Response #9: Kyle Olmon

I very much enjoyed this week’s readings. Thomas Mann opened my eyes to the importance of OPAC browser displays. His observations of how patrons were interacting with the system and spelling out the differences between precoordinated phrases and postcoordinated Boolean terms was very helpful in getting into the minds of the casual user. All too often I feel that these organization systems we have been discussing are more in the service of the librarian/gatekeepr or the actual information source rather than the end user, of which all of this is for.

Taylor continues on this thread when he shares numbers from his observations about how subjective subject analysis is. I found this chapter fascinating, with easy language and ample examples. The 1954 study where 340 students looked at 6 books and suggested an average of 62 different terms that could be used to search each book really showcases how even with the best intentions and a specific controlled vocabulary, there will never be a consensus when humans are used to evaluate subject matter. Teasing out the “of-ness” and “about-ness” of an information source is truly a daunting task for the librarian or indexer and matching that perspective with a large and varied user base is downright Sisyphean.

~Kyle

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