July 30, 2007
LibraryThing has just introduced a feature called “tagmash” that is, as David Weinberger puts it, “creating subject headings from the bottom up.”
I don’t know that I would go so far as to call them subject headings…the experiment is still too new to know how this will all shake out. However, these tagmashes have a great deal of potential, when enough have been generated, to provide a far more useful search tool than (in my opinion) LCSH does. Tagmashing is a chance to combine a lot of what makes tagging great (user-friendly, current language, allowing for multiple perspectives, users decide what is meaningful/interesting) with what makes subject searching great (potential for less ambiguity, combining frequently searched/related terms).
How it works:
When users search for two or more tags, LibraryThing creates a persistent URL for that “tagmash” (for example, this page of the tagmash for ‘France’ and ‘WWII’). This is a bit different from Flickr’s clusters, which are (at least from what I understand) fully automated, as these are the aggregated results of user searches.
Why it’s not not a silver bullet (yet):
One of the commenters on Weinberger’s blog post made an excellent point: at the moment, at least, this process has the potential to even increase ambiguity, depending on the subject: “philosophy, history” can be about the philosophy of history (historiography, etc.), “older” philosphy (Plato’s ‘The Republic’), or a history of the discipline of philosophy.
How I think this would (ideally) impact the archival world:
This is an especially interesting development to me, as my first thought after reading about tagmashing was of Elizabeth Yakel (and co-authors’) D-Lib article “Creating The Next Generation of Archival Finding Aids” was how wonderful it would be if the next-generation finding aids that Yakel discusses could incorporate this feature.* Having created EAD finding aids, I found myself wondering about what other possibilities these types of finding aids had for users, especially in terms of subject headings (the finding aids I created used LCSH) that, as far as I could tell, were not often a good fit for very regionally or subject-specific collections, especially those with creators who were not well-known.
One problem I can see right off the bat is that these types of collections tend to be (relative to the types of materials on LibraryThing) low-usage, and so the statistically less useful user-generated tags (“my aunt Alice and her brother”) would not necessarily be knocked out of place by the potentially more-useful tags/tagmashes.
The way I choose to believe that problem would be solved, should archival tagmashing actually arise, is that one would just market the heck out of your collection and make it the “it” place to be online.
*Yakel points out multiple other possibilities for online finding aids in the article…which is fantastic and thought-provoking, and the Polar Bear Digital Collections project, on which the article is based, are fascinating. Read the article and visit the collections now, if not sooner.
July 29, 2007
Diverging from the archival theme, I noticed a post on one of my regular technology-related feeds that really struck me, and is related to the information profession…but definitely not specifically to archives, so bear with me.
Web Worker Daily posted a “What is Your Third Place?” open thread, primarily discussing where telecommuters/web workers go in order to counterract the feelings of isolation that working from home can sometimes cause, and I was a little sad (but not incredibly surprised) that no one in the comments section mentioned the library as their “third place.”
I’m having a bit of trouble with the concept of “third place,” (a term coined by Ray Oldenberg in his books “Celebrating the Third Place” and “The Great, Good Place“) as it seems to be tied closely to the terms “public” or “civic space,” (a place that is paid for by all, for all people), but the term “third space” doesn’t differentiate (at least from what I can tell) between commercial and non-commercial space…it’s just the place where you go that is not-work and not-home (as well as meeting Oldenburg’s “eight criteria,” which you can find in “The Great, Good Place”).
Increasingly, corporations (Starbucks, Panera, Borders) have co-opted many of the aspects associated with “third place,” (heck, Howard Schultz, the head of Starbucks, even markets Starbucks as a “third place”). Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee shops, bookstores, and restaurants, I think they are vital parts of a creative, connected community. However, due to their commercial nature, I can’t agree with Ray Oldenburg when he calls them “neutral public spaces.” Staring at that sentence, I realize how ridiculous it is that I’m disagreeing with the person who coined the term in the first place, but I don’t see how a place that exists primarily to get the people who enter it to spend their money could be seen as neutral.
So, what happens when, as is mentioned in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. article I’ve linked to below, libraries add on a Starbucks? Does this diminish their status as a third place? Does the digital environment of MMOGs constitute another legitimate third place? (P.S., David Lee King and the good folks at It’s All Good (four OCLC bloggers) have some interesting things to say on this topic)
I’m not entirely sure what the answers to those or many of the other questions that are swirling around in my mind when it comes to this idea. But, much like everything else on this blog, I’m sure I’ll re-visit it at some point with at least a slightly clearer idea of what I do actually think.
More articles on this subject. I’m being rebellious and not using APA format.
- ”Library as Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space,” Council on Library and Information Resources, Washington D.C., February 2005.
- “The Library as a Place: Tradition and Evolution” William Miller, Library Issues, Vol. 22, No. 3, January 2002.
- “The Deserted Library: As Students Work Online, Reading Rooms Empty Out – Leading Some Campuses to Add Starbucks” – Scott Carlson, The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 16, 2001.
- “Working Out of a Third Place” Marco R. della Cava, USA Today, October 4, 2006.
July 23, 2007
Continuing the horror theme I began in the “Zombies + Libraries = Awesome!” post, I was browsing the “archivist” tag in del.icio.us today, and found that archivists are their own class in the Heroes of Horror, a supplement for D&D players who want to bring a bit of the horror genre into their gaming.
I’m not super-familiar with D&D, but I found a couple of the tidbits of information about the “archivist class” especially fun:
This quote made me think immediately of the SAA Code of Ethics:
The most important characteristic for an archivist is a keen Intelligence. That intellect must also be tempered with a high degree of Wisdom, due to the fine line the archivist must walk in studying evil without being corrupted by it.
These next two quotes sound a heck of a lot more glamorous than my general daily activities during the small amount of professional experience I’ve had…but I don’t know that someone outside the profession would want to re-enact the creation of EAD finding aids just for fun:
The archivist’s class features all serve to further his overall purpose, which is to seek out mystical, divine lore from strange and forbidden sources, and to gain both understanding and mastery thereof.
The archivist can use his dark knowledge to help his allies fight off the corrupting influence of other creatures.
This next quote I can see on a t-shirt…Archivists: Not as Stuffy As Wizards.
Something that also struck me was that, even in D&D, archives is viewed as a vocation, and one that won’t necessarily reward you with gratitude (or monetarily).
Generally speaking, you aren’t quite as stuffy as the average wizard, given your breadth of experience and high Wisdom score, but neither are you a chest-thumping champion of the gods. The secrets you uncover are their own reward, and your confidence in yourself and in the job you do is more rewarding than the empty gratitude of some group or hierarchy.
Here’s that vocation thing again:
It is often said that archivists are born, not made. Many who embrace this class do so out of a genuine thirst for learning, often accompanied by a reverence or admiration for divine power.
My favorite, saving the best for last:
Many archivists are archivists for life; the more hidden lore they uncover, the more they feel they still have to learn.
July 22, 2007
Tim Gunn, the stylish voice of reason on Bravo’s Project Runway, is getting his own series on Bravo, “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style,” (based on his book of the same name).
However, the truly exciting part of reading the article announcing his new series was that, when asked about his distinctive speaking style and wit, Gunn, who describes himself as a “big nerd,” said,
My vocabulary comes from years of teaching…My mother was a librarian, and I grew up with tons of books, and they are a blessing and a curse.
I knew there was a reason I felt such a kinship with him.
July 18, 2007
Posted by informationatrix under About Me
, My Photos
One of my friends pointed out these incredibly fun and funny time-wasters to me a few days ago, and I have to say, after having played with them for the last half an hour, they definitely live up to the hype.
These are the two that I created in my own image (see, funny AND you get to have a little bit of a God complex!). Each picture is an active link to the site on which they were created.
Be forewarned, the game that allows you to create the Simpsons avatar is within the promotional website for the Simpsons movie, so you will have to look for it a bit; it’s along the top of the screen. It’s well worth it though, trust me.
July 17, 2007
Geranium, originally uploaded by librarykatja.
July 17, 2007
There’s a lot of interesting talk in the comments on the Library Juice post about the NYT article. Lots about aesthetic expressions and how they do (or don’t) express a significant affiliation to a group or movement (political or otherwise), or whether subcultures/countercultures have been so co-opted by the consumer culture as to have lost much of their meaning…much of which is, frankly, over my head, but I’m fascinated nonetheless. Also, as you could probably guess, there seems to be a bit of a generation clash evident in some of the comments as well.
I’ve put one of the books mentioned, “Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture” by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter on my Amazon Wish List so that I don’t forget about it.
Anyway, my post about the NYT article was largely (as you could likely tell) just me whinging about how I don’t like that the information profession (and, really, when it gets down to it, those of my generation within the profession) has been lumped in with the hipper-than-thou. Where I whinge, however, the commenters at Library Juice are really getting into the nitty gritty of it.
Lots of food for thought. Check it out.
July 13, 2007
I’ve linked to the KC Currents Audio Archives; if you click on the “Listen” link for the 7/8 show, the program should load and play on your WinAmp, Windows Media Player, or RealPlayer.
It’s an interesting show, especially if you are a Kansas City jazz aficionado, and it’s given me a few new ideas for the educational symposium that I am cooking up for a certain local archives organizaton. More details on that front to come.
July 8, 2007
This week’s KC Currents, (a show on 89.3 FM, KCUR ) will feature:
Definitely tuning in to this one.
July 8, 2007
Librarians 1.0, originally uploaded by agsaandjsmom.
After marinating on this a little more, I hit on what really bugs me. This article was written a lot more about the “hipness” of the superficial trappings of the profession than the profession itself. As one blogger put it, “The MLIS is the new barista.”
It smacked of the same attitude of people who listen to movies only long enough to parse out their favorite quotes and repeat them ad nauseum to their friends, or who listen to indie rock only long enough to figure out which bands are acceptably underground, solely for the purpose of buying that band’s t-shirt and impressing the emo hottie that they’ve been scoping all week at the bar.
Do I get a little kick out of the high-heels-and-pencil-skirt aspect of the public perception of librarians? Sure. Did I join the profession assuming that I would spend a lot of time mingling with well-shod, well-read hotties who were my age? Hell no. I assumed (and was largely proven right, in my case) that many people in MLIS programs are making a career change, and are closer to their mid 30s or 40s than mid 20s (my age). And, far from the impression that this article gives off, very few people outside of the profession that I’ve talked to have any idea what any actual librarian does on an actual daily basis (don’t even get me started on what people do and do not know about what archivists do), which is probably why I was initially so excited to see this article.
Well, this article does make it clear that not all librarians fit the stereotype of ”frumpy, middle-aged ladies in bad shoes.” However, it also spends so little time on the actual mission of libraries and librarians that it makes library school look like the intelligentsia version of getting your “MRS Degree“…so that you can mingle with other socially aware, well-read people. Sure, that’s a great part of being a librarian or archivist, you often get to work with interested, interesting people. However, that is not, and should not, be your main motivating factor for entering library school or the profession.
Do you like to help people? Do you like to search for information in multiple ways and in multiple formats and customize and deliver it to your patrons? Yes? Good. If that is the case, I don’t care if you’re 25 or 75, cool or desperately unhip…you’re librarian material.
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