Well, it’s snowing in Boston and I’m in Florence. Italy. (I’m SO sorry, Ann!) I’m here to keynote an OCLC EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) conference about libraries.
After three major revisions, I believe that on Tuesday I’m going to propose thinking about libraries as community centers. But not the usual sort where local people gather, work, socialize, play, learn … all good things, for sure. In addition, I’m going to suggest that they view themselves as community centers of meaning.
I know it sounds silly, and I’m open to better phrases, but I think it’s not entirely pointless. (The idea arose in a conversation with Robert Fleming, executive director of the Emerson College library. I’m teaching a course at Emerson this semester.)
The idea is simple. It used to be that once a user checked a book out of the library, the library was out of the loop. The user read it at home, talked about it with friends or a Significant Other, maybe spent an evening with a book club discussing it. The library might be slightly in the loop if they enabled users to review or rate books, or if they have an awesome Awesome Box. But even so, the pickings were pretty slim.
Now, of course, users are likely to talk on line about what they’re reading. At least as important, the library has tons of metadata that it can use to gauge how relevant an item is to its community, and even get a glimmer of what makes it relevant. Of course, much of this information is private, but there are ways to use it without violating anyone’s privacy.
If a community can be made more aware of what it’s finding meaningful and relevant, it can learn from itself, push its own boundaries, unearth new ideas, and find ever-better disagreements.
Note that I am not suggesting that libraries curate community meaning. Rather, libraries can provide services to facilitate the development of community meaning, making the community aware of itself. And this is of course an additional opportunity for librarians to contribute their own expertise at contextualizing and expanding our understanding.
Who is currently the custodian of community meaning? No one. Who is in the best position to be that custodian and facilitator? Your local library.
Tagged with: florence
Date: February 8th, 2015 dw
At the LODLAM conference, Roy Tennant said that OCLC will be releasing the bibliographic info about the top million most popular books. It will be released in a linked data format, under an Open Database license. This is a very useful move, although we need to know what the license is. We can hope that it does not require attribution, and does not come with any further license restrictions. But Roy was talking in the course of a timed two-minute talk, so he didn’t have a lot of time for details.
This is at least a good step and maybe more than that.
Here’s the Onion on the Dewey Decimal Classification system meeting its nemesis, Jim Belushi. (Thanks to Jay Hurvitz for the pointer.)
Barbara Fister has a terrific article in LibraryJournal about libraries who have moved away from the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system, many in favor of some version of the BISAC system that arranges books alphabetically by topic. This is a more bookstore-like approach. The article presents the multiple sides of this discussion, with lots of examples.
The disagreement among librarians is, to my mind, itself evidence that there is no one right way to organize physical objects. Classification is pragmatic. You classify in a way that works, but what works depends upon what you’re trying to do. Libraries serve multiple purposes, so librarians have to make hard decisions. If the DDC isn’t the safe and obvious choice, then libraries have to confront the question of their mission. The classification question quickly becomes existential in the JP Sartre sense.
At the end, she quotes from Everything Is Miscellaneous where I say that the Dewey system “can’t be fixed.” I still think that’s right in its context: No single classification system can work for everyone or for every purpose, although they can be better or worse at what they’re trying to do. In that sense, the DDC can be improved, and the OCLC has continuously improved it. But because it’s premised on assigning a single main category to each book, it is repeating the limitations of the physical world that require physical books each to go on a single shelf. Any single classification is going to be inapt for some purposes, and is going to embody biases constitutive of its culture. It’s the job of a library and of a book store to decide which single way of classifying works best for its patrons, with the obvious recognition that no single way works best for all. Books are miscellaneous. Libraries, bookstores, and the shelves over your desk are not.
Anyway, Barbara’s article is a fascinating look at how libraries are trying to do the best for their patrons, working within the constraints of the physical.
The OCLC has an experimental site up that provides classification information for books and pubs. You type in the book’s title and author (or ISBN number, or other such ID), and it returns info about the various editions and how they’re classified in the OCLC’s Dewey Decimal Classification System or by the Library of Congress. You can then see the other books that share its Dewey Decimal number (for example, here’s Everything Is Miscellaneous, #303.4833>>Social sciences>>Social sciences, sociology & anthropology>>Social processes), at the OCLC’s useful Dewey Browser. Alas, when you click on the Library of Congress number, you get taken to a demand by the LC that you subscribe to Classification Web, instead of to the free LC Catalog (where my Misc book is listed like this).
Lots of metadata about the metadata…Gotta love it!
Seb Chan blogs about the fascinating possibilities opened by the OCLC connecting their WorldCat record of library holdings with their collection of info about authors (WorldCat Identities), and making it available via an API. (Via Hanan Cohen)
Categories: Uncategorized Tagged with: everythingIsMiscellaneous
Date: December 7th, 2008 dw
Sam Oh teaches at Sungkyunkwan U in Korea and heads the ISO committee responsible for Topic Maps (among other things). (I had the pleasure and honor of having dinner with him last night.) [Caution: Live-Blogging]
FRBR tries to capture the various levels of abstraction of our works. Group 1 consists of: work, expression, manifestation, and item. “A work is realized through an expression” that is “embodied in” a manifestation and “is exemplified by an item.” E.g., Othello is a work which may be expressed in English or in Korean. A particular edition of a book is a manifestation, while a particular copy is an item.
Group 2 consists of people and corporate bodies responsible for creating Group 1.
Group 3 are the subject entities that “serve as the subjects of intellectual or artistic endeavor” Concept (topical subject heading), object (name for an object), even (name for an event), place (name for a place). Sam says that FRBR adopted these from topic maps.
There are some defined relationships among these three grups: A work is by a person, a manifestation may be produced by a corporate bdy, etc. Ad there are work to work relationships such as successor, supplement, complement, translation, etc.
Currently, everything is focused on the manifestation level. That’s at the center of the map, so to speak. A future direction for library systems: Applying FRBR in services to present search results, to streamline cataloging, and to express new insights into works. FRBR can “naturally” be rendered in topic maps, he says.
Sam talks about mapping MARC (standard bibliographic records) to FRBR. The OCLC has an algorithm for converting these.
He shows some examples of pages and maps. He also notes that FRBR’s terms for talking about these levels of expression aren’t clear to a general public. E.g., most people don’t talk about “manifestations.” He’d like to see better terms, especially as FRBR gets exposed more widely. He also thinks the library community should come to know topic maps better.