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.