… and number one is fleshing out these dreams of mine.

Atlanta’s a distant memory
Montgomery a recent blur
and Tulsa burns on the desert floor
like a signal fire

I got Willie on the radio
a dozen things on my mind
and number one is fleshing out
these dreams of mine

Cowboy Junkies — 200 More Miles

A little over a week ago I wrote to a handful of those I consider myself close to to tell them of a recent decision of mine. It was quite gratifying and reaffirming to hear back from many of them over the next couple of days, and by a half dozen of them within an hour of sending them my message! My friends are amazing!

Those locally I have been trying to catch up with personally, although I have missed a couple due to Spring Break happening this past week. [Sara, I’ve been looking for you.]

Perhaps, though, I should start at something like the beginning.

I have been at this university education thing for a very long time. For the last ten and a half years I have been at it mostly full-time. All the while I have been employed at least half-time and often more. There was a 3-year period, sort of in the middle, where I worked full-time and went to school half-time for the fun of it … and because the university paid for it, I was able to take classes with people I really cared to learn from, and it kept my loans in deferment.

I have actually been in and out of the higher ed classroom for far longer seeing as I entered Illinois State in 1998 with 118 hours of accepted transfer credit (90 of which I could apply) accumulated during my time in the Army.

Over those 10+ years of mostly full-time schooling I have “progressed” in the ways in which I deal with the joys and stresses of the classroom and, even more so, with the kinds of work students are expected to generate so that their learning can be codified and graded. It started out being fairly difficult and while it (the product) always remained difficult to produce the ways in which it is difficult changed such that at some point the process actually became quite easy such that producing products which demonstrated my learning was easy. Difficult work, but easy nonetheless [I hope that makes some sense].

I seem to be long past that point anymore. I have loved my time at GSLIS for many reasons, but for a long time now I have been increasingly unhappy with the process of higher education. I have often complained of the semester system—here on this blog and elsewhere—and especially lately have complained of the need come the end of the semester to produce something which an instructor can grade. Have not my efforts to learn, to challenge myself, my classmates and the instructor already been amply demonstrated throughout the semester?

Simply put. I am burnt out.

This was to be my final semester and I was going to end it with a 3rd Mother’s Day graduation. My only real task was to write my CAS paper and defend. After consultation with my advisor, GSLIS admin, and my employer I have decided to put myself on a non-academic “sabbatical.” That is, I am taking an incomplete and doing other things for a while.

I shall not go into all of the details of the thought process or situation but the only negative thing that can honestly be said is that I won’t be “done” in May. Theoretically, I need to finish before the start of next Spring semester.

I am still working my 2 assistantships at 60% time. Thus, I haven’t really freed up much time. I will still attend the seminar on subject access/analysis, although I have unfortunately not been attending Allen’s ontologies class for several weeks now [Remember, I am just sitting in on these classes].

I m still applying for jobs although I am seeing very few that are appealing or which I feel qualified for. There are many other sorts of jobs I would consider but the ones in those lines of work (terminologies) which show up in the places I am looking seem to mostly be massively corporate or government, mostly defense.

Yes, I am applying for jobs. I have had an MLS for almost 2 years now. While I would have preferred to be finished with my CAS before taking a job there is really no reason to do so. As far along as I am now will only require me to come back—if I leave—for one day to defend; everything else can be done electronically.

My goal is to focus my energies elsewhere for a while—large portions of my life have been on hold for most of these past 10 years. What little time I gain by not actively working every free moment on my paper will be easily filled. I already have a list of projects, some major, and I haven’t even had to put any effort into identifying them.

I have finally figured out a system for organizing all those photocopied or printed out articles, book chapters, etc. that will work for me for now and which is flexible enough to grow and change with me and my interests. Many of you probably can’t even begin to imagine the amount of paper I have in folders, folders in boxes, and so on. Let’s just say that it is a lot. So I am entering them into Zotero, frequently backing up Zotero, and physically organizing them. Will I ever get finished? Not likely, no. But if I can get most of the important and more recent ones organized I will be happy.

I’d also like to try and fix many of the broken links in this blog that exist due to the migration from Typepad to my own domain. I haven’t started on that yet and I have concerns about how it might affect people’s feeds but we’ll just have to see. I doubt I can or even want to fix every link but there are quite a few I do want fixed.

Most all of my books now reside in my apartment and not in storage anymore so I would like to get more of them into my LibraryThing catalog.

I also still need to find an email and a feed reader solution to my current woes.

There are, of course, a million other things I could add; some more pressing than others. Asking someone out on a date is near the top of the list. Unfortunately, I know of no prospects at the moment. But perhaps a little more engagement with the wider world will present one. 🙂

Lest you think my CAS paper has evaporated, I can assure you that it has not. My plan is to primarily focus on other things for a while, perhaps even through summer. I am in the process of reading two books directly related to my topic but I have put them to the side for a bit. I hope to pick those up soon and work through them a bit more slowly than I have been. Basically, I have been cramming things into my mind non-stop since last May when I more or less came to my topic. No time to think, no time to muse, and certainly nothing approaching slow reading.

A short five years ago I was able to read DeLillo’s White Noise once and then produce a 14-page analysis of the lived morality as presented in the novel which actually impressed one of the professor’s I most admire in the world. Part of that may be due to lots of exposure to thinking about morality—both academically and as experienced in daily life—over the years. But part of it is where I was in my progress of academic productivity [pretty much in top form at that point].

My CAS paper has taken me into a realm where I have little formal education and where much lay thinking is mistaken due to two millennia of Western culture and education. Thus, I have had to work extra hard trying to come to grips with what I want to “produce.” Now that it is time to do so my mind has rebelled.

At first, when I floated the idea of perhaps delaying this a bit it was lovingly suggested that I “just do it” and then I could relax and follow this more where I want to take it as I further develop my research agenda [something I can actually say I have now]. I had to concur that that would be lovely. But I left that meeting feeling quite apprehensive. A week later when I went back to re-discuss my options it was readily agreed that my current plan is what is needed and it was immediately supported.

There are many reasons why the wise woman who is my advisor agreed a week later after trying to nudge me forward a week earlier. The reasons are no doubt complex, but when I asked her why she knew now that this was the right decision I was told that, “You turn gray. Today you aren’t gray and thus I know this is the right decision.” And here I always thought it was simply metaphor.

the sky is grey
the sand is grey
and the ocean is grey

and i feel right at home
in this stunning monochrome
alone in my way

ani difranco — grey — reckoning

This past Thursday when I told this story to one of my best friends ever—and my boss during what was probably the worst couple years of my life—she just looked at me funny for a few seconds. And then she said, “Of course you do!”

I guess all I can say is, “Here’s to learning to radiate all the colors of the spectrum!”

My intention regarding my paper is to distract my mind for a bit, dabble some directly on topic (soon), dabble on the periphery, let the mind do its own thing on its own time in the background, have conversations with others which will force me to be able to say what I want, and to finally get on it “full-time” come the start of the fall semester with the goal of defending at the end of fall.

I have received an enormous amount of support and validation from my advisor, other profs, GSLIS admin, the folks I work with at the Library, and especially from my friends and family. This, more than anything else, means the world to me. Thank you.

Sometimes I see myself fine, sometimes I need a witness.
And I like the whole truth,
but there are nights I only need forgiveness.
Sometimes they say, “I don’t know who you are
but let me walk with you some.”
And I say, “I am alone, that’s all,
you can’t save me from all the wrong I’ve done,”
But they’re waiting just the same,
With their flashlights and their semaphores,
And I act like I have faith and like that faith never ends
But I really just have friends.

Dar Williams — My Friends — End of the Summer

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:

1.2.4.1 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.

Interests and the pursuit thereof

One of my co-workers is upset with me due to their perceiving a lack of interest on my part in their little corner of the world. This person’s little corner of the LIS world is even something which ought to be of interest to me since it is beginning to show up on more and more job descriptions.

The problem is that this is of interest to me. But the larger problem is someone else inferring my interest or not based on their perception of my overt actions. Please do not do this. Anyone. Do any of you readers assume that I’m not interested in anything I don’t write about here? [purely rhetorical]

As my “subtitle” says, I am a habitually probing generalist. There isn’t all that much that I am not interested in, at some point. I have never had, nor will I ever have, enough time to pursue everything of interest to me. I imagine many people are like this. But some of us are worse than others.

So, the way I say it, getting petulant with me because your feelings are hurt due to your perception on whether or not I am interested in your stuff is, at best, egotistical, and at worst, seriously disdainful of the amount of things I also do in the world and of the breadth of my interests. Even those in my own field and area/focus of interest are enough to fill my time while there is ever more to be actively interested in.

If you want to claim that I am currently actively interested in some thing over another, or even just observe that this is so (that inference still isn’t fully de-clawed), then fine. I am happy to justify my current business and why there is no overt time for our overlapping areas; I also feel no real need to do so either.

I have no time for petulancy. That is not one of my interests, active or otherwise.

Harris and Hjorland administrivia

Harris

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. ;))

Hjørland

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.

“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.

Amusing book titles

Long ago in another library far, far away . . .

OK, only several years ago and an hour away . . . I swore I was going to compile a list of all the humorous, insane, non-PC, and otherwise entertaining book titles that I came across handling hundreds of books every day in Circulation and Reserves. Unfortunately, I never did so which means some real doozies have escaped from the steel jaws of my sieve-like mind. 🙁

But today when I was checking a call no. for uniqueness before assigning it to the book in hand I found this lovely gem, complete with exquisitely humorous LCSHs, too:

Ethics of spying: a reader for the intelligence professional.

  • Spies–Professional ethics
  • Espionage–Moral and ethical aspects

These are not the order of the headings in the record, nor is it all of them. It is just the order in which I find them the most humorous. The others are just derivative or simply not funny:

  • Espionage, American–Moral and ethical aspects
  • Intelligence service–blah, blah (x2)
  • Political ethics–United States
  • Military interrogation–United States–Moral and ethical aspects

See what I mean? Those last two not so funny.

Nonetheless, thanks to recent additions, such as Dildos and Strap-on sex (both of which may be subdivided Geographically) [see Jessamyn and Thingology], and now stumbling across Spies–Professional ethics, LC is certainly making life far more interesting.

Hehehe. Jessamyn makes a funny about “authorities” and strap-on sex in her post title. I think one could do the same with Dildos and Strap-on sex and Thingology. You blew it, Tim. Oops, wrong metaphor perhaps. 😉

Personally, I can’t wait to be able to use this new one from the same list:

Period (Punctuation) [May Subd Geog]

Story, or not story

[Disclaimer: I do not mean to offend anyone’s personal views. My only aim here is to share a love of word play with others who may also appreciate it.]

Earlier this week I did the copy cataloging to enter this book into our library. I found the juxtaposition of the the title and the subject heading quite humorous.

Murphy, Francesca Aran. God is Not a Story: Realism Revisited.
LCSH: Narrative theology.

Truth be told, the book looks highly interesting to a heretic such as me, and the subject clearly matches the title because the book is (based on my reading a fair amount of the intro) a reaction to a “side-effect” of narrative theology, which argues that

the Church’s use of the Bible should focus on a narrative presentation of the faith, rather than on the exclusive development of a systematic theology.

The intro to the book explains it better than the Wikipedia article, but it seems that (and it makes sense that) a side-effect of focusing on story is that the view, intentional or otherwise, that ‘God is story’ arises. That’s is in the existential sense. Does seem to be a distinct possibility.

Anyway, based on my reading of Auerbach’s Mimesis I imagine that if I was a theologian I would be highly drawn to narrative theology. It is the story of the Bible that is important. But Murphy’s objection is easy enough to see as a definite issue within narrative theology.

Nonetheless, heathen word play lover that I am, God is Not a Story == Narrative theology cracks me up.