All posts by Elizabeth Frank

Weekly Response Post – Elizabeth Frank

The Alex Wright article introduced to me the word Mundaneum, which evoked in me memory of certain temp jobs, so I went online to determine whether it actually derived from the word “mundane.”  I failed that part of the quest but learned that this same author recently published a book about Paul Otlet.  The summary of the book on the amazon website provided phrases even more entertaining that the ones in the article, including defining the Mundaneum as the “steampunk version of hypertext,” and adds that beyond dubbing his envisioned network merely a réseau, he described it as a réseau mondiale – a worldwide web.  Perhaps this article, published in 2003, started the thread of interest in Alex Wright that led to the book, which was published only last June.

But outside the steam punk fun of it, Wright reveals Otlet as a true visionary:  “he simply believed that documents could best be understood as three-dimensional, with the third dimension being their social context:  their relationship to time, language, other readers, writers and topics.”  And later, “With the advent of the Semantic Web and related technologies . . . we are moving towards an environment where social context is becoming just as important as topic content.”

The chapter “The Geography of Knowledge” from Everything is Miscellaneous was entertaining and informative.  One never gets tired of reading about Melvil Dewey, his bizarre fascination with the metric system, his attempt to make English more efficient, and his limited world view, which is only recently being acknowledged.  While Weinberger acknowledges that Dewey’s perspective is that of a “small-minded American Christian jingoist,” he concludes “today’s category easily becomes tomorrow’s embarrassment,” and answers a question raised earlier, when we discussed radical cataloging, “The Dewey Decimal Classification system can’t be fixed because knowledge itself is unfixed.  Knowledge is diverse, changing, imbued with the cultural values of the moment.”  Case in point:  Weinberger’s analysis of amazon.com, which examines its classification system, is described as “fun” and “friendly.”  He describes its collection as a “miscellaneous pile that can be digitally sorted to reflect the individual interests of each visitor.”  In fact, human beings are responsible for sorting through that pile in order to fulfill purchases, human beings employed by other human beings who may also be described as “small-minded.”

Weinberger’s book was published in 2008.  In June, 2014, the Department of Labor launched an investigation of Amazon’s labor practices after two worker deaths.  Labor practices have also been decried here, and here.

Even when you’re digital, everything is geography.

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Response to Reading – Elizabeth Frank

Heidorn’s article “The Emerging Role of Libraries in Data Curation and E-Science” was a nice balance between the straightforward guide to data management and the frivolous “How is a scarf like a dataset?” (which told me more about knitting than about data management).  Heidorn writes lucidly, and had me at “Getting to the original data is even more critical because of the observation that it appears that original front finding tend to get weaker if replicated later.”  I argued in a piece for another class about the importance of working from original data to the extent possible, even the maintenance of outmoded software (70 mm film, in that case) required the upkeep of outmoded software.

It was interesting to read about the National Science Foundation’s requirements of data management with grant proposals.  (Grant writing is a possible employment route I’ve long considered taking.)  I believe Heidorn when he argues that digital curation is more like a vegetable garden than a time capsule, but when he asserts “Digital data degrade more quickly than paper documents,” I would like to know why.  How can something inorganic degrade more quickly than organic matter?  This was something that was touched on briefly in my other class, and I hope to get to the bottom of it.  “The content must be constantly nurtured, used and refreshed.”  Again, why and how?

Heidorn writes that “the final regular step in the lifecycle is transformation.  Over time it may be necessary to transform data to different formats . . . ”  I hope he has written further on this idea, because during the course of this semester I have grown passionate about maintaining the integrity of the original format to the extent possible.  I believe that something is lost with each transfer to new media.

Weekly Response – Elizabeth Frank

I enjoyed reading “Opening Artists’ Books to the User:  An Example with Potential Approach” because it finally addressed what has been thus far an aside in the class when discussing artists’ books, e.g, “Of course, when you’re cataloging something like an art book, this is all different.”  And then we run into the same old problems.  There are no standards.  Some have tried this, some that.  Many of the most important aspects, to researchers, at least, of an artist’s book – the binding, the typeface – are consigned to a general “notes” field, making them difficult to search.  “The ARLIS manual on cataloging artists’ books is an excellent resource, offering practical guidelines for describing artists’ books according to AACR2.”  However, no one uses it.

I’m not surprised that no one uses it, having learned in this class of the strange factions and stubbornness in the cataloging world.  However, if the ARLIS manual is an “excellent” resource, I would have liked to have seen the sample artist book catalogued according to its suggestions, using its controlled vocabulary.

Weekly Response Post – Elizabeth Frank

I wish that Thomas Mann, like the Chowdhurys, had provided a more screen shots to illustrate his point in his article “Why LC Subject Headings Are More Important Than Ever.”  He showed his results but not the unpopulated subject browse feature.  I’ve never seen an unpopulated OPAC subject browse feature and had to google “What does an OPAC subject browse feature look like?” (which is kind of ironic) to see what he was talking about.  (I also had to google “LCSH red books” since he refers to the “red books” so casually.)  Additionally, I was flummoxed by the example he gave regarding the search for Yugoslavia and history.  His search turned up many results, but none of them were actually “Yugoslavia history,” which was what the library patron was searching for.  All in all, I found the entire article confusing — perhaps natural, since I am a library student and established librarians are the target audience — I also felt that he failed to prove his argument that “LC Subject Headings Are More Important Than Ever.”  What he proved was that subject headings are important.  He describes as a “crucial need” the maintenance of “browse displays of precoordinated strings in the OPAC environment,” but I don’t see what is threatening it.  Is there a working group out there trying to turn OPAC into Google?

The Taylor chapter, which spells out the terms at hand, was much clearer.  “There is evidence that cataloguers using the same controlled vocabulary and the same rules for applying it will produce consistent subject headings, as long as they have the same understanding of the aboutness of the item to draw upon.”  So, it doesn’t have to LC.  This won’t help Mann’s patron, who wants to learn about Yugoslavian history and not library science, but it became obvious in last week’s readings and discussion that LC headings are oftentimes as much the problem as the solution.

Response to Reading #7 – Elizabeth Frank

In the spirit of the readings this week, here is an online zine about Sanford Berman.

I’m very pleased to be introduced to this “activist librarian” and was engaged by his generation-long feud with the Library of Congress: “For 26 years, I duly forwarded to LC copies of HCL’s bimonthly Cataloging Bulletin, replete with full syndetic workups for new and changed headings, assignment citations, and quoted usage examples.” This is a Raganathanian effort!

Since the assigned article in large part was a response to this, I thought it might be helpful to read the original story, even though it’s rather old, and I’m the one who is always banging on about the age of things. I found Emily Drabinski’s article expounding on Berman’s struggle to be engaging, and her article as a whole coherent. The problem with library classifications and subject headings is the “hierarchy of sameness.” (“Yellow Peril” was an LC subject heading until 1989???)

“Naming and Reclaiming Indigenous Knowledge in Public Institutions,” on the other hand, I found to be overly-academic, repetitive, and obvious in its conclusions. “The Māori Subject Headings grew out [of] research on the information needs of Māori people and aim to provide access to the Māori body of knowledge held in institutions for Māori people.” Got it. But what kind of job is it doing, how are acquisitions made, how is it funded, how do its users use it, and who is doing the cataloging?

These questions were answered in full, meticulous detail in “Cutter & Paste” by Freedman and Kauffman, although to be honest, I more familiar with the Māori people than I am with zines, and what I know of the Māori, I know from movies.

Response to Classification Readings – Elizabeth Frank

At last, a reading summons the looming specter of Alice in Wonderland, who has been haunting these proceedings since we first discussed “what to call things!” The chapter “Bibliographic classification is a secondary form,” was full of juicy literary and philosophical allusions and mentions both Alice and Humpty Dumpty but not the passage which has been flickering through my head since I started this class:

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

Which is to be master in all the alphabet soup systems of classification we’re learning of? But, “Is classification necessary in the age of Google?” Author Hjørland posits that we must distinguish between libraries which function as tools for finding documents, and libraries which provide reference services. He introduces the new (to me) term “library bypass,” which I was guilty of even before I started library school.
An example: this week, I was asked to compile a list of the most significant product liability MDL’s (multidistrict litigation) in the past two-three years. On the online publication Law 360, this was a simple advanced search function of their catalogue of stories within a specified date range: with all of the words: “product liability,” with the exact phrase “MDL.” (Once upon a time, this would have been a question for the library and would have taken hours longer.)

In Hjørland’s system of organization, product liability is a KIND of MDL, and it is my search constituted what he calls a “free text system.” Although Hjørland establishes his expertise by citing/quoting himself no fewer than four times, I was unclear about what sort of system he was championing the classification of – was it a proprietary online system or the world wide web – which remained unclear to me until near his conclusion, when he stated: “If such a hierarchy is formed, it might be possible to construe algorithms that – to some degree of certainty – can classify the documents automatically . . . leading to ‘supervised machine learning,’” as Rachel mentioned in class last week.

The first chapter of Faceted Searches did a better job, I thought, of explaining how things can be (because that’s how they currently are) organized on the web (and in the Dewey Decimal System), “the object of arrangement is to organize items . . . rather than to organize abstract concepts.”

I’m glad I saved the Choudhury for last. I’ve learned to read the livelier writers first, although the Choudhurys are certainly consitently well-organized in their presentation.

The organization of abstract concepts is best left to the giants in the field – Dewey and Raganathan, all the way back to Aristotle. Perhaps whoever gets the machines to speak to one another spontaneously about concepts rather than items will be the next pioneer in knowledge organization

Weekly Response Post Week 5 – Elizabeth Frank

Thomas Baker’s analysis of “Libraries, languages of description and linked data” was both helpful and frustrating. Since my group is doing linked data (I think?), I have put some research into it and found that this video:

http://www.slideshare.net/iandavis/30-minute-guide-to-rdf-and-linked-data

to be more helpful in explaining how linked data actually works, while Baker’s article on occasion veered off the road onto the academic, jargon shoulder: “An ontology should require the minimal ontological commitment sufficient to support the intended knowledge sharing activities.” A word should not be used in its own definition.

Nevertheless, he made a few solid points, such as “The usability of today’s linked data in future decades will depend in part on the preservation of its vocabularies by memory institutions.” And “The viability of linked data in the long term will depend on the preservation of vocabularies across generations,” and begins with a good definition of RDF (“RDF is fundamentally a grammar for a language of data. It is a language designed by humans to express human thoughts in a form amenable to processing by machines.”) The first two sentences explain the divisions and bickering among metadata specialists on how to name things. Linked data takes it one step further and needs a vocabulary that expresses not only how things are named and stored for retrieval, but how they can be connected to other things. The article I downloaded did not include the tables, so perhaps there were neat tables showing examples of the all important “triples.” Sometime diagrams are clearer than language.

Final Project Proposal – Elizabeth Frank

Name: Elizabeth Frank
My group has chosen this topic: Linked Open Data
My interest in this topic: Linked Open Data involves a methodology of sharing and structuring data to make them useful for everyone on the world wide web. If we live in the information society, as has been said, then this is where the information is, and through linked open data, everyone can access it. Tim Berners-Lee said in his TED talk:

  • All kinds of conceptual things, they have names now that start with HTTP.
  • If I take one of these HTTP names and I look it up [..] I will get back some data in a standard format which is kind of useful data that somebody might like to know about that thing, about that event.
  • When I get back that information it’s not just got somebody’s height and weight and when they were born, it’s got relationships. And when it has relationships, whenever it expresses a relationship then the other thing that it’s related to is given one of those names that starts with HTTP.
  • The “How things are related” angle is what compelled me to choose this topic.

    Some initial resources

    Eichenlaub, N. (2013). Checking in with google Books, hathitrust, and the dpla. Computers in Libraries, 33(9), 4-9.

    Florian, B., Martin, K. & Florian, B. (R. & Martin, K. (S. W. C. (eds.) (2012). Linked Open Data: The Essentials – A Quick Start Guide for Decision Makers. edition mono/monochrom, Vienna, Austria.

    Howard, J. (2013). Digital library of america, 7-month-old superaggregator. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1467701522?accountid=130717

    Mitchell, E. T. (2013). Building blocks of linked open data in libraries. Library Technology Reports, 49(5), 11-25, 2.

    Yi, E. (2012) Inside the Quest to Put the World’s Libraries Online, Esther Yi, The Atlantic, July 2012.

    Based on my preliminary research, I have chosen to focus on:
    I will write a paper on the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) as an example of linked open data in action. The DPLA is (stated in its planning statement) “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources [drawn from] libraries, universities, archives and museums . . .” Specifically, I would like to focus on the trend of “Memory Projects” such as “Queens Memory” and how they use linked open source data, if indeed they do. At the Metro conference last January, I saw a presenter from Queens Memory showing artifacts from one man’s collection of memorabilia from the 1939 World’s Fair. If I find that they don’t, then I will focus on cultural heritage projects and, ideally, include a section on one case study.

    I have a lifelong interest in history, and believe that this project ties in with one I did in my Information Professions class regarding corporate archivists. How are historical artifacts handled when not handled by historians? We all have a need to know where we came from; hence, the recent enthusiasm in tracing genealogical roots that have sparked several television shows.

    I’m uncertain about the unresolved questions regarding my topic, although I imagine it will be “how to catalogue the internet” as we read in this week’s reading, how to engage (and control) the contributions of “citizen librarians” (such as the man who contributed his World’s Fair Memorabilia to Queens Memory) and, as always, copyright. Can DPLA remain as altruistic as its mission statement? Where is the money coming from? Will funding affect integrity? Can momentum be maintained?

    Trust the Force – Weekly Response Post #4, Elizabeth Frank

    I found the tone in “Resource Description and Access” by Coyle and Hillman to be laced with an almost adolescent level of grumpiness as they fussed at some unnamed foe (“the way things are now,” perhaps?) for their “legacy approaches,” “unexamined assumptions,” and methods which “support backwards compatibility rather than forward thinking.” They assert that “current methods are not sufficient.” I am presuming “current” refers to 2006, when the article was presumably written (if not earlier) as it was published early in 2007. Current cataloging methods, authors Coyle and Hillman assert, were “not suitable for resources that existed in a state of constant change.”

    Maybe not but, to quote Darth Vader, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

    Cataloguing is adaptive. That’s why there are so many forms of it for various institutions. If AACR2 (which seems to have hurt the authors very badly, maybe something happened freshman year) isn’t suitable for the Internet, someone else will be developed which is. Relax, it’s only 2006.
    The authors later assert “A complex metadata surrogate describing resources in detail is unneeded when the actual item can be viewed within a few seconds and with little effort on the part of the user.” Which would be true if “viewing” and “access” were the only point of cataloguing.

    Moving on to “If It’s Televised, It Can’t Be the Revolution,” Tennant (who seems to feel about MARC as Coyle and Hillman do about AACR2) is discouraged about the lack of “shared clarity” he found at a recent meeting of the National Information Standards Organization, which failed to define a “future bibliographic information ecosystem.”

    “The New User Environment: The End of Technical Services,” rather than despairing that current cataloging methods are not sufficient, at least outlines a framework for one which would be. It’s interesting to me that he quoted from Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous, because Weinberger authored an article on Linked Open Data, which is my group project and which may or may not be the solution to all this fuss.

    Weekly Reponse Post #3 – Elizabeth Frank

    Setting the Stage

    This reading was so “meta” for me that I am going to (perhaps over-) respond to only it. Metadata did set the stage which brought me into library school. I was laid off from a day job as a business development executive in a law firm four years ago and knew only that I wanted to pursue some other means of employment, because I hated what I did, except for the research aspect of it. The peculiar demands of law firms can keep their employees trapped in the industry, because the knowledge base is so specific. It’s a small, insular world. One former colleague, now a legal recruiter, found me on linkedin (is linked in data? Metadata? Both?) and asked if I’d like a temp job “scrubbing” a database at a notoriously inhospitable law firm, for one month, at an hourly wage. Sure, I said. Why not.

    I found the work oddly absorbing. It was data about data, no doubt about it, information stored to be retrieved only by certain users, a database with a lot of boxes to be ticked off by someone who knew the lingo. This particular database recorded information regarding non-litigation transactions conducted by the firm’s attorneys. Mergers and acquisitions? Check a box. Did the firm represent a bank which financed the buyer or seller? Check another box. Which attorneys worked on the matter; was it conducted in the U.S. or overseas; overseas? really, where?; was the deal value a certain value? Box, box, box.

    “Metadata is like interest; it accrues over time,” writes Gilliland. One form of “interest” (to capitalize on the pun) for me in tagging those records was to observe how many other of my former co-workers, from other firms, had drifted though my current firm and this database. Perhaps the record of who adjusted a record is meta metadata.

    “Information communities are aware that the more highly structured an information object is, the more that structure can be exploited for searching, manipulation, and interrelating with other information objects,” writes Anne Gilliland.

    An example of this for me was to look at who had authored the record. If it was my former colleague Emma C., I knew I had to go through the database and check her work, based on her past work performance.

    I’m afraid this particular reading assignment, for me, was almost uselessly highlighted. Coupled with my reading about linked data and collective tagging (for another class), I was enthusiastic in tagging statements such as “metadata continues to accrue during the life of an information object or system.” Some minor addition to or observance of the record (in the law firm) I had adjusted might direct some future strategy in the business development of the firm. (By the way, four years later, I’m still with the firm, as a permanent employee in the research branch of the business development department.)

    The fact that Gilliland kept referring to other chapters in the book made me want to read more of it.