All posts by kyleolmon

Weekly Response: Kyle Olmon

Alex Wright’s article on Paul Otlet and his visionary (and mind-boggling ambitious) explorations to organize all the world’s data places him on a grand pedestal on par with forgotten geniuses like his contemporaries Leon Theremin and Nikola Tesla. Otlet’s work gives me another reason to marvel at the ingenuity and progress of the arts and sciences at the turn of the century. Wright’s detail of the birth of the UDC system, with it’s functional faceted search similar to Ranganathan, and the creation of the Mundaneum, that unfortunately named uber database, were equal parts fascinating and tragic and set the stage for a deeper analysis by W. Rayward.

Rayward’s history of information science sheds must greater light on Otlet’s work and how it was a remarkable precursor to today’s stage of library and information science. While Otlet’s theories were sound, it would take a mere 60 years for the technological advances to catch up to make them fully realized in the interplay of the internet, Google and current cataloging practices. Otlet was thinking big with his universal catalog (RBU), universal classification system (UDC) and even the universal book. His attempts to reclaim the term ‘monograph’ from the printed codex and expand it to the 3×5″ index card or microfilm was admirable and prophetic in regards to today’s upheaval of traditional publishing as we move further in to a more integrated digital age.

I would like to the think of Paul Otlet smiling down on the many realizations of his work, but I imagine he would rather be busy tackling ever more complex theories in the pursue of collating, analyzing and disseminating all of the world’s collective human knowledge in one tidy package.


Weekly Response: Kyle Olmon

Heidorn’s article on data curation and E-science was an enjoyable and informative read, but I was left with a distressed feeling that academic libraries are ill-equipped to take on the task of providing long term management of the mountains of data coming from the scientists, scholars and affiliated institutions. I actually shuttered when I read:

Instrumentation and computerization enable scholars and civil servants to collect data with volumes equal to the text content of the entire Library of Congress in a matter of days (Baraniuk, 2011).

How can underfunded and overworked libraries possibly keep up with this massive accumulation of digital material? I was glad to hear that the NIH and NSF are requiring data management plans when they are doling out grants, but I hardly think that is enough oversight as society is expecting to see not just published results, but raw data that will have to be not only stored, but checked and migrated constantly. It seems like scholars would need an endowment in place to preserve their work, but it is more likely for the burden of preservation to fall on the lap of the LIS community. Plus, getting taxpayers to chip in for saving a 1983 clinical study on string cheese consumption is going to be difficult to say the least.

For perspective, I found another interesting blog post from two years ago that also charted various organizations that create “a Library of Congress” amount of data. [] Not surprising to see NASA and Facebook on that list.

With the advancements in commercial cloud servers, our hopes may lie in the private sector and academic libraries must strive to work with these 3rd part vendors or risk distancing themselves from the role of collecting and sharing the intellectual output of society. We are drowning in data and it may be up to the tech section to throw the libraries, scholars and general public a lifeline.


Weekly Response: Kyle Olmon

Being a maker and collector of artists’ books, I was very interested in the Myers article tackling the thorny subject of cataloging these unconventional items. I have spoken with many book artists, dealers, private collectors and libraries that traffic in artists’ books and found that there is no real shared controlled vocabulary to describe the works much less a standard for making accurate bibliographic records that can serve all users. All too often I have spoken with fellow artists about a work only to realize that our lexicon for describing particular characteristics differed greatly and was causing confusion with the general public. This community seems far from codifying any functional CV in the near future.  Happily, the approach of the article is well crafted as the authors select a single item and take it through the paces of traditional and modified original cataloging in a clear effort to show concretely what compromises must be made to both honor the artist and their work as well as make the item findable in the collection.

The debate about the cataloger’s role as art critic in an effort to describe the ‘aboutness’ of the object is a fascinating discussion and one that will not be settled any time soon. Personally, I side with  Ford, who contends that “a context-less vacuum in which to view art does not exist.” The cataloger must make a variety of personal judgements in regards to creating a record of the artists’ book (or any item) and one must hope that it is done following best practices, care and hopefully the consultation of the artist or expert in the field.


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.


Response #8: Kyle Olmon

Great to get an introduction to RadCat and its major proponents like Sanford Berman in ‘Radical Cataloging’.  I also appreciated the dialogue from the same book between Webster and Doyle as they discussed the endless marginalization of Native American resources in the current dominant classification systems. While these two chapters expose a biased system and rage against the library machine, I found more to love in the ‘Cutter & Paste’ article by Freedman and Kauffman. Sticking true to the DIY aesthetic, they provide concrete examples for  catalogers to follow and build upon when dealing with zines or other unorthodox library materials. In stark contrast is Jonathan Furner’s “Dewey deracialized” article where I got lost in the endless discussion of semantics, perspectives and definitions related to CRT. My favorite takeaway from his paper was his examination of US public libraries from before and after WWII. It looked like a very stark world through these lens:

The emphasis was on the librarian’s responsibility to select the “best” books for an elite minority of middle-class scholars, while providing the masses with a harmless source of recreation and entertainment that would keep them too busy to harbor ideas of insurrection, and inculcating in new immigrants the morals of the American who is “sober, righteous, conservative, patient, devout” [21, p. 2510].

And yet I feel that after 1945, the “ideal of freedom of access to all recorded knowledge for all people” is a worthy goal, but still currently beyond our collective reach as noted by the cats preaching RadCat the world over.


Response #6: Kyle Olmon


I enjoyed Steckel’s ode to S.R. Ranganathan, partly because I love the personal details shared about this lion of the library world. 13 hour days, 7 days a week with just enough time to pound out 60 books on what I am guessing was a very worn typewriter. I too appreciate his 5 laws of Library Science and was delighted to learn this week that he put his favorite number to good use and came up with PMESH. Anecdotes like his divine inspiration after seeing an Erector Set are literally the stuff of legends (Dex at Straight Dope tries his hand with the eureka moment “Dui” had at church.) and his insight is profound:

Rather than creating a slot to insert the object into, one starts with the object and then collects and arranges all the relevant pieces on the fly.

I get that Ranganathan’s faceted CC is more “hospitable” than enumerative schemes like LC, and that flexibility is needed to adapt to changing ideas of classification, but I had trouble visualizing what a physical library floorplan looks like in the CC world. The CC record example in Chowdhury made me scratch my head when thinking how to retrieve a book and I figure that a more in-depth explanation of the non-linear APUPA pattern may be in order. Until then I may have to hold off on my own Ranganathan tattoo.


Response #5: Kyle Olmon

As I was trying to wrap my head around the differences between the “statements about reality” in RDF versus the DCMI abstract model’s purpose for “specifying the contents of metadata records” in Baker’s article, I realized I needed to step back and try to better understand the workflows being proposed. Being a visual person, I kept drifting away from the acronym heavy paragraphs and focused on the graphs and tables to explain the interconnectedness of these various systems. Unfortunately, the chart on application profiles in Dublin Core and the RDF graph were not as effective in mapping out the connections and I still struggle to seprate the models from the schema from the record formats. On the other hand, Barbara Tillett’s brief introduction to FRBR proved to be a very straightforward presentation on the FRBR model and the included charts helped greatly when explaining the definition and order of work, expression, manifestation and items in the context of bibliographic records. I can only hope that the clear and concise visuals of Tillett or Green & Bean’s ‘Relationships in the Organization of Knowledge’ reappear in future readings to illustrate and illuminate some of these dense organizational models.


Project Proposal: Kyle Olmon

Name: Kyle Olmon

Topic: Non-western cataloging or classification systems


As we become more of a global society it is imperative to find equal channels of communication among the diverse communities in order to share knowledge and resources. At the same time, it is important for various populations to retain and record their heritage and language which informs their identity. I am interested in learning how various western and non-western cataloging systems can interact effectively while still maintaining a degree of individual integrity. I have chosen to focus on a comparative analysis of cataloging methods used for Hebrew material by both American and Israeli institutions in an effort to see if current trends indicate that Hebraic records are being ignored by Western classification systems, embraced by efforts to accommodate for non-Romanized script in U.S cataloging schema, or co-opted by Western cataloging enterprises in order that they can be searched and accessed by an audience greater than the intended native speakers.


Aman, M. M. (1980). Cataloging and classification of non-Western material: Concerns, issues, and practices. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press.

Biella, J. C., & Lerner, H. G. (2011). The RDA Test and Hebraica Cataloging: Applying RDA in One Cataloging Community. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 49(7/8), 676-695.

Goldsmith, M., & Adler, E. (2014). RDA in Israel. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 52(6/7), 677-687.

Holt, C. G., & Biella, J. C. (1999). Selected topics on Hebraica cataloging from the Heb-NACO listserv. Judaica Librarianship, 10(1-2), 21-28.

Lerner, H. (2006). Anticipating the Use of Hebrew Script in the LC/NACO Authority File. Library Resources & Technical Services, 50(4), 252-263.

Lovins, D. (2008). The Changing Landscape of Hebraica Cataloging. Judaica Librarianship, 14 1-13.

Weinberg, B. (1994). Ambiguities in the romanization of Yiddish. Judaica Librarianship, 958-74.

Response #4: Kyle Olmon

I have to admit that I enjoyed the sensationalistic manner of the readings for this week. All too often, I get bogged down in the dry exposition of the theoretical or jargon-y articles selected by my various teachers.  I appreciated checking in with Roy Tennant to see what provocative statement he was going to shout this time. His call-to-arms for the revision or replacement of MARC records was a nice insight to the workings (or lack thereof) of various committees and stakeholders intent of updating an outdated record system. Coyle & Hillman join in the chorus and sing of the trials and tribulations of RDA and how it is also not living up to library and user’s expectations. Like Tennant, they suggest that you cannot base a new format (like RDA) on an old tradition (in their case the AACR) without addressing fundamental changes in the information providers relationship with the community. That point is driven home in Eden’s commentary about a re-envisioning of the Technical Services department in the library system. He laments that OPACs are time and resource intensive operations to build and maintain in an age when a vast majority of the users are becoming more content with incomplete, often unreliable information obtained from Web search engines. To borrow Eden’s metaphor, it seems like most of the major players in the information science field are trying out different colors of “lipstick on a pig”.