Zoe Keating, cellist and metadata specialist:
Not dissimilar to what Andrew Bird does:
Zoe Keating, cellist and metadata specialist:
Not dissimilar to what Andrew Bird does:
And the Dewey Decimal System falls victim. From the Denver Post:
By the end of the year, all six Rangeview branches and the district’s outreach office will dump the iconic Dewey and its numeric organizing system for one that relies on word categories such as “history” and “science.”
“For years, we’ve had focus groups and people consistently tell us, ‘I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how this library works,’ ” Sandlian Smith said. “So we decided to turn things upside down, and so far it seems to work well.”
I got a lot of problems with this. First, Dewey already contains the categories they’re using, they’re just categorized numerically. If patrons can’t “figure out how this library works” then a librarian can give a brief introduction to the Dewey system. It’s kinda what we do here. Second of all, the movement toward the barnes and noble/borders categorization is ridiculous because patrons will always become lazier and eventually want librarians to hand deliver all their materials to them without them ever doing any work.
And really, has anyone consistently found exactly what they’re looking for on the first try? At least Dewey will ensure some organization in that similarly topical books will be found within just a slight deviation of the call number. Part of the fun of browsing through the stacks is finding not just the object of desire, but those pleasant surprises that hadn’t presented themselves earlier. Dewey ensures more precision of similar subject matter than in the store.
Also stated in the article:
Ken Neely, a 17-year patron of the Perl Mack branch, said he’s happy with the new system.
“I think it’s a good idea, especially if you are new to the library and don’t know the system. You don’t have to go to one of the librarians and ask for help,” Neely said. “That means they can spend more time helping people and doing research for you.”
Arrgh. We’re here to help people learn how to sharpen their information literacy skills, thereby becoming better researchers; we exist not to do their research for them. Not only that, but how can we spend more time helping people if they are being conditioned not to ask for help in the first place?
This here, is the caveat of Web.2.0…the more people are tagging, friending and stuff-and-such like that, the lazier and more apathetic they become to learning how to use an OPAC, where they can find what they’re looking for just as quickly, if not more so, by reading a brief tutorial or getting a two minute instructional session on how to move through the stacks and where to place their eyes.
I’m all for keeping up with people’s technological or taxonomic proclivities, but laziness doesn’t fall under the Web 2.0 schema. Even LibraryThing’s Open Shelves Classification project doesn’t completely dismiss Dewey, as its emphasis is to collaboratively reclassify rather than assign quasi-arbitrary taxonomies. Dewey shouldn’t become a martyr because patrons refuse to acknowledge their own numerophobia.
Here’s an idea, why not just paste subject heading labels, taken from Dewey, throughout the stacks? Or would that not be upside down enough?
So upon looking for some useful metadata guidelines, I stumbled across a somewhat dated virtual missive from info-meister and writer Cory Doctorow. His screed appealed to me, as it provided a lighthearted counterbalance to the argument in favor of that ever-elusive fish, the perfect metadata taxonomy. Doctorow provides many reasons one should be skeptical of pervasive metadata schemas, all boiling down to our uniqueness of being human. Here’s one of my favorites:
2.7 There’s more than one way to describe something
“No, I’m not watching cartoons! It’s cultural anthropology.”
“This isn’t smut, it’s art.”
“It’s not a bald spot, it’s a solar panel for a sex-machine.”
Reasonable people can disagree forever on how to describe something. Arguably, your Self is the collection of associations and descriptors you ascribe to ideas. Requiring everyone to use the same vocabulary to describe their material denudes the cognitive landscape, enforces homogeneity in ideas.
And that’s just not right.
I’m a big believer in having both a modicum of interconnected taxonomies as well as distinct and flavorful local schemas that are both concise and clear. Blogger-brarian Linda Summers counters Doctorow a bit more intelligibly:
Moreover, Doctorow’s tongue-in-cheek-yet-cynical diatribe on human nature reminds me in many of ways of Thomas Hobbs’s interpretation of human nature, as each focuses on the self-centered and lazy aspects of human beings. I do agree that humans have the capacity to be indolent and selfish; however, I disagree that these traits dominate the collective unconsciousness.
Rather than dive into a sociological rip-tide and become lost forever in a Durkheim-esque vortex of the collective consciousness, I will say that our indolence and selfishness have collectively served us fairly well in creating the crapstorm of economic malfeasance that our national boots currently wallow in. But that’s another issue. Regarding metadata, will it save the world and provide the pervasive info-elixir beaming information directly to our eyes? Probably not completely. Perhaps our info-topia is found more in the journey of searching itself rather than just the result, however precise and quickly it is delivered by the Google.
Getting students to use the library catalog is difficult. With limited time for library instruction, they don’t get the motivation to learn what’s in the collection, and getting them to ask questions is damn near impossible. Typically, they only get really interested once finals time come around. LibGuides looks to partially solve this problem since it can lessen the intimidation factor among students; rather than asking questions they have a place to begin and explore the research process.
So here is a dilemma. As much as we want to teach students how to search the catalog on their own, and considering their propensity to use it only when they are forced to, are students better served by having a generous, steaming portion of titles listed for their subject? And does this mean less searches on the library OPAC, and ultimately diminished searching skills?
It seems like I’ve chosen that option for my guides. Creating them, I have a much more in-depth knowledge of my library’s collection. For students, though, I do suppose it can take away from the searching process by displaying a thorough listing of what’s available. Though we do have NetLibrary titles added and accessible via LibGuides, the other titles do require students, if they so choose to accept their mission, to actually go and retrieve their books. For what it’s worth, students will learn about the LC call number system, the library floor plan, and and the frustration of finding their books already checked out. I suppose that’s the price for not checking the catalog prior to entering the stacks.
It’s easy to make this issue into an either/or, polemic argument that students’ searching skills simply won’t develop when instantly given the title and location of relevant items. Perhaps true, but as this doesn’t mean we are abandoning in-class instructional sessions, there always exists the possibility of planting some seeds of library nerddom within those few conscientious geeks out there. Not discounting the possibility of accomplishing both, it does echo a sentiment I’ve previously considered about whether LibGuides will make a library OPAC obsolete.
Depending on your type of library, LibGudes can be a primary or supplementary resource. Whatever gets students motivated and prepared for research should be emphasized and promoted as much as possible. Either way, students will be served; LibGuides will help students find particular resources for a variety of courses, and if they’re curious enough to search the OPAC for related items, then good on them for turning to another resource of ours (it’s not as if they can’t search the OPAC from the LibGuides interface). But it’s important to mention that LibGuides expediates research, making it easier and more efficient for student research. And it’s not as if we can’t create a guide for using the OPAC.
Here’s a resource for all you neophytes, ahem, out there looking for information on pretty much any type of plant in North America and elsewhere. Plant Information Online, a venture initiated by the University of Minnesota and its library system, freely offers numerous databases available for searching the green, including several on plant nomenclature as well as seed and nursery firms. It’s a veritable, virtual library of of the good green stuff, searchable by scientific or common name, nursery and seed provider, and images associated with the desired plant. Initially I tried some simple common name searches, and found the interface a little clunky.
It’s more of an index with quick links to your search results, but after some patient and clever searching, you’ll find some interesting pics and info. It’s probably worth delving into the nomenclature first before searching willy-nilly, but it’s definitely an ambitious project for anyone interested in plant info.
While working on my libguides I’ve come across a pretty cool resource for chemistry enthusiasts. The University of Nottingham has produced a fun and interesting set of videos detailing each of the elements contained within the periodic table. The periodic table of videos is a good way to introduce students to chemistry through an interesting 3-10 minutes worth of background info on a chosen element and maybe an experiment or two detailing the properties of said element.
Ever wondered about bismuth? Well, here’s your chance to learn:
Honestly, other than the educational value, these videos are worth posting for the professor’s hair alone.
One of the fruitions of my library’s attendance at a recent conference was to become more fully introduced to the increasingly popular service called LibGuides. After attending a session on it, the first thing my director mentioned was something to the effect of “I don’t care if it’s coming out of the budget, but we’re getting this.” We’ve got it, and it’s living up to the hype.
For those not in the know, LibGuides is an online service geared toward libraries that allows for innovative design of information-centered pathfinders and subject guides. In plainer English, it’s a way to better deliver helpful information resources and course specific guides to enable better information seeking behavior among library patrons. Reasons why to consider LibGuides:
We are in the process of transitioning to LibGuides and for me, the amount of options for customization is the greatest obstacle of the system, which truly is no obstacle at all. So many things to do, getting beyond the first steps of the planning stage will probably the hardest part of the whole process. Our approach has been to create a basic set of guides for general disciplines by dividing subjects according to liaison assignment. Next, we are contacting faculty to see who’re interested and how we can improve those guides and create more in-depth ones for courses or even particular assignments.
I’m curious about the future expansion of LibGuides. It is a hosted service, meaning that people are coughing up the moolah for it, yet the amount of subscribing libraries seems to be increasing each week. Could it eventually replace a library’s traditional Web page, even OPAC?
Take a tour.
Great new resource for all you scientastically curious infomaniacs. The EOL looks to be a great new reference guide to help classify and understand life, the universe, and everything. Well, maybe just life.
Welcome to the first release of the Encyclopedia of Life portal. This is the very beginning of our exciting journey to document all species of life on Earth.
Comprehensive, collaborative, ever-growing, and personalized, the Encyclopedia of Life is an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about all life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. Our goals are to:
- Create a constantly evolving encyclopedia that lives on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike.
- Transform the science of biology, and inspire a new generation of scientists, by aggregating virtually all known data about every living species.
- Engage a wide audience of schoolchildren, educators, citizen scientists, academics and those who are just curious about Earth’s species.
- Increase our collective understanding of life on Earth, and safeguard the richest possible spectrum of biodiversity.
Chock-a-block full of images, species overviews, a massive table of contents of each species, it’s taxonomic outline in multiple formats (text, graphical, source), and extensive references to all cited material, this online project, now in its beginning stages, is shaping to be an immensely useful and accessible resource for all future biologists and lovers of life.
One concern is that it may end up something similar to wikipedia, in which anyone can submit anything of questionable quality. I suppose submission won’t really be the problem but rather the means by which the material is reviewed and approved by the administrators for scientific acceptability. As one can see, the institutions involved in this undertaking are rather scientifically serious about what they do, so getting this right is fairly important. But as it already has established data partners to aid in verifying, safeguards are presumably in place.
Think of this as a renewable source of information and info-seeking behavior. We are only aware of approximately 1.8 million species on earth. How many more millions are still undiscovered and in desperate need of cataloging and classification?
Take the following scenario, infomaniacs, and do with it what you will: A patron has approached yours truly for an informal introduction to the electronic databases of the library, and like a veritable info-Elvis proceeding to TCB with said patron, I swoop in to bestow my knowledge and garner due praise with sufficient hip twisting.
But upon clicking a trusty Ebsco database, what shall appear? A new look, an unfamiliar database. In these few moments of blinding terror my fears began to materialize…would I stagger through this session leaving the patron unsatisfied with her database introduction and I scrambling for cover?
Egads, I thought aloud, while inwardly struggling to get a grip on what professionalism was left of the situation. Must be Ebsco’s switch to its new interface, I stammered. Strange that it had to happen at the very moment I was demonstrating the basics of simple searching.
Steeling my resolve I proceeded to instructually technologize until sufficiently confident the patron was prepared. Afterwards I made a more thorough investigation of the new look, and so I have found:
Overall, not a whole has changed with the functionality, but in an effort to make researchers less intimidated, Ebsco has certainly emphasized the older features in a shinier display…bolder and more interactive scrolling.
Definitely worth looking at before those instructional sessions start.
CARMA is Carbon Monitoring for Action, a massive database detailing carbon emissions for both power plants and power companies worldwide. Search to find the levels of your local or global emitters, get updates, do research. As far as the data goes, here is a bit about CARMA:
For several thousand power plants within the U.S., CARMA relies upon data reported to the Environmental Protection Agency by the plant operators themselves as required by the Clean Air Act. CARMA also includes many official emissions reports for plants in Canada, the European Union, and India. For non-reporting plants, CARMA estimates emissions using a statistical model that has been fitted to data for thousands of reporting plants in the U.S., Canada, the EU, and India. The model utilizes detailed data on plant-level engineering and fuel specifications. CARMA reports emissions for the year 2000, the current year, and the future (based on published plans).
CARMA also aggregates data on individual plants to the level of operating companies, parent corporations, and several geographic entities (continents, countries, states/provinces, and cities worldwide, with additional reports for U.S. metro areas, congressional districts, and counties). The database is updated quarterly to reflect changes in ownership, construction, renovation, planned expansions, and plant retirements. CARMA is meant to be a repository of the best available information on power sector carbon emissions. Our policy is to correct any errors or omissions if suggested revisions are verified by an independent third party.
Handy tool for you scientastic researchers.