All posts by Rachel Skinner-O'Neill

About Rachel Skinner-O'Neill

Aspiring librarian - MLIS candidate at Pratt Institute. Book lover, cloud watcher, star gazer.

Weekly response post #11 – Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

Necessity is the mother of invention is the expression that resonated in my mind as I read through this week’s readings that focus on the origins of knowledge organization and the development of information science. The huge increase in information following the industrial revolution and the mechanization of the printing processes meant new ways had to be created to organize the incredible expansion of the knowledge base. Melvil Dewey and Paul Otlet are two of the most important figures to rise to this challenge. Dewey, an easy figure to ridicule these days for his bigoted views, views, however, that continue to inform and influence a classification system still used in ninety-five percent of public school libraries in the US according to Weinberger’s figures, and Paul Otlet, who Alex Wright claims as the forgotten forefather of Information Architecture.

Of the two, Paul Otlet certainly holds most interest and has more currency as we move towards a semantic web of knowledge, and both the Rayward and the Wright pieces give fascinating accounts of the ambition and vision of the man who would create a system of Universal Decimal Classification, a system that went beyond Dewey to incorporate Ranganathan’s facets and foreshadow perhaps our current fixation with an information environment where, as Wright puts it “ social context in information is as important as topical content”.


Weekly response #10: Datasets Management, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

It is quite mind-blowing just how much data humans are now capable of producing and, as access to the technology to create more data grows, the amount will only increase. The case for Librarians to take on the role of Data curation is elegantly made in P. Bryan Heidorn’s The Emerging Role of Libraries in Data Curation and E-Science paper.

Curation of the data is within libraries’ mission, and libraries are among the only institutions with the capacity to curate many data types. The data are critical to the scientific and economic development of society.

As most of us are already all too aware, we live in an age where the need to upgrade, back-up, sort and store our own digital materials is ongoing and seems never ending – be it photographs, emails, (or readings for courses), the need to curate personal digital materials: organize, preserve or perish is the new mantra in a bid to archive and still have access to our memory prompts. And so too with data that is research based and possibly holds the key to a scientific breakthrough either on it’s own (requiring discoverability) or if linked to another piece of data. The benefit of data sharing, as argued for on the: What is Data Management? page of the Penn State University Libraries site is an aspect that particularly appeals given my group’s project on linked open data and the many benefits to society of living in an open data world.

Weekly response post #9: Controlled Vocabularies, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

Myers and Myers’ paper Opening Artists’ Books to the User made me think again of Jenna Freedman’s approach to cataloging Zines; after checking a document for all signs of authorship, title, publication, and intent, the cataloger must then make (subjective) comments as to content and decide how best to describe an Artist’s book in order that the user is able to hit upon key words in a search for these one-of-a-kind items. The Myers’ raise the need for specific training and national standards for cataloging Artists Books but at the same time acknowledge any set of standards will never really succeed in covering all of the meaning and intention of the content of an Artist’s Book. One of their recommendations is to develop local, controlled vocabularies for cataloging rare / unique items and while this level of customization might be costly to implement, from Leise, Fast and Steckel’s piece for Boxes and Arrows, it became a lot clearer what a controlled vocabulary has to offer to the cataloging process. Developing a CV and creating site specific CVs as finding tools is one of the “behind the scenes” activities of the digital age that any entity, libraries included, need to invest in in order for them and their collections to stay discoverable.

Weekly Response Posts #8 – Subject Analyisis, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

This week’s subject matter for the readings (no pun intended) was particularly pertinent for me given I’m still on my crusade to master searching the classic catalog at NYPL which is the preferred on-line version of the NYPL’s catalog used by the Reference Librarians in the Mapping Division to find material pertinent to Patron’s (mainly students and researchers) queries/interests. Just this week I’ve been shown a couple of ways, one using the advanced search option and the other just keying in one or two “keywords” and then clicking on the LCSH that appears as starting points to a search. Thanks to the Chowdhury chapter I now have a much clearer idea of the way subject indexing systems are classified as pre-coordinated and post-coordinated systems and what this actually means in terms of the way keywords are combined in the former and not in the latter to assist in searching the catalog. The value of pre-coordinated subject strings is emphasized in the Mann article and was brought home to me even further when I commented on this week’s readings to colleagues, one of whom declared the problem with thinking of the Library catalog in the same way as one might a browser such as Google, is that “Patrons use so many search terms they wind up with nothing (they want to look at)”, the message would seem to be to keep things simple.

Seemingly at the other end of the spectrum from simple but with a huge “wow” factor is the NYPL Subject Heading Network created by Matt Miller to show the extent of the Steven A. Schwarzman Building’s collection – it’s a pretty amazing project and great fun to peruse. Miller blogs about the process here. Below is a screen shot of the NYPL Subject Heading Network – click the link to experience the “wow”!

NYPL Subject Heading Network
NYPL Subject Heading Network

Weekly Response Post #7 – Classification systems and schemes, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

While our previous readings have firmly established the importance of cataloging and the centrality of classification to libraries, almost to the point of instilling a feeling of: if you don’t do it this way, an item will remain undiscovererd/lost forever, this week’s readings felt like a combination of a breath of fresh air and common sense – no wonder radical cataloging is a highlight of our course! Check any public library’s mission statement and you are likely to come up with phrasing along the lines of: we aim to be “a leader in traditional and innovative library services which reflect the diverse and dynamic spirit of the people of Brooklyn” (from Brooklyn Public Library) or to “inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities’ (NYPL). As public librarians a chief responsibility is to serve everyone, including the under-served and marginalized, and yet how can we ever claim to do so when our main tool for accessing our collections is so inherently tied to two classification systems, the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress Classification System, that were founded and shaped by the language, phrasing and thinking of one dominant culture.

As Furner concludes, Bibliographic classification schemes like the DDC occupy an ambiguous territory between description and prescription, in that they are at once reflective of literary and user warrant, and projective of distinctive worldviews.

 Being conscious of the classification systems we have in place, of the power these systems have to highlight, hide, obfuscate or completely ignore a subject, and how to go about rectifying this situation is heady stuff for the cataloging librarian to contemplate.

Weekly Response Post #6 – Classification, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

Thinking about this week’s readings on classification reminds me, as did last week’s cataloging reading, of Christina Harlow’s assertion during our class in week six: that you can add all the outreach and community service programs to the public librarian skill set that you like but it is knowledge organization that is the foundation of our profession as librarians, be we technical, academic, youth service oriented librarians or busy managing an archive.

The importance of classification is made clear in all the readings – it is, as Langridge notes, “a practical necessity”, one that allegedly led Dewey at one point to suggest, “knowledge is classification” while this might be stretching things a bit, what struck me as being the major issues in the Straight and the Hjørland readings is the sheer variety of classification systems that exist – one size (type of classification) does not fit all libraries – but certain classification systems do fit many, e.g. the Dewey Decimal System that has the majority of public libraries on board, and the Library of Congress system that has governments (in the U.S.) and academic libraries all sewn up. Added to these systems are UDC, Rangathan’s rarely used but, hugely influential Colon Classification system that draws on a faceted approach to classification, plus the myriad of new ways of classifying, particularly e-resources, in the age of digital information, and Hjørland’s point about how can LIS professional compete and / or contribute to users finding documents is given more urgency.

Mike Steckel’s pithy Introduction to Ranganathan for Information Architects, helps us to keep calm and carry on when he reminds us of Ranganathan’s fifth law of Library Science:

The library is a living organism: We need to plan and build with the expectation that our sites and our users will grow and change over time. Similarly we need to always keep our own skill levels moving forward.

How best can classification serve libraries and their users will no doubt be an going topic of debate.


There are still a couple of spaces left for this Saturday’s Free Improv workshop!


This is a reminder that the Pratt SILSSA and ASIS&T student groups are
hosting a dynamic improv workshop specifically designed to help you become
a better public speaker!

“Break out of your brain boxes and learn to play again! Award-winning
actor/director and artistic career coach Samantha Jones’ teaching method is
based in empowering you to your core. By tapping into your creative
genius with theatrical warm-ups, ice breakers, memory games and insane
group challenges – you will walk out of the room jangled to your toes,
sweaty and ready to shout from the rooftops!”

DATE: October 18, 2014
TIME: 2-4pm
PLACE: Room 608, Pratt Manhattan Campus

No experience necessary — LIMITED SPACE AVAILABLE — RSVP is required!
To sign up:

Read more about Samantha Jones at

Questions? Contact Jodi Shaw

An article from METRO’s website that talks about how comedy informs instructional librarianship:

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Weekly Response Post #5: FRBR and Linked Data, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

With both of this week’s reading I had to remind myself that the goal of both FRBR and RDF is to try and organize information/data and make it easily accessible to users (and not to give me a headache). Even with help from a variety of sources I’m still struggling to wrap my head around FRBR and was somewhat relieved when the head reference librarian and chief Map cataloger at NYPL confessed that she too still has trouble distinguishing exactly when something is an expression or a manifestation as defined by FRBR group 1 entities. Part of the problem, she explained, is that she is dealing with maps and not with text and that while FRBR was intended to provide a level of bibliographical record keeping for all types of material, it is to her mind still a system better suited to text centric material.

The Thomas Baker paper, while even denser in terms of subject matter, was infinitely more useful as a way of understanding where libraries are coming from in terms of adapting to today’s world where linking data is the norm and information retrieval has long ceased to be under the domain of libraries alone. Having developed FRBR and Dublin Core – a complex history that Baker does well to condense – libraries (and librarians) have found themselves having to take on board the RDF developed by W3C in order to stay relevant, be part of, and continue to make a valuable contribution to the age of information and, central to all of this, ensure their collections remain accessible to users be they human or machine.


Final Project Proposal, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

Name: Rachel O’Neill

My group’s topic: Linked Open Data

I am interested in this topic because: it feels current, there’s a certain excitement and energy about Linked Open Data that struck me when I first read the list of project options. Of course, further reading may lead me to conclude otherwise but Linked Open Data seems to be one if not the  preferred means of knowledge organization that the web is moving towards “en masse”, so to speak, and that, while unique to the web, this method of organization is not so dissimilar to the aims of knowledge organization in libraries where structuring, arranging materials and ease of locating information has been a tenet of librarianship from the outset.

Resources that may be useful in researching this topic:

Berners-Lee, T., Hendler, J., Lassila, O. The Semantic Web. Scientific American (2001)

Bradley, F. Discovering Linked Data. Library Journal (2009)

van Hooland, Seth and Verborgh, Ruben. Linked data for libraries, archives and museums : how to clean, link and publish your metadata. Facet Publishing (2014)

Harlow, C. What is linked data and why do I care? Proceedings from NYC Archives Unconference. New York, NY. (2014)

Heath, T., Bizer, C. Linked Data: Evolving the Web into a Global Data Space. Morgan & Claypool (2011)

Kitchin, R. The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their Consequences, SAGE Publications (2014)

Library of Congress. Bibliographic Framework as a Web of Data: Linked Data Model and Supporting Services. Library of Congress (2012)

Linked Data:

LODLAM Linked Open Data in Libraries Archives and museums:

Based on my preliminary research, I have chosen to focus on the following aspect of our group topic: I want to explore the concept of Linked Open Data as a whole and the implications of incorporating this system of knowledge organization in the library field. In order to do this I plan first to set out a brief but (hopefully) comprehensive overview of what Linked Open Data is, not so much in technical terms but in its practical application uses. Once an understanding is established, I plan to focus on the work of Linked Open Data in Libraries Archives and Museums, specifically the work of – a self-styled group of “enthusiasts” on the subject as well as investigate where Linked Open Data has been applied to the benefit of the cultural heritage field by taking a closer look at the work of the Cooper Hewitt Labs. In reading about the subject and looking at the work of these groups I hope to be able to formulate an answer as to the ways Linked Open Data can benefit our cultural institutions, in particular libraries.

Weekly response #4: Cataloging Rules, Rachel Skinner-O’Neill

Cataloging rules…or does it? Reading through the articles this week, I was struck by the Groundhog Day element to the debate about the future of cataloging, right the way down to the way Roy Tennant continues to use a musical riff to get into his anti-MARC21 groove, 11-years after his MARC Must Die piece.

I appreciated Coyle and Hillman’s potted history of how cataloging adapted to the new carriers of information, moving from card cataloging to MARC, to using metadata and rolling out MARC21, but sensed their frustration that recent proposed changes to the standards of cataloging from AACR2 to RDA as akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic in terms of the real task of libraries – to avoid the iceberg that is the monumental increase in digitized information that is easily accessed via web browsers such as Google, and to have collections remain relevant to those same users. Or, as Coyle and Hillman put it:

The goals and functions of a catalog determine the shape and content of its entries, and the creation of those entries is what the cataloging rules define. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make a meaningful separation between the nature of the holdings of the library, the characteristics of the user population that the library is mandated to serve, and the library catalog. All of these factors have been bound together to provide the service that embodies the main mission of the library: to put the desired resources into the hands of users.

Eden’s piece was useful too in terms of raising the on-going debate surrounding Libraries’ use of outside vendors for their cataloging needs as a means of cost cutting. While this would seem a logical benefit to those Public Libraries with near identical collections, for Academic and Research libraries, the answer is not quite so clear cut. And so, learning about the current catalog rules as per the Chowdhury and Chan readings cannot be overlooked!