Friday, March 09, 2007

Users and Uses - Karen's Summary

This meeting was announced about two weeks ago, catching many of us by surprise. As I noted in my setup post, the meeting was originally intended to have an "invitation only" audience. The switch to "open to the public" may have come late in the planning. There were about 50 people there, most of them from the immediate area. The members of the LoC committee were also there.

This committee has a huge task: to define the future of "bibliographic control." No one defined the term bibliographic control during this meeting, and in fact it was rarely voiced as a term. That may be for the better, because it describes something that libraries have traditionally done, and at least some people are suggesting that we shouldn't do it in the future. Thus the "future of bibliographic control" may be an oxymoron.

By the end of the day, however, none of us in the audience could have made a clear statement about the day's topic. The speaker who seemed most on track (and who was the most interesting, IMO) was Timothy Burke, professor of history. Burke talked about how he searches for information, but most importantly he talked about why he searches for information. Some examples he gave were:
  • to find a single book to read on a topic that is current and popular
  • to find a book that is 1) in print 2) affordable 3) that he can teach to
  • to confirm a memory (what was that author's first name? did the title say "about" or "of"??)
He also talked about the sociology of knowledge, that is needing to know who is authoritative, what work has influenced other work. What the opposing camps are in a field, and how a line of thought has developed. In the discussion afterward libraries were talked about as static while information is social and dynamic. Later, Lorcan Dempsey summarized this with a concept from Eric Hellman: the difference between lakes and rivers. Libraries are lakes; a little comes in a little goes out, but it pretty much stays the same. Information as we use it in the networked world is a river, fast moving and you never step into the same place twice. Burke offered that libraries could decide that they will specialize in the static, stable part of our information use, and leave the rest to others, but he acknowledged that would not be a good idea. (Unfortunately, that is our status today.)

When Andrew Pace showed the NCSU Endeca catalog, I could see some of Burke's dynamism taking place in the ability to get the information from different angles. Pace, however, began his talk by explaining that the catalog was designed to work with the data that they had, that is, standard MARC records. See his wishlist at the end of his talk.

Two speakers made specific comments about problems with MARC. Bernie Hurley showed that much of the detail of MARC is never used, and at the same time that creating indexes from the used fields is very complex because the data for a single index is scattered over many fields and subfields. (Think "title") Oren Beit-Arie of Ex Libris had a list of MARC problems, including the resource types (scattered throughout the LDR< 006,007,008), uniform titles (which he thinks are unnecessary), and internationalization, which MARC does insufficiently.

There was some interesting discussion about full text. Dan Clancy, of Google Book Search, talked about the difficulties of doing ranking with full text books. He stated that Google does not organize web information - the web contains its own organization in the form of links and link text, which give you both the connection between documents and the context for that connection. The main revelation in this talk for me was that they are experimenting with full text scans for de-duplication. This is intriguing when you think about how you could map "likeness" when you have the full text and the images in a large body of books.

Some brave statements were made:

Burke: we may have to forget about backward compatibility
Hurley: we have to simplify the MARC format
Pace: we need a faceted classification system, not the "facets" in LCSH
Beit-Arie: we need to split the end-user services from the back-office systems

It was a provocative day, and although there wasn't a lot that was really new it was interesting to see that there is some commonality of thought coming from what are essentially different perspectives. As I process more of this, I will add ideas from this day to the futurelib wiki so we can work with them there.


crt said...

Uniform titles aren't necessary? That fellow is obviously not a music library user.

Karen Coyle said...

To be fair, I oversimplified what I heard, and I probably didn't type what he actually said. My notes say:
"- Uniform titles (240, 130) the practice is problematic; doesn't help grouping." I'm sure Oren could say something (and maybe did say something) more coherent than that.

Music really is a special case, and one that I find fascinating. I would love to see a "prettier" solution than the current uniform titles, which are very unnatural and hard to read. It would be interesting to use the main facets of the music uniform title in a faceted navigation... Maybe someone with a music library background could suggest what elements would work for that kind of searching. Yes?

crt said...

Hmmm... maybe it's because I've been a music cataloger for so many years that I find UT's very natural and logical. Now, I do agree completely that what happens to UT's in most systems is a bit of a crime. I guess the onus on me is to learn/explore just what "faceted" navigation would look like...

In my opinion the basic structure of the music UT works well for generic works:
[Type of composition / medium / serial number / key] those are the things you really do need to identify a work. Now, granted, Selections and some of the collective titles are not as useful, but I'm a huge fan of analytical entries when ever possible to flesh those out.

I've been working on a project to use iTunes as a delivery system for audio reserves, and I make extensive use of UT's to help make up for the deficiencies of iTunes as a database-- we'd be lost without them.

Anonymous said...

Replacing -- or supplementing -- uniform titles in music catalogs could be done by linking to a couple sound clips per bib record: the required link would be to a recording of the first few bars of sound; then, if there is a distinctive (or 'most memorable') theme that appears later in the piece, there would be an optional link to a recording of that few bars.

All done within the copyright limits of fair use, of course, and stored in a central location (yes, with off-site back-ups), any library catalog could link to the same sound clips. This could serve as a somewhat uniform clue to users about what the cataloging catalogs in a way somewhat analogous to the way images of dustjackets/covers tell folks about the recently-published paper books in the catalog (LibraryThing, Amazon, etc.).

Yes, a lot of music hasn't been digitally sampled; and a lot of books (e.g., most of my rare book collection) have nondescript covers. But some is better than none, and there would be years of employment for musicians hired to record those opening sound clips.


Anonymous said...

As someone who has been a music cataloger outside of a traditional library (i.e. a radio station), the application of a lot of aspects of uniform titles is especially good at specific identification/collocation.

Having the possible of a primary key for each composition is important (under an individual name heading). It was challenging because announcers aren't going to say "Concertos, violin, no. 1, op. 34, DSH 156" on the air, even though those elements put items in the correct order in the catalog.
(Another case of the library fulfilling its own needs rather than that of its users).

I had to fudge and apply aspects of uniform titles to collocate titles, but still have a title which announcers could read intelligently from a printed playlist.

Ideally, I'd want a database that looked something like the All Music Guide for scores and recordings. The pop side of AMG is very confusing [their strength is describing albums or artists], but the classical side has a very attractive description of each uniform title (i.e. work or musical composition), that is highly clickable. While they could improve their search capabilities, that format is where a music-only catalog should look like, in my opinion. How it would integrate with a larger bibliographic universe, I don't know.

WoW!ter said...

Karen, thanks for blogging all this. It's wonderful, to sit virtually on your lap, and take note of all these presentations. It sure sounds as a really interesting day we witnessed through your posts.

Avi Rappoport / said...

(Hiya Karen, it's Avi Rappoport, it's been ages...)

Sounds like an amazing day!

I think Uniform Title is one of those things that fits into the back-office / end-user divide. Users want and deserve to know that a journal changed it's name or a piece of music is the same as another, with just title variation. But the way librarians have noted this is a user-hostile! The solution is not to do away with UT, it's to convey the information more effectively.

(I'm also quite pleased about NCSU, I did a talk at Internet Librarian in 2004 about using faceted metadata in library catalogs: and feel quite vindicated :-)