jaebility: (random // pencil)
Ugh, been so busy with the end of the semester. Working on the last assignment for my Reference class, still have one paper for Archives.
jaebility: (arch // books window)
One of the listservs I belong to is dedicated to rare books, covering all sorts of topics from new catalogs, advice, and events in book-related fields. Late last week a new member submitted a question about a recent purchase of his. I actually read the responses first, then had to go through to find the original post: He had bought a book (wouldn't say what book) from a reputable dealer (wouldn't say who) and according to his research (wouldn't say what research he did), believed that it was worth far more (wouldn't say how much) than he had paid for it. He wanted to know how to care for it until he was ready to sell, and how to go about selling said book.

The list EXPLODED. The first 10 or so replies were all indignant, some snarky. Like: "The odds of you (a neophyte) buying a book from a recognized, established dealer and 'turning' it in a short time, and making a profit, are doubtful at best. Investment has been proven over the ages to be a very poor reason to buy a book. Most of your questions like "Should I open the package?", and "Where do I keep it?" are simplistic in the extreme. Silly. And choices you can make on your own. How old are you? Ten."

More got involved, some condoning the early replies, like: "I think most of us would, and do, bend over backward to encourage genuine bibliophily. Why we should facilitate ignorant financial speculation in the world of books is beyond me." Others condemned the tone of some of the posters. And them some people started arguing if one should sell (or buy) books to make money, then a debate erupted over semantics, if "investment" is the same as "speculation."

It's like an episode of Fandom Wank. And they're still battling it out.

I've learned a lot from it though; some posted resources for beginner collectors, and I've found some helpful blogs and associations. I don't buy books with the intention of selling them later, and certainly don't expect to turn a profit. I do consider them investments however. My library is my kingdom, etc etc. I've been buying books since I first got an allowance, but I don't I really started collecting until a few years ago. And that's "collecting" in a very loose, very informal usage.
jaebility: (arch // books window)
Studying for my cataloging final and just got to the section about the foundation of the Library of Congress subject headings, and my irritation over the system went through a glorious rebirth. It's time to whine.

Now, it's important to note that in the early 1800s, when the country was emerging from is pupa stage, books were a rare and expensive commodity. Most books were being created in Europe, with only a few publishers in Boston and New York. The early leaders of the United States wanted to develop an intellectual community and discussions of a national library began; what eventually came from this was the Library of Congress, set in the country's capital. Which was then burned to the ground by the British in 1812. A new collection was started with Jefferson's books, which the government bought to replace what they had lost. I can't stress enough how important books were to the foundation fathers - books and libraries are the symbols for as well as result of democracy; America wasn't always so opposed to knowledge and intellectualism. Having a national library, having a research collection, was not only validation that the country was succeeding, but the fruition of the ideologies held so highly by men like Jefferson.

Anyway, onto the Library of Congress. At the end of the 19th century, it became obvious that the traditional organizational schemas were no longer appropriate for the size of the collection. So the librarians adapted the list of terms published by the American Library Association; Library of Congress Subject Headings were born. Two head librarians, Haykin (1941-52) and Angell (1954-66) turned the LCSH into what it is today.

So what is it? Honestly, unless you're a library student or researcher, most people don't really use - or even know - LCSH. Basically it's a long, long, long, and complicated list of terms that describe subject content. Back in the days of yore, a librarian named Charles Cutter developed a method of organization called Cutter numbers - these allowed books to be searched for in a catalog by title, author, and subject. ...Ok, ok, less history. I could go on forever. The point is, being able to search like this was revolutionary. LCSH expanded on the subjects to a massive extent.

I mean massive. And that's why I hate studying it.

Because it's government funded, it has no money. There is no pattern, no rhyme or reason to the terms - each head librarian has changed it to fit his/her needs and the lack of funds mean that new policies aren't applied retroactively - it would cost to much to change everything. Sometimes terms are inverted, sometimes in natural order; sometimes with commas, sometimes with dashes. Coding the headings is just as bad. There are tons of fields you can use: 650, 651, 655... the subfileds $a, $v, $x...

It's a huge, sprawling monster of a library; it's complex history is what makes it so fascinating, but it's also what makes it a bitch to study.
jaebility: (mst3k // lotr obi-wan)
MARC 21 is my nemesis.

Ok, so back in the days of yore, libraries used card catalogs. As computers took on more of the responsibility for creating these records, MARC language came into use. It was designed by a computer programmer - not a librarian - and even as records went digital, this outdated language was hauled along.

It's awful. Unlike some computer languages - like my buddy HTML and its offshoots - MARC gives no clues as to what the codes mean. It used arbitrary numbers, letters, and symbols with no pattern. So _ 1 in one field means something completely different than that same thing elsewhere. The rules are complex and convoluted and impossible to read, let alone memorize.

Here's an example that I'm working on. )
It's like a foreign language. And I hate it.

Why can't the field tags give hints as to the content? Like [author]James C. Fernald[/author]. Or [pub_city]New York[/pub_city]. BECAUSE THAT WOULD MAKE TOO MUCH SENSE.


Feb. 28th, 2011 01:31 pm
jaebility: (avatar // dance)
Been busy busy busy. On Friday we had a school trip to the library in the Natural History Museum. We got a grand tour of the archives, the rare book collection, and all the cool gadgets they use in preservation.

That would be the perfect job. I love museums, and that one in particular, and being able to support the network of educators, scientists, and librarians would be such rewarding work. I'm going to see about volunteering there, maybe interning in the summer.

Random interesting things I learned:
- The rare book collection is protected by a key lock and then a device that requires the thumbprints of two different high-ranking members of the staff. They have a variety of unique texts, like a first edition of Darwin's Origin of Species. We also got to see a first edition of a 16th century science book and my favorite, a book of fish from the 1700s with color illustrations that look right out of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine.
- At the turn of the century, the museum used lantern slides to teach local teachers about new discoveries. They were originally lit with candles, then light bulbs, and were hand painted.
- The museum is an accredited school. It's very competitive, taking only 4 or 5 grad/doctoral students.
- The library was always intended to exist along with the museum. JP Morgan was one of the original founders, and he donated books that helped create the library.

Hung out with some other students for a while afterward, but the museum was packed and it was hard to see the exhibits. That night I met up with Pete and the gang from college to celebrate promotions, marriage announcements, and other fun things. We ate at 5 Napkins, a burger place on the west side. Food was ok, too expensive for my taste, but it was fun hanging out with everyone. It'd gotten cold that night, so we hurried into the first bar we found after dinner and goofed off there, despite the terrible atmosphere. Good times, good times.


Dec. 17th, 2010 09:54 am
jaebility: (mst3k // mr. b)
Half way through with my term paper/projects. THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. I have one that's due sometime today and then the last one due on Monday. And then I'm going to kick back, relax, maybe do some Christmas shopping, and hopefully get some writing done. It's going to be hard to make myself buckle down and get these two done: tomorrow's my birthday! I want to party!

Re: delicious closing. I tweeted about this: it's interesting, in my paper that I was writing yesterday about Web 2.0 tools used in libraries,I added a paragraph cautioning libraries from adopting/adapting these tools without having a plan about how to deal if they go defunct. I had a sentence something along the line of "Even though many of them seem to big to fail, a library must have a plan. Yahoo is facing considerable financial difficulties, and many sites are still vulnerable to hackers." So LOL I guess!


Oct. 27th, 2010 02:58 pm
jaebility: (zelda // 4chanface)
One of my classes was put online since my professor was out of town; right now I'm listening to a lecture on controlled vocabulary, specifically controlled vocab vs uncontrolled vocab. They both have considerable advantages and disadvantages and generally a system/index has to choose one or the other. With controlled vocab you get more organization, consistency, fewer repeats and junk terms, but they're hard to update and maintain and come at a high cost. Uncontrolled vocab is easier to update, is done in the language of the authors, and can cover a wider scope, but at the same time it can lead to too many terms that are inconsistency and unspecified.

There has to be a way for a system/index to use both methods of organization. I think AO3 has a good method: users input their own tags (which are uncontrolled vocabulary) which are then wrangled behind the scenes into a hierarchy (making them semi-controlled). However I help wrangle tags and I can see how this system is flawed - users don't input the terms in correctly, characters have multiple names/identities or the same name is used for multiple, unrelated characters...

What would be a better way to incorporate user tags with system standards?

Yay what I'm learning has real-world implications!


jaebility: (Default)
a jar of jae

November 2016


Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios