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Not to presume, but my impression is that public libraries are considerably in advance of most academic institutions--the phrase “bleeding edge” comes forcefully to mind--not necessarily in electronic resources, but in the percentage R. Stewart, Response to Working Group 3 of other non-print materials in our collections. A public-library cataloger quickly learns two hard truths: that descriptive cataloging in the non-print formats, especially materials with a visual component such as DVDs, is much more difﬁcult and detailed, when done right, than that of most printed books; and that the worst cataloging in OCLC is done for those same formats. And when, for example, a feature ﬁlm can be issued on DVD in widescreen and in full-screen format, with subtitles and dubbed tracks in three languages one year and ﬁve the next, followed in a couple of years by a director’s cut and a few years later by an anniversary edition complete with outtakes, an interview with the director and producer, and a “making of” short, you simply cannot get by with sketchy or inaccurate cataloging. And that’s just the bibliographic description--consider the amount of authority work required for meaningful access to that ﬁlm, even if you restrict access points to director, producer, screenwriter, and “above-the-title” acting credits.
What’s the answer? I don’t pretend to know, except to say that there is almost certainly no one answer. I hope, for one thing, that a FRBRized cataloging code and database structure will streamline cataloging by allowing common intellectual content to be more seamlessly shared across records for different physical manifestations. I anticipate more work toward interfaces that will incorporate both authority-based and user-generated descriptors. And necessity will dictate some changes, at least, in our traditional divisions of labor.
But these and the other strategies that have so much potential to improve access cannot be effective without a solid substrate of accurate and robust cataloging. Indeed, such cataloging will become more important as we attempt to do more with it--especially as the quantity of information and the variety of its containers will be growing all the while. And this will require investment--in preprofessional and postgraduate cataloging education and, yes, in real live professional catalogers in our libraries, provided with the resources they need and decently paid, even.
For many years, when a new issue of Library Journal came my way, one of the ﬁrst pages I turned to was the one carrying Herbert White’s “White Papers.” I suspect I am not alone in this. One of White’s recurring themes was that an organization will manage to ﬁnd the resources to accomplish what it really wants to do; another, that it is the librarian’s responsibility to “convince the boss it is his job and in the organization’s best interests to support the librarian.” I believe that one of the most important things we can do to shape the future of bibliographic control is to take on that responsibility.
August 7, 2007 From: Strait, Constance CStrait@gcpl.lib.oh.us Date: Aug 3, 2007 1:56 PM Subject: Response to Summary of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control To: firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: "Strait, Constance" CStrait@gcpl.lib.oh.us Dear Dr. Griffiths, I am a cataloger and Head of Technical Services in a medium-sized public library in Ohio. I have been following the Progress of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control with great interest and concern. Naturally I feel that we as professionals need to be aware as much as possible of the changes wrought by Google, Amazon and the like. But we need to stand up and be heard when it comes to libraries and bibliographic control. We should not let our expertise in the field be over-shadowed.
Quality bibliographic control is of utmost importance for creative librarianship. We all need to support our institutions and not be overrun. MARC and FRBR, or whatever becomes the rule, is important for scholars of the future and the preservation of knowledge.
I realize this contribution of mine is only a small drop in the bucket, but I am happy to send it nonetheless.
Sincerely, Connie Strait Head of Technical Services Greene County Public Library 503 Kinsey Road Xenia OH 45385 Tel: 937-352-4007 Ext. 6301 Fax: 937-374-7967 email@example.com From: John Tofanelli firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Jul 17, 2007 1:39 PM Subject: Written Testimony for Working Group To: email@example.com Dear Dr. Griffiths, I have been alarmed to hear that the Library of Congress is considering discontinuing the use of LC Subject Headings.
Turning to the Web site of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, it is not obvious to me that such a decision is under consideration. Nevertheless, the various documents gathered on the Website of the Library of Congress Professional Guild (http://www.guild2910.org/future.htm) give me cause to wonder. If nothing else, the fact that neither of these Web sites links to the other suggests a significant rupture of dialogue in a profession that ordinarily prides itself in linking and collocating related information.
I am a subject specialist (in British and American Literature and History) at Columbia University Libraries, where I have worked since 2000. I have been a professional librarian, with reference, instructional, and collection development responsibilities, since
1992. I work closely with students, faculty, and other researchers at a reference desk, in library instruction sessions, and in individualized consultation. In all of these interactions I have found consistently that LCSH play a crucial role in my ability to explain and demonstrate the library catalog to users and in their ability to master the catalog and make it work for them.
While it is true that LCSH posed many difficulties to the uninitiated in the days of printed card catalogs, this is no longer the case in an online environment. Users can begin subject-oriented searching by entering simple keywords. They can scan their retrievals for relevant titles and then select hyperlinked LCSH in those titles, thus opening LCSH browse lists. Those lists, in turn, enable them to visualize various ways in which their subject can be broken down, and to jump to new retrieval sets. This is the process I demonstrate and recommend in library instruction and at the reference desk. When I follow up later with users I find, more often than not, that they have continued to make deliberate use of LCSH in their searching.
It is, of course, the case that many users do not receive instruction or seek reference help. The fact remains that users are assisted by LCSH whether or not they make deliberate use of them. Many unrestricted keyword searches are useful, and end up collocating significant ranges of titles on a subject, largely because they happen to hit on LCSH terms in the records.
As for the likelihood of uninstructed users making deliberate use of LCSH on their own: I would say that most persons who use computers are by now conditioned to scan any brief document, such as a catalog record, for hyperlinks that might be helpful. The spectrum of persons who make direct use of LCSH is thus very likely far wider than one might think: for it includes both the deliberate scholar, on one end, and the novice information seeker (who may initially be motivated to click on LCSH out of simple curiosity), on the other.
I am mystified as to what is envisioned as replacing LCSH by those persons who argue for their discontinuation. Subject keywords, as opposed to the coordinated subject strings of LCSH, provide no genuine insight into the nature and structure of discourse in a scholarly discipline. Social tagging will never repay the endless efforts that would be required to refine, standardize, and domesticate it for library use. Such efforts, furthermore, would betray the basic freedom that lends social tagging whatever value and interest it possesses in those environments in which it thrives. Subject keywords and social tagging are perfectly fine for helping users find three-minute videos on You Tube. They are not adequate, however, to the task of helping users find three-hundredpage scholarly monographs or group them in meaningful ways. Thomas Mann has cogently demonstrated the distinctive value of LCSH in contrast to various alternatives that have been envisioned (http://www.guild2910.org/Peloponnesian%20War%20 June%2013%202007.pdf ). I am in agreement with his basic arguments.
The idea that "Searchers expect instant gratification and positive feedback from the systems they use" (Calhoun, http://www.loc.gov/catdir/calhoun-report-final.pdf, p. 38) may be true of some of our users some of the time. But it does not begin to do justice to the variety of legitimate needs and expectations of library users, either in academic communities or in the world at large. One of the key purposes of higher education is to acclimatize students to the patterns of thinking, writing, and research prevalent in a given academic discipline. Understanding and participating in such disciplines requires patience, along with a willingness to defer gratification and to endure temporary frustration. Every learning curve requires trial and error. I work closely with History faculty and students at Columbia and I am impressed by the earnestness that animates efforts on both sides as they work to impart or to apprehend the values and methods that make historical research worthwhile.
It is not the case that LCSH are a magic key that opens every door. Nevertheless, they open many doors and they remain a core element in the process of getting doors opened. In the complex world of information retrieval, we cannot afford to throw away any key whose value has been substantially demonstrated through long usage. Online catalogs are far more sophisticated and multifunctional today than anyone would have envisioned three decades ago when they were first introduced. We have come this far by building upon past accomplishments, not by discarding them.
Thank you for considering the views expressed in this letter.
Sincerely, John Tofanelli, PhD, MLIS Anglo-American Literature & History Librarian Columbia University Libraries firstname.lastname@example.org Name: Scott Wicks Email: email@example.com Question/Comment: In general, folks here (at Cornell) found the questions somewhat dense and difficult to answer outside of the context of a broader, give-and-take live discussion. Nonetheless, a few offered the comments I've shared below.
-Scott Wicks I don't think we can answer questions such as "How can we make better use of current structures and standards in meeting both consumer and management user needs" (under #1) without first knowing the answers to questions such as: which consumers, and what are their needs? Do we know? And can we differentiate between needs and wants? If we can't satisfy all needs and wants, how do we decide what needs are primary and which are secondary?
I have a few comments to the five questions. I think these questions all overlap quite a bit, but I've tried to associate my responses to individual questions.
#1 I'd like to see citation-management software included in the scope of consumer usage.
This would include EndNote, RefWorks, and potentially many other web-based or desktop tools. Any new bibliographic standard should take into account the ability to reorder and re-format various components of a bibliographic citation, in any number of citation styles (APA, MLA, etc.) As an example, better delineation of family names and personal names would be helpful. Currently, name headings exist as strings that are difficult to parse for this information, especially since name order and parsing rules vary across different cultures.
#2 Libraries' authority records and controlled vocabulary terms can offer tremendous value to the semantic web. Simply assigning publicly-available URIs to these resources will give the world an identifier by which to refer unambiguously to a person, or organization, or language. Converting the records into RDF (or some other SemanticWeb-friendly format) would make the data even more attractive for re-use by other applications.
#3 Being able to translate native MARC records into XML has allowed libraries' bibliographic data to be used in other computer applications, but only to a limited degree.
Programmers who are not well-versed in the intricacies of MARC, and even those who are, have difficulty acknowledging the nuances that MARC allows. For example, to determine the language of an item, a script extracts the code given in the 008, but in some cases, it must also process the 041 field.
While these conditional and other special cases are not insurmountable, they do require a significant amount of custom programming code that quickly adds up to a lot of extra work. No wonder library catalog vendors don't bother trying to make full use of the data buried in our bibliographic records.
#4 [I'll skip this one.]
#5 Libraries should take advantage of other information sources, especially information producers, such as publishers and authors. We need a better way to connect knowledge experts (authors) with metadata experts (catalogers), tempered with an understanding of the searching behaviors of users (who may or may not be experts).
And, inevitably, we need to allow library data to be supplemented by user-created data (tagging, reviews, discussions, etc.), either within our library system, or else from other applications that can freely pull data from the library system.