Paul Otlet’s impressiveness, to me, lies in his understanding that information is social. Wright is hesitant to admit Otlet outright influenced the creation of the web; both he and Rayward emphasize Otlet’s predictive, ambitious-beyond-his-era talents. He understood that information is relative and linked and he created concepts for information retrieval and networks. Yet while this eerily supernatural premonition of the internet is exciting to read about, I was most drawn to the way Otlet incorporated humanity into his mundaneum. He articulated that information is best understood in context, including the reader’s relationship to the document. Not only does Otlet’s project allow the reader to find what to read, the reader can interact with the document, inherently changing “the social space” of a document by reading it. Wright refers to Otlet’s desire to create a “new ‘world city'”, a world in which information is shared and created across borders and languages. That Otlet frames his proposed information sharing network as a society illustrates to me the important characteristic of information: it is how everyone communicates with each other. Information is no longer experts communicating to lay people, or experts communicating to other experts. It includes everyone. The idea of reader contribution is no more evident than in the myriad of ways readers, writers, consumers, producers interact on a daily basis online today. It is Otlet’s inclusiveness and understanding of the social aspect of information that impresses me most.
P. Bryan Heindorn’s article got me riled up. Heindorn is a librarian himself, but his article on why librarians need to care about data carried a great deal of negative baggage. He is clearly frustrated with the field’s inattention to the new challenge of data management, yet characterizes academic librarians as a bunch of complainers who don’t get why science is important and would rather let someone else do something hard. Seriously. Citing Galileo and Bacon to explain the importance of data felt incredibly patronizing, particularly to an audience of people dedicating their careers to information- we’re already sold on the idea of sharing knowledge. When discussing data management education, he says, “librarians who have adapted their skills are difficult to find” as though there weren’t other things librarians were busy adapting to (like, say, the internet). It seems the failure to embrace data management is most likely caused by an institutional roadblock (money) and not librarians’ unwillingness to learn something new. Even his conclusion is vaguely threatening: “If libraries do not actively engage in the task, then society may choose to create a new type of institution to curate digital data.” Perhaps I am being unfair on this passionate call to action; he does say that librarians have the skills to manage and make available this unwieldy data. I just wish he could make this argument in such a way that would inspire librarians to advocate for data management within their institutions and not put them down for not getting with the times.
My best friend in college was a linguistics major and was a staunch anti-prescriptivist when it came to spelling, grammar, and pronunciation. She believed that people could pretty much say things how they wanted and if they were understood by their audience, rules were irrelevant. Upon reading about controlled vocabulary and thesaurus creation in the library world, it seems to me that these tools we’ve created to increase findability have proven my friend right. It doesn’t matter anymore if I never learn how to spell, if I am approximately right, I’ll be able to find what I’m looking for in a catalog. The idea of a controlled vocabulary may seem to be reactionary to this deterioration of user competency (essentially a scolding: “ACTUALLY, it’s called ‘pants'”) , but I see it as evolved. It is essentially saying “sure, you can call them whatever you want, but here’s where we keep the information on it, under ‘pants.'” It seems that CV embraces change, something we’ve discussed is difficult for libraries to do, for the sake of the user.
1) How do the costumes and sets of the film Titanic compare to the actual fashions and decor?
2) Who were the passengers of the Titanic and what social groups did they represent?
3) How was the tragedy of the Titanic represented in the media in 1912?
Taylor’s description of the issues in subject analysis with the sociology example gave me such a pang of regret, I really wish I had known these subtleties when performing research in undergrad. For my senior thesis, I was tackling a topic that was largely based on perspectives; I needed to read both about the Gender Studies field’s perspective on Child Psychology and the Media, as well as psychological studies on Gender and Media. I knew I couldn’t have been the first person to make these connections, yet I rarely found material that incorporated all three of these fields. Had I been a savvier searcher, or simply asked a librarian, I may have been able to employ some better research methods to find this information. I was searching “what is it about?” (Gender Studies AND Media AND Child Psychology) when I should have been searching “what is it for?” (Gendered perspectives on children’s psychological interactions with the media). With a basic knowledge of subject strings, I may have been better able to find this specific meeting of these subjects.
I admire Berman’s ethical motivations, but I think the examples provided in this article aren’t as compelling as the progressive philosophy behind them. While librarians tend to be pretty liberal, it seems libraries are not. And perhaps this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t believe it’s up to libraries to be torch bearers for progressive movements. Berman’s dissatisfaction with this disconnect is warranted—it seems so silly to even see the word “transsexual” yet I imagine the vast majority of the published texts on the subject have yet to embrace preferred nomenclature. And because of this, the subject heading should change once the texts themselves change. In fact, it may even be useful to keep the outdated subject headings if researchers are interested in how certain subjects used to be written about. It could even be an educational moment, allowing young researchers to understand how opinions and terminologies have changed. This is an important and valuable lesson that may be lost with consistently up-to-date, politically correct subject headings. I think it’s up to librarians to be aware of all of these subject headings and direct their users to the right place, no matter what that place is called, and use any disparities as teachable moments.
While I admire Ranganathan’s warm and fuzzy treatment of knowledge, I found his faceted system to be a bit unwieldy. The example shown by Tunkelang shows us the breakdown of colon classification’s ability to get very very very specific. With all of these ways PMEST can turn out, it’s hard to imagine how this might look on a physical shelf. It seems general subject books could end up far from their counterparts, for example, a book on the mouth and a book on the tongue could be so far apart with all the minutiae in between. I imagine this system would work well in very specialized libraries for users who know what they need in all the PMEST categories, but for libraries that serve the general public, finding a general subject book would be daunting just glancing at those lengthy call numbers. Colon classification seems, with all it’s detail and searchable terms, more like a record system, rather than a classification/retrieval system.
As conceptually mind-bending as it is, I admire the creators of FRBR for clarifying and redefining such entrenched terminology. I really liked the “Family of Works” figure because it shows, visually, how unwieldy these iterations of works are and how difficult it is for anyone to attempt to contain it in bibliographic form. Colloquially, as this article mentions, a “book” can mean so much more than a book, and in fact I catch myself feeling disingenuous saying “I read a book” when in fact I listened to an audiobook or read an ebook. I stand by the use, as the work’s content was conveyed and comprehended, but there is something still sanctified about a physical book, or “copy” I should say. I admire FRBR’s appreciation and integration of these other iterations as they become increasingly commonplace.
The debates, confusion, apprehension and outright fear surrounding the next era of library catalog records feels a bit, just as our previous Tennant reading, dramatic. I get that inconsistencies in cataloging are a big headache, and perhaps this is my naiveté and inexperience with being deep in these records, but after reading all this “sky is falling,” I sort of want to say “so what?”. No system for anything, least of all libraries, as been perfect. And yes with hindsight we can see how to improve, but just as how we use information now was largely unprecedented, how we will use it ten years from now is equally unfathomable. I disagree with Tennant that change can only happen with everyone on board, nowhere in history has this been true. In fact, I’m thinking of the relatively recent face-off between HD DVD and Blu-ray as to which would dominate the market as the next standard for video viewing. The industry didn’t agonize over making the perfect format. Both had to be tested by consumers and experts and ultimately the market decided what would reign supreme. Change comes with trial and error. Some libraries will make the wrong choice for the next cataloging system and will have to convert all their beta-max to VHS. No library wants to be that library, but how can we move forward without a few brave pioneers?
Name: Anna Murphy
My group has chosen the topic: Information Architecture in Libraries/Museums
I am interested in this topic because: I am interested in becoming a school librarian and I am very curious to see how the vast world of information is presented to an age-appropriate audience in a school setting. I am interested to learn the theoretical basis for how information ought to be arranged and made accessible for the user, as well as seeing how this is accomplished in practice.
Wilson, A. P. (2004). Library web sites: Creating online collections and services. Chicago: American Library Association.
Herring, J. E. (2011). Improving students’ web use and information literacy: A guide for teachers and teacher librarians. London: Facet Publishing.
Jones, K. M. L., & Farrington, P-A. (2013). Learning from libraries that use wordpress: Content-management system best practices and case studies. Chicago: American Library Association.
Based on my preliminary research, my focus:
I will focus on information architecture for libguides in K-12 schools. I believe information architecture in this type of library is interesting because it must use the most basic tenets of information architecture. With such a young audience, school librarians have the great responsibility of distilling all the information that is available and making a clean, clear framework for how information is organized. School libraries often create special research guides or “libguides” that alert students to relevant resources and offer tips on how to use them for specific subject areas or projects. I would like to know more about how these are set up online, what platforms are commonly used, and how information architecture theories are used to create these platforms. I will look into best practices for information architecture and how teachers and librarians are advised to use them. I will also look at examples of libguides and library websites to see how these rules are put into practice.