All posts by Erin E. McCabe

About Erin E. McCabe

Publisher relations and content development assistant at JSTOR. Master's candidate in Library and Information Science at Pratt Institute.

Weekly response, Erin E. McCabe

With the Paul Otlet article, there seemed to be less of these petty arguments going on behind the historical scenes of cataloging. While Dewey and Carlyle and of that ilk seem to be aggressive (well) nerds, Otlet seemed to me to be more of an artist. His approach to organizing and accessing reminded me a lot of current data mining practices. I can’t say I find any pleasure in the act of tagging data points within information directly, but seeing the resulting projects of some of these processes is really interesting, and beyond that, sometimes even really playful or creative. I think access in this day and age has moved beyond getting the information into the hands of the public and towards encouraging that public to engage with said information.

As a more basic appreciation, I find the term “social space of a document” really useful and plan to make everyone really tired of hearing it.

That being said, I am quite annoyed with the less than complimentary comparisons that I’ve seen drawn, more frequently than just the Weinberger reading, between Dewey’s system and Amazon. Personal Amazon boycott aside, the company admittedly offers some of that same creative, innovative, even playful relationship building between information sources that I appreciated in Otlet’s approach. Still, it’s hardly fair to compare the two, and I’m not really sure it’s beneficial either. What suggestions could Amazon’s process really offer the library cataloging system? Beyond an interesting philosophical distinction that is handy to perhaps students of cataloging, the system mandated by physical space (not to mention resources) makes for libraries and amazon a case of apples and oranges.


Weekly Response, Erin E. McCabe

On another class blog, we’re asked to tag our posts. Unfortunately we’ve reached an end to our allotment of possible tags now, and without the controlled vocabulary agreed on by the class beforehand, we’re left with a somewhat awkward assortment – including some especially horrific duplicates from misspelling. If only we’d collectively considered the many pros of a strong Controlled Vocabulary (CV) laid out in ““What is a Controlled Vocabulary” by Leise, Fast, and Steckel. If only we’d have known these are the terms we’d be stuck with!

Despite the frustration of having to use less than accurate tags, one of the results of an organically grown tag selection is that we can see what topics surfaced – like the word cloud feature on some blogs. If we were to look at this class over the semesters, I’m sure we could have a really interesting viewpoint on evolving discussions taking place in librarianship.

Controlled vocabulary (CV) has the aim of making material easier to locate, “increasing findability”. In a website – especially a commercial one – this makes perfect sense as a tidying tool. Expanding to an actual library’s collection though makes the use of CV much more complex. Of course the Gap doesn’t need a search box – I don’t know if that’s because of a good use of CV or just simply a lack of collection diversity. Their latest subway slogan is, “Dress Normal”.

So (during the radical cataloging class) we talked about a catalog’s ability to act as representative in terms of depicting a certain sense of cultural awareness and a hospitality to its users. Could the wrong or too strict CV give the impression that your collection is less than rich? I just know I’d be the type of CV designer who drowns its audience in RTs.

Weekly response, Erin E. McCabe

There’s a certain severity to the judgment of “banking education” that appeals to me in the Drabinksi article, “Teaching the Radical Catalog”. While librarians and school teachers answer to some different authorities with different goals, critical assessment of a catalog’s anthropological biases expands beyond that explanation into radical learning. Education reform is such a hot button issue (especially nowadays in my hometown, Chicago – with teachers’ strikes and low income district schools closing) that it struck me as almost snuck in here under the guise of a shift in cataloging as a more or less tidy fix.

It certainly seems like the only valid option on the table. A change of heading classifications is both insufficient and completely inefficient, given the fluid nature of social evolution. Then, removing a hierarchy of categories is simply not a possibility, it runs against the very definition of classification.

I love any support for critical pedagogy but the more pessimistic side of me thinks it might actually be easier to change the headings. Afterall, we’re talking a shift in not just how patrons use the library, but in how students, or people, use their brains. It’s pretty cool that librarians can be find themselves in a pretty uniquely flexible position to start this kind of thing.

Erin E. McCabe’s Response #6: PMEST to Impress (Ranganathan v. Dewey)

After last week, I was feeling encouraged – safe even – in the better understanding that many of these reading were more to elucidate the theory of cataloging and classification, rather than its direct application. So, while I enjoyed the looser style of the Dewey and Ranganathan articles, it had a hint of reinforcing the idea that one must be a little neurotic-obsesive to grasp some of the ideas.

Just when I thought there weren’t any more possible terms to apply to the “things to consider” in the library classification realm, we get to PMEST. PMEST?

I’d still have liked the example to go a little further to better grasp how PMEST is “starting with the object before creating the slot”, rather than the vice versa of Dewey (“indexing terms that had to be thought out before the object being described could fit into the system”). Keeping my group project [Non-Western Cataloging] in mind, I’d be interested to hear the details of Ranganathan’s “ideas emerged from his background in mathematics and his beliefs in Hindu mysticism” – that seems a sort of strange and unlikely consideration.

Overall, it was a nice note to end on for me, hearing that Ranganathan was a “diligent evangelist of getting information to people who needed it”. The social aspect of cataloging is about accessibility in a very democratic sense and one that it seems Dewey cared for little.

Response 5, Erin E. McCabe

Reading through the initial part of the FRBR document, I couldn’t help but wonder how much this level of distinction is necessary. Truthfully, I keep coming back to that with a lot of the readings. Adding a metaphor level of linguistic terminology seemed less helpful than it seemed to just add to the muddle.

Stepping away from it momentarily, that kept coming back to pester my thoughts. All this naming of the parts and their distinction seems like unnecessary clarification that could be made more straightforward with a certain assumption of common sense. I think that thing that finally allowed me to let it go and move on, was the state of my office email. Maybe a person has the ability to think of these acts as singular, but parsing it up helps a lot for analysis of your process (which might show room for improvement) as well as helps pinpoint the exact source of a problem-child type of issue. The former case is, I think one of the benefits of FRBR – keeping in mind these components when the catalog world in the digital age is growing through somewhat of an awkward stage.

Project Proposal : Erin E. McCabe

My group has chosen Non-Western Classification Systems

I am interested in this topic from a linguistic standpoint as well as its cultural considerations. After reading through the many complaints and debates that have surfaced with more contemporary cataloging – namely the unique issues posed by digital content and digital access – it seems that some non-western cultures might be perfectly poised to leap frog the burden of current U.S. standards to create something useful free from historic fetters.

MOROCCO seems to be always bridging realms – it’s a bit old world but a bit modern. I think Morocco is especially interesting since it has long been a multilingual area: people use Arabic, French (at least in the larger cities or in a vehicular sense), and then not so long ago the LC even approved a Romanization table for the berber standardized language, Moroccan Tamazight.

My general ideas so far include:

  • A lot of linguistic agility that might force a certain amount of the same in cataloging practice.
  • Romanization tables seem like a really strange, one-sided idea to me.
  • The evolution of cataloging as libraries moved beyond their original Mosque bases.
  • Morocco is not as wholly online as the “western world” in their libraries or in their homes.
  • If there’s been significant evolution in cataloging style / if that’s been a result of western involvement.

Specific Sources I’m Considering:

  • Africanist Librarianship in an Era of Change by Victoria K. Evalds; David Henige
  • The Journal, Libraries & Culture, published by University of Texas Press
  • Libraries for the General Public in French-Speaking Africa: Their Cultural Role, 1803-1975 by Mary Niles Maack
  • Library and Information Science Education in Morocco: Curriculum Development and Adaptation to Change by Mimoun Mokhtari
  • Degeneration and Decay in the National Museum: Useful and Useless Memory in Modern Morocco
  • LC/Cairo Report: Delivered at MELA Annual Meeting, November 1987 by Chris Filstrup and Linda Darling
  • Facebook à la Fullbright by Heather Lea Moulaison (Fullbright Library Scholar in Morocco)
  • Library and Information Science Education in Morocco: Notes on a Recent Visit by Brendan Loughridge

Response 4: Erin E. McCabe

I heard the other day a phrase that stuck out to me – “Librarians like to search, patrons like to find”. Though maybe an oversimplification of the whole evolution of cataloging debate, it did reverberate with something that had been rattling around in my thoughts while I’ve been reading these cataloging debate articles. The library management side of catalog use seems to be more or less unfazed, or at least relatively unscathed, by the evolution of content and the corresponding evolution of its access methods. Meanwhile, the user access side of catalog use seems to have had the hardest hit. Changes in technology have, in turn, changed the user – not just in terms of their expectations but in terms of their very understanding of how to interact with searching. Coyle and Hillmann’s article outlining the process of development for “Resource Description and Access (RDA)” includes this thought, “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 undermines the whole notion of the value of a detailed catalog.” If catalogs are to remain useful to the searchers and not just the catalogers, there has to be a feeling of this seamlessness.We’ve talked in class about using Amazon to look up titles at the library – and that says a lot about the gap between official library speeds of progress and the rest of the Willy Wonka Googlefied tech world.

It’s hard to let go of something you’ve put a lot of work into, but I enjoyed the succinct nature of the suggestion, “Do not use AACR2 alone as the source of ideas and practices for RDA.” I’ve been having a similar problem lately with organizing my own classwork and work-work. It feels like an inability to see the forest for the trees and I’ve ended up planting visual reminders everywhere of the big picture. Maybe these boards need just a random patron to stumble into their meetings periodically with their own unique research query.

I think that the additional ‘I’ in the MLS/MLIS programs of nowadays, is a good sign of the progress that will be made when librarians not only start to understand data professionals, but start to become them.

Response 2: Erin E. McCabe

Enticed away by the snappier titled, MARC Must Die, I temporarily set aside the somewhat dry, What is a Marc Record, and Why is it Important? This was a mistake.

Initially, I had thought that Marc seemed unnecessarily organized, with its pre-record record for its actual record (the three parts of Leader, Directory, and 008 field) and trying to keep the tag codes separate from the parallel tag codes, or even the indicators in my head made it slow reading. I assumed this was due to my lack of experience. Then, with MARC Must Die I felt vindicated – my raised eyebrows were echoed by the more experienced opinion of an actual legitimate librarian. Coming back to the original article then, it was especially difficult to read through and retain information without the constant background noise of my growing – well, disdain is too strong a word, but you get the idea. The one line that really sold me on the idea that MARC Must Die is the following, “By its very nature, Marc is flat, whereas a table of contents is hierarchical. This would be a breeze in XML.” I see the intention of interoperability between MARC hosting sites, with libraries exchanging cataloging data and having an (arguably) coherent streamlined process of encoding bibliographic data. Still, it doesn’t seem as flexible once you actually get into a single record.

Tennant goes on to suggest checking out the MarcXML website. When you get there, you’ll see its latest “News & Updates” is from 2002. It seems there’s been little progress made towards Tennant’s ideal. I sought some sort of confirmation from a cataloging librarian I know who says, even at her non-library publishing house cataloging job, she uses some sort of MARC based system for everything. I don’t know a ton about it, but I wonder if BibFrame is a sturdier replacement option than MARCXML?

Readings Response 1, Erin E. McCabe

Once I got past the historical and descriptive elements of the Taylor and Joudrey Cataloging article, it was interesting to see the article develop the idea of interoperability in the direction of the digital era. This called to mind the more current hopes/practices of linked data. I wonder what could be built using cataloging metadata. [side note: Has anyone perused these metadata games?] Though I found myself getting a bit tangled in some of the more tech-fluent encoding practices. To what extent is MARCXML encoding related to XML? An even more basic question might be, “Is this type of digital encoding largely descriptive, or does it result in concrete locating/action?”

In Cataloging in the Digital Age, Levy brings up that there is initial cataloging, but also cataloging practices that are more directed at the constant upkeep. In his depiction of cataloging material on the net, it would seem that constant upkeep would become implausible upkeep or if forced to strongly, that it would slow production of new content. However, I am not sure I understood what he meant by making a distinction between cataloging the net versus cataloging materials on the net. The internet doesn’t have a catalog but the speed it provides allows for a quicker decision making when it comes to choosing appropriate material. To what extent do we have to trust the patrons’ ability?

Intro Post: Erin E. McCabe

  • Hi, I’m Erin E. McCabe
  • I’m from Chicago.
  • I work in Content Development and Publisher Relations at JSTOR.
  • My educational goal for Pratt is (vaguely) to become better versed in researching and designing information based projects. Better explore the brain candy world. Better direct some of my more random interests.     
  • One of the things I appreciate most about the field is that it applies to a wide spectrum of work. I like my current overlap of publishing and library realms, but I have a real soft spot for SIG libraries, especially agricultural and garden based ones.
  • #1 semester at Pratt!
  • My guilty pleasures are a lot of cliche rap music, P.G. Wodehouse, and musicals.
  • My group: El Tigre / Christina, Kyle, Scarlett, Erin (Me)