Another semester shaping up

As we head into the second week of the semester, here is how things are looking:

LIS590OH: Ontologies in the Humanities with Allen Renear

First class consisted of introductions, discussing the proto-syllabus [first time offering], and where we might want to take the class. There are about 10 students almost evenly split between “old-timers,” like me, and some of the more interesting seeming newer students. I am very glad to see some 2nd semester Masters students in here and I look forward to learning from them, and from my “old-timey” friends, too, of course.

Coursework looks fairly easy but then, as this is an “intermediate research seminar” in Allen’s ontology of course types, the true work is in individual and group learning. We will also learn a bit about the ontology editor, ProtĂ©gĂ©, and have the opportunity to substitute a practical ontology project for one of our papers.

I’ve managed to get all of the discussion readings and background readings read for this week. While I may not always get the background readings done, especially when I have read them before as in this week, I was happy to revisit some of them. Actually, in truth, I skipped one discussion reading. Gasp! As good as it may be, how often can one re-read Barbara Tillett’s pamphlet, “What is FRBR?: A Conceptual Model for the Bibliographic Universe”? [pdf]

I did enjoy revisiting the 1st 3 chapters of the FRBR Final Report [pdf], Buckland’s “What is a Document?”, the 1st 2 chapters of Smiraglia’s The Nature of “a Work”, and Denton’s FRBR and Fundamental Cataloguing Rules. There were also 2 Renear co-authored papers, one on axiomatizing FRBR and one on refining the OHCO model of text.

The next couple of weeks will allow me to revisit chapter 3 of Svenonius’ The Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization [set-theoretic view of bibliographic entities] and some classic articles by Frege and Popper.

I’m not sure where my interests will take me in this class, but I am excited nonetheless.

LIS590RO: Representation and Organization of Information Resources with Kathryn LaBarre

This will actually be week 1 as we did not have class last week with Kathryn at ALISE. This seminar also has about 10 students, although most are either “mid-career” or newer students. But again, it looks like a brilliant group and I look forward to much interesting learning as we all explore our own varied interests within the structure of the class. About half of us are together in Allen’s class above, too, which may provide its own interesting angles and benefits.

Our “textbook” is Morville’s Ambient Findability, which in my experience wasn’t all that findable. The other, optional, text is Svenonius. Thankfully! [see above for Svenonius link.]

I read Morville over break and while it eventually got (a bit) better than I expected, it is still tripe. I have refrained from slagging it here so far since I will have the privilege of critiquing it in class. If, like me, you prefer to buy books, do yourself a favor and get this one at the library or at least used. Of course, if like me, you have an overpowering urge to write “BS!” in the margin of the first few pages then maybe you should buy a used copy. This has got to be the 1st book that I have ever written a negative comment in the preface! Seriously, who writes something that can be argued with in the preface?

Despite Morville, I am really looking forward to this class. And I do know what my focus will be. Relationships. Hopefully I will be able to mostly focus on thesaural relationships, but I intend to dive head first down this particular rabbit hole.

One of our assignments is a book review and a presentation of it in class. The book I am “reviewing” or, in my case, living with, is Bean and Green’s Relationships in the Organization of Knowledge. I found this book while working on my thesaurus paper a few weeks ago. I was unable to use it at the time and am glad that I get to now. I ordered myself a copy through abebooks on Friday evening.

Side note: I understand supply and demand (somewhat), and I understand that most of these sorts of books go to libraries, but seriously folks, why does a remaindered copy of such a book go for almost $90? I know I would buy a lot more of these seriously nerdy books if they were affordable! Richard and I were discussing this after 590ON last week regarding Smiraglia [see above]. The cheapest copy is over $100 used. Seriously, WTF?

Back to 590RO. I’m not sure what form my final project will take, but it will almost certainly involve relationships.

LIS592: Independent Study with Kathryn LaBarre

With Kathryn away until Wednesday, I am still in the process of getting this set up, although we have been narrowing it down via email. Here is the current draft of my proposal:

This independent study will allow me to further my research into thesauri. To this point, I have taken Thesaurus Construction (590TC), and have written a selective literature review on the mapping of thesauri as an aid to assist interdisciplinary scientists for Information Transfer & Collaboration in Science (590TR). I also have a graduate assistantship at the Illinois Fire Service Institute Library where I am responsible for maintaining the FireTalk thesaurus. My previous coursework has really piqued my interests in thesauri–construction, maintenance, evaluation, use, and current and future trends. My work experience has only reinforced how vastly difficult it is to implement theory.

My coursework for this independent study will involve reading (or re-reading) the ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 monolingual thesaurus, the ISO monolingual and multilingual thesaurus standards, Lancaster (1983), Aitchison, et. al. (2000), among other readings. It will also involve an in-depth look into both OCLC‘s and JISC‘s Terminology Services programs and research. I intend to visit OCLC Research over Spring Break for a first-hand look at their Terminology Services research.

I am particularly interested in current trends and future directions for embedding thesauri into various, diverse services (Terminology Services) and the extension of relationships in thesauri (see e.g., Green (1995), Tudhope, et. al. (2001).

I will meet with my instructor every other week to keep her abreast of my progress and for discussion of issues as needed.

The final product will take two forms: (1) A literature review of current projects and research into Terminology Services; and (2) a presentation on the reality and potential of Terminology Services. The presentation would be open to the school and any other interested parties.

Besides the extracurricular learning in linguistics and grammar that I need to do to provide myself a ladder back out of the rabbit hole of relationships, I think that is it. 🙂 For now.

Best of luck and learning this semester to all the LIS students out there. May you find what you’re looking for. And don’t forget to dive head first down a rabbit hole once in a while.

Why, and when, did education become purely instrumental?

These are, in fact, rhetorical questions. I do have a sketchy answer for them [sketchy in the outlined, sort of questionable sense, not in the highly questionable sense]. But if you want to take a stab at either, or both, feel free; comments are below. My questions are more of the why, as in ought it to be this way?

I have managed to get myself into my usual conundrum. I have found a “topic” that really appeals to me and about which I want to learn as much as I can. Of course, the amount that I want to learn easily eclipses the length of a semester and a seminar paper. My usual course of action is to finally carve out a small portion of my interest, write a paper that only addresses a small part of the subject (after seriously over-researching), and then move on [due to circumstance, not choice]. Well, it seems I am here again.

I was up in one of our departmental libraries getting a book I needed on “meaning in language” the other day when the librarian working (a former classmate) asked me what I needed that book for. When I told them that I was working on a paper that was just too big for a semester because I prefer getting an education versus doing just what’s required, I was told, “But it’s a new year, you could learn to do better.”

Do better? What the heck does that mean? I should change my belief in the value of an education—for its own sake—just to write papers that show I learned … something? Not happening! Do not be mistaken; although I have found myself in this situation, repeatedly, over the last 8+ years, I still manage to get almost all As on my papers. So I seem to be accomplishing the “evaluative” portion of higher ed just fine.

But is higher education, or any education for that matter, only or mostly about the evaluation? Most certainly not! I do agree that evaluation is a necessary evil, in many cases. But evaluation, especially formal, is not the purpose of education.

And for those friends of mine and others who routinely give me crap about getting a PhD, is this just another one of those indicators that you use to tell me that I should be in a PhD program? Of course it is. It’s not like I don’t recognize the things you use about me to make your claims. But before you begin, just stop. PhD students still have to write papers, including one generally very big one. And the PhD is about jumping through even more, often specious hoops, than even a Masters. My problem might not be worse in a PhD program, but it certainly wouldn’t get any better either. I care about learning and using my learning, and not about “proving” it. I will not sacrifice the quality of my education just to learn to write papers for someone else.

This time I may not “just move on,” though. First, I need to get this paper finished for Dr. Palmer—whatever the grade may be. But Wednesday I spoke with my advisor about continuing this work in an independent study this Spring. By doing so, I will certainly not learn everything about this topic; actually several highly complex and interrelated topics. But I hope to learn enough—breadth and depth—to satisfy my “habitually probing generalist” tendencies. Maybe by taking a “big(ger) picture” approach I may even be able to say something useful by bringing together sources and communities that are yet to have the many conversations they need to. [Walt, I swear I am working on my hpg t-shirt design but I need to learn something about text graphics first, and perhaps even find a new program to use. Re: C&I 7 (1), p. 11]

As soon as I get this paper finished (sigh), I will start fleshing out my proposal for my independent study. I have a great start on a reading list, and have already read many of the items at least once. I also have a (for me) fairly detailed vision of what I want to cover.

I have already promised several of you a copy of my paper for Carole and I will (probably) make it available here in full. But let me get it written first. Maybe I’ll only be happy enough with it to give it to those already promised a copy.

What you should really be interested in (if at all), though, is the one I want to write. I hope to get the chance.

Because. I, too, want “lexicographic privileges” (Johnson, 143 and 150). Just kidding. Sort of.

Besides, I already have lexicographic privileges. Directly so at IFSI, and less directly in other areas.

Seriously, what I want is to understand thesauri (and other controlled vocabularies, a bit) both historically and currently, theoretically, experimentally, practically and pragmatically. I want to see a world with embedded controlled vocabularies, most of which would be freely available, and easily accessible via the Web and even when off-line [See Johnson on this. Or JISC Terminology Services. Or OCLC Terminology Services.].

I want to curl up with ANSI/NISO Z39.50-19 2005 Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of Monolingual Controlled Vocabularies. Again. I want to read the multilingual thesaurus standard, along with the British/ISO monolingual and multilingual thesauri standards. I want to read (all of) Lancaster and Aitchison, et. al. I want to put what I’ve seen so far into some sort of coherent whole.

I have no doubt this little offshoot of my interests began long ago and in many ways, but it mainly started in LIS590TC Thesaurus Construction this past summer. My work for our group presentation on interoperability and merging of thesauri really sent me off in this direction. But then I left it (or so I thought) as another semester began. Many of these ideas came up again—directly or indirectly—in LIS590CS Seminar in Classification Systems, and I am now incorporating some of them into my paper for LIS590TR Information Transfer and Collaboration in Science.

Overall, I am highly interested in “classificatory structures,” be they controlled vocabularies, authority control, classification systems, and so on. I am particularly interested in the structures we will use to organize, implement and use these various classificatory structures [See for example: ADL Thesaurus Protocol].

In Spring, I will be taking LIS590ON Ontologies in the Humanities and LIS590RO Representing and Organizing information Resources, along with whatever independent study I work out. Ontologies will give me a foot in the door with other controlled vocabularies, and may go a long way to addressing what I see as the main (theoretical) limitation of thesauri. Representing and Organizing will allow me to continue my work in most any way I desire. Seeing as my advisor is the professor for RO, and that she is big on students being able to integrate coursework into other studies in the same semester or on a continuing basis, and that she seems excited about my desire to do this, I imagine I might well be focusing some of my RO efforts on this topic also.

Will this turn into my CAS project? I don’t know. At the moment, I kind of hope not. As I have said before, and as vastly intriguing as this topic is to me, I am pretty sure this is a lot like looking over the cliff with one leg dangling in space. But if I were to change my mind, I would certainly be well on my way to doing something “useful” and interesting for my project.

Johnson, Eric H., “Distributed Thesaurus Web Services.” In The Thesaurus: Review, Renaissance, and Revision. Sandra K. Roe and Alan R. Thomas, eds. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Information Press, 2004, pp. 121-153. Or: Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 37 (3/4), 2004, pp. 121-153.

Off to take a nap; then more productivity

I gave a presentation on “authority control” in an international environment to Terry Weech’s LIS590IL Global Perspectives in LIS class this morning. Kathryn LaBarre had been invited as a guest speaker in Dr. Weech’s class and she asked me if I’d “freshen up” some of the international bits from my “Free the Authorities!” presentation.

It allowed me to spend a few hours looking a bit further into some things I find interesting and exciting. I mostly talked about various recent and ongoing projects, many of which are European-based. I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening on it, and got up at 5:30 this AM to put some finishing touches on it. I hope someone found part of it interesting, at least.

Then I went and visited the lawyer again about my stupid deposit check. I’m at the decision point as soon as they return a phone call to him. I may just take what they offer as I don’t think suing them is worth my time for the amount they are “stealing” from me. *sigh*

Now I’m off to take a nap. I got up early and didn’t sleep so well knowing I had a presentation to proof/finish.

Then I hope to get productive and maybe do a little cleaning around here. Maybe it’ll cloud up while I nap and then the sun will come out when it’s time to be productive. For some reason, I feel much better about cleaning when it is nice and sunny and bright naturally in the apartment.

After that it is on to more prepping for leading my 590TR class discussion on Thursday on Boundary Work and Collaboration. That’s the next “big” thing on my schedule. Need to relook the three articles we’ll discuss this week. There are a couple more that we won’t get to until our next class (16 Nov) because we are trying to finish some from last week too. So, I’ll relook the ones for this week and check the notes I already took. Maybe add a little more structure and connections/differences of the articles to my notes.

Updates coming…

I am trying to be busier and productive now that I’m a little rested from last week. I am trying to prioritize, and trying not to feel guilty about “owing” various folks here something or other.

I’ve been busy and want to mention some of these things here in more detail:

The Wailin’ Jennys on Wed.

Siva on Thursday

Friday the 13th (I love them!)


Ani DiFranco


Two days of “rest”

Refocused busy time, again

I’ve already started on Ani post. I have some notes from Siva’s talk for a post. I have photos on flickr; not of Siva or Ani though….

But I also have other things to do and other priorities. I end one class on Tuesday afternoon. And as much as I love it and would like to continue it in other directions, I need a freakin’ break and I need to start attending my other class.

For Pauline’s last class, I need to finish my Common Ex. C write-up and turn it in. I also need to prep for leading discussion on the Calhoun Report. That is the easy one of the two, even if the common exercise is technically further along. It has been a few weeks since I looked at the exercise. As for Calhoun, I have written and spoke about this at least 3 times each now and have read lots of commentary covering the spectrum on it. My views have, in fact, moderated much since I first read and wrote about it. I still think that despite the good that is in it, it is an abomination and went a long way to effectively shutting down productive discussion on its and related topics of concern in the cataloging and classification worlds of libraries. [Steve, our discussion from summer LEEP oncampus would be vastly different now. I see some good now, a lot even. But….]

The Wailin’ Jennys were excellent. I got no good photos though. I did get all 3 to sign the liner notes of my 40 days cd.

Siva was good, but I was exhausted [there will be more on Siva]. Besides the exhaustion building up to Thursday, I also woke up at 4 AM Thurs. morning. Yippee! I followed Siva with 2 classes. I gave my “Free the Authorities!” presentation in the last of the two. It started out quite well despite the situation. I did start flagging after a bit, particularly after a few questions and discussions. But I held up reasonably OK. I was proud of it (my performance?) at the beginning….

After class Pauline said something very positive to me. Daunting in a way, but very nice. On Tuesday she had asked me if I was applying for a possible job, because she said if I wasn’t then she was going to twist my arm until I did (paraphrased). I sure wish I could believe in myself like she does.

I’m not sure how driving to Chicago and back in a day and a half is “rest.” But I had a good time and it was as relaxing as it could be. So I am somewhat refreshed.

3rd load of clothes is in the dryer. I may have to go in to GSLIS to look at my thesaurus for Common Ex C. I found all my stuff, but printouts do not a thesaurus make.

OK. Off to do other things. I’ll be working on more details as I can.

Oh, BTW. I’m going to a meeting about that job tomorrow. More in the future, but it is one I hope to do beginning next semester, while hopefully staying in serials cataloging also. So, I’m also studying a 32-page LSTA grant application and finding myself wishing I had the figures and the attachments. I’m asking for a complete copy tomorrow at our meeting.

Where do you go little bird
When it snows, when it snows
When the world turns to sleep
Do you know, do you know
Is there something in the wind
Breathes a chill in your heart and life in your wings
Does it whisper ‘start again’
Start again

The Wailin’ Jennys. “Arlington.” 40 Days.