Alex Wright and W. Boyd Rayward’s articles shed light on Paul Otlet, a man that paved the way for many of the conceptual frameworks and ideas about the organization of information that we have today. Although both authors stop short of stating Otlet’s influence on the creation of the World Wide Web, Otlet’s foresight about the possibilities of networks and linked data is incredible nonetheless. He understood the importance of the uniformity of data in that “if cards and sheets were standardized, especially as to size and weight, then it became possible to create collaboratively continuously expanding databases in these formats” (Rayward 293). This may seem like a simple concept, but the standardization of data is extremely important and an issue that we struggle with today in the case of metadata interoperability. Another of his prescient ideas was “conceptual maps” that “played in simplified, visual form, the intricate relationships of the concepts embraced within various subject areas” (Rayward 294-95), sounding very similar to the linked hypertext context of Wikipedia. Most incredible, however, was Otlet’s view that information should be universally accessible by all, a vision which the Web is facilitating.
It is now not only libraries and librarians role to find and help users navigate data but also in their mission to preserve and curate this data. Heidorn’s “The Emerging Role of Librarians in Data Curation and E-science” discusses the role of libraries within (mostly) academic institutions that are now being charged with the extensive task of data curation and management. I thought Heidorn was unclear about what he was trying to express with his article and his ideas seemed to jump from place to place. I also thought he could have been clearer in explaining the processes and terminology he used. I don’t think data curation was actually explicitly defined until halfway through the article. I finally learned that data curation is the active process of maintaining, preserving, and adding value to digital research data throughout its lifecycle.
Heidorn’s brief mention of “negative findings” and unpublished data reports as well as his related question, “how will this data be managed and what is the role of libraries in this profound shift in the organization of data?” extremely interesting. It is essential that unpublished data is preserved and remains accessible so that it can be reused, recreated, and manipulated. Grey Literature is an example of these unpublished reports and data that is free from the politics and monetary incentives of commercially published works. This is especially useful in health sciences fields where users can find very recent results of datasets, clinical trial data, working papers, etc. that have both positive and negative results. Access to original data is extremely important in order to further academic pursuits. Now librarians are taking on the role to do just that.
In cataloging a controlled vocabulary is a tool that can be used to communicate ideas and concepts embodied in a work using a set of predetermined terms. However, according to “What is a Controlled Vocabulary” by Leise, Fast, and Steckel, communication is only effective if the terms are agreed upon by all parties. This can be frustrating to an individual cataloger when certain terms seem natural to identify and describe an item yet cannot be used. Catalogers must constantly remind themselves that there are always at least three (and usually countless if not infinitely more) differences in how an item is interpreted, which is through the often divergent perspectives of the cataloger the original creator, and the user(s).
Myers & Myers article elucidates the issues encountered when cataloging works that fall outside the scope of “normal” book cataloging, including issues of vocabulary and terminology. One issue is whether “artist’s books” or “book arts” should be considered books or works of art that use books as the media. The authors include terminology like “colophon” and “binding” in their description, which indicate their understanding of the book as an object ( I work in a conservation lab that creates clamshell boxes, which we call “housing” not “binding” but I am certain the term “housing” in this context would cause even more confusion). Another problem is the difficulty in knowing what information to include in the record and if it should be targeted for the relatively small community/user group of those interested in book arts or the general public who may not know what an artist book is. This leaves the troublesome choice of either compromising how much information is supplied or possibly alienating a user group. Myers & Myers provide an example of what they consider to be an ideal record for an artist book, which reads very similarly to a kind of descriptive bibliography that is usually reserved for rare books and takes a lot of skill to master.
I thought Myers & Myers brought up two interesting concepts in this article. The first was their statement that institutions should have a policy of interpretation. I wish that this idea had been expanded upon. Is this similar to trying to interpret the intrinsic qualities or aboutness of items? I also thought that separating the physical description and intellectual content of an item by different note fields was an interesting approach that could be potentially helpful to users viewing the record with varying focuses.
In previous classes we’ve discussed the artificial language of classification schemes, which are composed of systems of notation. This week we begin to learn the methods of how to assign natural language to a concept or concepts through subject analysis. Taylor’s chapter on “Subject Analysis” presents a comprehensive and compelling perspective of the intricacies of determining the aboutness of items and the difficulty in arriving at an agreed upon term. Taylor writes about a study where for each concept or object an average of 25 topical names were applied! So if people naturally arrive at different terms using different methods of analysis, how do we determine aboutness at all? It seems impossible. However, I think Taylor’s chapter strives to make us aware of the different methods that have been proposed and use them (or not) to form a strategy to create terms consistently and without bias.
I liked the format of this article and how Taylor divided up topics and subtopics discussed. For example, in “Differences of Methods Used” Taylor clearly articulates Langridge’s, Wilson’s, and Use-based approaches to demonstrate the different ways to arrive at a subject term. I also appreciated Taylor’s quick dive into subject analysis of nontextual information resources, which seems to include the semiotic methodology of reading the “text” and sense-making regardless of the medium.
I enjoyed the readings this week, particularly Emily Drabinski’s “Teaching the Radical Catalog.” Drabinski states,
“Library classifications use the hegemonic language of the powerful: they reflect, produce, and reproduce hierarchies; they order sameness and difference and prevent the full representation of minority literatures; they arrest the linguistic transformation in emerging fields of knowledge and identity production.”
These are classification systems that can never be completely “fixed” so she proposes that if we cannot change them, we should try to understand the problems, approach the system critically, and actively learn how to navigate the limitations as both teachers and students.
An especially interesting point in Drabinski’s article is the issue of power and the privileging of terms. This is a choice made at some point by a cataloger either consciously or subconsciously that affects who has access to a particular resource. This is an inherent problem with any hierarchically structured system. One term determines subsequent faceting within that term.
I also found Drabinski’s discussion of Berman’s approach interesting. Although Berman’s work has incited change and progress within the cataloging world, he perpetuates the hierarchical classification system by implying there is a “‘right’ language that could be universally understood and applied” when in fact maybe we should accept the limitations of and barriers created by language and focus on being aware they exist. As librarians it is essential that we take ourselves out of positions of power as organizers and providers of information to begin to critically learn and understand the system and all its issues.
Drabinski’s article was well-written, thought-provoking, and compelling all the way through. I look forward to reading more of her work.
I enjoyed all the readings this week. It was extremely helpful to learn the historical and contextual backgrounds that led to each classification scheme. The articles successfully built upon one another to provide a fuller understanding of the concepts in contrast to solely reading about disparate classification systems in a textbook.
When I was reading Chowdhury ( I read the chapter first), I kept thinking, “What’s the big deal? Why can’t libraries just pick a system and stick to it?” After reading the articles, though, I realized just how big a deal it was. Many times we take classification for granted as a natural occurrence. However, Langridge reminds us that not only are classifications constructed, but that objects are rarely mutually exclusive and can therefore theoretically be classed in countless categories in infinite ways. This “relativity of classification” is epitomized in the article’s inclusion of the excerpt from Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland when the pigeon places Alice (a little girl) and a serpent in the same category: egg eaters.
Ranganathan’s Colon Classification counters the rigidity of DDC and LC systems as he seems to approach knowledge organization from a more global, big picture standpoint. Facets have merit in the fact that cataloging shouldn’t be a subjective practice relying on an individual’s “worldview” nor should items be pigeonholed into inappropriate divisions and subdivisions.
A central theme in the articles and a question that kept coming up was “What is the purpose of classification?” According to Langridge, the purpose is “to organize the knowledge produced by specialists so that it may be available for whosoever requires it.” Simple enough. However, the many ways knowledge is organized can be just as important. Hjorland writes, “classifications reflect the purposes for which they are designed and that different sciences, theories, and human activities classify the world (more or less) differently.” The way materials are categorized in a collection can even change use patterns. Certain classifications can also subconsciously or consciously influence how people view cultures and learn about them. For example, in classifying art and literature in Western cultures, the individual maker/artist/creator is emphasized and valued more highly than works created collaboratively or by multiple sources.
So if library users and the way they create and retrieve information has changed, should the classification of collections change? I don’t know if there is an answer to this question, but it is interesting to critique the systems and approach them from another lens.
Although I am still a little fuzzy about the conceptual nature of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), I believe Barbara Tillet’s article has moved me slightly closer to understanding the enigma that is FRBR (I have also realized that I dislike acronyms). I now understand the difference between a described “item” and “manifestation.” However, once we get to “expression” and “work,” things get murky. Thomas Baker’s article adds even more confusion to the matter when he discusses the rigidity of the FRBR Model and how “describing a creator or subject, for example, implies the existence of a work.” Therefore, the relationships between the WEMI (work, expression, manifestation, item) entities as resources is inferred. He asks, “Should the non-FRBR-based description of a book, for example, be considered comparable to the description of a work, an expression, a manifestation, or an item?” because “it cannot be considered comparable to more than one without violating the laws of the conceptual universe delineated in the FRBR ontology.” For now I am going to follow the Library of Congress (LOC) dubious stance on the model: “FRBR must be seen as a theoretical model whose practical implementation and its attendant costs are still unknown.”
Name: Emily Moyer
My group has chosen this topic: Digital Collections & Metadata
I am interested in this topic because: Metadata is ubiquitous (as our group discovered when trying to narrow down topics). There are different metadata types, models, schemes, and standards that all represent various applications of information creation, retrieval, and access. Right now, I work in a position where I work to preserve physical materials. However, there is an increasing demand for the digitization of images and other media that requires metadata standards for inventory documentation, interoperability, and digital preservation efforts. I am interested in exploring an area that I am unfamiliar with and delve into the underbelly of metadata embedded within digital collections.
Baca, M. & Harpring, P. (2009). Categories for the Description of Works of Art. J Paul Getty Trust & College Art Association.
Ma, J. (2006). Managing Metadata for Digital Projects. Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services, 30 (1-2), 3-17.
Stein, R. & Coburn, E. (2008). CDWA Lite and Museumdat: New Developments in Metadata Standards for Cultural Heritage Information. Annual Conference of CIDOC.
Waibel, G., LeVan, R. & Washburn, B. (2010). Museum Data Exchange: Learning How to Share. OCLC Research. http://oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/library/2010/2010-02.pdf
Based on my preliminary research, I have chosen to focus on the following aspect of our group topic:
I have chosen to focus on CDWA (Categories for the Description of Works of Art), a metadata framework for describing and structuring information about works of art and material culture. For two summers I worked in the Photoarchive at the Frick Collection pulling photographs and negatives for a NEH funded digitization project. With this topic, I have the opportunity to explore the metadata creation of the Frick Digital Image Archive in conjunction with Artstor that occurred after the images were pulled. In the final paper, I will consider the barriers users face with specific controlled vocabularies (i.e. Art and Architecture Thesaurus, Union List of Art Names, and Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names), data content standards (i.e Cataloging Cultural Objects), and technical format (CDWA Lite XML Schema).
Some unresolved questions:
What specific attributes does CDWA offer that make it a better standardization than general Dublin core metadata? How are intrinsic and extrinsic relationships described within CDWA?
This week we read a few articles about different cataloging standards and models including AACR2, RDA, FRBR, and BIBFRAME and learned that many people are very passionate about cataloging rules. However, how do we know which of these acronyms to choose? In their article “Resource Description Access (RDA): Cataloging Rules for the 20th Century,” Karen Coyle and Diane Hillmann present a compelling argument for why RDA is not a viable standardization model for the 21st century. They argue for a more radical and revolutionary change (as Roy Tennant also calls for) in response to changing information resources, technology, user needs, and the information environment. Library catalogs have transitioned from a linear “alphabetical list of headings” to a dynamic information resource searchable by any word in the entry.
Today, there are many more sources of information available, but now users need to be able to find the right ones. Coyle & Hillmann discuss the divergence of the values of information professionals and users in “the fact that users have become comfortable with the result of a search leading seamlessly and instantly to the delivery of the resource to the user’s workstation,” and which therefore “undermines the whole notion of the value of a detailed catalog.” In contrast to Coyle & Hillmann’s stance on a minimum of rules, RDA (originally proposed to be called AACR3) follows many of the rules of AACR2 and includes “highly detailed rules with large numbers of special cases.” They also acknowledge the lack of community support for RDA and the JSC (Joint Steering Committee) evidenced by the Library of Congress BIBFRAME model and bluntly state that the JSC’s “position of denial would be laughable if it were not so disastrous for the library community.” If the rules of cataloging are going to transform, library professionals cannot afford to be so insular. Insight from other departments and communities needs to be sought in order to move forward and for radical changes to occur.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Anne Gilliland’s article “Setting the Stage.” The overall tone of the article was extremely accessible and thought-provoking while discussing considerations regarding metadata. One salient point was her discussion about the limited success that institutions such as libraries, archives, and museums have in integrating their materials into one useable, searchable system. Granted, issues of copyright and intellectual property laws can make interoperability difficult. However, if institutions can get over the “my way or the highway” mentality in their approaches towards the creation and retrieval of metadata, it would benefit both users and other information professionals to gain access to various collections. Gilliland states, “[the] selection of an inappropriate schema…serves neither the collection materials themselves nor the users who wish to find, understand, and use those materials.”
Gilliland also addresses the notion of privilege in creating metadata. She provides the example of archival finding aids, which oftentimes do not inherently make sense to any person other than the creator or someone taught how to read them. This can be remedied with user-generated metadata, which can bring to light differences in vocabulary ways in which people retrieve and use data. One of the coolest websites I’ve come across for community knowledge creation and organization is this website.
As a whole, Gilliland’s article reminds us that we should think of metadata as a fluid concept that can refer to many different things. Although this is an important concept, I appreciated and found very helpful her tables with discrete examples of the different types, attributes, and characteristics of metadata.
N.B. It is also important to remember metadata can be embedded in digital files…