to MARC.

Yes. They have a relationship.

I noticed it right away while we were talking about the capabilities of TEI. The thing about it is--if encoded correctly, there's no need for a cataloging record. The TEI will have captured title, author, format, genre, extant, publisher information, year published, translators, as well as chapter and section titles. The search mechanisms then pull that information out directly from the digital document.
The caveat of course is that the document has to be digital. But think about it--you could easily have a catalog that pulls not only MARC records, but also TEI document information, and have both types of things in one catalog. There's not even really a need for a search portal--you could write a fairly simple program to pull information out of a TEI document and automatically generate a MARC record with it, and then import that record into your catalog. You could even do an 856 and link the whole thing together, and you could do it all with minimal effort on the part of the cataloger.

If there were other librarians at my desk with me right now, they'd all be screaming about subject headings, and yeah, this model doesn't do a thing for subject headings, but we don't create subject headings for manuscripts, anyway, really. It's too hard. And for printed books--subject analysis is a heck of a lot less of a time commitment than doing an entire record from scratch.

And when I think about it, MODS and EAD are the same way. Terry Reese at Oregon State has written a conversion program for EAD to MARC21, and I know that MarcEdit is the perfect platform for such things...but it's also not terribly intuitive all the time, and it only deals with EAD. We're fast approaching a time when having programs for conversion of other XML formats will be really, really useful...Why hasn't a little program been written yet? It's times like these that I wish I were a programmer. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for humanity), I am not.

I just feel like we've given up on MARC, as a profession, when in reality, it's still pretty useful for parsing information and making it searchable. And these other metadata schemas all still take the same stuff out of the original and put it into machine-readable format...why not use the structures we have in place (like our ILSes) and put them to work?

Textbooks and conne(x)ions

Ever since I had Kinkos print out a copy of the PREMIS data dictionary and bind it for me (for just $16!), I have been longing for a comparable piece of literature to come out for MODS and METS. I mean, didn't PREMIS win an award or something for putting their information in such a wonderful and useable format?

YES. THEY DID.

I know that all computer geeks think print is just sooo 1993, but seriously, it's very comforting to have a paper version of the PREMIS tags within arms' reach. And I don't even use PREMIS very much (for the record, I also have a bound copy of FRBR, but it kind of doesn't seem as cool as PREMIS). Imagine if we had neat, easy to print-off-and-bind copies of the METS terms, instead of the interminable webpages, and mouse clicking (by the way, if there is such a thing as a printable METS dictionary and I'm just too dumb to find it, please tell me so that I can go out and get it. Don't let me stay a fool).

Oh my God, am I getting old? Did I just say that a webpage was clunky?

Yes, of course I did! Traditional webpages ARE clunky. There's a reason that everyone's so excited about web 2.0 (and now 3.0), and it isn't because webpages are staying static and obtuse. It's because we have this new ability to make something GREAT with our technology. Not just a list of items, but something that's more dynamic and can grow and is intuitive to use.

Speaking of which, have [you] seen Connexions? It's a Rice University project that has turned into a huge success. Open source, online textbooks. Apparently some of the textbooks that have been created are being used as the national curriculum of Mongolia. The quick and dirty layout of Connexions is that it takes too long to write a traditional textbook, and the sciences especially can't keep up with the new information by creating textbooks in the old way. So this guy from Rice (electrical engineer, maybe?) decided that why not create something like Wikipedia, but you can create full textbooks instead? You start by creating modules, smaller snippets of information (like, say, for a physics book, a module on Acceleration and then a module on Torque, and then a module on angular momentum, etc etc), and then you pick and choose which snippets you need for your textbook, select them, have the website generate a textbook for you, and then you ORDER IT PRINTED by an overnight printing house, who creates a real, honest-to-God hardbound set of textbooks for you for about $20 each.
Not $350 like you might expect for a physics textbook or a bio textbook. No. $20.

It's pretty cool.

Hmm....maybe we should start writing a metadata/cataloging textbook...with all the tags that we use, and all the rules we follow, and maybe entries on FRBR and AACRII....a library "textbook"? Intriguing.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Computer as a Communication Device

My predecessor left me a bunch of articles about all kinds of technology/library issues. That is cool, but since I don't know what he left me, I decided to make a spreadsheet of the articles. A catalog, if you will. Hee.

So, I'm going through the folders and what do I find, but J.C.R. Licklider's "The Computer as a Communication Device." (warning: it's a pdf) A veritable classic in our field, akin to Vannevar Bush's Memex machine.
So of course I read it (again). And was struck by the ending paragraphs (again). At the end of the article, Licklider paints this utopian computer world for us, where "life will be happier...communication will be more effective and productive...communication and interaction will be with programs and programmed models...and...there will be plenty of opportunity for everyone (who can afford a console) to find his calling, for the whole world of information...will be open to him."

Aside: I love that he puts the caveat of being wealthy in there, in order to benefit from this greatness.

Licklider was a little....eccentric. And, from the looks of it, a utopian. I find it very amusing that he assumes all information and all computing will always be for the higher ideal of creating and supporting learning. I find this especially amusing considering how much of the internet is useful only for wasting time.

But consider his ideal--it's beautiful, in its own way. Everyone learning, everyone making connections. Of course he's a little off in a lot of places...such as assuming that employment will disappear because there will be so much work in adapting network software to the new generations of computers (he never imagines that businesspeople will find a more efficient way of handling this problem). But still, the ideal of making information freely available, AND FINDABLE, is a really nice thought. Unfortunately for us, it still hasn't happened yet. Maybe it never will?

Then I look at the actual title of Licklider's article--The Computer as a Communication Device. He was right about that part.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Define Yourself, Sir

When I took early modern philosophy in college, one of the main problems that we ran into between any two philosophers was their difference of definition. Kant might have meant one thing by his use of “mind” or “knowledge”, and Leibnitz would have a very different meaning. And then if you threw Berkeley into the mix, well, you had a rumble on your hands.

Just kidding. Philosophers do not have fistfights.

Anyway, this is a major problem in most fields, because if you don’t define your terms, no one is ever going to understand you. The beauty of FRBR, for example, is that they defined the shit out of everything. You might have to read it five times to get it, but they DO define their terms.
The problem that I’m seeing more and more and more in blogs and in listservs, is that librarians are not defining their terms and therefore make themselves completely unintelligible to anyone who wants to understand them. They also simultaneously make themselves completely dismissible by anyone who doesn’t care to listen to them.

A good example is this listserv I'm on. I subscribe to it, mostly just to read all the smart people’s contributions. I am, unfortunately, a listserv-lurker. Anyway, there has been this discussion about non-literal vs. literal strings. Don’t ask me to explain what those are, because I can’t. But someone decided to try to explain the basic difference, finally, after about 5-6 emails had already bounced around that used the terms without definition, and what happens? An email immediately comes through from someone saying “Thank you!” for explaining the terms. It took 5-6 emails for that one person just to understand the terms...not the argument about the terms, just the terms themselves.

What is it with people? Is it that hard to understand that you might not always make sense? Especially when you’re talking about very difficult concepts that only use words as placeholders and not as describers? I mean, if the person were using “literal” in the literal sense…well, I have no idea what that could mean in relation to “non-literal.” This is one of those times when you absolutely have to define yourself, or everyone’s eyes will just glaze over and you’ll never get anywhere.

To extrapolate this further, one of the biggest issues I see in blogs is that people won’t define their terms, and let’s face it, the library world is really not that well-defined. Yes, we have standards and we have codes of ethics and we have conferences, but we still insist on using whatever term our local database has contrived for a “work” or a “bib” or a “title” (all the same thing, by the way—just different terms, all dependent on your ILS). FRBR tried to help us out by changing some of the ways that we think about conceptual objects in the library world, but I don’t think that most librarians are well-versed in that FRBR world, and don't use those terms on a regular basis. And since RDA apparently isn’t even using all of FRBR's concepts to write their manual…well, I don’t exactly see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thomas Mann's Response to the Working Group

This is big right now...Thomas Mann wrote a paper about the Working Group's paper on RDA that they presented back in November. There's another response to his work from the autocat listserv here.

I’m just going to be taking the things I highlighted from his work and talking about them. Not very systematic, but hopefully it acts as a good guide for me personally when I go back through the work. This is a long post, although I think its worth it for anyone who hasn't read the thing yet.

Please keep in mind that I just love anecdotal evidence, unlike many people who do not believe a thing unless it has a graph. I think that a reference librarian with 30+ years of experience has the right to make observations about users, without doing a study on it first. But I'm very "unscientific" that way. So here goes!

Pg. 11: “the goal of cataloging is not merely to provide researchers with ‘something quickly’…its purpose, first and foremost, is to show ‘what the library has’—i.e. in its own local collections, onsite.”
Amen, Thomas. I don’t understand when or how the idea came about, that libraries are not just responsible for their own holdings, but for the entire scope of human knowledge everywhere. If that was the case, we wouldn’t keep physical books at all; we’d be….um, OCLC? Google? A wish list?

Pg.16: “a major weakness of word clouds is that they cannot show cross-references, scope notes, or further subdivisions of their own terms…we must remain clear about the differences between catalog search environments and Web search environments.”
I think that this is important…we get so excited, as librarians, to see word clouds, that we forget that we are the not the user. The user will see a word cloud and think “oh, more words like what I just typed.” A librarian sees a word cloud and thinks “oh, they took the subdivisions from LCSH that relate to my broad term and made those into a word cloud.” Users don’t see relationships in the way that we do.

Pg. 17: paraphrasing here: the Working Group is not being academically rigorous in its research. They are not using the scholarship that already exists, and are reinventing the wheel when it comes to thinking about subject access. We should probably all read the reports that Mann has put out there in these pages.
Also, he makes the point that OCLC has been funding a lot of the research that results in the support of facetization, “whose own WorldCat cannot display either cross-references or browse-menus of precoordinated terms. Why…should the rest of us naively accept OCLC’s oversimplified software to begin with?” Why indeed.

Pg.18: “the first responsibility of LC is to catalog its own—and the nation’s—unique copyright-deposit collection.” This is like page 11, but it bears repeating.

Pg: 20: ”contrary to the widely touted mantra, facetization does not “make the data work harder”; it makes the user work harder…it is a stunning violation of the Principle of Least Effort in information-seeking behavior. ‘Least effort’ is supposed to refer to the level of work done by the user, not the catalogers.”
Wow. Just….wow. He’s right, he really is. Yes, he ignores the basic funding issues that all libraries have (although he does talk more about the cost of cataloging in other places, and makes good arguments against downsizing at LC), but he’s still right. Our job is not to make ourselves as lazy as possible about cataloging and foist all the effort onto the user. That’s actually supposed to be the opposite of what we do.

Pg 21: “Anyone who has ever done a Google search knows that Google’s search mechanism exacerbate rather than solve…problems of information overload that are now created and aggravated by computer and web-environment retrievals.”
His argument is that LCSH avoids those problems. I agree, at least a little. LCSH is certainly better than Google, with the caveat that you have to learn about LCSH to use it, and with Google...you can get away with never learning about it at all.

Pg. 24: Accuse me of soundbites, I don’t care. This is gold: “it is undeniably true that the LCSH system is complex—but so is the literature of the entire world, on all subjects and in all languages and from all time periods, that is has to categorize, standardize, and inter-relate….the complexity of the world’s book literature is a rock-bottom reality that will not vanish simply because neither the Working Group nor LC management wishes to pay for professional catalogers.”

Pg. 34: He moves on to talk about reference work and the user, to great effect, I think: “Most researchers, when left to their own devices, are quite unsophisticated in doing computer searches…what [the user] prefers [keyword searching]…is based on a serious misunderstanding of what their “preferred” search technique is actually capable of delivering.” I think this is another case of librarians not being users, but some librarians not understanding that. The average user does not understand that a keyword search does not bring up everything. They don’t even understand the difference between a browse search and keyword search. You may think I’m kidding, but I’ve talked to enough college students to know that.

And the last sentence: “If the Library of Congress succeeds in dumbing down its own subject cataloging operations through this reorganization, there will be serious negative consequences for all American scholars who wish to pursue their topics comprehensively and at in-depth research levels, and for libraries in every Congressional District whose financial constraints make them more dependent than ever on the continued supply of quality subject cataloging from the Library of Congress.”

Friday, March 21, 2008

Creating meaning

I've been reading up on RDA, FRBR, and metadata more generally over the past week (I have such a cool job). Anyway, as I was reading, and reading, and reading, I saw some things that grabbed my attention.

A lot of people who talk about RDA (and FRBR) talk about how these new concepts and new shifts in understanding are going to help us create meaning for our users. Instead of cataloging in a vaccuum, treating each piece as separate islands, we're going to be creating the connections between ideas and users and creators.

Now, shift over to TWO weeks ago, when I was trying to learn about our new big metadata project. I was talking to the project manager, and we were discussing how our group would assign subject headings and geographical placenames. The more we talked, the more I realized that the focus of this project does not lend itself to "traditional" ideas about assigning metadata.

In my other job as a cataloger, I might catalog a book about Nabokov, and then a book about English Victorians. These two things will have no relation to one another, and my job is not to try to find a connection (although in this particular example, what a great challenge!).

The thing is, in this metadata project, that is EXACTLY what they need. They need this map to be applicable to this book, or this book to remind a user about that manuscript. We're actively trying to create meaning for the user. Now, this is easy for us in this case, because everything pulled for the project is swirling around a central research topic. So it's not as if we're going to be using the entire LCSH in order to do this project. Instead, we're using just a small, interrelated fraction of that. So when I tell the other catalogers that we need to keep connections in mind, they totally get it, and its easy.

RDA and FRBR have a great ideal in place, and I love it, but I think that RDA is missing something really central in their thought processes. Even if you use machines to pull a lot of this data, and we use publisher information, and we stop caring about grammar and punctuation, it is still a ridiculously high expectation to put on catalogers to "create meaning" for the entire scope of human knowledge. I think its daunting for us to be doing this for researchers in a relatively narrow application, because we're never going to understand what those researchers really want. Maybe its time for librarians to adopt the archival perspective: We can't know what the user wants, so we give them the best we can give and they just have to figure out the rest. In that light, the ideals don't look quite so daunting.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Quote for the Day

Dort, wo man B├╝cher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.--Heinrich Heine

("Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people.")


Historical note!
Heine was a Jewish cum Protestant Romantic poet living in Germany in the early half of the 19th century. The quote was actually in reference to the Spanish Inquisition, and the burning of the Qur'an.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

RDA, FRBR, and other acronyms

I am SO GLAD that Karen Coyle gave her talk at Code4Lib on RDA. I myself have been asked to do a powerpoint presentation on RDA/FRBR for the cataloging department, and the points she’s raising are insanely useful (although also scary). She makes a good stab at talking about weaknesses and strengths of RDA without coming down on one side or the other.

Of course, in this blog, I don’t really feel like being unbiased. I will be for the powerpoint presentation, but not here! One of the useful things about being a nobody.
The thing that really gets me (and I commented on the FRBR blog about this), is that the RDA creators seem to be getting farther and farther away from what they said they would be doing, and that may force librarians to dislike RDA.

Some of the professed goals of RDA:

1. Create a more streamlined standard.
800 pages later, I’m questioning that one.

2. Hold true to the FRBR ideal.
They don’t use the attributes in FRBR to describe things in RDA. Why, I don’t know.

3. Make things easier for the user to find what they need, in the context of all knowledge.
RDA doesn’t address subject headings. And no one has ever heard of FRAD except the people on the RDA/FRBR/FRAD groups. And FRAD doesn’t do anything, anyway. It’s conceptual, just like FRBR.

4. Make the focus the content of the record, not the display of the record.
This is all well and good, but telling a cataloger not to standardize their records is like asking a fish not to swim. We’re trained this way! Taking the display rules out won’t automatically make us stop thinking about it.

5. Create a standard that archives, libraries, museums, and creators of digital materials can use.
No one except librarians is talking about RDA. I don’t see a lot of discussion (well, ANY discussion) from archivists or curators about RDA. Is this one of those “it’ll be for their own good” kind of initiatives? I think we all know how well MARC for archives turned out.

Monday, March 17, 2008

ALA elections

I'm pretty young to the ALA listservs, so I've never been around for the Presidential elections. But I have to say, the email blasts with the (clearly?) professional graphic design work....is this normal? Or is this new? Alire's is the funniest, to me: the one that's trying too hard. The one that came in today, Williams, is much more down to earth, although I do like how we still have the faded out "vote" behind her name, and the "campaign" color palette.
Is this really necessary (no)? Do I care that much (no)? Do the pretty colors make me want to vote for one person or another (okay, maybe...Alire's orange is pretty!)?

The thing is, when I look at their credentials, both of the candidates look very capable to me, although Alire does have an advantage to me, since she's college and research library focused, and Williams is from the school library front. But that's just personal preference, not anything else.

When I look at their advertisements, though....it makes me like neither of them. Am I a Luddite, or the anti-advertisement equivalent thereof?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fieldtrip!

I went on a field trip the other day. To the library's offsite storage facility. Now, I had seen pictures of these places before--robotic arms that gather materials that are so closely spaced no human being could ever get in.

Our storage facility is not that crazy, although it does have 40 ft. ceilings and can store about 1.3 million volumes. but the gathering is still done by actual, live people in a cherry picker. The staff there called it an order picker, but I've seen cherry pickers (my dad liked to switch out the engines between his pickup trucks) and that is what they use at the storage facility. except that it's SUPER tall and instead of an engine attached, it's a person. And a booktruck that's 6 ft tall (it has a forklift attachment on the front to hold the booktruck and a platform to stand; it's not like you're just dangling off the thing like that Batman ride at Universal Studios).

Anyway, let me describe this place. The facility is nice, with landscaping outside, birch trees (which are not native to this area, but there they are) and bamboo plants. You can't get in the outer gate without a code, and you can't get into the building without a code. It's like they're storing gold, not old, underused books.

They duplicate the barcodes that are on the book, slap the new barcode on the outside, then sort the books by size, put them in little cardboard racks, and shelve them. Oh, and they vaccuum the books first with this big industrial vaccuum. It's pretty neat.

The room where they're stored is, like I said, 40 ft high and really long and big. Two big air conditioners and a desiccator run constantly to keep it at 50 degrees F, and 30% Rh. Dry and cold, just like the books like it. The shelves go up 35 ft, and the order picker will also go that high, obviously.

They're at about 40% capacity, and keep both archival and library materials there. They do runs twice a day back to the library, to pick up books headed to the facility (250 per day or so) and drop off requests (30 per day or so). It's nice, because if you order something at the right time of day, you can literally just hang out for an hour and it will come to you. Automatic email notifications are sent out when the book is placed on hold at the circulation desk.

All in all, an extremely efficient system.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Translating

I'm just going to lay this out there--sometimes I get bored cataloging. It's not always puppies and sunshine at my desk, especially right now, when I'm learning how to do the cataloging the way they do here. I mean, it's good practice, but dear me, I get tired of checking for correct spacing.

I'm much more interested in talking to people about metadata then actually creating it. My husband has suggested I actually have the soul of a reference librarian, in that I like being around people, talking to them and brainstorming. But I like systems so much! I protest. I could never be a reference librarian. Making subject guides just sounds like torture.
There is something comforting about cataloging, sometimes. Knowing that there is a set way to do things, that the semi-colon always comes before the 300$c field. It's like a warm blanket.

Metadata, on the other hand....is like a crazy game where the rules change all the time. I love it, though. I have a big, big meeting next week just to hash out a bunch of questions that I have come up with about this newest digital project. I have a feeling that the consistency required by catalogers will always be at loggerheads with the need for quick, fluid change that is often the rule in digitization projects. I think I'm supposed to be a translator. I'm like a daywalker, maybe.

And in the spirit of that, I'm apparently going to "teach" a "class" on how catalogers catalog, to scholars and techies and even archivists. Because none of the other people involved in this digitization project have a clue about what we do down here in the basement. So I'm writing down all these questions that I think need answered, like "what do people not know about cataloging?" Answer: EVERYTHING. Or, "Explain the difference between regular cataloging and this metadata process?" Answer: explain we're not really anal retentive--we're trying to standardize data inputting as much as possible. LCSH is just a big, big set of block letters on my notepad right now (as if I would forget about it...). It might also have a fairy castle growing out of the H. Maybe.

At any rate, being a translator has brought me a lot more joy in my job than semicolons ever did. Although the mighty semicolon certainly has its place.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Episode IV: A new hope

I've been trying to find some information on what kind of workflows are out there for metadata creation. Let me tell you, it is harder than you think. But I did stumble across a new piece of software that will hopefully be coming out soon: Rutger Libraries' Workflow Management System (inventive title, no?). Code4Lib did an article about it awhile ago, so it's not like super-new news, but I've noticed that not everyone and their mom reads Code4Lib. No offense to the C4L guys--you all seem quite awesome.

Anyway Grace Agnew and Yang Yu wrote an article about it, and it's pretty interesting stuff. WMS is really just like Archon or Archivists Toolkit, except that it's for anyone that's creating metadata, not just archives. I like that aspect very much, since here at our instiution, most of the digitization projects are actually hybrid projects that use staff from archives, the library, and the digital people. I imagine it's probably at least a little more user-friendly than the archives software, mostly because of who created it. Archivists can be....not so user-centered sometimes. Again, no offense (I'm offending lots of people today!).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

GLIMIR

The Interwebs is already starting to seeth with mentions of GLIMIR.

But first, you may ask, what is GLIMIR? Well, as I read it, it's a terribly horrible acronym for Global Library Manifestation Identifier (yeah, I don't know where that other I and the R come from, either....maybe we could throw some stuff in?....Global Library Irate Manifestation Identifier Roadshow?)

Basically, it takes the problem of manifestations (FRBR alert!), and addresses the issue that ISBNs are not manifestation identifiers. A good example of what that means was given by Mr. Stuart Weibel--there are lots of records in OCLC that have the same ISBN. But many of those records are not duplicate, redundant records. They're foreign language records for a work in English. So....in this case we're talking about the same work, but a different manifestation of that work (I may be using "work" in an improper form. Sorry in advance). I guess that in the beginning, a lot of people thought that ISBN would be a manifestation-identifier. Which would be very nice and comforting, since it helps to ground FRBR-thinking into current-cataloger-thinking, but it's not a 1-to-1.

So OCLC (in all their infinite wisdom), has graciously decided to solve this problem for us. Whether or not these GLIMIRs will be "business-neutral" is still up for debate. Honestly, I don't see why they wouldn't be....OCLC numbers (and ISBNs) are "free"--once one catalog outside OCLC has one in their record, you're perfectly welcome to use that number for whatever you like.

So, with that (really, really bad) introduction to GLIMIR, I give you a link list:

Stuart Weibel's GLIMIR Of the Future (good stuff, read the comments, too!)

The FRBR blog's Open Library developers’ meeting (just a mention)

FRBR definitions (why not? Manifestation!)

That's all I have for now....OCLC is not yet admitting publicly that it's launching a pilot project. But I do think it's fascinating that FRBR is basically infiltrating our organizational lives already--RDA is not more than a mere glimmer in our eyes (pun!), yet we're already ramping up for a FRBR-based approach to cataloging. In fact, it's kind of like the current recycling theory: it's easier to recycle when you don't have to think about it. It's easier to FRBR when you don't have to catalog it.
"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.