Wednesday, August 04, 2010

User Tasks

I'm in the middle of a much needed/much appreciated vacation at the moment, but had this thought when reading through work emails today. The cataloger sent anyone doing copy cataloging information on the new BIBCO standard record (BSR). In reading through the revisions to the record for textual monographs I noted a nod towards the FRBR user tasks - find identify, select, and obtain. At this point I'm almost a little blind to that phrase in that I tend to scan it over and make a mental check of "Yeah, they're aware". But how aware are we, as a community, of these tasks? Do we really understand what we mean and are we doing our best to create data and systems that support these tasks? I'm sure that there is a ton of good work out there that I will undoubtedly find when I start looking. Yet there is a part of me that is afraid that those four little words will soon become as ubiquitous, and useless, as so many other buzzwords before them.

It's a time like this when I wish I was more involved in the cataloging community. As a student who barely has the time at work to download and mod a couple of PCC JSTOR records, but who is continually filled with new ideas, I wish I had a realistic perspective of how the field is moving and changing. The same report also noted the speed at which cataloging is evolving and I wonder if that speed is part of the problem - we're in the middle so everything in either direction is a blur. Also cataloging is not as cohesive a concept as I tend to imagine it to be. My background in academic libraries who have the time and the funding to keep up with changes and innovations means that I sometimes forget that people just can't have the most outstanding records or need to buy vendor records because, in reality, they're much better than no records at all. As there is a digital divide, is there a cataloging divide as well? The Cataloging Chasm? And if so, how do we fix it?

Friday, July 02, 2010

Knowing what I don't know...

A week or so ago, while preparing for the second digitization task force meeting we had this morning, I became acutely aware of the fact that I really don't know what I'm doing in this process. I understand this process from a very conceptual standpoint. I know what we're aiming to accomplish with our pilot project, I know what CONTENTdm is and what it is capable of, I understand the basics of Dublin Core, and I know how everyone in the task force will work together. I can put a photo on a scanner and make a TIFF at X dpi. I can probably upload that and make some notes on it. Very simple, very basic, very straightforward. But the longer I think about I realize I still have a lot of questions. I can scan something, but I've no real knowledge of image editing/correction. I have barely scratched the surface of Dublin Core and never actually worked with it or really done anything with XML outside of a classroom. I get the general notion of what it means to digitize a collection but I'm not sure what that means for us, for our collection and for its future.

Happily, I work in a library, which means two very important things. First, someone else has probably done this before and generated a ton of documentation, articles, books etc. about it. Second, we have consortia borrowing and ILL. So I did what I normally do in this situation - which is order all of the books I can find with relevant subject headings, put them in a pile, and start to feel slightly more secure. I've shared them with BP and in the next week or so we'll start tearing through them. We're also going to start a road map/timeline. Launching this project is going to be very complicated and while we will not be able to anticipate every contingency, we'll at least have a secure base from which to start. We'll also have a better sense of what it is we're trying to accomplish here on a more particular level, which is what I find I'm needing at the moment. While I'm good with concepts, I find myself itching to do, to move forward, to construct and create, even if it's just a 12 point plan for good happy success.

But now it's the start of my three day weekend and I do believe the sun has just come out...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Freed from the mandatory assignments of the quarter, I am back to devouring novels at nearly pre-grad school rates. So. Freaking. Good. Because composing full sentences appears to be a challenge today and because the faster I stop blogging here the faster I get back to reading, a few random thoughts on what I've recently read.

*Pretty much everything I've picked up and read from the New York Review of Books' press has been amazing. Daphne du Maurier exquisite short stories, Mavis Gallant, and now Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado. I've ordered on Summit the second Dundy and Mitford's Madame de Pompadour.

*I am finally getting to reading David Copperfield and am in love. It's a strange read at times because I'm so familiar with Dickens' biography and can tell where he's drawn on his own history. That doesn't necessarily diminish the work, but means that I can sort of predict where portions of the story start to go. What I'm noticing in this read of a Dickens' novel is his incredibly strong sense of pacing. When he finishes a chapter/section, I find I'm torn between the drive to know more and the delicious sense of suspense or hesitation. Sometimes I close the book just for a bit to let it wash over me before pushing on. Bleak House was too long ago for me to remember and Pickwick doesn't start to feel like a novel until a fair bit of the way in, so I can't tell at what point he really honed this ability and when it started to fade (I do recall that he had trouble over/under writing Our Mutual Friend).

*I'm pretty sure I have a mental block against Middlemarch. I know it's beautiful and Important and changed the state of the novel and everything, but I just can't seem to commit to that much George Eliot. I'm sorry. I know I'm the worst Victorianist ever. Maybe I'll take it on a trip with me this summer as the only reading material and see what happens. Blargh.

*I have a million books on digitization and metadata sitting on my second desk at work. I still find it impossible to move forward in any major project without first ordering and/or consulting every book I can find in Summit. Smart or debilitating? We'll soon find out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

RDA Toolkit Goes Live Today

The long anticipate formal launch of the RDA Toolkit begins today. I'll be touching base with the cataloging guru here today to see if/when we'll be able to start logging in, though after the demonstration we had in LIS 539, my hopes aren't as high as they once were. It will be interesting to see how the LC Test Partners start to feel out this new tool - how much will they be relying on the AACR2-to-RDA widget and how much will be actual immersion in the text? I'm also very interested to see what some non-MARC people will be able to do (XC perhaps?).

My real question is, can I begin my testing timeline countdown now?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Moving right along...

The Quarter is over and soon AK will start his yearly pilgrimage East (camps, Summer Nationals, maybe home for a bit, potentially Coaches College, more camps..). While I still have some work to do for iPeer, there really isn't anything on my agenda for the next three months except friend, books, more friends, and more books. A friend will be flying up from the Bay Area this weekend in her boyfriend's plane (with two unnamed compatriots). I've just purchased a ticket to visit NY later in the summer, which is fantastic. The trip promises actual summer weather, the anniversary celebration at the Frick (my favorite museum in the city after the Met), and plenty of time with excellent people.

Tomorrow at work we unpack the giant scanner and thus our digitization program will begin. I've been doing a lot of reading up on CONTENTdm, which has been mostly web-based. Things should really start falling in place for me when I can get into the software and start playing around. I often learn by doing, by poking around to see how everything is connected (and to see how to fix things once I break them...). The project also promises to bring me back to my library roots: archives and special collections. While I won't be the one selecting the materials for our pilot project, I will get to scan, photograph, and otherwise work with the archival bits. Really, this project is a nice full-circle moment for me - my former archival work and my current technology/metadata work mashing together.

Still waiting for the LC RDA testing to begin. Tomorrow we'll be hashing out the kind of RDA access we'll need at our institution. I'm still really torn about the implementation of RDA in the US. While I'm glad that it hasn't been abandoned, I feel we're losing so much potential by staying rooted in MARC and by neglecting the RDA vocabularies. But the alternative? I'm not sure I have one, not yet anyway, and that's a continual source of frustration. How do we renew without blowing it all to bits? Or should I just grab a safety helmet and learn to duck?

Sunday, May 30, 2010


The final paper of the quarter hit the drop box on Friday afternoon (hurrah!), so it's just presentations from the point out. One is a no-more-than-fifteen-minute presentation on how blogs can add value to a library's web presence. The second is an about-fifteen-minute presentation of RDA as if presented to a library director. The research for both is pretty much done, though there isn't much to do for the latter other than gather together everything from the quarter. A draft of each, in Powerpoint, sits on my desktop, awaiting tinkering. They're essentially outlined and essentially done except for the whole, you know, presenting part.

I keep stalling on the talky bit, which is unfortunate because I'm fairly sure I'm going to have to talk both presentations through before they start to make sense. I'm not entirely sure why. The recording itself is fairly innocuous. I don't really hate the sound of my own voice (though there still some shades of unadulterated Queens-style vowels in there). I seem to get caught up in the articulation bit. Even when I have a script and a timer in front of me, I tend to alternate between lethargic rambling and lightening-fast babbling. Before this program, getting up and talking in front of people/recording something as if I were talking in front of people just wasn't a feature. I can distinctly remember giving only two presentations in the four years of my undergraduate, and one wasn't even for a class but rather a summer research job. There was a group presentation for the MA, but I can barely recall if I said anything or if I wrote something and another person said it all.

The fact remain that I'm far more comfortable making my argument in text and handing it in or posting it online somewhere. The message boards we use in the online program just emphasizes this, especially because I even go back and edit once I've realized I've said something that's not quite right. If anything, I'm often too talkative on the boards. I try to tell myself that I'm not that librarian stereotype, that I do like people and that, in fact, I will miss interacting with students when I move into Tech Services full-time later this summer. But I just don't like talking in front of people. To people? Fine. With people? Absolutely. On a stage with people looking at me and judging? Ugh. I know that people are judging as harshly as I think and that, honestly, what is ten minutes on blogs and libraries and how does that impact the world? But the second I hit record I just feel like a complete idiot and start talking as fast as possible to get it over with.

Even though I've essentially been scripting this RDA presentation in my head for weeks, sitting down and getting it recorded just seem absolutely impossible. I'm sure I'll be able to trick myself into getting something down later this week (particularly since the blogging one is due on Friday). But right now, watching BBC history documentaries just seems like the best option.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Linked Library Data Incubation Group

Link to the charter:

The mission of the Library Linked Data Incubator Group is to help increase global interoperability of library data on the Web, by bringing together people involved in Semantic Web activities—focusing on Linked Data—in the library community and beyond, building on existing initiatives, and identifying collaboration tracks for the future.

The group will explore how existing building blocks of librarianship, such as metadata models, metadata schemas, standards and protocols for building interoperability and library systems and networked environments, encourage libraries to bring their content, and generally re-orient their approaches to data interoperability towards the Web, also reaching to other communities. It will also envision these communities as a potential major provider of authoritative datasets (persons, topics...) for the Linked Data Web. As these evolutions raise a need for a shared standardization effort within the library community around (Semantic) Web standards, the group will refine the knowledge of this need, express requirements for standards and guidelines, and propose a way forward for the library community to contribute to further Web standardization actions.

The incubator group has been initiated by actors from national libraries, university libraries and research units, library vendors companies and other interested stakeholders. Its scope is however not limited to libraries as institutions, but is meant to involve other cultural heritage institutions, partners from the publishing industry, and other relevant domains.

This is amazing. This is exactly where we need to be heading. And I am happy to see that LC is on board with this, as well as the DCMI (natch) and IFLA.

I am at loss for anything pithier than "YES!".

13 days...

Today I've been somewhat ridiculously productive. Thirteen days remain in the quarter and I've managed to draft all of the remaining assignments (paper on the US's plan for testing RDA, presentation on RDA, presentation on libraries and blogs). Some drafts are far more drafty than others and there's the actual recording to contend with, which may or may not be made a million times easier via Jing. I love the ability to switch between a browser for demonstrations and a PowerPoint for the rest of it, but the lack of editing is a bit nerve wracking. I never bothered with the micro-editing functions in PointeCast, but I did go slide by slide. Though this running through things in real time is probably beneficial for me in the long run as there really isn't an opportunity for a "do over" in live presenting. Once I've done more than a ten minute test drive of the software, I'll talk more about it here.

In researching libraries who use blogs, the idea of having something to blog about has come up again and again. Librarians are often eager to embrace and implement new technology, but sometimes they do so before they've really thought through the appropriateness of the program etc. Blogs are particularly attractive because they're often so easy to implement and use. But they're also so easy to forget about or to neglect. Updating a blog means that you have to find both the time to write and something worth writing about. My own struggles with blogging is a clear demonstration of that tension. The best ideas typically show up when I'm deep in coursework (though happily they tend to find a home on a class message board). When I'm suddenly free, it's all apologies and banalities. For an individual this might be forgivable, but for an institution it's much harder to pass off. An ALA TechSource report on Web 2.0 offers some excellent best practices for either choosing to blog and what to do once that decision has been made. While I am all for bringing libraries more into the web, I do balk at implementing for the sake of implementing. If it will truly add value, go right ahead. If not, find something else that works.