Posted tagged ‘AUTOCAT’

Flame War

June 1, 2009

This last week the latest round of fighting over the value of an MLS degree started on the Autocat mailing list.  And it didn’t take very long to turn ugly, so just to further the brawl I figured I’d throw in my own two cents.

An MLS is important if you want to progress in the field, for the sole reason that most of the good jobs require one.  However, I’m not convinced that a formal library science education will teach you anything that you couldn’t pick up through experience, and in many cases what you learn in school can conflict with the day to day work you do on the job.  Oh and of course those good jobs may not actually earn you enough money to make up for the cost of school in both time and money.  

Now I loved my time in school, and I’m glad I chose to get the degree, but the part time job I worked probably taught me more that I’ve since applied to my work than my education did.

“Us” vs. “They”

April 15, 2009

Heidi Hoerman’s back at her blog for a week and she’s already stumbled right into some controversy.  Well done.  Yesterday she wrote a post on the openness of bibliographic data, which followed up on a great piece of RDA criticism from Diane Hillmann.  Well in the comments someone went out and accused Hillmann of wishing “to destroy cataloging”.  I haven’t seen that level of vitriol in the field since the OCLC discussions on Autocat caused all the participants with worthwhile things to say to boycot the mailing list entirely.

So of course Hoerman had to issue a rebuttal, a wonderful read.

Moral Crisis

January 29, 2009

Let’s talk about the OCLC fight (yes again).  The discourse over Autocat is starting to turn a little ugly.  People on both sides of the issue are getting really worked up over this (granted I’m one of them).

But let’s put this in perspective.  At this point in time the library world is in turmoil.  Budgets are being cut while usage is skyrocketing, and every day brings word of another publisher  dealing with similar issues.  There are plenty of deserving causes to get angry about, so why is this the one that people are reacting so strongly towards?

I think it’s because at its heart, this debate is between the ideals and the self-interest of libraries.  On one side are those who believe that we should promote access to information by any means necessary.  On the other are those who want to maintain control over those sources in order to guarantee that they will still be required in their role as middlemen.

Speaking from the idealist side of the argument, I get the the view.  I am a public librarian after all, and thus am just barely staying above the poverty line.  Plus I love my job, and want nothing more than to keep it.  But I still think that the way to do that isn’t to keep a stranglehold on our resources.  All that’s going to accomplish is pushing away all patrons except for those who can find no other sources for what they seek, and unless you’re one of the elite research libraries, just how many items do you have that are both truly unique and highly in demand?  And that’s assuming that those few patrons will actually be able to discover that you have those items in the first place, which is going to be impossible if we prevent any finding aids from having access to our data.

Thus our only recourse to stay viable is to remain open and share our data.

What’s So Bad About Google

January 26, 2009

The Autocat regulars have picked up the Guardian article on OCLC last week, and the direction they’ve gone with the conversation seems a little….oh what’s the word…wrong?  Complaints immediately sprang up regarding the anti-OCLC agenda held by those who were interviewed (why this is surprising, or a problem I don’t get).  And people responded even more vehemently against the suggestion that it’s wrong for catalog records to be part of the hidden web.

The arguement goes something like this, people can search for a book in either a library’s own catalog or in Worldcat, so why would you want to let Google do it?  Well let’s see, because people use Google and they don’t use Worldcat (the majority of patrons have probably never even heard of it).  Because Google is intuitive to use and our catalogs are anything but.  Because we have to meet the patrons at their level and not force them to come up to ours.

Furthermore, there’s a bit of a fear that giving search engines access to our data will make our own systems irrelevant.  That’s only true in that our systems are already bordering on decrepitude.  Our jobs are to find ways to let people discover our resources.  To do so we should use every single tool at our disposal.  There is no possible downside if a new patron finds our stuff that wouldn’t have otherwise.  Really who cares if this discovery happened through an approved channel or not?  The important thing is that it was able to occur.

Breach of Trust

December 11, 2008

Tim Spalding’s at it again on autocat, but today I’m going to go off on a tangent to his main arguements against OCLC.  In one of his 4 posts in the latest digest was the following:

Yet many in the library world are convinced they need less sharing,
not more. Why?

This is a huge issue that very few people are talking about.  The whole point of being a librarian is to get information to people, and yet more and more we’re putting roadblocks in the way.  The OCLC record policy is just the latest instance.  

Let’s be honest, it’s often against our best interests to make things easier for our patrons.  If patrons can find the information themselves, than they don’t need us.  If they can get the information online then why come in and help our statistics.  If we make the content of our archives available than we can’t supplement our budgets with licensing fees.

But still to my mind anytime that a librarian works to prevent a patron from finding what they’re looking for it’s a violation of professional ethics.

The Current State of Tech Services on the Web

December 3, 2008

Well, it’s come at last.  Tomorrow I’ll be heading out the WMRLS for my first ever workshop, and will finally be able to put into use the links page in the right hand column.  In preparation I’ve spent a lot of time lately exploring the online technical services world, and over all it’s not very good.

There are almost no decent sites out there for the profession.  The Library of Congress’s cataloging and acquistions department is a notable exception, but besides that sites are largly poorly designed, out of date, or are just repositories for powerpoint presentations.  

The only real signs of life online are on the autocat list, the librarians for librarything forum, and across the blogosphere.  At least those resources are quite extensive and provide a great means of staying current, but they’re awful for getting up to speed.

So tomorrow should be interesting.  I’ve always thought that we need to spend more time focusing on life outside the field, which I guess is now going to become part of a theme for my talk.

But I’m still open to having people prove me wrong.  Find some more sites and let me know.

Lycanthropes Need Subject Headings Too!

October 8, 2008

Finally! A perfect to defend my byline.  My favorite call number 001.942, is a catch all for the paranormal, including UFOs and cryptids.  Which brings me to the best autocat discussion in ages, “subject headings for shape shifters, lycanthropes, and other were-whatevers”.  The majority of the discussion has focused on a need for headings for lycanthropes (including were-jaguars and were-horses) and therianthropes, with one person pointing out the Changelings of DS9 fame and another the Pod People (who I’d classify as shape stealers, but not shifters as they remain in the one form once they settle on it).

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Shape shifting is such a common ability after all, and it takes many different forms.  The Changelings are a great example as they can shift into just about anything at will.  But then you’ve also got your Dr. Jekyll and Incredible Hulk type shifters (who change from a person to a larger person).  There’s the Thing, another shape-stealer, but one that isn’t locked into one identity.  Vampires can usually shape shift, but I guess vampirism trumps that ability.  There are the truly odd ones, such as the Quiz from the Brotherhood of Dada (who can do anything you haven’t thought of).  And then there’s John McCain (thank you Jacob for that joke).

So this is a really complex subject, and I think we need a proper taxonomic breakdown done before it can be laid to rest and we can move on to subject headings for kaiju.

Cost of RDA

September 24, 2008

Wow, going through my autocat digest this morning I came across a gigantic thread concerning the proposed economic model for the new RDA standard.  I think it’s safe to say that people are not happy with it.  Librarians are demanding a model that makes the proposal freely available and many have said that they don’t see it catching on if its distributed via a subscription service.  

The only counter arguement stated so far over the listserv is that RDA’s potential distributors don’t see the potential in the free models to recoup their development costs.  It’s early and there aren’t any figures out there for either side, but my gut response is with those who say that the free will prove prohibitive to its use, especially since a large portion of the cataloging community out there remains unconvinced of RDA’s value to begin with, and I’m among them.

Open Cataloging

July 14, 2008

The conversation revolving around the Open Shelves Classification project has been going for less than a week and it’s already become the best discussion on the cataloging I’ve experienced since I was in school.  But I must say my favorite piece of the conversation was when Tim Spalding brought up why he decided to start the project via the LibraryThing forum, “the people on AUTOCAT were dragging me over the coals for letting ignorant “users” do cataloging”.

Granted this has been a hugely contentious issue across the field, with many fearing the death of authority control if the system is opened up, or at least a severe drop in the quality of the work being done.  But what they keep forgetting is that whatever work we do is meant to be user driven, and thus the users must be allowed to have some input on the development of the system we use.  One of the many great things about the LibraryThing project is that Tim is actively campaigning for non-librarians to get involved with the process, and indeed when he asked for a few ringleaders to step forward the first responders were all non-catalogers, including a few non-librarians even.  So now I’m even more excited about the project.