Some things read this week, 9 – 15 March 2008

Sunday, 9 Mar 2008

Smith, L. C. (1981). ‘Memex’ as an image of potentiality in information retrieval research and development In , Proceedings of the 3rd annual ACM conference on Research and development in information retrieval (pp. 345-369). Cambridge, England: Butterworth & Co.

Linda cited this article when talking about her research on a panel discussion we had in our subject access/analysis seminar. Linda Smith, Dave Dubin, and Oksana Zavalina (Ph.D. student) were asked about how “subject” impacts on their research area(s). Oksana was representing the IMLS Digital Collections and Content team.

What modes of subject access they use. Search strategies. Changes they’d like to see. Search and navigation features needed. Differences between human and machine relevance assessments. Etc. We did not get to all of them, but did some interesting deviating from the ones presented to them. It was a nice discussion.

Below is what Linda wrote about her article on the handout she provided. We also discussed it some and this idea of “non-verbal representation of subjects” and “concept symbols” was intriguing.

Cited documents as concept symbols; most citations are the author’s own private symbols for certain ideas he uses; where documents are frequently cited, their use as concept symbols may be shared.

When I first finished it I was disappointed and did not think this is what the article really said, although these claims are made within. After a few days and making some of the known context explicit in my mind, I have relented.

It is interesting in other ways, too. And I have heard Linda mention this article a few other times; usually in the context of Bush, though.

Monday, 10 Mar 2008

Aitchison, J. (2003). Linguistics, Teach yourself. (6th ed), 257. Chicago, Ill: McGraw-Hill.


  • Ch. 16 : seeking a suitable framework
  • Ch. 17 : trouble with transformations
  • Ch. 18 : back to basics (Tue)
  • epilogue (Tue)
  • further reading (Tue)


Rosenberg, V. (1974). The scientific premises of information science, Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 25(4), 263-269.


Cited by Smith, L. C. (1981) [see above] as “… urges information science researchers to pay more attention to the social, cultural and spiritual aspects of human communication” (353).



Critiques what he calls the “gestalt of the computer.”


Most of the research done to date in information science has been done in what we can broadly call the tradition of Newtonian mechanics. In this tradition the world and man are perceived to be essentially mechanistic (264).


Because information science has been so closely linked to the computer, the device has thoroughly colored our view of what information is and how people use it. Broadly speaking, the computer has caused us to view human information processing as analogous to machine processing. The success of this approach is similar to that Kuhn describes with regard to obsolete paradigms (such as Newtonian mechanics) (264).


He combines these with a behaviorist psychology as “the basic components of the paradigm underlying information science” (265), which he then critiques.


I believe that the essentially reductionist view of man which emerges from the “gestalt of the computer,” is ultimately demeaning to man, is scientifically counter productive, and it is arrogant. Nevertheless, I am not suggesting that all the work that has been done in replicating human intellectual behavior using computers is of no practical value. … However, as a basic principle for understanding, scientifically understanding, the nature of information and its use, the paradigm is of extremely limited value (265-266).


Since I have just stated, with an overweening arrogance of my own, that the fundamental premises on which information science is currently based are all wrong, I must support this conclusion (266, emphasis mine).


The computer carries with it a set of values—scientific values. These values are basically deterministic, reductionist and mechanical. The paradigm specifically inhibits serious consideration of concepts that are social, cultural or spiritual (266).


The problem here is not the direct, tangible harm that the information system does to a specific individual. Rather it is the image of man inherent in it (267).


We must begin to pay more attention to the social, cultural and spiritual aspects of human communication [the point Linda cites]. We must recognize that what a man says or writes is not simply the additive sum of the phonemes or the morphemes, the words or sentences he utters. To deal effectively with the transcendent qualities of human communication we must admit as evidence the intuitive, the subjective, and the experiential (268).


I love this guy! And considering this was published in 1974 I love him even more. I think he is heading to the right point but he isn’t quite there yet. There simply is no communication without the experiential. To communicate is to experience.


Harris, R. (1996). Signs, language, and communication : integrational and segregational approaches. London; New York: Routledge.

  • Preface
  • Ch. 1 : The study of communication
  • Ch. 2 : Before communication


Tuesday – Wednesday, 11-12 Mar 2008


Park, J. (2007). Evolution of concept networks and implications for knowledge representation, Journal of Documentation, 63(6), 963-983. doi: 10.1108/00220410710836466.


Wednesday, 12 Mar 2008



Abel-Kops, C. P. (2008, January 1). “Just where’s the damn book?,” or, rediscovering the art of cataloging. Retrieved March 10, 2008, from


Saturday, 15 Mar 2008


DeLillo, D. (1986). White noise, Contemporary American fiction., 326. New York: Penguin Books.


It’s Spring Break so I began re-reading this.

The encounter put me in the mood to shop. … Babette and the kids followed me into the elevator, into the shops set along the tiers, through the emporiums and department stores, puzzled but excited by my desire to buy. When I could not decide between two shirts, they encouraged me to buy both. … They were my guide to endless well-being. … My family gloried in the event. I was one of them, shopping, at last. (DeLillo, 83).

I shopped for its own sake, looking and touching, inspecting merchandise I had no intention of buying, then buying it. … I began to grow in value and self-regard. I filled myself out, found new aspects of myself, located a person I’d forgotten existed (DeLillo, 84).

I adore this book. This is my first re-read after reading it once and then analyzing its lived morality in an academic essay. I am trying to read it slowly and savor it this time; there is something distinctly not slow about DeLillo’s prose in this work, though.

Some things read this week, 24 February – 1 March 2008

Monday, 25 Feb 2008

White, Alan R. Introduction. In White, Alan R, ed. 1968. The Philosophy of Action. London: Oxford University Press.

This edited volume on the philosophy of action includes articles by J. L. Austin, Danto, Davidson, Anscombe, and others (some classics). I probably won’t read much more of it and I think I grabbed it when I saw it in the stacks due to … oh, who knows why I grabbed it a few days ago. ::shrug::

The Introduction was fairly interesting. He primarily covers:

  • A. The nature of action
  • B. Descriptions of action
  • C. Explanations of action

The first part gives an overview of action by pulling apart ‘do, ‘action’, and ‘act’, as they are not the same thing. It then quickly narrows to focusing on human action. The last section addresses the following questions:

(i) How does each of these explanations actually explain? (ii) How are the different explanations, and the various factors that occur in each, related to each other? (iii) Are some of these kinds of explanations mutually exclusive? (iv) How many, if any, of these explanations give an explanation of a causal kind, or, if this is different, of the kinds which are found either in explanations of human characteristics other than behaviour or in explanations of inanimate nature (13)?

Here’s an example sentence from the section addressing question (ii) above:

To give the motive for a deed is to indicate that desire for the sake of satisfying which the deed was done, provided that what was done was not itself the deed which was desired, but a deed which the agent thought would bring about or would amount to what was desired (14).

Either excruciatingly painful, pure mental masturbation, or both, depending on your temperament.

Black, Alistair. The information society: a secular view. In: Hornby, Susan, and Zoë Clarke, ed. 2003. Challenge and Change in the Information Society. London: Facet.: 18-41.

Critiques the “near-paradigmatic status” of the information society. Argues that the discourse around the information society is a mirage. It is also exposed as a ‘regime of truth” whose “legitimacy, [and] sustenance, is drawn from a wide array of interested parties who, albeit perhaps not in any conspiratorial way, stand to gain social or professional recognition, if not material reward, from establishing the information society as a ‘given’ phenomenon, as an incontrovertible ‘fact’ (19).

Yes, that certainly implicates librarians and libraries.

Demonstrates that the information society fits within modernity and that there have been equally important ‘information ages’ previously.

The information society cannot be conceptualized as a post-industrial, post-modern phenomenon, for its essences – scientific progress and individual and social emancipation among them – are surely rooted in the modern societies which have flowed, over the past three centuries, from industrialism, capitalism and the Enlightenment project (33).

Also touches on the utopianism of the information society. Quite interesting and recommended.

The book includes sections on: The information society: fact or fiction? (3 chaps.); The information society and daily life (3 chaps.); The information society and policy (2 chaps); and, The information society and the information professional (4 chaps).

Tuesday, 26 Feb 2007

Read 2 more chapters and the Introduction in the above information society book.

From the Introduction:

Our idea from the outset was to let the authors have their own voice and to allow debate and discussion within the text and between the authors.

This book is intended for those people in professional practice and in the field of academic study and research who have an interest in the information society and its impact on the profession. We hope that this collection will enable the reader to consider different viewpoints and aspects of the information society (xiii).

Cornish, Graham P. Freedom versus protection: the same coin or different currencies. P. 169-183.

Discusses “three basic concepts in the information world which appear, on occasions at least, to be at odds with each other: the right of freedom of expression, the right of freedom of access to information and the right to protect what we create (mostly copyright) (169).

Brophy, Peter. The role of the professional in the information society. P. 217-232.

Discusses the impact that the information society is having in the information professions, professionalism, and professional ethics.

Tuesday, 26 Feb 2008

Abbott Andrew. (2007 preprint) The Traditional Future: A Computational Theory of Library Research.

Recommended to me by Nathan in a comment in Oct 2008. I finally got around to reading the Peter Brantley article, The Traditional Future, on 2 December. I immediately and dutifully saved the Abbott preprint and printed it as soon as I could do so double-sided (easily).

Dr. Abbott is coming to GSLIS in March to give the Spring 2008 Windsor Lecture.

The title of his talk is “Library Research and Its Infrastructure in the Twentieth Century.”

I have known that he iss coming for a while now and have held this article for reading until closer to his visit. I’m not a standard social science researcher nor a traditional library researcher (although much closer to library researcher) so I may not be qualified to comment on some of this but it seems fairly plausible, if admittedly somewhat schematic. I also do not enjoy his use of the computing metaphor. The world faces enough issues from analogizing practically everything to computers.

All in all, fairly interesting. I will enjoy going to his lecture more prepared than most. There were also a couple of connections to the rhetoric of science and division of labor, which are important ideas in my current work.

Wednesday – Thursday, 27 – 28 Feb 2008

International Society for Knowledge Organization, and University College, London. 2004. Knowledge Organization and the Global Information Society: Proceedings of the Eighth International ISKO Conference, 13-16 July 2004, London, UK. Ed. Ia McIlwaine. Würzburg: Ergon.

  • Green, Rebecca and Lydia Fraser. Patterns in verbal polysemy. 29-34.
  • O’Keefe, Daniel J. Cultural literacy in a global information society-specific language: an exploratory ontological analysis utilizing comparative taxonomy. 55-59.
  • Binding, Ceri and Douglas Tudhope. Integrating faceted structure into the search process. 67-72. (Thu)
  • Mai, Jens-Erik. The role of documents, domains and decisions in indexing. 207-213. (Thu)

I really liked the Green and Mai articles. Mai, especially, will be valuable for my CAS paper as a widening of the concept of domain analysis.

Wednesday – Saturday, 27 Feb – 1 Mar 2008


Toolan, Michael J. 1996. Total Speech: An Integrational Linguistic Approach to Language. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press.


Began this again. Read about half in the back half of December but had to put it aside to finish my bibliography and a new semester and ….

  • Introduction.
  • Ch. 1: On Inscribed or Literal Meaning (Thu)
  • Ch. 2: Metaphor (Fri-Sat)
  • Ch. 3: Intentionality and Coming into Language (Sat-Sun)

Thursday – Friday, 28 – 29 Feb 2008

Skare, Roswitha, Niels Windfeld Lund, and Andreas Vårheim, ed. 2007. A Document (Re)turn: Contributions from a Research Field in Transition. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

  • Ørom, Anders. The Concept of Information versus the Concept of Document. 53-72.
  • Frohmann, Bernd. Multiplicity, Materiality, and Autonomous Agency of Documentation. 27-39.
  • Drucker, Johanna. Excerpts and Entanglements. 41-52.

Saturday, 1 Mar 2008

McGarry, Dorothy. An Interview with Elaine Svenonius. 2000. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 29(4):5-17.

Sent to me by Bryan Campbell back in mid-Jan; finally found the time to read it. I knew Svenonius had done “some things” in our field, but I simply had no idea!

Saturday, 1 Mar 2008

Mai, Jens-Erik. 2005. Analysis in indexing: document and domain centered approaches. Information Processing & Management 41, no. 3:599-611.

This article appears to be the formal, published representation of Mai’s ISKO article above, The role of documents, domains and decisions in indexing. It will be used to expand the concept of domain analysis, primarily, and perhaps also in my commentary on applications of Integrationism to LIS, in this case indexing.


Omega and Alpha

The end approaches and Tuesday I spent preparing for it.

A few weeks ago I sent in a petition to the Grad College to move my “additional” 2 hours from my MS (42 vs. 40-required) to my CAS. That was approved last Friday (Feb 1st).

Seeing as I had 72 completed hours that put me at 32 for the CAS and as I’m doing (fingers and toes crossed!) my 8-hour paper this semester I applied for (another) May graduation (also 40-required hours).

I did finish my Bibliography class last month but it remains ungraded so I will have an additional 4-hours at the end after all.

I also have what I continue to think of as an Incomplete (4-hrs.) but it is actually an F now. That could be changed if I could turn something in but that is looking unlikely. It is the independent study I was working on last spring on Terminology Services.

I’m still immensely interested in many aspects of the topic but even though my advisor and I went into the semester thinking I could probably do something she could grade we agreed Tuesday that I best just focus on my CAS paper. So I also filed a petition to have the grade changed to a W for Withdrawn. It’ll remain on the transcript—Independent Study will be so illuminating—but have no effect on my GPA. Current impact? OMG!!

[Of course, it’s all relative. As UIUC grads know, here an A- will reduce your GPA. I got one and it was deservedly so (last MS semester). So I had a 3.96 last graduation and now I have 3.76. Ouch!]

Don’t confront me with my failures.
I had not forgotten them.

Jackson Browne. These Days. For Everyman. [WorldCat]

I do actually have a terminologies idea but it is way too deep for a semester paper, especially if I’m actually trying to graduate ….

… and find a job. [I once ended up in the Army for quite awhile trying to avoid finding a job.]

As to the topic, I’m not even ready to talk about it here. I’ve put a couple of feelers out and I’m noticing bits here and there and trying my best to record them for now. My 1st coherent comments on the matter came in an IM conversation with my good buddy, Iris, who was so kind to “listen” as I tried to “say” something coherent. Thanks, Iris. All in all, all I have at the moment is one half of a hypothesis that seems pretty uncontroversial (but how it is fleshed out might well matter to some) and another half that is the vaguest hand waving in the direction of something that is hard to state even in skeletal form. To me it sounds like it couldn’t be the slightest bit controversial in skeletal form (but I know better). As to how it’d play if actually coherently fleshed out I cannot begin to say. But I sure as hell would like to.

I am pretty certain that what I am claiming is so. The question is whether or not the differences make a difference. Finding those differences will involve falling down a couple of rabbit holes once the descent of the current one begins to slow down.

Seems I now have a “research agenda” as a future academic librarian. I just need to find the job interview way of saying it. 🙁 Luckily I am pretty much there now with the current one, which I foresee going on for a long time, at least the Integrationism bit.

Which brings us back to the Alpha. It seems that I am officially on the job market and looking for a job. There is no way that I can rely on staying here no matter how many people might tell me they want me to stay. All I can say is “Show me the job(s)” then. Cause I’d be happy to stay for the right job.

One of the problems with UIUC is the fact that we have an LIS school and a large academic library (40 some odd truthfully). Lots of folks stick around here for assorted reasons—townies all along, spouse still in grad school, …. Despite the size of our library there are not that many full-time openings available, nor do they tend to hire our own grads.

But one of the benefits of being large is we get lots of grants and there are all sorts of grant-funded Visiting Professorships in the library. There might also be hourly work available, but that means no benefits, which might be OK if you have an employed spouse. I really have little doubt that I could stay, at least for a while.

I have told my bosses (and others) that as much as I’d like to stay I certainly do not have to. I also have no need to take any job just to stay. Nor will I.

Personally, I think I could do the institution a lot of good if they kept me around. Not just for UIUC or the Library but for GSLIS, too. Just an opinion, mind you.

I can go anywhere, technically. I have no restraints. I’m pretty certain I don’t want to be in a major city, though. Nor do I want to be at a school with 400 students in the middle of nowhere.

Most of the above was written a couple days ago but I am having a hard time finishing this as I need to be careful. I don’t want to seemingly rule something out so that someone on a search committee can say, “That describes us so he doesn’t even want to be here!”

I am a long way from applying for any jobs that I don’t want (as best as I can tell from all sources short of visiting). In fact, I doubt I’ll get to that point. That behavior has never made sense to me.

Of course, telling what kind of job it really is based on a job ad/description is a crap shoot of the highest order.

So. I want an academic position; tenure is not important. I could take it or leave it. I will pursue continuing opportunities to learn about interesting things and to share that with others via formal and informal publishing whether or not I am required to do so.

I want to do cataloging/metadata work, preferably descriptive and classificatory work of resources more towards the individual end than in the aggregate. Vocabulary work and other forms of classificatory structures are also on the table.

Serials do not scare me. In fact, that is where most of my current experience lies, although I also do monographs now. I do not think I am ready to be an electronic resources librarian but I do hope to learn more of what I need to feel qualified, along with many other things that I am interested in but have little or no experience with yet.

Working with people who are interesting, hopefully fun, and who are actively engaged in helping each other learn their craft so as to provide better service to their patrons and to move the profession forward are all important. I am not out to save the world (20 years in the Army demonstrated the futility of that endeavor) but I do want to make it a better one.

Anyone knowing of anything they think I might be interested in is welcome to point me towards them. 🙂

Uncontrolled Vocabulary, the Carnival, and the LC Working Group; or, the recognition of frustration

Back in December, a few days before the deadline passed for comments on the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, I wrote a post called just that.

In it I expressed much frustration; with both the big picture issues facing bibliographic control and those of my daily frustration in trying to use the tools my profession supplies me to do so.

I was popping off in that post. Clearly. Heck, I even tossed out an f-bomb. I was (am) mad.

Well, thanks to Anna Creech (or so I believe. By the way, thanks, Anna!) that post showed up both on Uncontrolled Vocabulary #24 [revisited momentarily in #25] and in the Carnival of the Infosciences (#86) about a month after I wrote it.

My first reaction to learning it had been discussed on Uncontrolled Vocabulary was mild shock. Oh my! Which idea in it had they latched onto? Hopefully not my (temporary) defeatist attitude regarding my personal feedback on the report. Thankfully, not.

Greg’s initial “almost motivated me to advocacy” line really struck me. A fair few of my colleagues—I’m guessing a significant percentage—have no real idea of the issues catalogers and metadata folks go through with their tools, or the lack of them.

Everyone picks on the OPAC because it’s easy to do so, and most stripes of librarian have to use one. My gripes are much broader. Yes, the OPAC sucks. But so do the various modules in the ILS. I have almost 7 years experience with Voyager’s circulation and cataloging clients due to working in Circulation; (minimal) Cataloging (E-Reserves); and now Cataloging. I have no doubt the Acquisitions folks have complaints about aspects of that module, and so on.

In cataloging, besides needing our ILS module, we need our classification schedules—either in print or online, or both—DDC in our case, AACR2, subject headings list (LCSH), Classification Web, Cataloger’s Desktop, “foreign” language encyclopedias, Connexion (WorldCat), Cutter tables, ….

Then there are the assorted policies emanating from the many organizations involved. Let’s just leave that at many. And some number of these policies actually constrain the work we can do in most libraries.

While OCLC policies do allow qualified libraries to enrich WorldCat records centrally, some consider these policies to be overly restrictive (On the Record : Report of The Library of …, 13, emphasis mine)

These not very well expressed reasons are why I and many others are frustrated. And most of our colleagues cannot even feel our pains. Folks working with other forms of metadata face similar and related issues with their assorted tools, or lack thereof.

Cooperative cataloging. That’s existed for a long time. Right? People use the phrase all the time so it must be an “entity” of some sort one would assume. I would beg to differ.

I do appreciate the Working Group’s calls for increased cooperation and “distribution of responsibility for bibliographic record production and maintenance” (16). I particularly like: LC, PCC, and OCLC: Explore ways to increase incentives and tools for contributions of new bibliographic records, as well as upgrades or corrections to existing records … (18).

While I realize that some may need incentives, could you please just get out of my way and let me do my (basic) job? Yes, there is a bigger context to this such that this item makes wonderful sense. But I still find it more than mildly ironic.

As slight side excursion based on the first quote from the LC report above:

While OCLC policies do allow qualified libraries to enrich WorldCat records centrally, some consider these policies to be overly restrictive (On the Record : Report of The Library of …, 13, emphasis mine)

When will we stop talking like this? Could someone please explain to someone intelligent involved in writing this report that there is not a single library that has ever produced any kind of surrogate, much less added any records to WorldCat. Nor will there ever be.

This poor use of language (rife in our field and made fun of here before) leads to issues with policies which must be defined within the context of this poor use. Libraries, qualified or not, do not really do anything. People of the cataloging persuasion (or assignment) catalog and add or correct records in WorldCat.

But it is libraries that are “qualified” by our various cooperative agreements. This is part of the problem.

I am not through reading the final report yet, about half-way (read this past Mon. at the diner for dinner. Now 2 past.).

This realization that:

A fair few of my colleagues—I’m guessing a significant percentage—have no real idea of the issues catalogers and metadata folks go through with their tools, or the lack of them.

… I had due to my post being featured in these 2 collective stalwarts of the bibliogosphere around the same time. I was aware of the UV appearance first and there is really something odd about hearing your post discussed on the web.

Like Greg, my realization almost led me to advocacy. But this is a delicate situation for a multitude of reasons. I try to be very careful on the few times I bring my actual experiences at work here. Almost every one of my complaints is with something other than my institution and I do not want to give the impression otherwise. But there is so much that does not get talked about in our field (not only in cataloging, of course). Even critique towards a positive end state is rarely publicly welcomed and/or welcomed in public.

Thus, as much as I would love to spend more time talking about these issues here and perhaps shedding a little light on them for a handful or two of people, I simply cannot do any more than the rare instance when I do. Which lines can or cannot be crossed, and which of the first are wise to do so seem like questions best answered by avoiding them (like everyone else).

There was a bit of discussion in the comments at Uncontrolled Vocabulary #24 about what I was saying. I came a tad late to the party but was able to add a comment clarifying what I was trying to say.

As I wrote there, I am feeling a bit better as I am learning to try and modify in increments. I just wish when you weren’t allowed to change some specific field it would tell you versus making you look in some crazy long document, especially if you forgot the 1st sentence about increments. Other validation errors tell you what the problem is.

But. Yes. I remain frustrated when I cannot do something like change a title that is wrong in a pre-pub record.

I also got a decent amount of long-term headaches taken care of and off of my desk the last couple days. 🙂 I don’t do resolutions anymore but I did swear I was going to move some of that stuff. About half is gone (mostly in the last 2 days) and I’m waiting on an answer on 2 things.

I do feel bad about some of that stuff sitting there for a couple months sometimes. But let’s be realistic here. They give me these things (or wait for someone like me to come along) because they are nightmares and they don’t want to do them. I get a lot of found stuff. Some of it has been sitting somewhere from 2 years to several decades. Literally. So, honestly I can’t really sweat the couple months it’s been on my desk. And as I said it is moving on.

Hope is hard when you are continuously frustrated from doing your job.

Harris and Hjorland administrivia


At the start of break I found a treasure when I was down in the Basement West stacks looking for another “Harris book”: Harris. Roy. 1990. The Foundations of Linguistic Theory: Selected Writings of Roy Harris. Ed. Nigel Love. London: Routledge.

Actually, I found 2 treasures. The edited volume I had so far overlooked; I have yet to undertake a completist approach to Harris’ writings as he has written so many books, much less articles. I have been predominantly lusciously wallowing in his books. Anyway, the little volume edited by Love is quite good and I was able to purchase myself a good used copy for cheap.

The unlooked for treasure was: Harris, Roy. 1977. On the Possibility of Linguistic Change. Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon Press.

A tad more accurately, it is: On the Possibility of Linguistic Change : An Inaugural lecture delivered before the University of Oxford on 18 November 1976 / by Roy Harris, Professor of the Romance Languages.

This is a lecture given by Harris when he was installed as the Chair of the Romance Languages at Oxford.

This 23 p. document was pam-bound on 1 May 1984. It has a call no. label attached and the call no. is written in it in the right place, but it had no barcode and had never made it into the electronic catalog. I had a monographics stacks pass with me so Circ gave it to me to catalog. Today I did just that on my 1st day back in a while. There was a record I just brought in and made sure it was OK and attached a holdings and item record.

Yes, I read it over lunch. It is typical Harris at his scathing best. I imagine one should feel free to speak rather bluntly about one’s discipline and department when being given the chair of a department at Oxford. ;))


Thought I’d mention that a lot of Hjørland stuff has been showing up in my dLIST feed the last couple days. [You are subscribed to dLIST and E-LIS aren’t you? Or at least those of you looking for things of interest to read.] Seven things with Hjørland as the primary or co-author have shown up in the last 2 days according to the Latest Additions listing.

A search on “hjorland, b” or “hjorland” returns 8 items.

There are some good things here, including his recent information research article [dLIST], some conference presentations (ISKO, ASIST, …), and this article (recommended) from KO.

I am assuming that more will be showing up.

Many Hjørland documents are (or were) available from his site at the Royal School of Library and Information Science. In my collecting of his corpus I have primarily gone to the original publication source. That way I precluded any issues with something being a pre- or post-print or whatever. Some I got electronically, e.g., all JASIS & JASIST articles, many I photocopied. Also be aware, the list linked to at the start of this paragraph probably includes a large percentage of his publications but there are a couple missing.

LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control

I read it. I made plenty of notes. I fully intended to write up my comments and submit them and to also post them here. I began writing them up.

I stopped.

And that is where I’m staying. Stopped.

It truly isn’t that I don’t care. I do. All the way down to the marrow care.

There is just too much going on right now in this arena. Far too many people talking so far past each other they must be in other solar systems. Almost all at some kind of cross purpose.

I’ve read a few blog posts, literally several hundred listserv postings and other assorted “comments” on the report or related to it. Now I’m just despairing of any sort of reasoned community-level discussion on the issues involved.

Add to that the frustrations I face daily as I go about my job cataloging monographs and serials (based on our tools, not my workplace) and I have just become despondent about it all.

I think the Working Group got some things right. I was far more impressed than I expected to be. But. It is very vague and hand-wavish about major topics. E.g., intellectual property rights. And several others.

But one of the main points in the report is that the community must broaden. I agree. Maybe I differ on the details, but then I am pretty sure that the committee members disagree amongst themselves, too.

But here’s the deal (actually one piece only) with why I am so despondent about it all any more.

At my institution I do I-level cataloging. [OCLC Input Standards] That is, Full-level input by OCLC participants. For serials I even do original cataloging inputting on average 1.5-2 original records per week. I have probably input somewhere around 100-200 original serials records. I have also been able to derive a couple original monographic records thanks to my serials work, but I mostly do copy cataloging of monographs.

Cooperative cataloging it is supposed to be. That’s what I learned in classes. That’s what the Working Group says. And I’m all for that. I will gladly fix any record I want to use if it needs it. But most often I cannot do so. Not allowed to.

Today. Well, let’s just say that today took the fucking cake. Can’t find a record I need by title so try ISBN. Oh, 2 records exist. One touched at some point by LC and the other by the British Library. Both pure crap. In fact, both are Level 8 records. Goddamn prepublication level records and I am not allowed to fix them!

Both records have the title wrong. Both have errors in the publication area. Both have “p. cm.” in the physical characteristics area. Both have the wrong no. in the 490. Both only mention the index when it has extensive bibliographical references. …

Now I realize full well that these records are based on prepub data (probably CIP) and that the book was only published last month. But I was one of the first to need the record and could have fixed it. In fact, I tried. Maybe the 6 others who hold it and got to it before me tried, too. I don’t know. But now there’s 7 of us with it in our OPACs who have fixed our copy while the piss poor record still exists in WorldCat.

But if I cannot even upgrade a goddamn Level 8 prepub record then what good is cooperative cataloging? Can anyone answer that?

What am I supposed to be able to contribute to any discussion on the future of bibliographic control when I am not able to contribute to the daily work that is needed now?

Yes. There truly are many other issues also fueling my current bout of despondency. So please do not respond and tell me that I’m just overreacting to some pitiful Level 8 record.

This discussion may well be the most important of my young career. Only time and a couple decades will tell. But I am going to withdraw from it. For now, at least.

Judge me if you choose. Or if you must. Just don’t misunderstand. I am not abandoning it. I am only choosing to sit on the side, listening and observing. I may well jump in at any point.

Due to the many other things going on in my life at the moment I seem unable to focus on these long-term, big picture issues and discussions when I daily work with horrible tools and misguided policies (none of which are issues with my institution, but are above it) such that at least 50% of the time they get square in the way of my (and my co-workers) ability to do good work.

That’s the best I can do right now. Sorry. Truly.

Some things read this week, 2 – 8 December 2007

Sunday, 2 Dec

Brantley, Peter. “The Traditional Future.” O’Reilly radar 17 Sep 2007.

Recommended in a comment by Nathan on a weekly reading post in mid-Oct., esp. for the Abbott article mentioned by Brantley. Have that saved in the “print me at GSLIS” folder (38 p.) for reading later.

Thanks, Nathan. There are some interesting things in that post and its comments.

Lots of my own stuff from this blog over the past year.

Hjørland, Birger. 2004. Domain Analysis: A Socio-Cognitive Orientation for Information Science Research. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 30, no. 3 (March): 17-21. (accessed September 19, 2007).

Re-read for bibliography.

LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control Draft Final Report. Read a tad more.

This Week

Slogging and re-slogging through lots of stuff for my bibliography.

Finished the LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control Draft Final Report.

Some things read this week, 11 – 17 November 2007

Sunday, 11 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996. [Re-reading]

  • Introduction
  • Ch. 1: Questions about language

Rheingold, Howard. “The First Hacker and His Imaginary Machine” from Tools for Thought. [For LIS452]

Miksa, Francis. “The Genius of Library Cataloging and its Possible Future.” An Address for the ALA Lecture, GSLIS, UIUC, 6 March 2006.

Audio for this lecture is on the Lecture Archives page. Scroll down to the 2nd from the bottom of 2006. Notice lots of other interesting things on the way.

I do know of a link to this paper as a Word doc but I do not know if I can share it. If you are particularly interested let me know and I will inquire. Or a search may just turn it up. [Sorry! It cannot be shared, although hopefully Fran will be publishing it. Listen to the lecture which is pretty close to the paper.]

Discusses “the genius of cataloging,” which is the creation of an intellectual space. Also discusses the thicket of our current system, how we got here, and describes that system as “the one given system.” Other topics include Charles Amni Cutter, “full-bore cataloging,” informational objects, informational object users, and informational object systems and agencies. Then takes a look at the present day and what can be done to revitalize our catalogs via a revitalization of cataloging.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 12 Nov

Harris, Roy, and George Wolf, eds. Integrational Linguistics: A First Reader. 1st ed, Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1998. [Re-reading]

  • Ch. 5: Language and Writing
  • Ch. 6: Language and Society
  • Postscript

Bentley, Jon. “Thanks, Heaps.” programming pearls column in Communications of the ACM 28(3), March 1985: 245-250.

Tuesday, 13 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996. [Re-reading]

  • Ch. 2: Speech and its Parts

Sturgeon, Roy L. “Laying Down the Law: ALA’s Ethics Codes.” American Libraries November 2007:56-57.

A low quality article that complains about the lack of attention paid to professional ethics in our literature. If many of them are like this one that is a good thing. Actually, though, I could suggest a few decent ones.

One of the worst things about this article is not the author’s fault. It just ends mid-sentence. If the article is continued on another page we get no indication from AL.

Haha. This article is listed under “Professionalism.” Irony is what gets me out of bed every morning.

Hjørland, Birger. Information Seeking and Subject Representation: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Information Science. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

  • Ch. 1: Introduction: Information Seeking and Subject Representation [re-read]
  • Ch. 2: Subject Searching and Subject Representation Data

Wednesday, 14 Nov

Van de Sompel, Herbert and Carl Lagoze. “Interoperability for the Discovery, Use, and Re-Use of Units of Scholarly Communication.” CTWatch Quarterly 3(3), August 2007.

For Metadata Roundtable today.

Wednesday- Thursday, 14 – 15 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996. [Re-reading]

  • Ch. 3: One-Dimensional Speech [Wed.]
  • Ch. 4: Logical Loopholes [Thur.]

Hjørland, Birger. Information Seeking and Subject Representation: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Information Science. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

  • Ch. 3: Subject Analysis and Knowledge Organization

Thursday, 15 Nov

Bigge, Ryan. “The Official Typeface of the 20th Century.” Pertinent & Impertinent at The Smart Set. Found via 3 Quarks Daily.

Beauchamp, Gorman. “Apologies All Around: Today’s tendency to make amends for the crimes of history raises the question: where do we stop?” The American Scholar, Autumn 2007. Found via 3 Quarks Daily.

Borgmann, Albert. Crossing the Postmodern Divide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

  • Ch. 1: Closure and Transition.
  • Ch. 2: Modernism

Friday, 16 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996. [Re-reading]

  • Ch. 5: Wordy Redefinitions
  • Ch. 6: Conveying Thoughts
  • Ch. 7: The Plain Truth

Saturday, 17 Nov

Thagard, Paul. “Coherence, Truth, and the Development of Scientific Knowledge.” Philosophy of Science 74(1), January 2007: 28-47.

An attempt to rehabilitate the relationship between truth and coherence. Having spent a decent amount of time on one of the proponents of a coherence theory of truth [Word doc] amongst many other discussions of truth over the course of a degree in philosophy I found this interesting. Based on my understanding of current philosophy of science, and the parts which I accept, I would have to say that something along these lines is correct.

It is nice to have it spelled out but, in my opinion, it is sort of anti-climactic. That is, it seems to be inherent in the current definitions of truth, theory and related concepts within philosophy of science.

My one main disagreement with Thagard is with his assumption “that natural science is the major source of human knowledge” (29). A broader view of knowledge would probably not affect his theory, but it would make it more inclusive. He does allow for “people’s ordinary knowledge” (44) but this kind of labeling I find demeaning. If you really have a view of knowledge that draws a vast gulf, or at least makes qualitative judgements, between so-called scientific and “ordinary” knowledge then suck it up and declare them to be different and find new terms for one or the other, or both. But as long as you allow people to have ordinary knowledge then I must question on what possible grounds one can claim “that natural science is the major source of human knowledge” (29)?

The journal Philosophy of Science is frequently of great relevance to our field. This issue, 74(1), January 2007, alone also has articles on “Evolution and the Explanation of Meaning,” how models represent by allowing “surrogative reasoning,” pragmatic classification, and scientific realism.

Long before reading any Hjørland I was of the opinion that much of philosophy, in particular issues in epistemology, is of direct import to all areas of librarianship. Reading Hjørland has only deepened that belief.

Borgmann, Albert. Crossing the Postmodern Divide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

  • Ch. 3: Postmodernism.

“It’s a metaphor, if you know what I mean”: DDC’s fundamental flaw

you could always hear the rub squeaking
of those two tree limbs
’til one day one of them came down
taken down by the wind
but on the one that’s still there
you can still see where the bark was
rubbed bare
it’s a metaphor
if you know what i mean

Ani DiFranco ¤ “how have you been” ¤ out of range

Today I discovered a, perhaps the, fundamental flaw in DDC. There is (practically) no concept of metaphor.

I was cataloging a German book on Metapher which had no Dewey number in the record so I turn to the Relative Index and flip to m…e…t…a…p…h…o. Uh. Huh? Wait. “m” “e” “t” “a” “p” “h” “o”. Blink. Turn away and look back. Try again. Question my sanity and/or my spelling. And slowly realize that metaphor just ain’t to be found in the Relative Index (print DDC22). Knowing full well that this concept has been around for a day or two, I fire up WebDewey to see if there is something more up-to-date. In the Relative Index I find zip, nada, zilch. Try in the Schedules. I think I got 3 possibilities, all of which are possibilities but not necessarily good ones.

Head over to ClassWeb and put the LCSH “Metaphor” into the LCSH–DDC mapper and get 10 possible numbers. Much better, although many of those were only slight variants. Looking at these actual numbers in the Schedules, in most cases, still left one with no idea they were looking for the concept metaphor.

Now, I am well aware that metaphor would (should) show up in many places in the DDC Schedules based on the way DDC is constructed. But there is practically no explicit mention of it anywhere.

While it may be possible that we could have natural language without metaphor, it would certainly not resemble anything humans know as language for the last 2 millennia or more. Nor is classification even possible without metaphor.

Yes, my claim as to the, or even a, fundamental flaw may be a tad strong, but I still find this immensely disturbing.

Another disturbing thing I noticed today was the wholehearted amoral stance DDC takes on occasion. For instance, see this sequence:

304.6 Population
304.66 Demographic effects of population control efforts
304.663 Genocide (Class here ethnic cleansing)

On what level exactly is genocide a population control effort? (except in a very euphemistic sense)

Of course, there are 1000s more of these sorts of things that are amiss, along many dimensions.

Some days and for some items DDC and LCSH work just fine. But on other occasions the utter failure of being able to adequately express a topic in one or the other (or both) is incomprehensible and frustrating.

I do love cataloging and classification. I just wish we had some better tools, much better rules, and systems that took advantage of the work we do and did amazing things to present our resources to our users after they had (reasonably) easily found them.