Friday, December 10, 2010

Newest project, with an observation

Now that I've finished the project that flipped subfield d's and q's into their correct order and got rid of all or most of our obsolete subfield w's, I've got yet another project on the table. I realized that, even though I can't export records based on publication year, I can export them based on record creation date, which should usually be within a year or two of the publication date. With this is mind, I'm hoping to add and (where necessary) enhance contents notes in bibliographic records added to our catalog in the past five years. All of the below is being done using MARCEdit, by the way.

So far, the first step is going well. I exported the records, extracted all the ones that have 505 fields (contents notes) with " / " in them, extracted all the ones in that file that don't have 520 fields (summary, etc. notes), and globally enhanced all the 505s. However, not all of these 505s really need enhancing, and there's some potential for error in how enhancing occurred, so I'm going through the records one-by-one before reloading. This is still going a lot faster than enhancing them all individually would have gone.

I haven't had much of a chance to work on this project, because of all the end-of-semester stuff that's been happening, and because cataloging new things needs more attention right now. Still, I've looked through enough records to discover something I hadn't realized: our NetLibrary records, which I had always assumed were the highest quality ones, sometimes have contents notes that end prematurely. The contents notes might only cover half the actual contents of the book, with no indication (via the first indicator) that these fields are in any way incomplete. I'm fixing them up as I come across them, but it makes me wonder what other kinds of problems there might be that I don't know about.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"You say you want a revolution"

This is a bit of a rambling post, but the general topic is RDA. That seems to be all anyone ever talks about in the cataloging world anymore. Not surprising, really.

There are a lot of complaints about RDA being voiced on the OCLC-CAT listserv, of all places. Why OCLC-CAT? I'm pretty sure it started because of the way OCLC has been allowing RDA data (authority and bibliographic) to be added to the WorldCat database.

When I originally heard that RDA would be tested before the Library of Congress made any decisions about it, I assumed that that test would take place outside of the live cataloging environment. This has not been the case. The word "test" in OCLC Land sounds an awful lot like "the rules have officially changed, deal with it." OCLC has instructed catalogers to treat RDA bibliographic records vs. AACR2 bibliographic records the same as they treat AACR2 vs. AACR bibliographic records: if an RDA record already exists, an AACR2 record would be considered a duplicate and is therefore not supposed to be entered. Catalogers not using RDA may edit the record back to AACR2 locally.

How exactly does this make sense? I would understand if RDA were the official new rules, but they're not, at least not in the U.S. I know that there are countries that have decided to implement RDA already, and WorldCat is an international database. However, couldn't OCLC just instruct catalogers to treat RDA vs. AACR2 records as parallel records? For instance, if an RDA record already exists, catalogers still using AACR2 (which is most of the U.S.) could enter an AACR2 record, thereby giving other AACR2 users the ability to share the work rather than having every AACR2 user edit the RDA record locally. When/If RDA is implemented by the Library of Congress, OCLC could set their deduplication software to consider RDA and AACR2 records for the same title as duplicates, but it makes no sense to do so before the end of the supposed test.

The bigger uproar on OCLC-CAT right now seems to be focused on authority records. I will admit to not understanding everything everyone is saying - the complaints seem mainly focused on the way RDA information is being added to authority records (RDA name headings live in 700 fields right now, with the AACR2 name headings still in 100 fields - no information has been given on what will be done to these records if RDA is implemented). Having RDA name headings in 700 fields doesn't hurt DSL, but, from what I've heard, there are libraries whose authority control systems choke on this. What does worry me about all of this is that, like the bibliographic records, these changes are all happening to live records: this is not a separate authority file just for the use of those testing RDA, but rather the authority file used by everyone, regardless of whether or not they are test libraries. In effect, non-test libraries are being forced to take part in the test. How can this still be considered a test if everything is happening in a live environment?

The uproar about the way OCLC has been handling the RDA test resulted in Memorandum Against RDA Test, a petition that has so far been signed by 312 people. Although I agree with the petition, I don't always agree with the strong wording that Wojciech Siemaszkiewicz, the person who I believe started the petition, has been using on the OCLC-CAT listserv when talking about RDA. Siemaszkiewicz has an unfortunate tendency (unfortunate because it immediately gets RDA supporters backs up and occasionally even alienates those who oppose RDA) to phrase complaints about RDA in ways that bring war protests and the rhetoric of revolution to mind.

Siemaszkiewicz isn't the only one stirring things up - Deborah Tomaras, on the OCLC-CAT listserv and others, has encouraged those who are against RDA to send their concerns to the personal emails of the members of the RDA Coordinating Committee. She even provided all the email addresses in case the website with those email addresses is taken down. While I can understand the frustration that resulted in this particular call to action, since it feels as though complaints and concerns about RDA and the RDA test have fallen on deaf ears, I'm also not comfortable with what Tomaras is asking catalogers to do. I don't really know what catalogers who are against RDA should be doing, since going through the proper channels has so far seemed ineffective, but spamming/harassing the individuals on the RDA Coordinating Committee isn't, to my mind, the way to go. Can we all just please remember that we're supposed to be professionals?

I may not be sure how I should be communicating my concerns about RDA, but I do have concerns, and one of them is whether or not a drastic reorganization of cataloging rules is even necessary. I recognize that there are problems with AACR2 - I rarely catalog any of the formats (such as databases and websites) that are difficult to catalog with AACR2, but, when I do, it's painfully clear that something needs to be done. At least, something needs to be done to the rules for electronic resources and other things with similar cataloging problems. As far as I'm concerned, the cataloging rules are fine for most physical materials.

Let's be clear about this: the cataloging rules are different from the encoding standards, which are different from ILSs. One of the things that consistently frustrates me about the RDA arguments is that there seems to be an assumption on the part of those who are most in favor of RDA that most of our cataloging problems reside in our cataloging rules. I would argue that this is not the case.

Maybe I need to keep a list of every catalog wish list item I am asked to implement that I can't, in addition to the reason why I can't. I'm pretty sure that, most of the time, when I can't implement something it's because of the way MARC is set up or the way our ILS works, not because of AACR2. If AACR2 is the reason why something can't be done with MARC or something in our ILS is not doing what our users (whether they're students, faculty, or librarians) want, and if that were plainly stated to the cataloging community, I would happily accept a change to the rules. However, I don't agree with change for change's sake, and that's what RDA feels like. On the one hand, RDA is supposed to make everything better. On the other hand, it's supposed to not change things so much that AACR2 records can't live side by side with RDA records. I don't see how both of those statements can be true.

So, that's it from me for now. I don't know if those who are most against RDA will ever be able to reconcile with those who are most for it - neither side really seems to understand the other, or maybe they're just not willing to listen to each other. Or even talk to each other (it seems like pro-RDA talk may be happening on Twitter a lot - I wouldn't know, since I don't use Twitter, but I may have to start just to see what's going on - while anti-RDA talk is concentrated on listservs). Another problem seems to be that not all ILSs are created equal and that not everyone understands this. But then, I may just think that because I'm in the camp that believes our largest problems lie in our ILSs and MARC 21.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Radio Ballet

← This book led me to these:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cross-references: what good are they?

Authority work has been one of my long-time pet projects. Authority records, properly linked to headings in bibliographic records, make it much, much easier to globally update headings as changes occur. Authority records can help keep headings in bibliographic records consistent, and consistent headings allow users to search those headings in the catalog and get what they're looking for. Even if users don't know a thing about name and subject headings and just use keyword searches, hyperlinked consistent headings allow users to click on the headings and retrieve everything else that has that same heading (depending on system settings - and, actually, I'm not quite sure what our setting are like). It's very important that the headings are consistent, because, if they aren't, clicking on the link isn't necessarily going to bring everything up. The OPAC doesn't know that the hyperlink "Tiger" and the previous authorized form "Tigers" should be considered the same thing.

There's one thing about authorities that bothers me, though. When I was in library school, one of the touted benefits of using authority records was their cross-references. If a user doesn't know that the authorized form used by their library happens to be "Airships" and not "Blimps," the cross-references are supposed to help them find the records they're looking for anyway.  The problem is that this assumes that users are doing browse searches. Anecdotal evidence (and quite possibly actual studies, which I haven't tried looking up) says that this isn't true. Instead, users, including a lot of librarians, are probably using keyword searches. True, they may be subject keyword or author keyword searches, but they're still keyword searches and, as far as I know, there is no ILS out there that searches cross-references in authority records in addition to text within bibliographic records. I had heard that SirsiDynix Symphony does somewhat, but, from what I can tell, "somewhat" means that, if the keyword search retrieves nothing, users are redirected to a browse search for that word. That can work well enough in some cases. If users don't automatically assume that the redirection is a completely failed search and actually click on the cross-reference hyperlink. And only if the keyword search retrieves absolutely nothing.

It would be nice if the cross-references of any authority record to which headings in a bibliographic record are linked were searched in subject/author/genre keyword searches (maybe even general keyword searches). If an ILS exists that can do this, I'd love to hear about it. And I'd like to know why more don't.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Current big global editing project

I'm halfway through my current large global editing project that is cleaning up the name headings (flipping subfield q and d so that they're in the correct order), deleting obsolete subfield w's in access points, and fixing obsolete indicators in several fields (100, 700, 110, 710, 260) in our oldest records. I looked at the numbers, and I think it'll take 10 more days of work to finish the whole project up. Not bad.

After this project is done, I think I'll go back to concentrating more on straightening up our authority records and name and subject headings - a never-ending job.

While I was doing some subfield q and d flipping, it occurred to me that the technique I was using could be used to fix other problems we have. Since the technique took a bit of work and a lot of testing for me to figure out in the first place, and since every step must be done in a particular order, I decided to save myself future pain by posting instructions, complete with screenshots, in our staff wiki. That'll keep me from having the reinvent the wheel when I finally get around to doing those other fixes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fun with GIMP

I figured it was time for a non-cataloging related post.

On the left is an image I recently edited nearly to death in GIMP.

And here's the image as it was before I GIMPified it.

The edited image is made up of 5 layers (actually 6, but only 5 of them make up the visible parts of the image - I kept the original image as a background layer that I could copy in order to create additional layers).

Originally, I tried using the "cartoon" filter to create the black lines I wanted, but I didn't entirely like the results and the filter, however nice, didn't give me enough control. Since I'm still limited almost entirely to using a touchpad, I don't have much fine editing ability, either.

I created an effect similar to the cartoon filter by copying the original image and applying the photocopy filter. Then I selected according to color and selected all the true black areas of the layer with the photocopy filter applied. I inverted the selection, cut everything that was selected, and then made the selected area transparent. I repeated those steps with another layer with the photocopy filter applied, only this time I selected gray areas. I repeated the steps again for another gray. For all those layers, I made the remaining ares of color (the lines leftover from the photocopy filter) completely black, either with levels or with the colorify tool.

Then I decided to mess with color. I may not wear them, but I love bright colors, so I created a new layer and used the Color Balance tool until I got something I liked. However, I only really liked it on my shirt, so I deleted and made transparent every part of that layer but the shirt.

I still wanted to punch up the rest of the colors in the picture, though, so I created another layer and used, I think, the Hue-Saturation tool until I got something I liked. I thought I'd end up doing the walls separately from my face, but I ended up liking that particular color effect on both areas. However, my face had gotten a bit patchy-looking, and I wanted to smooth that out. I tried out a few tools but ended up liking the Oilify filter the best.

I didn't entirely like the hard lines (the result of the stuff I did with the photocopy layers) along my jawline, some areas near my mouth, and on my neck, so I used the eraser tool to get rid of those. I can do that much, even with a touchpad.

And that's basically how I did that image. It's nice to know that I can still use GIMP a little, even with a touchpad - there are just a few limits to what I can do. Drawing in GIMP, no, but editing a photograph? That I can do.

Also: yes, my NaNoWriMo novel is not going well. As has happened every time I've taken part, my writing speed has tanked. I'm hoping I can get it back up again - there are still several weeks left in the month.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More deduping, plus an explanation of why it is necessary

I did 6 or 7 more deduplication tests using MARCEdit, with no true success, but a little minor success. On the plus side, I can produce an overzealous list of duplicate records that includes true duplicates and a few that only look like duplicates (for example, same title, but one is a newer edition than the other). That at least gives us a list to work from, I suppose, although matching on ISBN would give a more accurate and probably more complete list.

In case you're wondering (I know this and my last post are somewhat technical), duplicate records are records that are basically for the exact same title - it was published by the same publisher, published on the same year, etc. When we get e-book record files from vendors, we sometimes get records for the same title from multiple vendors. Some of the vendors have records with OCLC numbers in them, some don't, and sometimes they might have OCLC numbers in them but not the same ones that another vendor used (yes, OCLC has duplicate records, lots and lots of them). When we load them, we end up with multiple records for basically the same thing. Ideally, we'd like to have an e-book that is available from multiple vendors accessible on one record.

That's where record deduplication comes in. Right now, we could do our deduping by searching each and every e-book title in the catalog and clearing up duplicates as we come across them. This is not a good idea - we have tens of thousands of e-books, and the number will only grow. The tests I've been doing are part of an attempt to automate deduplication, or at least come up with a list of potential duplicates so that we could avoid having to search every single title in our e-book collection.

I think I'm going to start reading articles on record deduplication. I probably should have done this earlier - if I find something right away that could help us, I'm going to kick myself.

Trying to dedupe records...and failing

While provider neutral e-book records are a nice idea, it's a little hard to do in practice when you're dealing with vendor e-book record packages. Today will be Round 3 of me trying to figure out how to dedupe our records without having to go through each title one by one.

In theory, deduplication could be done at the record loading stage, using, for instance, ISBNs as a second match point. In practice, this probably wouldn't go well, unless we decided to have print and electronic formats on one record - by matching on ISBN, we would end up matching our e-book records with our print records. There are probably other issues with this method that I haven't even thought of. I could do some testing, but I haven't really focused much on this method of record deduplication yet.

Instead, I've mostly been looking at methods of deduplication using MARCEdit. The obvious method, using MARCEdit's deduplication tool and trying to dedupe on ISBNs, has so far failed. I'm either using the tool wrong, or it's not working the way it should. The first day I started experimenting, I remember having some success by matching on main title information. I think I might try that again today. Unfortunately, that would result in multiple editions of one title being considered dupes. If it also lists actual dupes, it would still be better than nothing. Instead of having to search hundreds of titles, maybe we'd only have to search a few dozen. Or so I hope...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Vacation, catalog maintenance

Wow, it's been almost a month and a half since my last post.  My vacation had a little to do with that, but the rest was just...pre-vacation near burn-out, maybe?

My vacation went great. It took me a while to get comfortable with my niece, since I've never really been around babies before, but now I find I feel sad that I won't get to see her very often. At the very least, everyone in her family but her mom and dad is going to miss out on her first birthday - so sad!

Being back at work feels a little weird, but that'll wear off. With SCUUG only a week away, I've been reminding myself how to use MARCEdit for catalog maintenance by working on a project I started looking into right before my vacation. An unknown number of name headings in our catalog are messed up, with subfield d coming before subfield q, rather than after. I had been ignoring this problem, but now it's starting to interfere pretty significantly with my batch authority searching and loading process.

An example of the problem:
Babcock, C. J. $d 1894- $q (Clarence Joseph),

Should be:
Bacock, C. J. $q (Clarence Joseph), $d 1894-

In the past, I occasionally fixed these by hand as I came across them. However, this is annoying, and also bad for my wrist. Global editing is a good thing, and this looked like something that should be fixable globally. I just wasn't sure how.

It turns out it's possible with MARCEdit, and I figured out how to do it all on my own. Woohoo! I'm planning on running the fix for all the oldest records in our catalog (nearly 200,000 I think) over the course of a few weeks. That should take care of most, if not all, of the problem, and then I can get back to batch searching and loading authority records.

While playing with all of that, I also learned the first few steps for a new tool in MARCEdit that allows you to extract certain records from a larger file, edit the smaller file of records, and (in theory) re-insert the edited records back into the larger file. This will be great for all kinds of projects, once I figure out how to get the reinsertion part to work.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cataloger humor on Twitter

Turns out I even like Fake AACR2 better than Fake RDA.

RDA and the RDA Toolkit

It's the final day of the RDA Toolkit free trial (I will not call it the "open access period," as this implies things that aren't true), so I decided to write a post about it.

When I originally began hearing about the RDA Toolkit, there were some things about it that I thought sounded kind of exciting. I liked the idea of being able to keyword search RDA. I liked the idea of a mapping between AACR2 and RDA and between MARC and RDA. I also thought the workflows feature sounded like it would be really useful.

Then I got to experience the reality of the RDA Toolkit, and not just what all the webinars had been telling me. My original plan was to try to catalog a few things using the Toolkit, to get a feel for what it would be like to actually use it. I also planned to try out any available Library of Congress RDA Toolkit workflows. It turns out my original plan was a bit ambitious.

I haven't been able to catalog a single thing with the RDA Toolkit. Granted, I haven't been able to use it as much as I would have liked, but the bigger problem is that it is so hard to figure out where to begin. If I take a look at the RDA table of contents, do I see something that helps me easily navigate cataloging a book, versus a DVD, versus a website? No. I see "Recording Attributes of..." (there is no way to get the full chapter title to show, not even by expanding the pane, so it's not until you click into a section of the chapter that you can guess it's actually "Recording Attributes of Manifestations and Items"), "Recording Primary Relationships..." (same problem as the previous chapter), "Recording Relationships to..." (again, same problem), and "Recording Relationships between..." (and again, same problem). Where am I supposed to begin? Even when I can find a logical starting place, if I don't consult other chapters, I won't be able to completely catalog the item.

"But wait!" you with knowledge of cataloging with AACR2 say.  "Isn't it the same with AACR2?" Well, in some ways, yes. Chapter 1 is the primary chapter one works with, but that information needs to be combined with other appropriate chapters, as well as chapters for choosing and building access points. However, with my nice print copy of AACR2, it's fairly easy to see the overall structure and pick out the chapters I need to use. I read many of these chapters from beginning to end when I was first learning to catalog, and now I rarely have to consult any of it. However, when I do need to consult it, it's fairly easy for me to figure out where to go. Each bibliographic description chapter has the same overall structure. There's even an index, for easier access when I can't remember exactly which chapter I need to consult to, say, deal with honorifics.

The RDA Toolkit is supposed to be the best way to use RDA: "...most users agree the preferred way to interact with RDA is online via the RDA..." (Troy Linker, AUTOCAT listserv post, "RDA Toolkit Solo-User Pricing, Double-User Offer, and RDA Print," 4/28/10). I'm not sure I agree with this, and I wonder if those users that supposedly said this qualified their statements with "but even the Toolkit is hard to use."  At least with AACR2, navigating the multiple chapters needed to catalog something is made easier with an index and an overall organization that accepts the physical reality of the items being cataloged (which, yes, has drawbacks when you're dealing with items that are electronic, rather than physical, but wouldn't it have been easier to just overhaul the e-resources portions of AACR2?). With the Toolkit, there is no index. When I asked whether there would be an index for RDA, I believe the answer was something along the lines of "probably not" or maybe "we'll consider it."  While I love the idea of being able to keyword search my cataloging rules, that's only a good option once I know those rules. I could probably do successful keyword searches in AACR2.  Unfortunately, one of the big things about RDA is that it overhauls cataloging vocabulary with FRBR terminology. An index with decent cross references could help clear things up, but, instead, I'm left with keyword searching. I know there are those who figure out which AACR2 rule corresponds to which RDA rule (connections which, as far as I can tell, have not yet been implemented as easy-to-use links in the Toolkit), but isn't RDA supposed to replace AACR2? It's not a good replacement if you find yourself having to consult the "replaced" rules just to use the new ones.

So, part of me wonders if it wouldn't be easier to use a print version of RDA, which would also have the advantage of not requiring a yearly subscription fee. I'd save myself a bit of eyestrain by not having to read through it on a screen (yes, you can print RDA from the RDA Toolkit, but then why not buy it in print in the first place?). However, then I remember the monstrous bulk of the RDA draft. Without an index, I'm not sure even a print version of RDA would be easier to use.

When I was first learning to use AACR2, I wrote in it, and I marked pages with post-it notes.  In the RDA Toolkit, you can create bookmarks, which is nice, but wouldn't it be even better if it were easier to add bookmarked information into a workflow? Maybe I've missed something, but the Workflows portion of the Toolkit, the part that I was most excited about, seems awfully clunky. The Workflows editor has many of the features of something like MS Word, and, as far as I can tell, no features that integrate it really well with RDA. When I bookmark parts of RDA, where is the feature in the RDA workflow creator that allows me to easily add bookmarked information to a workflow?  Yes, I can copy and paste, but I can do that in MS Word. There should be more benefits to using the Workflow creator/editor than just the ability to easily share workflows with others.

"The RDA Toolkit is designed to reach several audiences. The largest audience is of course catalogers, but some of the functions while marginally useful for catalogers were designed with educators, system developers, researchers, and the wider metadata community in mind." -- Troy Linker again, RDA Listserv, "Re: [RDA-L] RDA Toolkit - Schemas," 8/26/10

This is a point that has been made several times, that RDA and the RDA Toolkit are intended to be used by a wider audience than just catalogers. I'm wondering, does ALA Publishing really expect RDA to be adopted outside the library community? If even we have difficulty understanding it and how to apply it, I seriously doubt other communities would want to make the effort to wade through it. By trying to be all things to everyone, RDA has, in my opinion, managed to not really serve anyone. If anyone does use it (which library catalogers may have to, if the Library of Congress adopts it), they will probably not be using the RDA Toolkit. Instead, I imagine most people would rely heavily on a "Concise RDA" of some sort, or RDA cheatsheets. Another possibility is that those who do use the Toolkit will rely primarily on borrowed workflows, either used as is or with local edits. The Library of Congress' RDA workflows, while still a bit daunting, are much easier to use for the actual act of cataloging than the full RDA.

Last I heard, our library will not be subscribing to the RDA Toolkit yet. There's really no point. It's too cumbersome for me to begin using right now, and, anyway, there's not point in using it if it hasn't been officially adopted by the Library of Congress yet. Plus, if I were to switch to using it, I would first need to spend a few hours with Tracy, changing our ILS display settings and adding new MARC fields. For now, I guess I'll wait and see. It's just too bad that ALA Publishing set up such a limited trial period - why not extend the trial until the Library of Congress has actually made its decision? I doubt ours is the only library that will not be subscribing because it's not yet clear whether it would be a waste of money.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A week or so of Second Life

For a large chunk of time, I sort of forgot about Second Life. To get back in the swing of things in preparation for a meeting, I spent the past week or so exploring. Which is pretty much all I do in Second Life, because I haven't really felt inclined to try to build things. Well, except for that one time I accidentally created a cone, which, to my horror, stayed in the world after I brought it into being. As far as I know, the cone is still there, because I wasn't really sure how to get rid of it. Thankfully, it's tiny and underwater, so maybe no one will ever notice.

Anyway, I took pictures. Here they are.

This place is Chouchou_V. I think it's some band's island. It was empty when I went there, but the notecard I was given when I went to the island indicated that the band sometimes does Second Life concerts here. In this picture, you can see me at the top of some very high stairs, perilously close to falling. It's a pretty, creepy place. It makes me think of a cathedral of bone in a dream world.

This is my avatar in a place called Alirium. It has giant bunnies. It's a little hard to tell, but there's also another avatar with wings a little to my left. She never moved or spoke. Then again, I was a little too intimidated to try to strike up a conversation. I didn't stay here long, because the bunnies kind of freaked me out.

The next time I logged on to Second Life, I was a particle cloud. At work, with a less wonderful video card, I became an egg (I'll see about posting that one sometime - it really is pretty funny). Particle Cloud Me could move around, and apparently other people saw my avatar, and not the particle cloud. Even though I could still do things, I wanted my avatar back. I opened a case with Second Life tech support, waited a few days, heard nothing from them, and eventually figured out how to fix things myself. By the way, I was in a place called Nemo when I took this picture. It's a gorgeous steampunk-style island. Like so many other islands I've been to, it was completely devoid of other avatars.

These three pictures were taken on a strange island called Cheese. Cheese is like an onion of crazy - as you move around, you think you've seen it all until new stuff rezzes into being. I found it fascinating, creepy, and a little horrific. From what I could tell, what powers all this craziness is lots of capitalism. Any building you could go inside was filled to the brim with products you could buy. For example, in the third picture, I am within view of a building called "Ultra Mega Mass Homicide," which sells, if I remember correctly, scary clown skins, and a building called "That Handsome Devil," which also sold stuff (can't remember what). I'm standing on a platform in front of another store, which, among other things, sold dancing Michael Jacksons and dancing Christopher Walkens. It's too bad I only know how to take snapshots and not video - this picture just does not communicate the creepiness of turning around to see a frantically slithering Christopher Walken.

Also, you may have noticed, but my avatar is now black-and-white with wings. After finally figuring out how to not be an egg or a particle cloud, I decided to give my avatar a drastic makeover. This was the result.

I'm pretty sure this place was called Little Kasiopaya. These are not really representative pictures. Basically, from what I could tell, everything worth seeing on this island was enclosed in a giant glowing sphere - I'm standing right outside that sphere in the first picture. In the second picture, I turned around to see what was outside the sphere. As you can see, there was lots of space. Literally. Inside the sphere are various scenes which I think are supposed to depict areas of the galaxy. Or maybe giant jewels. In addition to providing some interesting views, I think this island was also intended as a good make-out spot. I came across one couple doing just that, as well as some "hug" and "cuddle"...things (jewels, spheres, whatever). I know, this probably makes no sense. I just don't have the Second Life vocabulary to describe this kind of stuff, and I didn't take the right pictures.

I am 100% broke in Second Life. I can't even do the dirt cheap fishing that one island offered as its fun activity. Luckily, sight-seeing is free. Petting the dogs at the VKC Dog island was also free. Here's my avatar, petting a doberman. All or most of the dogs here cost at least a few thousand Linden dollars to adopt. I think I'll wait and see if I can find my avatar a free pet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Semantics vs. the Library Catalog

"Not" is a very important word - leave the "not" out of any sentence, and you end up with a very different meaning. However, library catalogs don't necessarily care about that kind of thing, which can create a bit of a disconnect between them and their users.

Take this book I just cataloged: I can't believe it's not fattening! : 0ver 150 ridiculously easy recipes for the super busy by Devin Alexander. You won't ever find this book by searching for I can't believe it's not fattening. You'll either have to search for it with everything in quotes, or (the more amusing option) you'll have to search for I can't believe it's fattening, leaving out the "not."

I've heard that there's maybe one ILS out there that doesn't ask its users to rely on special tricks for getting around the "special Boolean words" issue. Ours is not that ILS.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Unauthorized subject headings

I've managed to reduce our unauthorized 650 fields (subject headings that don't have matching authority records in our system - this doesn't necessarily mean they aren't valid subject headings) to below 16,000. Or maybe that's the number of bibliographic records that contain unauthorized subject headings, I'm not sure. The number does not include Killeen-only records (which will one day be disappearing) or Cross Timbers stuff (which use subject headings in ways I don't quite understand and am not sure I should be messing with).

It's a small victory, and it's a long way from 0, but I'm still happy about it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Manga Guides, the complete package

What you see on the left is a whole lot of awesome, all 6 of the Manga Guides currently available from No Starch Press. If you can't read the titles, they are The Manga Guide to
- Molecular Biology
- Calculus
- Physics
- Electricity
- Databases
- Statistics

I've read the one on molecular biology. I thought it was ok, but not great. Still, I love the idea of learning a bit more about a subject via a format that I enjoy, manga. From what I understand, all six guides wrap their educational content in a simple story. In the molecular biology one, a professor has two students in his introductory molecular biology class who are failing, so he tells them they have to do special make-up work. On his private island. Yes, he has a private island, complete with virtual reality teaching tools and holographic image projection capability, which he uses to give his students minor heart attacks and hands on experience with the concepts he teaches. By the end of the book, the girls have learned a lot about molecular biology, and they also learn a secret the professor has been keeping from them. I knew that the story was going to be pretty simple and likely silly, so I didn't have a lot of expectations in that area. My biggest problem with the book had to do with its information, which didn't always seem very balanced and which I'm pretty sure left out a few important bits (if I remember my high school biology classes correctly). Also, chunks of the book were just text, with heads in the margins to show who was speaking - pretty boring.

But just because I didn't think the molecular biology book was all that great doesn't mean I don't want to try out the other books. The ones on statistics and databases are next on my list - I'll have to see about requesting them via ILL sometime.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cookery, again

I think I managed to change all our "cookery" authority records to their new "cooking" form. That means that, tonight, all subject headings linked to those records should change to "cooking" instead of "cookery."

This does not necessarily mean that all instances of "cookery" in our subject headings will be gone. Our Children's subject headings will probably continue to use "cookery" - since I only do authority work on Library of Congress subject headings and not Children's, MeSH, or anything else, the only subject headings that ever get updated are Library of Congress subject headings. Also, we have some Library of Congress subject headings in our catalog that don't have their corresponding subject authority records loaded yet - these won't change to "cooking" until I change them by hand and/or load their authority records and force the headings to flip.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Subjects headings and DVDs continued

The "Gay parents" vs. "Same-sex parents" argument on AUTOCAT is still ongoing.

In "cataloged DVDs" news, today I cataloged an interesting consumer education one called Shopping behind the seams : judging quality in clothes. It shows how to judge the quality of clothes before you buy them, so that you don't end up spending more for clothes than what they're worth. I didn't see enough to know if it's all just commonsense advice or if it includes tips you might not normally think of, but it at least has the potential to be really good, so I might check it out sometime.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Subject heading arguments: "Gay parents" vs. "Same-sex parents"

The big argument on AUTOCAT today was over the subject heading "Gay parents" vs. "Same-sex parents." There was some confusion over whether or not one authority record should have been cancelled in favor of the other (basically, "don't these mean the same thing?") or whether "Same-sex parents" should at least have a "broader topic" reference in the authority record for "Gay parents." I think it all came down to, "they are not necessarily redundant," with lots of references to films and sitcoms in which children have parent figures who are not gay but who are the same sex as one of their "actual" parents (a biological parent, or a guardian).

It kind of began to feel like a Friday thing (odd tangents, jokes, and other things that aren't really work-related are generally restricted to Fridays on AUTOCAT, although sometimes Friday starts a few days early), but similar discussions have happened in the past over other subject headings. Most often the subject headings causing confusion are religious or legal ones, where it is sometimes difficult for those without a lot of knowledge about the topics to understand how they should be applied.

Hulu on the new monitor

I started using Hulu again for the first time in a long time. I like watching stuff full screen if I can, and I was worried that any subtitled stuff I might want to watch would be too blurry full screen on my new monitor, but it turns out that it's not much worse than when I viewed stuff full screen on my laptop. Yay!

So, my current show is Naruto Shippuden. My dad keeps calling me up to give me unasked for spoilers, so I figure it's finally time to start watching the show - hopefully I can eventually get to the point where I'm watching it too quickly for him to spoil things for me. That may be a while, though - right now on Hulu, the show has reached 165 episodes.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's DVD time

I changed my procedures for cataloging DVDs a little today. Although I now catalog almost everything in OCLC Connexion and then import it into WorkFlows, AV materials are some of the few things I still catalog directly in WorkFlows. Since my wrist still hurts a bit when I use a mouse, though, (it's getting better, but slowly) I wasn't looking forward to cataloging anything in WorkFlows - there are a lot of things that I need to do while cataloging (like adding a new field) that, as far as I know, have no shortcut keys in WorkFlows. With OCLC Connexion, I can use the keyboard or mouse as much as I want, just by mapping some things to certain keystrokes or setting up macros.

So, to save my wrist, I cataloged DVDs in Connexion today instead of in WorkFlows. The only thing I had to remember to do was change the title control numbers of the brief records in our system before I imported the records. It worked out very nicely, and I think I'll continue to do it this way in the future - not only did it reduce the amount of time I had to spend using a mouse, it also reduced the number of times I had go back and forth between different programs, because I could do both cataloging and authority work in one place.

Basically, good news for me, and maybe I'll get through all of these DVDs a little more quickly. Or not. I would've thought the Gone with the Wind record would have been wonderful, but that one ended up needing the most work out of all the ones I did today. After all, how can something be a "2-disc edition" and yet supposedly have 3-discs? Sloppy editing on someone's part, and everyone who's used the record (including me) is afraid to edit the master record. Or it really is a 3-disc "2-disc edition"...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Going through stuff, or at least thinking about it

I have almost 1600 unread emails. Part of the problem is that I don't subscribe to the digest form of anything, so nearly all of them come from the various listservs I subscribe to. Almost half of them come from PERSNAME-L. It's a great listserv for finding about about possible incorrect name heading forms in bibliographic records and, I think, the occasional name authority record correction/change. However, I almost never have the time to go through the emails, and, even when I do, it's stuff I tend not to be able to do in great big chunks (as in "physically can't do in great big chunks"). PERSNAME-L is followed by MARCEDIT-L (the listserv for MARCEdit, great MARC editing software), another great resource. Mostly, I read MARCEDIT-L for catalog maintenance ideas, although I've gotten an amazing amount of help just by emailing the listserv any questions I have.

While working on cleaning out my emails, I finally decided to delete some emails that mentioned taking care of Bear after his surgery. It's weird, boring little emails can make me sad - before those, it was photos of Bear and Yuki I found on my cell phone (which have no plans to ever delete). My cell phone is like a graveyard of pets - I found photos of Cinnamon (my family's dog, who died days after I came to Stephenville) and Felix (one of my family's cats, who also died after I came to Stephenville).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Webinar - "Making the Most of RDA Toolkit's Open-Access Period"

I just finished watching the newest RDA Toolkit webinar, "Making the Most of RDA Toolkit's Open-Access Period." I missed out on some of it, because Donna and I were talking about RDA and what we might be doing about it (and lamenting that you can only get the best deal on RDA Toolkit before it's clear whether the Library of Congress and large universities will even be adopting it). However, I don't think I missed too much - honestly, a lot of it was the same as the previous RDA webinar I went to (except for updated pricing info, areas of the RDA Toolkit that used to not work now do) and, for the most part, it felt like a marketing presentation (because it was). Troy Linker, the guy who did the presentation, isn't a cataloger, and this presentation wasn't about using the RDA Toolkit to catalog something, it was about using the RDA Toolkit, period.

I'm still not pleased that there's no index, by the way. The RDA Toolkit uses some terminology that's going to be new to me, and it would be nice to be able to turn to an index and find cross-references from the terms I know to the terms RDA is now using, i.e. FRBR terms. I don't have AACR2 rule numbers memorized, unlike some catalogers. I just know that, if I have a question about something, I need to flip to the appropriate chapter. RDA Toolkit lets you find rules via keyword searching, via looking through the table of contents (which uses an organization system that is alien to those who actually catalog), and via looking up AACR2 rule numbers (if there is a correlation between the rule and RDA). I like being able to flip through a physical book, though. Yes, RDA will be released in paper form, but it is so not meant to be used in paper form. And. There. Is. No. Index. Those who saw the draft will remember that the table of contents alone was 70 pages. The print version would be unwieldy enough with an index. Without one, it will be an exercise in self-torture.

During the first few minutes of the presentation, Mr. Linker made sure to say that RDA will better help library users "find, identify, select, and obtain" the information they want. You know, right, that saying something doesn't automatically make it true? First, from what I've heard, RDA isn't really all that different from AACR2 - it's just that the way it's being presented (complete reorganization of the rules, best used online, etc.) is completely different. Second, nothing RDA says will change anything unless a library's ILS can actually make things happen. Our ILS may have its...issues, but it's still better than some I've heard about, and even our ILS can't seem to manage to effectively link different editions, translations, etc., even when fields that should link them are provided. If there's a problem, that problem lies either in how a library's ILS is interpreting MARC, or that problem lies in MARC itself. Or both. I don't know enough about programming to really know the answer to that one.

Well, that's it for now. More on RDA the next time I go to another webinar. Or after I actually get to try it out. Maybe there will eventually be a webinar just about using RDA to actually catalog something - I'd rather have one of those than another marketing webinar.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Playing with GIMP again

GIMP is way too much fun. I've been experimenting with paths (transforming them, painting along them, etc.). I came up with a little project for myself - make a Dick Smith Library wallpaper. Well, I'm not sure how recognizable the logo is, because the selection I turned into a path was really bad, but here it is. I did the jungle-y text to try to make it look like the logo was done strangely on purpose. This wallpaper was for work - my next project will be to make a good one for my ginormous new monitor at home. Somewhere along the line, I hope to learn how to create better paths.

There are actually 3 versions of this wallpaper. I originally created one with a light yellow background and green Tarleton text, but I like the darker version better when used as wallpaper, because icons show up better. I thought the filter I used on the logo and text was kind of cool - I think it looks a bit like a woodcut this way.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Pages and pages of names

For a while there, I had been working on batch loads of authority files for names in our 100 fields that WorkFlows said were unauthorized (which still leaves the 600s and 700s, and maybe 800s). I sort of stopped working on that project for a while - I think that I was working on the C's when I stopped. I thought I'd done a pretty thorough job, and then I started working on the project again. From A to C, I was able to batch load more than 2500 authority records. I think a lot of them came from e-resource records, which means every time we get batches of e-book records added to the system, the number of unauthorized headings I have to deal with just balloons. Really, I already knew that, I had just never had it demonstrated to me quite so clearly before. Oh, free MARC records. Even the best of them bloat my catalog maintenance reports.

I'll keep plugging along. Going through all the names to find the ones that shouldn't be batch loaded is annoying, though, like a word search puzzle that never ends. Luckily, I may be getting a little help with that. We'll see.

I've got my procedures for name headings pretty much figured out, but I need to take another look at the way I've been doing subject headings. Hmm.... On the plus side, I'm getting really good at doing nifty things with Find and Replace in Word.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Something to look forward to

In a couple weeks or so, I will have a new computer, my first desktop PC in 8 years. I've been saving up for it for two years and can't wait to get it - I hope everything goes ok. It took quite a bit of time on the phone to get the whole "being shipped to a different address than the billing address" part to work out, but I'd rather deal with that than having to take a couple days off, one day for the monitor and one for the computer itself, just to wait around for the FedEx guy.

The nifty thing about having to order this over the phone (because of the address complications) is that I discovered that I get an additional discount for working for Tarleton, so the whole thing was $100 cheaper than I originally thought it would be. Yay! It's not just Dell that gives us discounts, it's HP, too.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The reference desk, aka the research vending machine

I'm sure people who work at the reference desk more regularly than I do have had this happen to them plenty of times before, but the Unshelved comic for today reminds me of one particular experience at the reference desk I had. I don't know how much of it people retain, but I usually try to make sure that I talk about what I'm doing as I do searches for people - maybe they're actually paying attention, maybe they're not, but usually they at least stick around and look like they're paying attention.

This one particular time I'm thinking of, the person didn't even do that. I started to do the search based on what they first told me when they walked up to the desk, looked up to ask for some clarification on a few things, and saw them walking away to go sit at one of the computers. Which automatically made me think, "so, what am I, the research vending machine?" I managed to get the guy to actually come back to the reference desk (I also offered to help him do stuff at his computer, on the off chance he was worried he might lose his computer to someone), and then I found out that he was actually part of a two-person group. The second person stuck around with me to watch me search and clarify things as I searched, and the first person walked off again.

I wonder how common this sort of thing is? I had never had someone come up to me before, tell me what they were researching, and just go to a computer while I was in the middle of searching databases for them.

I can't remember at what time of year this happened. Maybe it's more common during finals time?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wiki updates on series searching

Today I updated our Staff Wiki with all kinds of new information about series title searching, although a lot of it won't really be true until the database gets reindexed (after the reindexing, I'll be adding another illustrative image to the stuff I wrote in the wiki). However, I'm really excited about the recent changes Tracy and I did - I hope they'll make our series title browse more useful. At the very least, the changes cleared up a lot of inconsistencies we had in our settings - always a big "yay" in my book. It's no wonder I had so much trouble wrapping my brain around the way our series browse searching works.

Unrelated to the actual content of the wiki page ("Catalog Records", which should probably be renamed, but I can't figure out what would be better), I'm also happy I managed to add a table of contents to the page. I have a feeling the page will get pretty unwieldy in the future, and a table of contents should help deal with that a bit.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

RDA Update webinar

Today's Amigos "RDA Update" webinar was quite good, although a bit (more than a bit?) biased against RDA. It's the first RDA presentation I've attended that included a list of some of the primary changes RDA is making to bibliographic records (although, since RDA has not officially come out yet, even this is still technically preliminary).

Whether the general cataloging community will implement RDA is still up in the air. If it doesn't, I doubt we'll adopt it either. I'm still waiting to see how things will go with the Library of Congress, how SirsiDynix plans to adapt to it, and whether we can afford it (although recent changes to the pricing may help with that, as long as everyone at DSL is ok with only one RDA Toolkit user at a time - the paper version is a last resort, because it's monstrous and doesn't have an index).

Although RDA obviously directly affects me, because cataloging is a big part of my job, it will affect others at DSL as well if we implement it. Those who do some cataloging will need to know about it and how it differs from AACR2 - part of the reason why it's a little frustrating that I'm always the only one at RDA information sessions. I suppose I'll need to put together training sessions or something.

It's not just people who catalog who will be affected, however. RDA will very much affect how our records look and, if SirsiDynix gets its act together, it will very much affect how searching works. Yes, that means reference librarians will have to know what's going on, too, and even users (for whom most cataloging changes probably usually go unnoticed) will likely realize something has changed, even if all they consciously notice is the superficial changes.

Here's what we can look forward to so far (warning, cataloger jargon-heavy - I'll need to do a less jargon-y list for the staff blog at some point). I don't mention FRBR at all, although it's very important. I'd like to look at a FRBRized demo catalog that was mentioned in the webinar before I bring it up in relation to RDA and the future of catalog searching. So, record changes:
  1. GMD (General Material Designations) in the 245 fields are going away. That means that something that was previously "Clinical microbiology [videorecording]." will become "Clinical microbiology." RDA assumes that you have an OPAC that graphically displays what an item is. If we implement RDA, unless we also implement item type graphics, I will have to edit every record that would previously have had a GMD so that it once again has a GMD, unless we can figure out some kind of workaround that can draw from the three new MARC field that will be taking the place of 245 subfield h.
  2. The "rule of three" is gone. Now, either every author/contributor will be recorded, or, at the very least, the bit that formerly said "et al." will say something like "and 5 others." Each library will have to decide for itself how many names they wish to record and how many they will wish to trace, potentially resulting in the need for even more local editing than is currently necessary. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this change.
  3. "Editor as author" is now ok. I'm assuming this means that an editor can be used as a main entry. Compiler can be used as main entry, too.
  4. All abbreviations that are not actually used on the item itself are abolished. Everything will be spelled out. "Ed." will be "edition", "Dept." will be "Department". You get the idea.
  5. Cryptic/Latin terms like s.l. and s.n. will no longer be used. Instead, "place not given" and "name not given" will be used (unless you're at a non-English speaking library, in which case you'll be cataloging in whatever language is spoken by your user base).
  6. Authority records will be changing, although I'm not quite sure how. They'll have more information in them, at any rate, although I don't know that anyone but catalogers will notice.
  7. There will no longer be any need to justify headings in records. That means that, if you think it's appropriate to add a name heading to a record, you can, even if that name is mentioned nowhere else in the record. It's a freeing idea for a cataloger, but it could also potentially cause problems in terms of record sharing and future record maintenance, since it would not be immediately apparent why the headings were used and what their usefulness, or not, is.

That's all I can think of for now. As far as the immediate use/understandability issues go, I'm most concerned about the lack of GMD, because of the way our OPAC is set up to display our records - true, I can choose to enter "hybrid RDA" records into our system, but I'd like to have to do less record editing, not more. As far as the rest of it goes, the thought of all that typing exhausts me. I can understand why some users might like some of the changes, but I, as the one responsible for doing all that cataloging, am not happy about the amount of time things will probably take. I'm not sure how many headings (for instance, authors) I'll prefer to have us trace - it wouldn't take too much time, if I did a sloppy job of it and didn't check each heading I added against available authority records, but it would take quite a bit of time if I did a good job of it.

I'm really interested to see what SirsiDynix will do after RDA is released. Of course, it may take a few years before anything happens. It's at least comforting to learn that SirsiDynix is one of the ILS vendors involved in the testing of RDA.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Waiting and watching

The vet wasn't able to say for sure what's causing Bear's lower body weakness (his hind legs don't have as much range of movement and control, and his tail is mostly limp). Apparently, he might have hurt his back. He might also have degenerative osteoarthritis. That second one scares me, since it means he's only going to get worse. (I love Rat Health Guide, by the way - it's been very helpful over the years.)

The vet has put him on steroids, and today was his third day getting them. So far, I'm not sure if he's improved, but the vet said it might take as long as a week to see results. I'm also a bit worried about his tumor, which seems to have gotten a bit larger. I had originally planned to take him in for surgery if it looked like the tumor was going to start growing, but with his other problems now I'm not so sure. I'm hoping the universe will be nice to Bear and just leave him alone for a while.

I'm working on creating a single-story cage for him. It's basically just a plastic storage container with some aluminum screen material on top - I doubt he's athletic enough anymore to make it out of the container, even if I chose not to give it a cover, but I figure it's better safe than sorry. I'll probably put him in the new cage tonight, so I can see how he deals with it before work on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Item IDs transformed into barcodes

I dug up Merry Bortz's "Report Makeovers" PowerPoint presentation, in which, among other things, she explains how to turn item IDs in reports into scanable barcodes using MS Word's Find and Replace - and I actually got it to work! The current cleanup project I applied this to is fairly small - only 60 or 70 item types need to be globally changed - but it's nice to know that I've figured out how to do this, in case I've ever got something a bit larger and/or more complex to deal with.

That was probably one of the most awesome SIRSI presentations I've been to so far, and I'm applying what I learned on an almost weekly basis - maybe not the "item IDs into barcodes" part, but definitely the parts where she talked about cleaning up reports. That's how I set things up for batch searching in OCLC.

Some presentations are just so worth the entire cost of a conference - and I'm saying this 6 months after the conference. :o)

Second Life snapshot

I figured out how to take a picture of my screen in Second Life (not a screenshot, which would also show my avatar's name floating above her head, but a "clean" picture). So, here's a picture of me on some island - I can't remember the name of it. It's the one where I fell into the ocean. In the background, you can see a dunk tank, which I've never seen in action, and a merry-go-round. I think there's some kind of water park or something in this picture, too. My computer doesn't really like this island much, because there's so much stuff on it - it takes forever for everything to rez (rez = to appear/finish loading). I don't currently have access to a computer that meets Second Life's minimum requirements - I wonder what Second Life would be like if I did?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Second Life - TLA presentations and solidity problems

After weeks (maybe even more than a month?) of not getting on Second Life, I logged on today so that I could attend some presentations on libraries and Second Life. The presentations were pretty interesting, and they gave me some ideas for places to visit in Second Life that might point to ways DSL could set up its Second Life presence.

One place I was particularly interested in was Know How Island, so I visited that. I'll have to spend a bit more time there, but for the most part I found it interesting, creative, and frustrating. Know How Island sets up little learning activities so that they're a bit like games. There's a swimming pool that's supposed to teach you how Boolean searches work, a boardwalk that you can explore to learn a bit more about how to judge sources, and lots of other stuff (I even found a fish that gave me a notecard that included its subject headings and a few related narrow research topics). As far as exploration goes, it's pretty cool, a bit bizarre, and it must have taken lots of work. I'm not sure it's quite as fun as the presentations today made it seem, though. For example, I couldn't get the darn Boolean pool to advance to the next stage, no matter what I did (were those fuchsia things supposed to be red?) - this frustration factor was repeated in other areas of the island, and I don't think it's necessarily a failing of the island, but rather a failing of Second Life in general. Still, the island is interesting and I plan to explore it more later.

After Know How Island, I went to Info Island, which is another place I'm going to have to spend more time in. From there I went to Info Island International (or something like that) - lots of good stuff there, almost too much. Feeling a bit of information overload just by being there, I decided to teleport somewhere else and decided to see what Second Life thinks is my Avatar's home. I don't know where it took me, but I don't think I've ever been there. I certainly don't remember ever having been somewhere with a road before. A road I promptly fell through and couldn't get out of.

So, to get out of being trapped under the road, I teleported to yet another island, where I immediately almost fell to the bottom of a deep, dark ocean and was saved only by remembering how to not just fly, but fly up. Then I decided I'd hit my Second Life max and logged out. It's a good thing avatars can't die.

Bear go rawr

One of the drawbacks of having a pet rat is that they don't have very good eyesight. I got Bear all excited over a piece of apple, opened his cage to give it to him, and forgot to be careful about where I stick my fingers - so now I'm a little bit wounded. Thankfully, it's in a easy place to bandage and he wasn't trying to do damage, so the bite wasn't very deep and I only bled a little. But ouch.

Friday, April 9, 2010

World War II is over - next up, the Vitenam War

Technically, we're dealing with the Vietnamese Conflict, not the Vietnam War. Hopefully, all our Vietnamese Conflict headings are now updated - I was going to check, but I seem to be having problems accessing the library's website. More than likely I'll have some manual cleanup to do, though. World War II took more manual cleanup than I expected. Just a few examples - headings in which the war started in 1930 or 1936 (typos, don't you love them?), and an instance where the war was a geographic subject heading (which would mean World War II was a place, not an event - an interesting idea for, say, a writer to play around with, but not something that has any place in our catalog).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

World War II ends...TONIGHT!

Or so I hope. Last night I discovered to my embarrassment (as I was helping a student, actually) that we still have books with subject headings in which World War II hasn't ended - the subject heading used is "World war, 1939-" instead of "World war, 1939-1945." I'm hoping they'll all "flip" to the correct heading tonight.

This is why ongoing catalog maintenance is a good idea. I've also noticed that, if a person has died sometime after 1950, there's a good chance they're still alive in our name and subject headings. "Aged" (which should be "Older people") is a known problem and being worked on - I could flip them overnight, but there tend to be more problems with these records than just a single out-of-date heading, so I'm doing them by hand. Headings containing "Afro-American" (which should be "African American") are also still in the process of being flipped - the remaining ones basically need to be done by hand.

::sigh:: I could really use a second me for full-time maintenance work. However, our "browse" searches are working much better than they used to.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

DSL audiobook cataloging changes

I'm just about done cataloging all our new audiobooks. In order to speed up the cataloging of audiobooks and, I hope, improve the way they're displayed in our catalog, here's some things I've started doing. Note to any catalogers who may stumble upon this: these are local edits only, so don't freak out. I rarely edit audiobook master records.
  • Statements such as "abridged" and "unabridged" are moved from the 500 field (a miscellaneous "note" field) to the 250 field (used for edition statements). Although these statements aren't technically edition statements, according to the way they're defined in OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards (I wasn't able to find anything this specific in AACR2, so AACR2 may be more flexible in its definition of "edition"), even if 500 notes for audiobooks displayed in our OPAC, and I don't believe they do, it would take a little work for our users to see what many audiobook listeners consider important information.
    What this means for catalog users: Whether an audiobook is abridged or unabridged will display right next to the title in our results lists.
  • I'm no longer listening to even a portion of each audiobook. According to AACR2, the chief source of information for sound recordings is, for CDs, the disc and label and, for cassettes, the cassette and label. Listening to the discs wasn't really accomplishing anything other than making the cataloging process take quite a bit longer.
    What this means for catalog users: Probably not much, unless the discs are defective in some way. In theory, listening to the discs also allowed me to spot-check them for problems. I still visually examine the discs for scratches, but I could potentially miss problems that might only make themselves known by listening to the discs. However, by the time I catalog things, it's usually well past the period when we'd be able to send something back. If we were truly concerned about defective discs, we'd need to have our Acquisitions students check them as they received them.
  • As I mentioned in my previous post, I now add the 306 field, which contains standardized playing time information, to each record that doesn't have it. Although this may add a little to the time it takes to edit an audiobook record, it doesn't add much - this takes less time to do than adding a 590.
    What this means for catalog users: Probably not much, unless they want to try my advanced search, with all its annoying limitations. However, without this field, any kind of limiting by playing time is next to impossible.
  • I don't record producers, directors, etc. in audiobook records. In most cases, I'd have to at least listen to the first and last discs (or cassettes, although I've only had to deal with CDs so far) to get this information, skipping to the last track of the last disc and carefully fast forwarding until I got to the credits. I've done this before - this added significantly to the time it took to catalog an audiobook, and I kept asking myself, "What's the point?" I doubt our users are interested in the producer and director of, say, the audiobook version of Blink. Rest assured, I always record and add access points for audiobook readers.
    What this means for catalog users: In the event that they actually are interested in audiobook producers, directors, etc., they're out of luck.

Ok, I think that's all the main changes I've recently made to the way I catalog our audiobooks. While certain information is left out that wouldn't have been before, I don't think the information is important to our users - if I'm wrong and someone has come to the reference desk asking about something that I'm now leaving out of records, let me know. The primary benefit of several of these changes is that audiobooks are getting cataloged much faster. This not only benefits me - it benefits our users, who get to see audiobooks on the shelves sooner and who don't have to wait ages for me to get back to cataloging print books because the audiobooks are taking up all of my time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Audiobooks - limiting by playing time

I'm working on cataloging a big stack of audiobooks, and looking over my "Audiobook Cheat Sheet" reminded me of something. A while back, I wrote a post about limiting searches to books of certain lengths. I mentioned that the method I was writing about for books could be used for audiobooks, but that it had certain severe limitations, because of the way audiobook lengths can be recorded in the 300 field.

Well, it turns out that there is a perfectly easy method of limiting audiobooks searches by length (although even this method has its limitations - see below). The problem is that the records have to have the proper field, and I know not all of ours do (we have more than 500 audiobooks, and I think only slightly more than one fifth of them have records than include the necessary field).

Basically, field 306 is for recording "playing time" in a standard manner. For all the details, see the MARC 21 Standards page for this field. Playing time is always recorded as hhmmss, where h is hours, m is minutes, and s is seconds. So, a sound recording that is 2 hours and 30 minutes long would be recorded as 023000.

Although the search one needs to perform to limit by information recorded in this field is what I would consider "advanced," it's a relatively easy advanced search. Simply use ? in place of any number you're not particularly concerned with. For instance, if I know I'd like an audiobook that's no more than 3 hours long, I could limit my search (an Advanced Search with Type: Audiobook selected) by adding, as a General Keyword search, 03????{306}

Now for the limitations. As far as I know, there's no way to use wildcards so that you can search for all audiobooks that are, say, less than three hours, including audiobooks that are 2 hours and 15 minutes, or only 30 minutes long. If you wanted something like that, I think you'd be limited to constructing the General Keyword part of the search so that it looks something like this: (03???? OR 02???? OR 01???? OR 00????){306} Finding things that are, say, more than 3 hours long could be pretty complicated. I had thought NOT would be a useful Boolean operator, but I'm not sure how I'd start the whole thing - (NOT 02???? NOT 01???? NOT 00????){306} isn't a permissible search.

Annoying, yes? If anyone can think of an easier way to construct searches for ranges of playing times, I'd love to hear it. Still, I suppose it could be worse. The lack of 306 fields in our records is probably the biggest limitation right now, but, since this information would already be recorded in the 300 fields, it wouldn't be too difficult to add 306 to the records that don't have it. At the very least, I'm going to make sure to add 306 to any new records I add to our system. It's too bad the information isn't easier to use, but maybe it will be one day in the future.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Authority control, without the shoulder pain

For most people at DSL, the biggest benefit of all those unsmooshed fields we now have in our catalog is that subject and name headings can now be used properly. For me, the biggest benefit is that I can now run reports that will allow me to do some of our authority work in batches. The process still takes time, and there are so very many headings that will need to be dealt with individually, but being able to do any of this in batch makes me happy. Yesterday, I started writing up procedures for how the reports need to be run and massaged so that batch searching with them is possible, but I've already loaded 10,000 or so authority records with the help of this method, so I know it works.

By the way, prior to our unsmooshing project, those 10,000 authority records would have probably taken me more than 4 months to go through and load, assuming that the resulting shoulder pain from moving my hand back and forth between my mouse and keyboard for each record didn't completely cripple me. I ♥ batch searching.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Done, until next year

I've finally done my taxes - after remembering them, forgetting them, remembering them, forgetting them, guilt-tripping myself about them, stressing about them, etc. Now I just have to get past that portion of my brain that wonders if I did something wrong or didn't do something I should have - I think it's related to the same portion of my brain that thinks I might've left a burner on, every time I leave the house. I have this vision of IRS employees being like the guys with blue latex gloves in Firefly.

Friday, March 12, 2010

GIMP, 1st attempt

I think I'm addicted to GIMP. This was my 1st attempt at using it in years. For the most part, it was easier than I remembered. This was inspired by Library Lovers Day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front edited by K.R. Roberto

I just realized that I finished this a while back, and I haven't really written about it much. Like any book of essays, some of the essays are better than others. I'm probably not "radical" enough for some of the writers who contributed to this book, but I appreciate that some of them care enough about certain issues (like queer subject access, or the classification of Native American materials) to force the cataloging world to change, however slowly.

I think, for me, the most enjoyable and potentially useful section of the book was part 3, which included essays on innovative cataloging practices. One essay (Michelle Emanuel and Susannah Benedetti's "Browsing Berman, finding Fellini, cataloging Kurosawa: alternative approaches to cataloging foreign language films in academic libraries") would be good for me to consult, if only to get myself in the proper mindset, if we ever decide we need to do a cleanup of our DVD/VHS call numbers and subject headings (or genre headings). I've started trying to formulate and follow a plan for how I construct call numbers for DVDs such as those based on plays or books, but that doesn't take care of previous inconsistencies in practice.

Another good essay I'm going to have to go over again sometime is Wendy Baia's "User-centered serials cataloging," which includes tips for serials cataloging damage control. I don't know that we'd necessarily want to follow all those tips, but I can understand why she thinks they're necessary, and it wouldn't hurt to look through them and at least consider them and figure out what their implications would be for both our users and future serials record maintenance. Or maybe I'll just recommend this essay to Janie - I'm sure she'd like some of the tips.

Although it was short, I enjoyed Robin Fay's "'Why isn't my book on the shelf?' and other mysteries of the library," which was about error reporting. The author's library's catalog has links to an error reporting form at the bottom right of the screen - sometimes users report actual errors in records, and sometimes the "errors" they report are actually indications that the library needs to be clearer about certain things (for instance, the meaning of the word "discharged," letting students know what they need to do if they can't find a book the catalog says is there, etc.).

Jennifer Erica Sweda ("Dr. Strangecataloger: or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the tag") and Dana M. Caudle and Cecilia M. Schmitz ("Drawing reference librarians into the fold") also wrote essays I enjoyed, although, with me anyway, they were preaching to the choir. Personally, I love the idea of user applied tags (in conjuction with the continued application of LCSH by catalogers, which I'm a little worried about the future of, after reading Thomas Mann's "What is going on at the Library of Congress?"), and getting input from reference librarians on how to improve the catalog seems like a no-brainer to me.

I'm going to have to take a closer look at Dana M. Caudle and Cecilia M. Schmitz's "MARC: it's not just for cataloging anymore," although I think some of what they describe in their essay is stuff we accomplish with ItemCat1 and ItemCat2 in our item records. However, I love their description how their library maintains its lists of electronic databases - using information drawn from the MARC records in their catalog, Perl scripts generate updating A-Z and subject-specific lists. Database cataloging might seem a bit less like slogging through thigh-high mud if I knew that the information I was inputting might end up being used as more than just a bandaid for confused students. I keep putting my database cataloging off in favor of other things.

An essay I was particularly looking forward to reading was Carrie Preston's "High-speed cataloging without sacrificing subject access or authority control: a case study." I already do some of the things Preston mentions, like making use of macros (although I really need to figure out how to create a macro that strings together several macros, so I don't have to run each one separately). Some of what Preston writes is a little more painful, like choosing not to enter certain information that is considered optional. One thing I've incorporated into my current regular cataloging is the elimination of bibliography pagination - I still check it if it's already in the record, but I don't add it if it isn't, and probably no one will ever miss it. I consider table of contents notes or summary notes to be more worth my time than bibliography pagination, and, using a combination of copy and paste and several nifty macros, I can create summary and contents notes more quickly than I used to be able to. One thing I incorporated into my cataloging of our databases was sitting down and figuring out which fields absolutely need to be there, which fields need to be checked if present but don't need to be added if they aren't, and which fields don't even need to be checked. Having a set list of things I need to pay attention to has helped speed things up a bit (when I actually choose to work on the project, which I've been really bad about).

The thing about all "radical" cataloging decisions is that they need to be applied consistently. If a cataloger decides, for the good of his or her library's users, to do something differently from what the rules say and what other catalogers do, that's fine, but those decisions need to be documented for future catalogers.

One thing I think also needs to be taken into consideration is whether or not the benefits of any local changes to the rules outweigh the drawbacks. For instance, Brian R. Thompson's "Monographic collections structure and layout revisions: or, how to tweak LC call numbers for the good of your users" details how his library came up with an implemented a huge reclassification project that tweaked LC call numbers so that books were grouped together in a more user-friendly way. This sounds great (and exhausting to do), but it also means that this library may never again be able to use call numbers in records they import as they are - in order to keep their clean, user-friendly arrangement, they might need to tweak the call number of each book they have to catalog. That works fine if you've got enough catalogers, or at least enough people trained in assigning call numbers that follow local practices, or if catalogers don't need to catalog much, but otherwise it's potentially a nightmare. Currently, however problematic LC's assignment of call numbers sometimes happens to be, I accept almost all LC-assigned call numbers without question. I can't imagine having to at least look at, if not tweak, each call number I encounter. Cataloging takes long enough as it is.

Overall, this book was pretty interesting, and some of the essays would probably even be readable by noncatalogers (it should be noted that not all of the essay authors are catalogers). However, catalogers in particular should be able to get something useful out of this, even if only a different way of thinking.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pet store!

After getting my teeth scraped and polished by the dentist, I went to Granbury to get some car stuff done - probably unnecessary, but it also works as an excuse for getting out of Stephenville. My vet told me that she got her family's rat at a pet store in Granbury, so I decided to try finding it. It's got tons of supplies and accessories, even the cardboard tubes that are the perfect size for Bear to curl up in. The place does, indeed, have rats, but they're intended to be feeder rats - they're sorted into cages marked "small," "medium," and "large." They're probably never handled, and they're not necessarily very healthy. Still, the "small" rats might be young enough to become sweet pets. I loved looking at them - their feet were almost as big as their heads!

No, I'm not considering getting more rats anytime in the near future, I'm just looking into my options. I figure that, when Bear's gone, I'll be petless for a while. Short rat lifespans are so tough to deal with. After my last pair of rats, I swore I'd never get any more, and a few years later I ended up with Bear and Yuki when the pet store my mom shops at had an accidental rat litter. I'd prefer to get my next rats the same way, or from a breeder, but that might not be possible. Well, you never know.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Status of the "unsmooshing project" - Finished!

As of 12:36 PM today, I loaded what I think are the last of the records with "smooshed" headings and fields. I say "I think" because 1) it turns out there were a few stragglers I almost missed because mine and Tracy's method of extracting them by call number didn't catch them (invalid call numbers? strange Sudoc numbers? I saved the records and plan on checking or sending a student to check) and 2) it's possible that there are records with smooshed fields that don't fit the criteria we set up when we extracted them.

Even if we missed some, we still managed to touch and fix an amazing number of records in slightly less than two weeks, and almost 24,000 access points that were previously unusable for anything other than keyword searching are now usable as actual headings (i.e., they will now display correctly in browse searches, you have a reasonable chance of finding more items with the same heading when you click on them, etc.). Nice.

My next step will be to start running all kinds of maintenance reports, now that they won't be cluttered up with all of that smooshed junk.

Monday, February 22, 2010

One step closer to fixing the "smooshed" fields!

I emailed the MarcEdit listserv for advice and now have a regular expression that I can modify that will hopefully be able to take care of a large chunk of the "smooshed" fields in our older records. Very, very nice, plus I plan on taking this regular expression apart as part of a project to learn more about MarcEdit's regular expressions. I've used regular expressions in Microsoft Word (they're called wildcards there) and have done some nifty things, so I'm excited about the prospect of learning how to do similar things in MarcEdit.

Now I just have to carve out the time for all of that "playing." All the webinars last week and the time I spent figuring out how to globally change the type on our thesis and dissertation records lost me most of the small lead I managed to gain over the Processing students, so it may be a while before I'll have the time to do a lot.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The 590 field

(Warning, very long post ahead. However, it might contain useful information for those of you who've wondered about the apparent gobbledygook you may have spotted in a "Local note" in our records. By the way, I thought we'd set things up so that those no longer displayed in our book records, but apparently I'm wrong. Argh. Anyway, I've thought about writing a post like this in the past, because I've had people at the library - librarians and staff, not students or faculty - ask me what "that stuff" was in our records. Writing this post feels kind of like giving away library secrets or something. I'm not sure why.)

This is the field I love to hate (as it's used at DSL, since what 590 is used for can vary from library to library), even as I am occasionally able to admit its usefulness. I hate it (dislike it?) for four main reasons:
  1. It contains item-specific information. Admittedly, I'm coming at this from the standpoint of a cataloger, but, to my mind, bibliographic records shouldn't contain this sort of information - if you want to record item-specific information, you should do so in a note in the item record. That way, if you withdraw the item, you delete the item record, and the note is gone. In a 590, the note is there forever, even if the item is long since gone, replaced by something that would now be copy 10, if copies 1 through 9 still existed. You wouldn't even necessarily see 10 590s in the record - there will probably only be one, the one created when the very first copy was cataloged.
  2. The information recorded in the 590 is not necessarily recorded in a controlled manner, even though it may appear that it is. A simple example is "Biology," which is usually recorded as "Bio" in 590s, but I have also seen it as "Biol".
  3. Certain aspects of the 590 may not always consistently mean the same thing from one 590 to the next.
  4. From a "streamlining of the cataloging workflow" perspective, it kind of gets in the way. I won't go into detail on that, because this post would probably double in length, and no one really wants to read all of that anyway.

If you haven't stumbled upon a 590 in our records yet, here's what one looks like in our OPAC (in general - 590s for gifts tend to be missing certain bits of information, 590s for memorials have additional information, and certain things in 590s for gifts and memorials are defined differently than they are for everything else):

The first part, the 8-digit number, is the item's barcode. I'll admit that this can be useful to have in the bibliographic record, because it means that anyone can quickly and easily find the record for something, even if they don't have access to WorkFlows. Unless of course the record doesn't have a 590 for that particular item (see "reason I hate 590s" #1, plus all the other reasons there might not be a 590 for each item).

The second part, in this case "BT", is the vendor. I try to enter this in a consistent way, so Baker & Taylor is always BT, Amazon is always AMZ, Blackwell's is always BBS, etc. However, I don't think I was always this consistent when I first started, and I have no idea what people before me did.

The next part is tricky. You might think that this is the code for the particular fund that paid for the item, but this isn't always the case - that's why this particular 590 is such a good example. See, when I, the Cataloger, get a book from Acquisitions, sometimes the only clue I have as to where something is intended to be shelved is what's written in the book (or on the printout slipped in the book/DVD/CD/whatever). Sometimes it's obvious where something should be shelved - picture books are easy. Sometimes it's not so obvious - books for Limited (with the added complication of "where in Limited?") can be especially hard for me to identify. Sometimes something says "CurrJuv" in the 590 because that's the fund that paid for it, but sometimes it says CurrJuv because it's supposed to be shelved in the Curriculum Collection, even though the money for the book came out of another fund. I've been trying to encourage the use of color-coded flags to indicate what a book's location is supposed to be, but it hasn't been working out very well. So, in the meantime, my main source of location information is either what's written in the book (which ends up in the 590), instinct, and telepathy. My instinct is getting slightly sharper, my telepathy not so much. By the way, this is another portion of the 590 that may not be typed consistently from one record to the next. See "reason I hate 590s" #2.

I have no idea what the next part means. Seriously, I don't. For a while there, I thought it meant "Selector", since that's what the ancient notes left behind by previous catalogers that I unearthed in my office said. I think that sometimes it does mean "Selector." In the case of my sample 590, that's probably true. In other instances... Anyway, almost all of the 590s I've entered since I've started working here say either "Tennyson" or "Pape." Maybe it means, "this is who approved the use of money for this item?" But I don't think even that's true... I should probably have yet another talk with Jodee about this bit. I've talked with her about it before, but never in much depth.

The next bit is the date we received the item. It's pretty straightforward, I think. I don't know if previous catalogers entered the date in MM/DD/YY format, but I don't - February 2, 2010 is 2/2/10 for me, not 02/02/10. If you're trying to formulate a search of the dates in our 590s, how this date has been entered makes a difference. I only know how I've been entering it.

Last is the cost of the item. Also pretty straightforward. I never use a dollar sign, and I don't think any cataloger before me has, either.

I have so far thought up one useful search involving the 590, but it has serious limitations. However, if I don't forget, I'll post it soon. I have to hunt through my email to see if I can find that one where I put together the search with Biology in mind.

And now, to bed - I must get up at 3 AM to coddle my rat. He has me wrapped around his tiny pink fingers (yes, toes, I know, but they look like tiny lady fingers), but at least he repays me with cuteness. He curled up and fell asleep in my hand today for a full hour, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.