Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Becoming familiar with important names and works in biology

Sometime soon, I need to start weeding my area, biology. I'm better off than some, in that I know a bit about biology, but I could still use a refresher on the important names and works in the field. I figured I could take a look at a book on the history of biology and make a list that can help me avoid weeding important older works. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place, but I think all our books on the history of biology have been written before 1982. Granted, "history" means it's already happened and the events and people aren't going anywhere, but interpretations of those events and people can change over time. Also, I'm sure that things worthy of being in a history of biology have happened in the past twenty or thirty years.

Anyway, I grabbed something that looked particularly full of names and titles - it was written in 1964...

Thursday, December 17, 2009


This may be a re-use, or maybe just a mistake, but here's an amusing example:

ISBN: 9780823418657

Used on the records for
  1. The picture book Pizza for the queen by Nancy Castaldo, illustrated by Melisande Potter
  2. The government document Aviation security : next steps : field hearing before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate, One Hundred Seventh Congress, first session, December 10, 2001

We have the first in our collection, but not the second.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Off and on kitchen luck

For some reason, I keep thinking our holiday party is on Friday. No, bad brain, it's Thursday. My plan is to bring some Parmesan herb muffins. They're yummy, but, with my luck lately, I may well burn them. This past weekend, I made potato soup, carrot soup, oatmeal rolls, and garlic cheese rolls. The oatmeal rolls were burned so dark they looked like rye bread (they're just barely edible), and the potato soup was crunchy when I tried my first bowl. I managed to fix the potato soup, for the most part, but the rolls will just have to be soaked in soup. At least the garlic cheese rolls and carrot soup turned out fine. Here's hoping that the Parmesan herb muffins will too!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The most horrific children's book ever

I just did a quick search to see if we have Don't make me go back, Mommy : a child's book about ritual abuse. We don't. The scanned pages are horrific (particularly in the "part 2" post). I wonder how many people have actually read that book to their children? Are there really parents who worry that someone may be trying to perform satanic rituals on their children and who therefore feel that their children must know what kinds of behaviors to report?

Known issues

In my office, taped to the TV stand, is a list of what could probably be called known issues or, I should say, issues known to me. I have no way of knowing if anyone else knows they exist or, more importantly, knows their implications for searching our catalog. I've debated whether and how to get the word out. On the one hand, it would be helpful for reference librarians to know that, say, the first series title in our MARC records is probably not the one they should be clicking on, regardless of the fact that it is clickable. On the other hand, some of these problems, like the series title link problem, don't necessarily look like problems. Maybe people are happier not knowing, so they don't have to put up with my attempts to explain what's going on and why it's a problem in a non-jargony way (which I'm not always successful at doing...)?

Explaining in person, one on one, as someone talks to me about a time they had problems with a search that was caused by a problem I know about, seems to work ok. I'm not so sure about group explanations. So, what I'm thinking of doing is turning the "Catalog Records" page in our wiki into a sort of "known issues" page. If the issue comes up, I can point to the page, which I will try to make sure includes "what to do about it" sections for each problem. That doesn't necessarily help much with the problems that don't look like problems, but one step at a time, I guess. I'll just have to make sure that I update the page as the problems get fixed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Something that works!

I got to try out my "new" cataloging procedures on more than one or two books today. I started on a stack of picture books and decided that, since they were ordered after the cut-off point (I think Jodee changed things on her end sometime in August), I should be able to test things out on them. The test worked great, with the only issues being little things. Trust me, I'm thrilled. I can't wait until I get to the point where I can use these new procedures on nearly everything. The fewer windows I have to toggle between, and the fewer searches I have to duplicate, the better.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

You say APA, I say Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

A while back, it occurred to me that it might be nice if it were possible to find the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association in our catalog by searching for "APA." I remembered that thought today while taking care of our little booklet of corrections to the 6th edition. I made a few changes (none of which I would ever dare do to the master records in WorldCat), and now the search that I thought would be nice is possible. And, because I can do nothing without creating more work for myself, I have to figure out if we really do still have a 1983 edition of this work, or if that record should have been deleted ages ago...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cute Overload

I just rediscovered Cute Overload. It's great for those times when you need a quick pick-me-up. If a specific kind of animal really makes you go "aww," I recommend scrolling down until you get to the tags on the left side. I tend to like the "pocket pets" pics, but I'll certainly take cuteness of any sort. Today's cuteness is an itty bitty baby hedgehog. Personally, I'd be afraid to touch it - I figure I'd either stab myself or hurt it.

MARC --> OPAC = ?

One thing that never came up during the cataloging courses I took, but should have, was that the fields in MARC records may mean certain things to the cataloger who's entering and editing them, but that doesn't mean they're understood and put to use in the same way by the OPAC. I got a reminder of that today.

I had assumed that the language dropdown menu in our advanced search limited searches to the actual language of the items (in my cataloger's brain, I thought it limited searches to whatever language was listed in field 008 positions 35-37). That would still make multi-lingual materials problematic, but it's better than nothing, right? However, I didn't realize that the dropdown was just drawing from all languages associated with the items. That means that, if you selected German as the language, you'd not only get materials in German, you'd get materials in other languages that are translations of things originally in German. Not exactly ideal if what you want to find is a book in whatever language you're interested in. Not everybody wants translations.

Ideally, there should be a way to limit a search by the language of the actual item and, separately, by the language of the original work. (Which is a simplification, because MARC records also include things like "language of subtitles," "language of librettos", etc.) Instead, I think we've just got an either/or situation with our ILS. Right now, "language" in our advanced search is defined in a very broad way, and, if we narrowed that definition (if that's even possible) by changing our settings, we'd lose the ability to find, say, a book that was originally in German by choosing German from the dropdown.

I figured out a way around "too broad" problem by using a report in WorkFlows ("List entries from catalog", searching for the correct language code in 008, and limiting by call number, library, etc. if desired), but this workaround is clunky. Also as far as I know, there is no way for the average user (or staff members or librarians without WorkFlows access and knowledge of MARC) to find only materials in specific languages. I'll have to think it over and see if I can come up with anything. It'd be interesting to see what others assume the language dropdown is supposed to do - it's possible that our settings could use some tweaking, even if that means losing the ability to find "translations of works originally in X language."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Super secret cataloger knowledge

There are times at the ref desk when I feel like I'm not the best person to answer someone's question, although I still do the best I can (and send a cry of help to Cathy W., Yvonne, etc. if I really can't manage). Sometimes, however, I know I'm one of the best possible people to answer some questions. I just had a moment like that. A person wanted to know why she'd gotten an item she asked for just a couple days ago when she'd been told a week or two ago that we didn't have it. It turns out the item was something I'd cataloged only a couple days ago. Very nifty.

And now I'll get back to loading records and answering questions...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New anime, yay!

I just got The Twelve Kingdoms in the mail - very exciting, even though I still have When They Cry waiting to be watched. At least I've already finished The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (great first few episodes, but nothing got resolved and the ending wasn't satisfying in the least). My NaNoWriMo writing seems to have ground to a complete halt, by the way. I think it would probably take a miracle for me to write enough to get to 50K, although I read a particularly inspirational email from another NaNoWriMo participant today that may at least get me to squeeze out another few thousand words.

OCLC article in Radical Cataloging

I'm reading a book called Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front edited by K.R. Roberto. It's readable enough that I think even non-catalogers could get something out of it without necessarily having to consult dusty old notes from their Intro to Cataloging class.

I just finished reading Jeffrey Beall's contribution, "OCLC: A Review." It's a very critical look at OCLC, its products, its practices, etc. There are some things in the article that I agree with, and there are some criticisms of OCLC that have been made on AUTOCAT that I agree with that aren't mentioned in this article (OCLC's attempted and much-protested Record Use Policy came up, and died, after this book was published - it would have been perfect fodder for this article).

So, here's my brief critical paragraph. Criticisms of WorldCat's attempts at FRBRization are ignored or dismissed as being the complaints of too few for OCLC to take serious notice (see Lorcan Dempsey's blog post - I'm surprised there aren't more comments, particularly from people who have noticed serious problems in the way music materials are FRBRized). Like Beall, I, too, hate it when Connexion (OCLC cataloging software) goes down, although I'm not as crippled by that at DSL as I was at my previous library - at my previous library, pretty much all I could do during the downtime was clean my desk and twiddle my thumbs. I think OCLC pricing it outrageous, particularly when products like WorldCat depend upon catalogers at member libraries to edit and add records. True, OCLC has catalogers, too, (I interviewed for a job with them, and have even met some of those catalogers in person) but I doubt WorldCat would be worth anything if most of OCLC's customers decided they could no longer afford its services and left. I hate that OCLC has a monopoly as a bibliographic utility for cataloging (SkyRiver may change that, but I imagine it faces an uphill battle).

Beall's article bashes OCLC, and it's true that OCLC isn't all sunshine and flowers. However, it's not completely evil either.
  1. They at least communicate with their customers more than some companies do (Janie would know which company I'm thinking of...).
  2. Beall is extremely critical of Connexion, and one statement I found particularly interesting was "Libraries choose instead to download the records directly into their online catalog and fix up the records there, where the editing process is easier and generally quicker" (p. 88). This statement wasn't made in the Connexion section (it was in a section commenting about the horrible quality records with which WorldCat is riddled, aka the dreaded Level 3 records), but, lacking an explanation for what is meant by "easier and generally quicker," I can only assume that it's a criticism of Connexion. I'm unfamiliar with the bibliographic record editing capabilities of most ILSs, but the capabilities of our ILS are dismal. Say what you like about Connexion, I can edit a record far more quickly with it than with our ILS, and the results are generally less likely to have errors. Connexion gives me the ability to use macros (I don't have the skills to create a macro more complicated than the one that adds my 949 field at the end of my records, but several talented people have made their wonderful macros available to the OCLC cataloging community, for which I am very grateful), it has spell check, it has record validation, and I can use my keyboard to do most of my record editing. Our ILS has no macro capabilities, no spell check, no record validation (not entirely true, but what it does have is almost worthless for my purposes), and I'm forced to use my mouse to even add a new field to the record.
  3. Connexion has batch processing options which save me lots of time. In the past few days, I've done work using Connexion's batch searching and processing that would have taken me years to do one at a time.
I could probably come up with more (and I'm only looking at this from a cataloger's perspective), but it's late and I'm tired. Basically, yes, there are lots of things one can criticize OCLC for, but I'd still be sad if we could no longer afford their services. If I had better alternative options for single-record editing (as opposed to batch record editing, which MarcEdit accomplishes nicely) and record-finding (the Library of Congress would probably be a great alternative source for most of our book records, but cataloging music, audiobooks, and DVDs would get a lot harder if I couldn't access OCLC's pool of records), I'd be a lot less sad.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NaNoWriMo update

I'm still over 1000 words behind, but, when you consider that I was over 6000 words behind on Friday, that's not really so bad. It turns out that zombies are my cure for writer's block - without actually having a prior plan for them, I introduced zombies into my story on Saturday and managed to write almost 7000 words. Unfortunately, my characters have gone back to boring me. I think I may have to introduce yet another zombie attack soon, or I'll fall even farther behind.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cataloger humor: Library of Congress Subject Headings

It's only day two, and I'm already procrastinating on my NaNoWriMo writing. Bad, bad...

Anyway, here's a collection of LCSH-related humor.
  • Arguments and insults using LCSH - Tim Spalding writes about using LCSH to continue an argument about a librarian tour to Cuba and then comes up with a few ways one could insult someone with LCSH. Don't forget to look at the comments - some very creative insults can be found there.
  • LCSH, wild and wacky - Here you can see just a few odd subject headings. Unfortunately, the wiki mentioned at the bottom doesn't appear to exist anymore. I saw it a few months ago, and it looked like a lot of fun. Maybe someone will start it up again.
  • Strange things learned in cataloging class - This isn't entirely about subject headings, but I wanted to include it anyway.
  • Name That Book - Guess which classic/well-known works of literature these subject headings describe. This also shows why I don't really like LCSH in records for fiction. I'm more likely to enter a short plot summary or publisher description for a work of fiction than to agonize over its subject headings.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

November is National Novel Writing Month

Have you heard about National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo? I've done it for two or three years and plan to do it again this year.

So, for those who don't know, what is NaNoWriMo? During the month of November (until midnight, November 30th - participants may need every last hour they can squeeze out of the month), the goal for each participant is to write a 175-page (50,000 word) novel. Have you ever tried to write something and found yourself stalled, worried about whether it was any good or whether anyone would actually like it? Have no fear, because NaNoWriMo is all about quantity, not quality. If you don't want to share what you've written, you don't have to. No one has to know that what you've written is awful, mind-numbing garbage. I have to say, that's kind of liberating.

Of course, even with that kind of freedom, NaNoWriMo still isn't easy. It's hard to overcome the inner critic. It's hard to make yourself type that much when you're tired, can't figure out what you're going to write next, or just don't want to type after spending your day at a computer doing homework, work, or whatever else. It gets really, really easy to say, "Sure, I'm so-and-so many words behind on my NaNoWriMo writing, but I'll get caught up." Trust me, that turns into, "I'm so far behind, I'll never get caught up - I might as well watch this YouTube video of a cat walking on a piano."

I've participated in NaNoWriMo several times, but not once have I written 50,000 words by the end of the month. So far, the best I've managed to do is 12,000. However, I'll try again. My mantra will be, "it's ok for my writing to suck." Maybe I'll write that on a post-it note and stick it somewhere near my laptop.

Some NaNoWriMo participants make this month a really social thing. They'll form a regional group, meet for writing sessions if they can, encourage each other via email. There are general NaNoWriMo encouragement emails at least once a week. One year (maybe all years, but I only really paid attention to the emails one year), these emails were written by well-known authors - I think I may still have Neil Gaiman's encouragement email saved somewhere. Although I read the emails, I never really got into the whole "region" thing. Maybe that would help, though. I signed into my account (which needed updating - Colorado Springs was still listed as my region) - it looks like the best I can do as far as regions go is the Dallas/Forth Worth one. It has 2,012 members right now.

Sometimes getting a few more words written can take help. As I've mentioned, some people get involved with the regional groups. Here's what I'll be looking into for sure:
  • Tea - I guzzle herbal tea when I'm at home on the computer writing for hours at a time. This habit started when I was in grad school. Writing papers always gave me the munchies, and I didn't have the money to snack continuously (plus, walking is, and always has been, my only form of exercise). Lacking the funds for lots of chips, cookies, and whatever else, I bought tea samplers. A box of tea takes longer for me to get through than a box of cookies.
  • Music - I am an enormous nerd. My favorite online radio station is Radio, which mostly plays J-Pop, J-Rock, and anime music. Even though I know only a handful of Japanese words, I have listened to this radio station so much that I can sing along with some of the songs. Scary, huh? This year, I think I may also give the offerings of Classical Music Library a try, once I'm able to access it off-campus (there seem to be some problems with that right now). I don't know much about classical music, so it's hard for me to think of composers or styles of music I might like, but that's where Classical Music Library's themed playlists come in handy. Today I tried "Music to Write To" (or "Music To Write With", can't remember right now) during work and really liked it.
  • Books about writing - DSL has lots of those. For starters, try the subject headings "Fiction--Technique", "Writer's block", and "Creative writing" (that one's good in a subject browse search, since there are lots of useful subdivisions, although subject keyword is good too and only a little daunting). I may have to lay off these, though - they tend to encourage me to procrastinate. Plus, these books get me to thinking about how awful my writing is, and then I start to freeze up. Not good. But I may at least try Writer's block busters [PN171 .W74 H68 2008 - still In Process, so it would need to be rushed] or something similar.
  • Fruits Basket as background noise - Fruits Basket, which started out as a manga series and was made into an anime, is a comfort series for me. I had it on in the background when I was a stressed-out undergrad working on my thesis. I always took a break to watch the episode where Shigure tried to avoid his long-suffering editor and made the poor woman think his manuscript wasn't finished yet.
Since I can't even keep up a once-a-week schedule with my book blog, I don't know how well NaNoWriMo will go this year, but I'll try.

The "teachable moment"

"Every time we teach someone about a resource, an angel gets its wings."
-- Dewey, on reference librarians and the "teachable moment," Unshelved, 10/28/09

I don't often have to answer real reference questions at the reference desk, but, when I do, I usually try to remember to explain what I'm doing and why as I try to answer those questions (although that may not be an option on the really, really busy days...). For the most part, I figure that if I tried to cram all our services down our users' throats whenever they came near me, they'd probably try to run away like the poor patron in Unshelved. Still, I can't help but get excited when someone actually seems to be interested about learning something and hearing more about what we have to offer.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another animal sighting

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, a hawk landed on my porch. I saw it through my window - I was maybe 2 feet away from it, which was more awesome than scary, since there was a window between me and the hawk. I got to look it right in the eye, think "I wish I had my camera right this second", and see it fly off. Even if I had had my camera, I wouldn't have been able to take a picture fast enough. I'd need a camera installed in my eyeballs. By the way, raptor's eyes are creepy. I don't think I've ever been looked at that intently before.

A few minutes later, I looked out the window again and saw a squirrel sprawled on one of the steps up to the second floor of my building. I had previously thought that maybe the hawk had swooped down for something and missed, landing on my porch, but then I thought that maybe it had dropped the squirrel and tried to go after it again. I was a little bit freaked out by the idea of having to enter and leave my apartment with a dead squirrel staring at me, but it seems the squirrel was either an unrelated animal sighting or just stunned. When I left for work, it was already gone.

Big Kitty is gone

I'm writing this post, wondering if Big Kitty will prove me wrong. "Big Kitty" was the not-quite-a-name I gave the cat I mentioned in this post. When I came back from the conference, Big Kitty wasn't there. I put some cat food outside, figuring he might have gone off somewhere to mooch off of someone else, and the food was still there in the morning. The food was still there when I finished grocery shopping and when I went to bed. It was gone by this morning, but I figure Narrow Kitty (my not-quite-a-name for the skittish stray cat that occasionally tried to steal food from Big Kitty) was responsible for that.

So, it's been two days, and I still haven't seen Big Kitty. I suppose I should be happy about that, since I'll no longer have to worry about him when it's cold and/or rainy outside, but it makes me feel kind of teary-eyed. He'd gotten in the habit of escorting me to and from the laundry room and mailbox area. Now it feels weird going without him. I miss him, and I hope that the reason he's gone is because someone took him in and finally gave him a home.

I really should move somewhere that will let me at least have a cat, but the idea of moving is too exhausting. Rats are nice, but there's something to be said for a pet that lives longer and can join you when you're doing something in another room. I also miss sleeping with a pet curled up at my side. If I fall asleep while my rats are out, I risk having one of them test me as a possible food source, chew holes into my clothing, and try to push me off of the bed (usually Bear does this - he hates it when I fall asleep and stop paying attention to him).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Not for those with arachnophobia

Isn't this spider horrific-looking? Its abdomen is only 3 or 4 mm wide, so it's not big, but it still makes me shudder. It lives in my apartment, behind my front door. It usually hides right by the door frame.

Unless I shine a flashlight on it (or use my camera's flash), it looks dark brown or black, and its markings aren't very visible. Its shape made me think, at first, that it was a black widow spider, but I eventually realized the coloring was wrong.

Anyway, I posted pictures of the spider on BugGuide (an extremely awesome resource, although not something I'd recommend as an authoritative source - if you really want to scare yourself, do a search for Granbury). The general response was that it's probably Steatoda triangulosa. S. triangulosa is nifty, in that, from what I've read about it, it eats things like fire ants and brown recluses. However, I will probably either kill or remove it in a few days. I was told that it's a female, and I don't want to risk an egg sac in my apartment. Also, even though I haven't ever seen it move from its tiny space behind my front door, I'll be sleeping in my living room while my mom is visiting, and I'm not sure I can sleep peacefully knowing that a spider is only a few feet away from me.

If I'm going to have "natural pest control", I'd rather that the gecko living in my dining room window either invited a few friends over or had babies.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Searching with wildcards

I wish it were easier to find out the wildcards that can be used in the library's catalog. For future reference (mine or someone else's), ? can substitute for a single character (the example in the OPAC help info, if you can manage to find it, is wom?n, which will find instances of "woman", "women" or, not mentioned on the help page, "womyn"), while $ is used for truncation (educat$ finds "education", "educate", "educates", "educating", etc.). I don't often use substitution, but I love truncation. According to the help page, you can also add a number after $ to limit the number of characters matched. I've never done this before, but it has great potential if you're searching for variations of a very short word.

A day or two ago, a student who had been conducting individual searches with every variation of words beginning with "educat" was very grateful when I showed him how to use $ in our catalog. Of course, then we moved on to Academic Search Complete, where truncation is accomplished with an asterisk. I tried to show him how I was able to find out which symbol is used for truncation, but I have to say, although I, personally, had an easier time with EBSCO's help pages than with our catalog's help pages, it can still be a little daunting.

Web of Knowledge includes, at the bottom of its search fields, examples that use asterisks, which is what it uses for truncation, but there's nothing near those examples that explains what the asterisks do. So, while I applaud them for trying not to bury their truncation information in their help pages, they're effectively still burying the information in their help pages. Just like everyone else.

Is there a database/catalog/etc. out there that communicates wildcard information in an easy-to-understand, easy-to-find, non-daunting way?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

LCSH for "Cookery" being changed to "Cooking"

The change hasn't happened yet, but apparently a lot of cooking and cookbook subject headings will be changed in the near future or are still being considered for change: see the PDF on this.

The problem, as far as our local catalog goes, is that I am still performing all authority work manually. I could potentially make cooking and cookbook subject headings a special project for myself, but it would only be one of many special projects I've currently got going. Even if I made it a special project and, by hand, exported former "cookery" subject headings from OCLC and imported them into WorkFlows, there's still no guarantee I'd get everything (I'm still finding headings using the older "Vietnam Conflict", and I'm sure we've got more with "European War" instead of "World War", etc.). Plus, we have an unknown number of records with headings that, for some reason, aren't properly linked to their corresponding authority records - these would need to be "flipped" by hand.

This isn't really just a cookery/cooking problem - it's a general, "doing authority work completely by hand" problem. At this point, the best I can do is load new authority records, overlay any that have changed when a new bibliographic record brings those changes to my attention, and load records for unauthorized headings when I have time. I'd love to be able to go through the Library of Congress Weekly Lists and update an of our authority records that have been changed (or split, or merged, or deleted), but, at this point, that's just a nice dream.

Oh, and since this post deals with authority records, I'll just mention that from the beginning of June to today, the end of September, I've loaded 4,102 new authority records. We have a total of 243,981 authority records, period. Of these, 27,811 are provisional (in our system, that means that they're machine-generated and therefore contain nothing beyond the "authorized" form of the name or subject heading and the title of the work that was used to generate the record). A couple hundred thousand authority records may sound like a lot, but we still need many more. I'm working on it. I'm also working on overlaying as many of those provisional authority records as I can.

Ah, authority work, my eternal project...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Classification of video recordings

Every time I catalog DVDs/VHS tapes, I learn something new, since this isn't a format I normally work with. For instance, I've learned a lot about how other libraries handle classification of fiction DVDs and videos. One of these days, especially if there are signs that our DVD collection will be growing significantly, it'd be nice to go over our DVD collection and reclassify anything that needs it (I could include our VHS collection, but I'm betting our DVD collection will be around longer).

I'm currently trying to be good about recording any classification decisions I've made, in the hopes that future classification efforts can be more consistent that they have been. Some things have been classified very oddly over the years, or there have been misunderstandings about the correct way to apply LC's classification schedule (understandable, since LC classification works best for non-fiction).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Awful Library Books - a blog that encourages weeding

I found out about this particular blog a while ago (but still after Yvonne) - Awful Library Books is hilarious and embarrassing at the same time.

It's hilarious because the books that they blog about are so bad (or so strange). It's embarrassing, and should be for any librarian, because these books are all signs that some library's collection is in desperate need of weeding.

The blog focuses mainly on public libraries, but academic library collections need weeding too. Yes, academic libraries should sometimes keep certain older books, perhaps for their historical value or because they are important in their field. It's not possible or advisable to keep everything, however. If the university has no courses that cover the historical aspects of certain topics (such as plant biotechnology, for instance), why keep books whose only current value is historical? There are lots of subjects that tend not to age well if you're not interested in their historical aspects - anything with technology, medicine, science, etc.

I'm not sure this gets mentioned a lot when the benefits of weeding are discussed, but, as a cataloger, I like the idea of large weeding projects, because that usually means lots of old, maintenance-needing records will be removed. I like catalog maintenance, but I like it even more when I know that the records I'm maintaining represent materials people would actually want to use.

Anime online, from FUNimation

I absolutely love that FUNimation is showing free episodes of certain series - sometimes an entire series is available for viewing online. It's now possible to legally try out a series and see if it's worth buying. Yay!

Currently on my list to be watched, whenever I can scrape together the time and willpower:
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - I've watched a little so far, and it's not bad, but the original series and manga are more coherent.
  • Baccano - Watched the first episode so far and it was good, but violent.
  • Basilisk - The website for this show has, if I remember right, a list of death scenes, so I imagine this one is violent, maybe more than I'd like. Yet another reason to try it out, so I know if it's really something to add to my "buy it" list.
  • Big Windup - Baseball and teamwork. Sounds like a feel good series.
  • Darker Than Black - I didn't realize FUNimation had made this one available online! Yes!
  • Desert Punk - My dad may like this one more than me - the jokes seem very guy-oriented.
  • Devil May Cry - I've seen artwork for this, and it looked good, but I don't know about the show itself.
  • Ergo Proxy - I've been on the fence about this show for ages.
  • Gunslinger Girl - Will this show depress me too badly? I guess I'll find out.
  • Hell Girl - Is this show "weirdness of the week" or is there more to it?
  • Jyu-Oh-Sei - I can't remember what I've heard about this one, but I remember thinking I should check it out...
  • Murder Princess - I almost got this one at Hastings because the series is really cheap, but is it actually worth it?
  • Nabari No Ou - The clips I've seen look awesome, and I have a soft spot for shows with ninjas.
  • Sgt. Frog - Sgt. Frog is now an anime?! When did that happen?
  • Soul Eater - FUNimation is putting out Soul Eater?! Oh, I've wanted to see that one for ages!
  • Welcome to the NHK - I found out about this when I was trying to put together read-alikes/watch-alikes for Train Man.

Sick brat (er, rat...)

Yesterday was day 2 of giving my rattie boy Bear medicine on my own. As usual, hardly any of it got inside him, or even on him. I'll just have to hope that he's getting enough to help him feel better.

Yesterday morning, Bear had me all worried, because he didn't eat when I fed him and his brother. He wouldn't lick me either (sometimes he reminds me of a little dog, he likes licking my hands so much). He didn't look listless, and he didn't look any worse when I came home that day, but he still barely ate and there was so little water missing from the water bottle that I'm guessing Bear didn't really drink from it that day.

I fed them again before I went to bed (I divide feeding time up, because when they were younger they'd overeat if I gave it all at once). Only a few minutes after I turned out the light, I heard somebody munching away. It was Bear, the little brat. I think he was just sulking about being given the medicine, because he ate like usual this morning.

What a relief, but argh. Pets can make you crazy sometimes.

Yet another stray cat in need of a home

I'd love to find a home for this guy (girl? I'm not actually sure...). This kitty is a sweetheart and, as far as I can tell, has no actual street smarts, despite that ear notch.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Interactive Dan Brown Sequel Generator

Dan Brown's next book, according to The Interactive Dan Brown Sequel Generator and my selections:

The Invisible Temple -- An ancient code in the monuments of Dallas. A ruthless cult determined to protect it. A desperate race to uncover the Boy Scouts of America's darkest secret.

Wow, I had no idea there even was a secret branch of the Boy Scouts of America...

Seriously, try this out, it's worth some laughs. I used to have a collection of links to various generators, but I left all that behind when I last got a new computer...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More on the Google Book Settlement

Is the Google Book Settlement Dead? - Just saw this blog post. Considering all of the "Google Books is leaving/is going to leave libraries in its dust" stuff I've been reading lately, this made for interesting reading. I recommend reading Marybeth Peters's entire testimony, which can be found here. The testimony is far more readable than I expected and clearly highlights several concerns about the settlement.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

RSS feeds for electronic journals

I don't know if this is something that would necessarily interest our undergraduates too much, but I love it and I think our faculty, at least, would find it useful (if they don't mind RSS feeds in general).

I'm subscribed to several feeds for blogs about cataloging, FRBR, LibraryThing, and more, but I hadn't thought about RSS feeds for journals. While looking up an article in Technical Services Quarterly, which we have access to through Informaworld, I discovered that I could subscribe to an RSS feed for that particular journal. It's not hard to unsubscribe to a feed if I don't like it, so I decided to try it, and I love it! When a new issue of the journal becomes available, I get emails corresponding to each article in that journal (as well as reviews or other things the journal contains). The emails aren't very informative - all I get is the title and author of the article, no abstracts (although this may differ from publication to publication) - but it's still better than trying to remind myself to check and see if anything new has come out and if I want to read it. Plus, this way, if there's nothing I want to read, I don't have to sit and wait for Informaworld to load - I just delete the emails and forget about it.

I haven't looked to see if other electronic journals I should be keeping up with also have RSS feeds, but I will. I'm sure Informaworld isn't the only one doing this sort of thing. It's a nifty way for professionals to keep current.

I ♥ RSS feeds.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

John Adams, prolific writer of erotic fiction and children's stories

This came up recently in some AUTOCAT posts, in a discussion about retaining or deleting relator terms and/or codes in records. Back when our Validate Headings Wizard was much more sensitive, I used to delete all relator codes and terms, because they made it impossible to properly validate name headings that had them. Now, I retain them - who knows, we might one day actually be able to make use of them in the way that WorldCat Identities does.

Of course, even WorldCat Identities can give out garbled results when it only has garbled data to work with, as can be seen in that example from AUTOCAT. John Adams, an active writer from 1651 to 2008, is rarely written about although he himself is a prolific writer of such varied works as erotic fiction and children's stories. He is a businessman, mayor, and legislator, as well as a performer, conductor, speaker, and more. Truly, this is a renaissance man. Or maybe vampire.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Google's Book Search

"Google's Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars" by Geoffrey Nunberg

As a cataloger, I find this article darkly amusing. It's an example of why good metadata can't (yet) be created quickly and automatically. Too many errors crop up, and bad metadata is as bad, or worse, than no metadata at all. If your metadata is bad, you just spent time and money creating something that is almost unusable the way it was intended to be used. As painful as it may be, it still takes time and the work of someone (often many someones) who knows what they are doing to produce really good, really worthwhile results.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Work-time listening: Digital music

Sometimes I listen to audiobooks, online radio, or webcasts. For the past couple weeks, I've been listening to the digital music we recently provided access to through our OPAC (although we've had access to it via our databases page for some time now - it's all from Classical Music Library). Last week it was Chopin - The complete Chopin piano works, which brought to my attention the difficulty of getting exactly what you want when all the links look the same. Every one of those links on that record takes you to a different volume, although the only way someone using the OPAC would know that is if they clicked on each of the links (like I did - I listened my way through the whole thing) or changed the display to "Unformatted display: Yes" (which makes the links disappear, by the way, so there'd be the added annoyance of copying and pasting the URL in order to get to the page). If I had realized how this was going to display, I would've added "do something about the subfield 3's" to the list of changes we decided to make to the records. Maybe there's still something we can do about that, though. I'll have to look into that. Maybe the subfield 3 info can be made to display. I wonder if other libraries display their subfield 3 information...?

Anyway, this week's listening fun is Brahms - The complete piano variation so Johannes Brahms. I like piano music.

If you want to do a search in the catalog just for our digital music, go to the Power Search screen (advanced search) and selected "Digital Music" under "Type." I know Tracy loaded something like 400 records, and many of them have more than one link in them, so that's a lot of music.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Catalogers make things findable by non-psychics

Wow, it's been a while since I've written a post.

Anyway, I recently got a reminder of why catalogers are so concerned about making sure library holdings are attached to records that accurately reflect the titles the library holds. It seems like a no-brainer, but, sometimes, when there's lots to do, it's very tempting to take the easy way out and just put everything on one record. The problem is, if you're not careful, you've just made something impossible to find by anyone but a psychic.

I'm not a psychic. Most of the library's users aren't psychics. With today's example, the best I could do was find something that might be what the person wanted and then hope that I was right or that whatever it is the person really wanted was somewhere nearby. I got lucky, and the information the person really wanted was only a few books away from the possibly useful one I pointed her to. The thing that baffled me was that the title of the book she pulled off the shelf should have made it incredibly easy to find. I later found out that these items had been added to the record of a related title. I've since done a "band-aid" solution that will take care of the problem for now (I love the 246 and 740 fields!), but it's been added to my list of things that need fixing. Still, I can't help but wonder how many other things like this there are out there. Unfortunately, I won't know about them unless I either stumble upon them or someone else tells me about them.

Oh, and one last thing - I love talking to new students when I'm at the reference desk and things are fairly quiet. Today I got to talk about all the great things we've got (books that support research and courses are obvious, but not everyone knows we have audiobooks, popular fiction, CDs, DVDs, and more, with ILL available for anything we don't have) with a student who was actually interested. It made me so happy!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Literal downloads vs. spiritual ones

I cataloged an odd one today - The Power of Soul by Dr. Zhi Gang Sha. On the dust jacket it says "Soul Song For Rejuvenation Download Included." I took this to mean that there's an actual download that one can retrieve - since there's another release of this book that includes a CD, I figured the download would include the same "soul songs" as the CD. It turns out I take things too literally. Apparently, this is a spiritual download that is "preprogrammed" into the book, which will be "downloaded" into one's soul, unless one is not ready to receive them. The original note in our record, which just had the text about the download as it is written on the book's dust jacket, was misleading, so I've changed it. It now reads:

"'Soul song for rejuvenation download included'--Dust jacket. This is not a literal download, but rather a spiritual download."

Still not really clear, but I'm not sure the English language is prepared to properly communicate something like this. This is quite possibly the most interesting "extra" I've ever had to figure out how to describe.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More books online

I've been using Podiobooks a lot lately for my work listening - I think I burned out on webcasts, so getting back to audio books has been nice. I've listened to 3 complete works so far (almost 3, actually) and enjoyed 2 of them. I'm on the very last file of the 3rd work, so I'm going to have to decide what to listen to next. One thing I do wish the site had is the ability to limit a search to completed books and to a particular category at the same time. The closest I've been able to come to doing this is to limit my search to completed books and then do a keyword search for the category as it is listed in the category list. Still, it'd be nice if there were something like an advanced search - that's going to become more important as Podiobooks collects more titles.

If I had an e-book reader, I might also find myself visiting Internet Archive a lot for my home reading. It might take some doing to find stuff I'd actually want to read during my free time, but there's quite a lot here.

Expert Community Experiment activity

From an email sent by Glenn E. Patton, Director, WorldCat Quality Management, on 7/14/09:
"In June, activity was higher with 19,387 replaces compared to 16,704 in May. That brings us to a total of 79,406 Expert Community replaces since the Experiment started in February. The number of Expert Community replaces continues to be higher than any other type of replace.

1,011 institutions did at least one replace during the month of June
with 16 institutions doing more than 200 replaces. 1573 institutions have
done at least 1 replace during the span of the Experiment with 449 having activity each month.

Intensive review of replaced records for the month of May has been completed and the June review has started. As we announced at the beginning of the Experiment, it will last at least until August 15th. As we make more progress with the review process, we will have more information about future plans.

Here are statistics for other types of replaces during June:

Database Enrichment: 16, 992 (up from 15,950)
Minimal-Level Upgrade: 14,185 (up from 13,178)
Enhance Regular: 15,212 (down from 15,521)
Enhance National: 3400 (up from 2,998)
CONSER Authentication: 1,490 (up from 1,118)
CONSER Maintenance: 5,785 (up from 5,410)"

It's tough to tell, because the stats I can see online for the number of record replaces I've done don't say how many of the replaces fall under the Expert Community Experiment, but it's possible that the Dick Smith Library is one of the 16 institutions that did more than 200 replaces last month. I looked up my numbers, and I did 202 record replaces - if those all count under the Expert Community Experiment, then Dick Smith Library is one of those 16 institutions. Yay! There's no actual reward for this, other than knowing I made some of the master records in WorldCat a little better just by doing the work I normally do, but it's still kind of cool. We're not an Enhance library, and I don't think we'll ever be, so I hope that the Expert Community Experiment will become a permanent thing - I like being able to fix glaring errors and/or omissions in WorldCat master records. If this experiment doesn't become a permanent thing, I'll just have to go back to not fixing master records - it takes too much effort to figure out what sorts of changes I can and can't do, and I don't have the time to send out error reports (with, in some cases, faxed proof) for everything I can't fix myself.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dear Author and Google Book Settlement

I just finished reading Part 1 of what will apparently be a series of posts about the Google Book Settlement on Dear Author. It was a little hard for me to follow, but it doesn't sound all that great for the authors involved (which, if I understand this correctly, could be any author, ever). When all the parts of the series have been put up, I'll have to read it all through again, and maybe draw myself some diagrams and charts or something.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"I'd like a short book..."

I love book discussion groups - when I was an undergrad, I was in a couple, one for Sci-Fi stuff and another that was all over the map. Neither of them lasted very long, but I had a lot of fun and read some books I probably wouldn't have otherwise. When I was in grad school, I stopped doing the book discussion group thing for a while, but I had a friend at another university who was in an interesting one - they'd read anything, but only if it was 200 pages or less. Even students with busy schedules could handle a short book like that each month or so. I'm still thinking about starting up a book discussion group of my own, and it's gotten me thinking about groups I've been a part of or have heard about. So, I was wondering, how would I handle it if someone like my friend told me they needed a short book? How would I find a book like that in our catalog? Plus, I've had students come up to the reference book needing to find something, anything (or nearly anything - there seems to always be a broad topical focus), to read and review for a class. Understandably, students don't usually want to tackle something like a 600 page book if there's a 300 page book that would work just as well. So, how would I handle that?

The best answer I can come up with involves combining knowledge about MARC, Sirsi, and wildcards (however, as my mom often tells me, I have a tendency to make things harder on myself than is necessary, so there may be an easier way to do all of this). A while back, I wrote a post about how to search individual MARC fields in records in our catalog. In MARC records, the 300 field has, among other things, pagination information. In our catalog, a ? symbol is used as a substitute for a single missing character (a $ symbol is for multiple characters, by the way - I keep forgetting).

If I wanted a book that was between 200 and 300 pages, a good search might be

[words or phrase search] 2?? {300}

It would be best to do this as an advanced search, probably limited to Type - Books. An advanced search would also make it less confusing to narrow the search down to a particular topic.

With patience and the use of limits and Boolean operators, you could come up with a search that could, for instance, retrieve any fiction in the General Stacks that is less than 200 pages - although your results list would probably still include false positives (see the next paragraph).

There are various limitations to this approach that need to be kept in mind. For instance, an average 300 field for a book might look something like "iv, 367 p. : ill. ; 20 cm." If you're doing a search for double digit pagination, you'll probably end up retrieving some items just on the basis of their measurements. If you're doing a search and don't limit it to Type - Books (or something similar), you may end up with audiobooks or something else you don't want (unless you're looking for audiobooks with a length of a certain number of minutes, but, because of the way lengths of audiobooks and CDs are sometimes recorded, even that can have problems). Another limitation is that, although the pagination may say "600 p.", 150 of those pages may be endnotes and index. Sometimes there's a note in the record that will tell you how many pages of bibliographical information there is, but not always, and even this isn't necessarily an accurate indicator of the "readable" length of the book.

Despite all of that, I have to say I love the ability to search certain specific MARC fields. There are so many potential applications! I'm just not sure I'd remember any of them when at the reference desk, but that's part of the reason why I'm recording them here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

WorldCat Local, WorldCat Local Quick Start

I just attended a short web session on WorldCat Local Quick Start, because I wanted to find out more about it - I kind of doubt we'll ever be implementing it, and I don't really think we'd want to. It has some features that I think are pretty nifty (although there are other products that could do the same thing), like the ability for users to add their own reviews, create lists of items, save their searches for later, etc. One feature that I don't believe I've seen in other products is the inclusion of information about authors or others involved with the works - in the case of WorldCat Local, this draws on information from WorldCat Identities. I remember thinking that WorldCat Identities was pretty cool when I first found out about it, but I hadn't really thought of it being incorporated into a catalog like that - my brain just can't seem to make those kind of leaps.

As a cataloger, one thing I don't like at all is that all local record edits are meaningless in the WorldCat Local catalog. All WorldCat Local searches is WorldCat master records. True, these can be very good, but some of them aren't so good. I'm sure more of these records have been edited since the beginning of the Expert Community Experiment, but there are still many, many out there that are, well, shoddy, despite, in some cases, having quite a few library holdings attached. Just because a library has its holdings attached to a record doesn't mean that the cataloger(s) there edited the master record. Plus, even with the Expert Community Experiment, there are still records that need to be edited that can't be easily edited by the cataloging community. It drives me crazy when I come across a PCC (Program for Cooperative Cataloging) record that needs to be edited and I can't edit it - and I don't have the time or inclination to write up the needed edits for OCLC or whoever and, if necessary, fax the proof.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My rat boys!

I've had these photos of my boys on my camera for months now and have finally gotten around to posting them. I love these little guys so much! This first photo is of Bear, chowing down on one of the old apples Kris gave me to give to them.

In this next photo, Yuki's getting involved. Bear is greedily trying to protect the apple with his entire body.

This last photo is a cute close-up of one of the boys. Unfortunately, I can't remember which one this is, and I can only tell them apart if I can see either their tails (the easiest way, since Bear's tail is almost all dark brown) or their backs (harder, but the splotch of color down Yuki's back is choppier than Bear's). Still, it's cute, and one of the few close-ups I've been able to get - usually, when I try for one, the boys get curious and run up to the camera before I can finish taking the picture.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

ALA in Chicago

I wish I could go to these. My main source of comfort is knowing that there will likely be similar presentations done at events I will be able to go to, perhaps even online. Near the end of last month I "attended" an pre-conference event on RDA in Canada, so you never really know.

Another source of comfort: presentations with wonderful-sounding descriptions don't always turn out to be as useful as they seemed like they would be.

You Got Me, Do You Like Me? Evaluating Next Generation Catalogs
Co-sponsored by the RUSA MARS Local Systems &Services Committee; LITA Next Generation Catalog User Group.

McCormick Place West W-190a
Sunday, July 12, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Congratulations, you have acquired (or may soon acquire) a Next Generation, Web 2.0 catalog—now what? Hear from a panel of academic and public information professionals who have been evaluating their open source and off-the-shelf next-gen catalogs. Topics will include usability testing, ongoing assessment, vendor collaboration, and user expectations in the transition to next-gen products.

Speakers: Cody Hanson, Technology Librarian, University of Minnesota; Ross Shanley-Roberts, Special Projects Technologist, Miami University Libraries; and Eli Neiburger, Associate Director of IT and Product Development, Ann Arbor District Library.

Resuscitating the Catalog: Next-Generation Strategies for Keeping the Catalog Relevant
Co-sponsored by RUSA RSS Catalog Use Committee; LITA Next Generation Catalog Interest Group; PLA Cataloging Needs of Public Libraries Committee

McCormick Place West W-179
Monday, July 13, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

In today's complex information environment, users have come to expect evaluative information and interactive capabilities when searching for information resources. A panel of experts will address various aspects of providing links to external information in library catalogs, implementing user-contributed functionality, and using computational data to support bibliographic control.

Speakers: David Flaxbart, Head Librarian, Chemistry Library, Univ. of Texas at Austin; Renee Register, Global Product Manager, OCLC; Beth Jefferson, President, BiblioCommons; Ellen Safley, Senior Associate Director for Public Services and Collections, University of Texas, Dallas.

Why mosquitoes buzz in people's ears - All shiny now!

It bothered me that one of our most checked out items was using one of our strange all-caps records, so that's now been fixed (true, many months after the initial blog entry was published, but still).

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cataloging - Worrying about the details

Little nitpicky things I got to worry about today while cataloging:
  1. Copyright renewal dates - If a book that says it was originally copyrighted in 1972 includes a copyright renewal date of 2000, should it be cataloged on a record that uses the 2000 date or the 1972? According to LCR 1.4F6, it belongs on a 1972 record, because copyright renewal dates for works first copyrighted before 1977 are ignored. I waded through a few archived AUTOCAT posts to confirm this as well.
  2. Author cutter for Theo. LeSieg - Dr. Seuss's real name was Theodor Geisel. He used the name LeSieg when he wrote books to be illustrated by others. The cutter number used on the book I was cataloging was G276, which appears to be based on Geisel rather than LeSieg. Not sure why that is, but it was assigned by LC. I decided to just go with it, since we've got other LeSieg books that use the G276 cutter. One of these days I'll figure out why it was cuttered for Geisel when the authority record is for LeSieg.
  3. PS8615 in an 050 field - I at first thought that the punctuation and subfield coding for this call number was badly done, but then I realized it was probably a Canadian classification number than someone just copied and pasted into an 050. It doesn't fit into the section identified in Classification Web as being for Canadian literature (PS8001-8599), but the original record was created by the National Library of Canada, and that call number was exactly what was in the 055. So, I got to build a new one.
  4. 050, 2nd indicator 4, not checked against LC's shelflist - 050 2nd indicator 4 is an LC call number assigned by an agency other than LC. I'd love to be able to assume that these call numbers have been checked against the LC shelflist, but, alas, this is not always the case. Usually, I probably won't find out if the call number is off unless someone reports the problem to me later on, since I don't often check call numbers. Today, I identified one because it was a PZ7 call number with a very short first cutter number. Many PZ7 call numbers have extremely long first cutter numbers, because there are so many authors that must be alphabetically arranged in a very small space. In this case, the cataloger who assigned the call number used the cutter table to create the cutter and then never bothered to check it against LC's shelflist. I fixed the call number, but as many as 300 libraries may have used this incorrectly cuttered number. This kind of thing annoys me.

Numbers 3 and 4 aren't really nitpicky things, not to my mind, but I'm sure the entire list would make most normal people twitchy.

Where's my cow?

I cataloged Terry Pratchett's Where's My Cow? (and was the first person to add a 2nd cutter number to the call number in the master record) - I'm not sure what children would think of it, but, as a fan of Pratchett's Discworld, I thought it was hilarious. I had some trouble thinking of Sam Vimes sitting down and reading a silly picture book, but, once I got past that, his "Where's my daddy?" was perfect. Young Sam is a very odd-looking child, though.

It's not actually possible to get everything in this book unless you're familiar with the Discworld, but young children might still have fun with some of the things they'd get to do when certain characters come up (not sure that their parents will necessarily appreciate the spitting).

Nifty things online

Here's a few nifty things I've learned about recently:
  • Odiogo - When you sign up for Odiogo, your posts become listenable as well as readable. I found out about this over at Catalogablog - try listening to one of the posts over there. I'd like to sign up for that sometime soon. I think I'll probably sign my other blog up, since most of the posts there are really long.
  • Omeka - A free and open source product for putting up online exhibitions. Yet another one I'd like to look over. I don't think I, personally, would ever need to use it, but the library might be able to use it for something. We could do exhibits of our Texas history stuff, special collections, etc.
  • OCLC Classify - Ok, this is something I've known about for a while, but I don't think I've written about it yet. This can, at times, be very helpful when I need to decide between multiple possible call numbers for an item. I can see how many libraries have used one versus the other(s). Right now, it's still experimental - I wonder if OCLC plans on charging for access to this once it's no longer experimental? I hope not.
  • OCLC xISSN History Visualization Tool - This is pretty cool. You can search a particular ISSN, and it will give you a visual representation of that title's history (as long as the ISSNs for each of the various incarnations the title has gone through are available to the tool). I haven't had much luck with the ISSNs I've hunted down and tried out - the best way to be sure to see what this tool is capable of is to try one of the ISSN sample links. You get a visual representation of preceding ISSNs, your requested ISSN, succeeding ISSNs, and which of these are print, online, microform, or CD-ROM.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yuki in 3 varieties for DSL

I was working on what I think might be the last of my DSL activities, messing around with Picnik. I used the photo of my rat Yuki that I posted earlier in this blog (see the original photo here). I loved playing around with the various effects, but I couldn't decide which effect looked best, so I did several. Here are the three varieties of Yuki:

This one's the "action shot." He's Super Yuki, going after the last crumbs of food as quickly as he can.

This is the awesome one, that makes Yuki look kind of cool.

This is the sweet nostalgic shot. It's too bad this isn't a picture of him sleeping or something - that would be cuter.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Webcast - LibraryThing: A Social Cataloging Web Site

LibraryThing was one of the DSL topics, so I suppose it's appropriate that I viewed this webinar on LibraryThing (I don't think I've don't my LibraryThing activity yet, though - bad me). Tim Spalding, the founder of LibraryThing, talks about LibraryThing, what it can do, and what it means for libraries and the world of book cataloging. Some of the things he mentions are things I hadn't realized that LibraryThing could do - he also mentions a few things that hadn't occurred to me as possible uses for LibraryThing (the things that fell into this category, for me, were just about any of the social aspects of LibraryThing - I mostly think of it as a cataloging site).

Tim Spalding is an interesting speaker, which made this a good webcast. It relies a lot on visuals, which was a bit inconvenient for me, but I know enough about LibraryThing that I only needed to glance at the video occasionally to understand what he was talking about. Plus, I viewed some of this during my lunch break.

One thing that made this webcast interesting to me, besides the topic and Spalding's comments about tagging and LibraryThing's version of name and title authority control, was just getting to hear Spalding speak. He sometimes contributes to AUTOCAT, so it was interesting getting to see the person behind the emails.

By the way, after listening to this, I just had to check if "Dave's topic" still exists as a subject heading in the Library of Congress's catalog - it doesn't. It's still an amusing example, though. I wonder how long it took, after Spalding's talk, for "Dave's topic" to be removed?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Webcast - "It's All About Access: Defining MARC / AACR Access Level Records"

This webcast was interesting, from a cataloger's standpoint. It was all about improving cataloger efficiency while still retaining good access (good access as defined by catalogers and reference librarians - I wonder what library users would think?). The first half of the presentation was about cataloging non-serial electronic resources. The Library of Congress (and, if I remember correctly, a few other libraries) participated in an experiment where some resources were cataloged according to current rules, while Access-level records were created for other resources. They measured cataloger efficiency when creating the two kinds of records - Access-level records (which, for electronic resources, they decided should have fewer descriptive elements, rather than fewer subject headings - usually it's subject headings that are cut when catalogers try to save time and money) saved catalogers, on average, an hour's worth of time per record.

The second half of the presentation was about serials - not just electronic serials, but all serials. If you have any experience at all with serials cataloging, you know how complicated it is to do it correctly. Well, with this part of the experiment, they tried to figure out how they could streamline serials cataloging - which record elements are really necessary and which can be discarded? I admit, as someone who is far more comfortable cataloging monographs than serials, that the idea of more streamlined serials cataloging guidelines seems appealing.

This presentation happened two years ago - I know that the serials cataloging I learned in my Advanced Cataloging class wasn't what was talked about in this presentation, and I don't remember any mention of Access-level records for electronic resources, so I'm guessing that these changes are still being analyzed, tested, and thought over (unless they've been abandoned completely? - I should look into this some more).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Webcast - "Paul Orfalea: Copy This! Lessons from a Hyperactive Dyslexic Who Turned a Bright Idea into One of America's Best Companies"

I don't think that the title for this webcast is entirely accurate, or maybe it's just that it's misleading. Paul Orfalea is the founder of Kinko's, and he does spend a little time talking about the ideas and mindsets that helped Kinko's succeed, but he also gets a bit off-track here and there. Sometimes the results are fascinating, and sometimes they're a tad discomforting (I wondered if he was going to eventually blow up during his rant about the American education system - I think he even tells himself to calm down at one point).

A bit of what he talks about reminds me of the book Stomp the Elephant in the Office: Put an End to the Toxic Workplace, Get More Done -- and Be Excited About Work Again by Steven W. Vannoy and Craig W. Ross. I don't usually read management books, but at the time that I read this one I didn't exactly have a lot going on. Anyway, at one point, Vannoy and Ross argue that people want to do well at their jobs and accomplish something. It's when the workplace becomes toxic and when workers become unhappy that they start hating what they do, sabotaging their jobs, whatever. You can agree with this or not, but Vannoy and Ross argue it well. Orfalea says the same thing. He also says (and this may have come up in the book as well) that a manager's job is to remove obstacles. He or she is supposed to make things easier for the workers, so that they have the freedom to do the good jobs they want to do, so that they have the freedom to make the business even better. The way he says all this makes it make sense - the problem for most people, I would guess, is living/managing by this philosophy. It's hard to change what you're doing or even recognize what it is you're doing if you've been doing it for a while.

Webcast - "Avoiding the Fate of the Mayans"

This webcast was a little depressing. Tom Sever discusses how he and others used the techniques of remote sensing to gain new insights into what caused the previously flourishing Mayan civilization to disappear. The answer includes deforestation and overpopulation. It doesn't paint a very rosy picture for people today.

One rather freaky bit: there's a picture, I think taken from a satellite, showing how (at the time the photo was taken, at least) the border between Mexico and Guatemala could be seen from space because of the pattern of deforestation.

Webcast - "The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature"

This one is pretty short, eight or nine minutes, and I think it's actually just an excerpt from a longer presentation. What there is of it is interesting, though. Daniel Levitin argues that music came before language. He also mentions that one of the things that sets us apart from animals (or maybe just other mammals) is the ability to synchronize our bodies to music.

This makes me want to turn on some music and try sitting perfectly still, just to see how hard it really is. I listen to a lot of music on my own, and it's not like I dance to it most of the time, but I don't really know if I'm unconsciously moving part of my body in time to the music.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Webcast - The Future of Cataloging & Librarianship

Deanna Marcum was the speaker for this webcast. You know, some of these webcasts are really interesting (the one on the technology of copyright was a lot more interesting and listenable than I was expecting - I might listen to it again sometime, it was that good). This wasn't really one of those. It required more attention than I was willing and able to give (seeing as how I listen to these while cataloging), but it basically boiled down to "cataloging in a new environment of digital materials and search engines" and "even though libraries are better, and students may know this, students still prefer Google because it's easier."

Webcast - The Technology of Copyright

Karen Coyle is the speaker for this one, and I think this copyright webcast is better than the first one I posted about. Her explanation of how DRM works is very clear, and she makes a good case for why various things like DRM and trusted systems (and more) are scary for libraries and scary for consumers in general. One of my favorite bits (also one of the scarier bits) is when she talks about talking to one of the developers for a DRM (I think that's what they were creating) and asking this person about whether it will be possible to archive the protected materials. The person's response was something like, "Well, we'll be keeping a copy of it. It should be good for five years!", said as though this was a good thing. As librarians, we sometimes forget that it is often only librarians who think in terms of 50+ years when dealing with various materials, whether they be print books, digital files, CDs, etc.

Webcast - The Anarchist in the Library

Siva Vaidhyanathan discusses copyright in this webcast (if you'd like to see it, click here). I tend to agree with what he says, although I'm not sure he's convincing enough to get, say, the music industry to see his side of things.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Great webinar, bad title

I'm just on a roll with webcasts today. I listened to a great webcast (there was video too, but it wasn't really necessary - the guy had a powerpoint that the video never focused on). Unfortunately, the title was: "How and In Which Situations Web Logs or Blogs Work: How and Why They are Valuable in Children's Education." On its own, this isn't a bad title. It's very descriptive, which can be nice, but in this case the description doesn't match the content of the webcast. During the first 38 minutes of this 55-minute webcast, David Weinberger talks about knowledge, authority, and the organization of information. After that, he talks a bit about blogs. Then some people make comments and ask him a couple questions. Children's education isn't mentioned at any point.

If you ignore the fact that content has very little to do with the title, this is an EXCELLENT webcast. I found it to be very entertaining, and, even though Weinberger doesn't say much that felt very new to me, he did state some things that I'd never really thought about in much detail very clearly and coherently. Although the bit about blogging was short, I'd recommend it to anyone who blogs or is thinking about blogging - I found it to be inspiring. An example: as a perfectionist, I tend to be horrified by the number of typos sprinkled throughout my posts, both in this blog and in my other one. According to Weinberger, typos in blogs are more than just ok, they're an element of what makes them so great. Most people's blog posts aren't written and then edited multiple times until they're perfect - that's what you do with published writing, and blogs are more casual. Weinberger mentions the "culture of forgiveness" that allows people to trust bloggers and enjoy their writing, even if it's got typos or the writing isn't as good as it could be. I'll try to keep that in mind when I spot yet another typo. :)

More webinar fun

I started viewing the Library of Congress's webcasts for librarians after Yvonne emailed me to let me know about Life Beyond MARC. I watched that one - I was relieved to see that it did not advocate abandoning MARC, as I have always felt that MARC isn't nearly as useless as some people say it is, it just isn't utilized very well by most integrated library systems. I see and code so much information in our library's bibliographic records that is never used in our OPAC - not for limiting, searching, or even necessarily for keyword searching (this last one was a surprise to me, since I had just sort of assumed that everything in a variable field was keyword searchable - I've learned quite a bit by talking to Tracy). I find this frustrating, but I continue to code and check "useless" information in the hope and expectation that our ILS (or whatever ILS we may use in the future) will start using this information.

After watching that webcast, I watched Cataloging Principles and RDA. It sounded nice, but it still strikes me as odd that the updated cataloging principles were developed and released after work on RDA had already begun. Indeed, RDA is supposedly almost ready for use (I say "supposedly" because I am one of the catalogers who believes RDA still needs a lot of work). Shouldn't you establish principles and then use those to inform the development of rules?

Well, there are still plenty of Library of Congress webcasts to view/listen to, so I think I'll continue working through the list. Although the webcasts come with visuals, I've found that they're still fairly comprehensible, even if all I'm doing is listening to the audio as I catalog.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A way to search individual MARC fields

I just found out something incredibly awesome from someone on the AUTOCAT listserv and thought I'd write a quick post about it before I forgot.

For a long while now, I've wished that there were a way to search for information in particular MARC fields. For instance, say I want to find something by a particular publisher. This isn't the best example, but maybe I'm looking for something published by "Harcourt." It's possible to do a Title search, Author search, Subject search, etc., but it's not possible to do a publisher search - except, it turns out that there sort of it, if you know what you're doing.

If you didn't know what you were doing and wanted to search for books published by Harcourt, you'd probably try a Keyword and "Words or Phrase" search for "Harcourt." At the time of this post, you would retrieve 2,111 results. Lots of them are published by Harcourt, but some of them aren't.

If you did know what you were doing (and you were using a Sirsi catalog, which is what DSL uses), you would still do a Keyword and "Words or Phrase" search. However, instead of searching for "Harcourt," you would try:

Harcourt {260}

You would retrieve 2,057 results - as I said, this isn't the best example, but even with this example you can see that the search became more specific. The results will more accurately reflect what you wanted to retrieve.

The numbers in the curly brackets are a field (I think Sirsi calls them tags in their documentation) value. In MARC, the 260 field includes publication and distribution information (it can also include a few other things, but, in our case, it usually doesn't). By using the curly brackets, you are limiting the search to a particular field.

As a cataloger, I find this to be nifty news, and I think I need to figure out how to get the news out to the other librarians at DSL. Unfortunately, as a cataloger I also understand that the number of people who will be able to make use of this search is very limited. Even when told about this search, most people still wouldn't be able to use it right off the bat. First, you'd have to know which field you wanted to search - I don't think many of the librarians at DSL besides myself know even the most basic MARC fields (but you can try looking them up here), since they tend to deal with the more people-friendly side of things. Our users certainly won't know the fields. Second, for some fields, it helps to know how cataloging rules work. For instance, the rules allow for publishers' names to get abbreviated. You might see "John Wiley & Sons" in our catalog, but you might also see "J. Wiley," or (I think) even just "Wiley."

Still, it's exciting news. I tried to do a genre (field 655) search using this method, and it didn't work out, but I'm going to see if I can figure out how to fix that. I'll probably have to talk to Tracy, who might have to talk to the Sirsi people...

Hail - eek!

For the most part, I've enjoyed Stephenville's weather, but I definitely don't like its hail. During the last hailstorm we had (the first one I've experienced since moving here), my poor, 5-month-old car got lots of little dents. I ended up not getting it fixed, because I'm not made of money, I recently had to pay a deductible to fix the car after someone hit it in a parking lot, and the damage was basically just cosmetic.

According to various weather news sources, we're in for some thunderstorms and hail today. I'm hoping for no additional damage, but, if something does happen, I'd prefer it to be no worse than last time. Oh, my poor car. :o(

Podcasts while cataloging

Usually I listen to anime radio when I catalog - lots of their songs remind me of shows I enjoy, plus it helps that I don't understand most of the songs and am therefore not focused on the lyrics (although, embarrassingly enough, I've listened to this for long enough that I can now sing along to some of the songs, whether or not I actually understand the lyrics). However, I'm going to try to listen to more library/information science podcasts while I catalog - there's lots of great information out there, and I'm basically a captive audience as I catalog.

I decided to start this with a podcast interview with Jeff Pollack, about his book The Semantic Web for Dummies. Although I didn't understand everything they talked about, it was interesting, and I might see about reading the book sometime. The website I've linked to has the podcast and links to resources mentioned in the podcast.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sports manga and children's fiction

I'm not really going to have an "Interesting books cataloged" post this week - I did a lot of pretty-looking picture books, and a few interesting-looking novels for children and young adults. I thought I'd mention one of those novels, though, Two-Minute Drill by Mike Lupica [PZ7 .L97914 TW 2007].

Although I've mentioned before that I like anime and manga, I haven't really said what genres I like. Just saying you like anime or manga is like saying you like books and movies - you're not saying anything specific, just that you like a certain format. Well, much to my surprise, I discovered a few years back that I enjoy sports manga. I don't watch sports, I don't keep up with sports, I don't even know the rules for a lot of the different games, and yet I love several different sports manga - my favorites are Whistle! (soccer), Eyeshield 21 (American football), and Hikaru no Go (which is about a board game, not a sport, but it uses some of the same conventions, so I'm counting it). Several of my favorite titles have the whole "underdog triumphs" thing going on, which I just love. I also love reading about really intense and often unorthodox training, friendships, etc. Unfortunately, lots of shonen manga tend to be very lengthy - I think Whistle! is at least in the 20s as far as numbers of volumes are concerned. It's going to take some effort to keep up with it and other titles via ILL.

The back of Two-Minute Drill sounds a lot like Whistle! to me - I should try it out sometime.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Interesting books cataloged March 2-6

There's lots this week, since I cataloged quite a few gift books as part of a little project to try to figure out how to use Workflows and OCLC Connexion together.
  • The thirteenth tale : a novel by Diane Setterfield [PR6119.E86 T48 2006] - The description for this book reminds me a bit of the anime movie Millennium Actress (not the director's best, but still quite good, and certainly jaw-dropping at points).
  • Mr. Timothy : a novel by Louis Bayard [PS3552 .A85864 M7 2003] - As far as I can tell, this is almost "A Christmas Carol" fan fiction. "Mr. Timothy" is Timothy Crachit from the original story.
  • The Audubon quartet by Ray Sipherd [PS3569 .I59 A94 1998] - An art-related mystery.
  • Eye of the archangel : a Mallory and Morse novel of espionage by Forrest DeVoe [PS3604 .E887 E94 2007] - The cover makes me think of James Bond.
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner [PS3557 .A7132 S87 2002]
  • The Da Vinci code : a novel by Dan Brown [PS3552 .R685434 D3 2003] - I've heard that this book's writing is actually quite bad - this only makes me want to read it more, to judge for myself and finally see what the fuss was all about.
  • Cause of death by Patricia Cornwell [PS3553.O692 C38 1996] - Yet another Cornwell book on the list.

I also cataloged several children's picture books (with many more on the way - two shelves of my 6-shelf book truck are full of picture books).

Feeding the "quality vs. quantity" fire

One of the big topics of discussion this week (and maybe last week as well) on the AUTOCAT listserv has been quality vs. quantity when it comes to cataloging. A few catalogers admit to grudgingly accepting the "quantity is more important than quality" side of the argument, but most believe that quantity actually suffers because of many libraries' lack of concentration on the quality of the records they produce. If the cataloger who originally creates a record concentrates on quality, all later catalogers who use the record for copy cataloging benefit, because they won't have to edit the record as much. It's an idea I agree with - I'll also add that there are some errors that won't necessarily be caught by copy catalogers. If those errors (such as incorrect call numbers) are caught after the item has been processed and shelved, then there is the additional time and expense of fixing the mistake.

I think the thing that started this whole debate was OCLC's Expert Community Experiment. Some catalogers fear it, because not everyone who can take part in the experiment is truly an expert. I may be very comfortable cataloging books, but even with those I don't have as much experience as some. If I felt like it, I could edit the master records for item types I'm not as familiar with, like music or maps - unless it's an obvious typo, I probably wouldn't, but the point is that I could.

I understand this fear, since I kind of share it, but, overall, I think the experiment is a good thing. It's nice to be able to immediately edit a master record and make it better for everyone, not just for me and the Dick Smith Library. When it's not possible for me to make an obviously necessary edit, it's annoying - an example would be a book I worked on today that most on AUTOCAT agreed matched a record with an error in the subtitle. However, that particular record was protected from the experiment, so I had to submit the error to OCLC. The WorldCat record may or may not get edited. In the meantime, I used that record and did all the necessary edits locally. It works for our library, but the record in WorldCat is still wrong.

I didn't mean for it to happen, but the question I put out on AUTOCAT about this particular book just seemed to fuel the quantity vs. quality fire. Some people may find cataloging boring, but catalogers feel very strongly about cataloging - it's been a heated discussion at times.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Interesting books cataloged Feb. 23-27

We'll see how doing just one of these lists a week goes....
  • From Potter's field by Patricia Cornwell [PS3553 .O692 F76 2005] - This is from her Kay Scarpetta series, which I've heard of but haven't yet read any of. I tried reading one of her most recent ones, Book of the Dead or something like that, but I didn't get very far. I'm willing to try again, however.
  • What schools ban and why by R. Murray Thomas [LB3012.2 .T56 2008] - I'm mostly interested in this book for its chapter on book banning in schools/school libraries, but the rest of the book looks like it could be pretty interesting as well.
  • Fiction writer's workshop : the key elements of a writing workshop by Josip Novakovich [PN3355 .N68 2008] - This would probably be a good book to check out during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is not actually national but sounds better that way). I have participated twice and haven't yet come even close to finishing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

You mean the Internet can be wrong?!

Once again, I love The Onion. I just finished reading "Factual Error Found on Internet." Shocking stuff, absolutely shocking.

"Recently Unearthed E-mail Reveals What Life Was Like in 1995" is another fun technology-related article. It reminds me of this book I had when I was a kid, Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. An archaeologist from far in the future examines a burial site that readers will recognize as being a motel, interpreting the things he finds there in a hilariously wrong way. Neither this book nor The Onion's article are very flattering depictions of the work that archaeologists do, but they're still both funny. I guess I should wrap this up with an archaeologist-themed article--

"Archaeologist Tired of Unearthing Unspeakable Ancient Evils" - Some writer at The Onion must have been brainstorming one day and said to himself, "Imagine if Indiana Jones were a real guy..."

Interesting books cataloged Feb. 17-20

I got a little behind on listing interesting books, but there really wasn't much I felt like listing. Actually, I'm thinking I might make these TBR lists a weekly, rather than daily, thing.
  • Writing well : the essential guide by Mark Tredinnick [PE1408 .T74 2008] - Not something I'd necessarily want to read for fun, but it seemed like it could be a very helpful, yet still readable, book.
  • Blood legacy : the true story of the Snow axe murders by James Pylant [HV6533.T4 P95 2008] - Local (or nearly local - I think this happened not far outside of Stephenville) history. The photographs alone make this something not suitable for those with weak stomachs. I had to create the LC call number for this - I chose to class it as "Murders in Texas" rather than as "Snow family genealogy" although the record I was asked to choose does list the "Snow family" aspect as one of the first subject headings.
  • See Sam run : a mother's story of autism by Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe [RJ506 .A9 H43 2008] - This is one that just grabbed me while I was flipping through it. It looks to be a very interesting and honest description of what it was like for the author to raise an autistic child. There's a little bit at the end written by Sam in 2005. The annotated bibliography also looks very good.