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.