PTSEM Digital Library

I know I haven’t spoken much about my new job, but now I have something big to announce. The Princeton Theological Seminary has signed with Mark Logic to assist in the development of our digital library! The big release was today at a conference at the seminary, but I was at a training class so I’m not sure how it was received.

We’re just starting out, but I’m very excited about the potential this system holds for us – so keep and eye out for new great things!

Irony & Teachers

I’m finally reading Everything in Miscellaneous – and it’s awesome. The irony is that I’m taking a two day subject cataloging class. While the instructor (who is awesome and full of energy) talks about how getting the most specific subject heading is our goal and having things in alphabetical order is good – I can’t help but laugh inside because sitting next to me in my bag is a book that says this isn’t the only way to organize things!

On the subject of teachers – I have had two great instructors at PALINET continuing ed courses over the last month and it makes me wonder why these aren’t the kind of instructors I had in library school. Is it because they’re actually out there doing the work? Is it because they love their jobs (which you can really tell?) or is it just the setting? I don’t know, but I do think that if you’re just out of library school and feel like you’re maybe missing something or if you’re a librarian who wants to beef up your skills, taking a course from a librarian who is out there doing what they’re teaching is the way to go!

Cataloging for the Users

I’m not quite as offended as Chris Schwartz is about the statements made by Chris Oliver in her Changing to RDA article – maybe because I haven’t read it – or the RDA draft, but I wanted to chime in anyway ;)

Chris Oliver says:

The standard is designed to be easy to use and to generate records that contain data that is relevant and important to users.

And Chris Schwartz answers:

Aside from the fact that the last 3 RDA drafts are anything but “easy to use”, we are told that we will be creating “records that contain data that is relevant and important to users.” Sorry, but I think we’re already doing that.

Are we really? I know we’re trying to, but with so many silly rules holding us back how can we? In the last 5 months I’ve been shocked to find the variety in subject headings available (did you know that there is one for religious aspects of nursing? I was amazed to find that one – but it took me a good 15 minutes to do so), but I keep coming back to things I’ve heard in LibraryThing presentations regarding the headings for Bridget Jones’ Diary (Jones, Bridget (Fictitious character)–Fiction. Single women–Fiction. England–Fiction.) and Neuromancer (Computer hackers–Fiction. Business intelligence–Fiction. Information superhighway–Fiction. Nervous system–Wounds and injuries–Fiction. Conspiracies–Fiction. Japan–Fiction.).

If users want to find books like these they’re not going to be looking for Nervous system–Wounds and injuries–Fiction or Single women–Fiction! They’re going to look for Cyberpunk and Chic lit.

Now, I doubt that RDA is going to solve this problem – but my argument is that we’re so bogged down with rules set years ago that we’re not always providing our users with the best access to the items they’re looking for – no matter how hard we try!

So – who’s side was I taking here? No one’s – I just get frustrated once in a while because I do want to provide users with the best access to information, but I’m boxed in by a binder that’s heavier than my dog and a listing of god knows how many subject headings!

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Future of MARC

I feel like I should duck after hitting submit on this post – I might be opening up the flood gates – but here it goes!

My friend (and colleague) Chris Schwartz has written about the future of MARC (and probably will have many more posts on this topic).

When it is mentioned, MARC usually gets a bad rap. It’s often viewed as worn out legacy metadata better suited for card catalogs with an antiquated late 1960’s data structure that mystifies computer programmers when they first encounter it.

Personally, I wasn’t mystified when I first saw MARC – it all made perfect sense ;) What doesn’t make sense to me are the silly ISBD punctuation rules – these are what’s really being carried over from the card catalog days.

My opinion on the matter? Well, I don’t think MARC can go anywhere. It’s at the center of nearly every library system – and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. The way that MARC breaks up our data into parts makes it much more searchable. By breaking things down into pieces you have access to very detailed levels of data.

Now, you might be saying – who in the world needs that level of accuracy? Well, there are many researchers out there who want to find the edition that was published by publisher X in town Y and by having a schema that allows access on that level we make it easier for them (now the fact that our systems don’t offer that functionality is a whole other issue – but the point is that it is possible).

It is this level of detail that has me pushing for our library to use MARCXML for our digital collections – it just makes the most sense for our very specialized collection and patrons. I want to be able to provide searchabilty down to the tiniest level if the user wants it. My only complaint about MARCXML (if you want me to get techie on you) is that every field is titled “datafield” and the attributes are were you get the MARC fields.

<datafield tag=”245″ ind1=”1″ ind2=”0″>
  <subfield code=”a”>A. Janse over Karl Barth /</subfield>
  <subfield code=”c”>samensteller: J. L. Struik.</subfield>

Why not have it like this:

<m245 ind1=”1″ ind2=”0″>
  <a>A. Janse over Karl Barth /</a>
  <c>samensteller: J. L. Struik.</c>

Which probably has some validation issues – but you get the idea.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into an evaluation of MARCXML, so I’ll leave the XML discussion at that for now.

The way I see it, MARC does what it needs to do – it’s the rules surrounding our cataloging (AACR2 & ISBD) that are holding us back – and for that reason (and the one I mentioned earlier about it being central to our systems) I don’t think MARC is going anywhere soon.

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What I Learned Today… in WorldCat

Ages ago I mentioned that I was going to put this blog into OCLC and by extension WorldCat. I didn’t want to submit the record without consulting a few experts (Jennifer Lang and Christine Schwartz — thank you both) so it took a bit longer than I expected. Since you can’t see my full MARC record through WorldCat (and you don’t all have OCLC) I have copied my record here for you to check out (in case you want to catalog a blog of your own).

000 01703cas a2200421Ka 450
001 673023
005 20070910115028.0
006 m d
007 cr cnu||||||||
008 070622c20059999pau x pss io 0 a0eng d
035 __ |a (OCoLC)145079962
090 __ |a Z680.3
100 1_ |a Engard, Nicole C., |d 1979-
245 10 |a What I learned today… |h [electronic resource] / |c Nicole C. Engard.
260 __ |a [S:l] : |b Nicole C. Engard, |c 2005-
310 __ |a Updated irregularly.
362 1_ |a Began with no. 42 (Nov. 1, 2005).
500 __ |a Includes index.
500 __ |a Description based on: no. 1152 (Aug. 3, 2007); title from home page.
500 __ |a Latest issue consulted: no. 1152 (Aug. 3, 2007).
515 __ |a Some numbers skipped.
520 __ |a For librarians and information professionals, What I Learned Today… provides Web 2.0 and programming tips from a library technology enthusiast. Covers blogs, rss, wikis and more.
521 8_ |a Librarians and information professionals.
538 __ |a Mode of access: World Wide Web.
540 __ |a This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
650 _0 |a Communication in library science |x Technological innovations.
650 _0 |a Librarians |v Blogs.
650 _0 |a Information science.
650 _0 |a World Wide Web.
650 _0 |a Library science |x Blogs.
650 _0 |a Library Web sites |x Design.
600 14 |a Engard, Nicole C., |d 1979- |v Blogs.
856 40 |u
856 42 |3 RSS subscription to receive full text |u

Where’s the threat

I’m not completely sure how to respond to Martha Yee’s article entitled “Will The Response Of The Library Profession To The Internet Be Self-Immolation?“, but I do want to respond.

While reading the article I found myself nodding and then saying “yeah, but…” I think that Martha is right in many ways, but that she also misses something. Martha says:

All librarians, not just catalogers, should take a look at the Calhoun report (Calhoun, Karen. The Changing Nature of the Catalog and its Integration with Other Discovery Tools ( and follow the progress of the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control ( There you will find the argument that we should cede our information organization responsibilities to the publishing industry and other content providers. All this because some research studies show that undergraduates prefer to use and Google rather than libraries and their catalogs.

The implication in the Calhoun report that Google and are comparable to a library catalog and that libraries are in competition with Google and, are dangerous falsehoods.

Now, I have to re-read the Calhoun report, but that is not what I got from it the first time I read through. When people (librarians) say that we need to learn from Amazon & Google when it comes to our catalogs – I always took it to mean simple, easy-to-use interfaces and features that (privacy issues aside – just for now) take user preferences into consideration.

I have heard/read librarians talking about doing away with Subject Headings – but I’ve heard just as many say that they’re necessary. The fact is that as annoying as it can be to try and find the right darn heading (at least for me), they’re very very useful. That said, I think that allowing user added subjects (tags) is just as useful. Why must it be one way or the other? Why can’t it be both? But I digress.

One discussion that seems to pop up a lot on the AUTOCAT list is that the records entered by publishers are lacking – and I totally agree! I do not want to see our cataloging records in the hands of the publishing industry, but at the same time, I like that sometimes there is a minimal record ready for me to build off of. Part of the problem is that some catalogers are overworked (or just lazy – cause let’s face it – we’re not all perfect) and they don’t take the time to build on these records.

A computer cannot discover broader and narrower term relationships, part-whole relationships, work-edition relationships, variant term or name relationships (the synonym or variant name or title problem), or the homonym problem in which the same string of letters means different concepts or refers to different authors or different works. In other words, a computer, by itself, cannot carry out the functions of a catalog.

Agreed!! But at the same time our catalogs can do much more than they are! The data is all there. When we have a part of a work we put that information into our MARC record and it’s never ever used. When we know of variant forms of titles or names we have the ability to put that into our records as well. If that info is there (and put there by humans) there is no reason the computer can’t make the connections.

As for the operations that only humans can perform – that’s where teaching the public about librarians comes in.

It is a fact universally acknowledged that librarianship is a woman-dominated profession. As such, ours is a deferential culture that avoids conflict and encourages humility, otherwise known as low self-worth. After all, what we do is perceived of by society at large as women’s work, that is, work that anyone can do and that does not require any particular expertise (see Roma Harris. Librarianship: the Erosion of a Woman’s Profession. 1992).

If the public is out there thinking that librarians don’t require any expertise, then why they heck are they going to come to us for help with their research?

It’s this great big loop that we just can’t seem to get out of. Patrons aren’t coming to ask us questions (in person, online, etc) so we want to make our online tools more effective at helping them, but our online tools can only do so much and in the end a human is needed to help, but the patrons don’t want to ask the librarians ….

One last point that I want to comment on:

Many members of our profession, including catalogers, believe that information seekers prefer keyword access and that, for that reason, and Google are better designed than library catalogs. The reason catalog users seem to prefer keyword access is that system designers make keyword access the default search on the initial screen of nearly every OPAC in existence.

I’m torn here. I agree that keyword searching is not the most effective way to find the right information – but at the same time when your catalog requires that you do a title search from the beginning of a title or a subject search that matches the LCSH exactly – that’s not helpful either! Martha mentions that Voyager now has “a keyword in heading search of subject headings and cross references which responds with a display of matching headings and cross references, not an immediate display of bibliographic records.” (demo). I still need to try this out – but this sounds like a step in the right direction. Other steps in the right direction are facets and “anywhere” searches (anywhere in the title, anywhere in the author, anywhere in the table of contents, etc), features that are available in some catalogs – but not all.

I think all comes down to the same old argument. How do we inform the public of the skills of our librarians? How do we get them to ask us questions? How do we provide them with the information they want, in the form they want, in the easiest way possible?

So, as I’ve said – I’m not sure I agree 100% with what Martha has written – but I do think it’s worth a read – and something to get you thinking ….

Intro to Koha Redux

Back in May I wrote about a Koha Demo that I organized at the Jenkins Law Library. Well, I did it again! Only this time I got Chris Cormack, VP of Research & Development at LibLime and one of the original developers of Koha to come and talk at the Princeton Seminary Library.

First, on a personal note, this presentation was very different for me. Last time I was sitting in the presentation as a Web Developer. This time around I’m a Metadata Librarian and Cataloger.

So, if Koha is open source and freely downloadable, where does LibLime come in? The main argument that libraries had against switching to open source was that there was no support. So, after helping migrate the Nelsonville Public Library, Joshua Ferraro decided to fill the need for open source support and so started LibLime.

Chris opened his presentation with a slide in Maori, Chris’s native language. The slide is a common saying among the Maori people, and a great slogan for Open Source (in my opinion). The slide read “With your basket and my basket, we sustain the people.” In short, two people sharing together leads to something better than one on their own.

Other great open source quotes from Chris (loosely quoted):

  • The open source model usually means features are implemented in days and weeks instead of years and decades.
  • The best ideas bubble to the top and get implemented first – the people control the development process, not the CEO
  • Source code is like a recipe and the cake is the executable. With open source you get to see the recipe and add more sugar or substitute margarine for butter until the cake is the way you like it. With proprietary software you get the cake and if you don’t like it, you just have to wait for the next version of the cake to come out.
  • Proprietary vendors bank on being the smartest person in the world, open source developers admit that they’re not.
  • Open source is like peer review.

So, how many libraries are using Koha? The number is somewhere between 300 and 50,000. There are 300 known implementations, but there have also been 50,000 downloads. Since you can run Koha without ever contacting LibLime, no one knows for sure how many Koha implementations are out there. What we do know is that the first customer in US was not a library. It was General Motors! They use Koha to catalog their manuals. (To see other Koha users, you can view this slide or this list).

One attendee brought up a potential open source problem – and I’m sure we’ve all had this experience. You download your open source product and you customize the hell out of it. Then a month later a new release comes out and you have to weigh the pros and cons. Is it worth losing all of your work to get the new features, or should you just stick with what you’ve got working. Chris says that the solution is to become a part of the community. Share you changes with the community and your changes will become part of the mainstream.

Another person asked, “Why is Koha here at the Seminary?” I got to answer this question. Basically, I really wanted to meet Chris! Also, I had seen a Koha demo before and wanted to share the product with those around me. Lastly, the Seminary is using Voyager and since Endeavor is no more – Voyager is probably doomed, so we need to be up on what’s out there in the ILS world in case the time comes that we have to switch.

I know I haven’t gone much into the design/features – and that’s cause I did that last time. This time I want to point out that version 3.0 is due out by the end of the year and it addresses a lot of feature requests and user concerns. One feature that I was not impressed with this time around (coming from a new viewpoint) was the cataloging module. The good news is that there is a new cataloging module (note that you’ll need to install Google Gears) in the works.

The way I see it, Koha is still a kid in the ILS world, but that’s a good thing (are you as creative now as you were when you were young? I’m not – I used to be able to make a castle out of an empty box – now I hate boxes)!! We’ve all been using systems that have been around for too long – nothing has come along to challenge them – push them to change with times. And I’d rather get behind a new product with staff that love what they’re doing – staff that want to listen to what I have to say – than get behind a product that’s not going anyway – except maybe into the trash (as many systems are with all of the buyouts going on).

If you’d like to learn more, you can read this diary by Stephen Hedges of Nelsonville Public, or any of the case studies. There’s also the Koha Documentation and Koha Wiki.

See more pictures from the event.

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The Fear is Worse than the Reality

Richard Wallis has a post at Panlibus about an article found via the BBC regarding the Open Library project.

My favorite quote:

As with the rest of society, the fear of something nasty happening can be far more corrosive that the possibility of it happening.

Maybe I should give you a little bit of background. This was in response to comments by Stephen Bury, head of European and American Collections at the British Library, who voiced a concern of people changing things maliciously.

The fact of the matter is that people expect a bit of freedom. There is always going to be the idiot who thinks it’s funny to use profanity to describe a book, but for the most part the people who choose to participate in adding content are the people who have a respect and love for books and libraries. LibraryThing is the perfect example of this.

ALA 2007: Metadata Presentations

Via Cataloging Futures (Chris won’t mind…):

Over on the LITA Blog, Rebecca Guenther provides information about an ALA Annual 2007 program that was sponsored by the LITA Standards Interest Group, Using Metadata Standards in Digital Libraries: implementing METS, MODS, PREMIS and MIX: