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User study-ish

June 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Yesterday I conducted a very unofficial and hugely informal user test to see how the young ones search. I explained to my subject that there were no wrong answers, I just wanted to see and learn how non-professionals search. I’m way too far removed from the experience; as with cataloging I cannot help but know the path to follow. The following is what happened [note I am not naming names because that makes it seem so much more official]

Subject was (and is, I suppose) a recent college graduate.  I provided a topic and asked “please find two peer reviewed articles and one book that you might use as a source as if you were writing a paper on the impact of Jimmy Carter’s presidency”.  I asked “please go to your library website to start the search”.

Subject went to unnamed university library website, logged in [yay still worked after graduating!] and put in search terms. What search terms? Subject typed “jimmy carter impact” in the search box provided. No Boolean, no truncation. Subject did not use any of the limiters available (such as ‘limit to peer reviewed’). Results were quickly scanned. Anything of interest went into a new browser window to review. At one point subject stumbled on google scholar and asked “WHERE HAS THIS BEEN THE LAST FOUR YEARS?”  I explained the history, basically been around since 2004. Groans met my explanation, subject noted “knowing this would have been very useful!”.

I watched the subject go outside the library website for each item of interest. Subject took any citation of interest (actually, just the title) to the open web to find it. Once found, subject scanned the content quickly to see if it would answer her “impact of jimmy carter’s presidency”. Subject never varied search terms nor used any other tool on the library site.

I asked “what does peer reviewed mean?”  Subject noted this meant “a scholarly article”.  Uhm, yeah, sort of …

I asked “if you had to cite an article found in APA style, how would you do it?” . Subject went to a new browser window and opened the Purdue OWL site, explaining this was the site used since high school.

As we finished, I showed the subject the features on the unnamed university library site where the limiters, citation builder, etc. all reside. I noted these are all within the areas the search began but were skipped/ignored. I further explained that all the full text that had been ‘discovered’ on the open web were due to the library purchase – because the subject logged in to the library website, the proxy took effect and full text was found. Subject was astonished and wondered why this was not shown to students. I asked if they had any library instruction – “well in one class we were shown JSTOR”. I asked why the library site was not used more, subject said “I’ve just always done it like this”.

Now, is this typical? I have no idea. I just asked one person to do this and had no formal method of testing. It does make me wonder though and and pushes me to the belief that library instruction needs to be part of the school experience – from kindergarten on up really, with new bits and parts each year to build upon, like we do with grammar, math, etc…

 

Aha at ALA MW

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

I had an “Aha” moment at ALA MW. There I was, sitting and listening to the Big Heads of Technical Services (no, really, that’s what it is called), when suddenly my brain began to function. Let’s see it if works in essay form.

I believe I have seen the future – the bigger picture – the reason for the seemingly meaningless changes. We are moving completely away from the traditional ILS (or the more hip acronym LMS), Discovery models, ERM, etc.  That, we are hoping to merge all these different systems all built for specific purposes into one system (with modules, scalability, etc. etc.). This makes perfect sense.

Copy cataloging began as a way to share so each library did not have to “reinvent the wheel“. We developed ILS to manage all (at the time) known aspects of the library: Cataloging, Acquisitions, Circulation, and the good ol’OPAC. This made life oh so much easier as we hooked all the areas together.

Along came CD-ROM and, eventually, online databases. Vendors have completely separate systems we learn to manage. Perhaps we added the acquisitions portion to our traditional ILS and maybe, just maybe, some added aspects to their catalog but in general, these are considered separate from ILS. We have separate Admin, separate search, separate statistics, etc. Oh yes, we piddled around with something called “federated search” to enable a user to search across all databases. It didn’t work too well and many felt burned by the experience (thus we now call the same concept “Discovery”).

As we began collecting more e-resources, we needed an easy way to provide access. It quickly became apparent the traditional ILS catalog would not suit – too much information too fast and rapidly changing. Thus began the, oh how to say without using proprietary product names? A product that allows a long alphabetic listing of e-resource specific titles. This product allows the user to click on a specific title to see the contents and read/print/email particular articles from the list of contents. This is yet another system to manage in the library.

As e-journals and packages began Big Deals, we added ERM to our arsenal of management tools. We needed somewhere to store things like license agreements, ILL information, title lists, etc.

Are you counting? We’re up to at least four different systems to use.  I may have skipped a few steps in our evolution – this is a blog, not a scholarly paper, I’m allowed.

Back to my aha moment…why are we fooling around with things like RDA and a new MARC (or, as Beecher Wiggins termed in the Big Heads meeting, Bibliographic Framework Transition) or the newly coined Web Scale Management? Well to merge all these varying systems together  – to have one place to put our acquisitions information and it share along appropriately. For one place to search, and it searches all appropriate areas. For one ‘catalog’ in which everything collected (physical or ephemeral) by the library is noted.

Awesome.

A question for the ages

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

AutoCat (yes, I still lurk about), recently chatted about author birth dates in the authority file and then into the MARC Bibliographic 100 tag, subfield d. You can read the conversation by going to the AutoCat archives for the 4th week of September and looking at the string “Objection to author’s birth year” (I think you will need to register for AutoCat to read it).

I have found the thread fascinating. I can understand the author not wishing easy access to information that could be used in identity theft. Heck, as I accumulate years I really understand not wanting my age readily known (but still want birthday presents, thanks).

The, ahem, “discussion” began with a request from an author to remove her birth information from the files. The individual receiving the request could not do it and thus asked on the list. Then it began. “Everything is already out on the ‘net”. “Information is needed to differentiate names”. For each statement, a counterpoint is posted. OK, actually many, many counter points (we catalogers are not silent…on list servs).

I like Mary Mastraccio’s remarks and the idea of using perhaps “active” date instead. That is, the dates in which the author was most prolific. When I’m looking for other works by an author, I usually am searching for the author, genre, and within the same basic time frame (that is, not 20+ years apart – Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City excepted, of course).

Someone else noted using a pseudonym would “solve” the problem. Uhm, not really. Not only are current ‘anonymous’ authors outed regularly.  Then there was the Diana episode of History Detectives in which the solution was found at the Library of Congress card catalog (am I the only one who’d like to go spend a day roaming thru those cards?).

What is going to happen as we have more robust Authority Files? Gender? Physical Address? Family Information and more – look at the new RDA enhanced fields. Is Occupation needed in all cases? My friend, the brilliant Lucy A. Snyder, is a award winning author but her day job is really not relevant to her writing.  Is it useful to the user? Or should we do as some suggest, record it but use it only in the background to link to authorized versions of the name?

If authority files only worked like they are supposed to…but I’ve nattered about that plenty already.

RDA, AACR2 and OCLC

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

On the OCLC-Cat list for November 2010 there have been several posts of interest. Let’s look at some, shall we?

First, let’s look at Wojciech Siemaszkiewicz’s “November 2010 Memorandum Against RDA Test” from November 2, 2010. In this post, Wojciech instructs OCLC:

Immediately suspend coding the test RDA records as acceptable records and recode them as substandard records with a code “RDA” (no PCC, LC, etc. coding should be allowed on these records). The encoding level for these records should be “K”, which usually triggers a full review of the record by highly trained technical assistants or professional catalogers. The LC records should be coded as level “7”. The RDA test records should be treated the same way as records coded with Spanish, French, German, etc. codes. This would allow catalogers to create parallel records for 040 English records according to existing and widely accepted AACR2 rules. Under no circumstances should RDA testers be allowed to create conflicting NAF or SAF records in LCNAF or LCSAF. This has already created a great deal of confusion and has been universally rejected by catalogers involved in the discussion.

We instruct agencies responsible for the RDA test to instruct its testers to follow above mentioned rules as a way to avoid workflow complications and growing confusion in libraries around the world.

We understand that the RDA test is just a test and in no way is an indicative to a future cataloging procedures and rules that would replace universally accepted AACR2 rules

Subsequent posts include a November 3, 2010 “Petition to support Wojciech’s memorandum” created by cataloging managers at Indiana University, Bloomington. The link to the petition is http://bit.ly/noRDAtest.

The discussions on both threads have been fascinating. This culminates in a November 16, 2010 post “Update on the Petition to Support Memorandum on OCLC’s RDA Testing”. Another very interesting read.

On November 17, 2010 a post appeared cross-posted to several lists “US RDA Test and OCLC”. This does not directly address the Memorandum or Petition postings but certainly it seems to be aimed at them.

What I find interesting, in reading all of this, is that the idea is no duplications should be allowed in the OCLC database. I understand and applaud this. However (you knew that was coming, right?), why is it considered a duplication when we already have “parallel” records?

Parallel records? What’s that?? Check out OCLC Technical Bulletin 250: Parallel Records. Starting back in October 2003 OCLC began to allow “parallel records within WorldCat by language of cataloging”. Huh? OK, let me break this down for you. If I, in my little library in anywhere, USA, catalog the latest James Patterson using my AACR2 (or whatever) rules then add it to the OCLC database as the first bibliographic record ever to describe the book then it exists and others can use it, right? OK, now a few days (or weeks) later a cataloger in Spain catalogs that very same James Patterson book and also adds it to the OCLC database. Duplicate? NO!! Parallel record!

The key is the subfield b of the 040.  This is the “language of the cataloging”.  According to OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards:

Identifies the language for those portions of the record, which according to cataloging rules, appear in the language of the cataloging agency (e.g., notes). Subfield ‡b is in records created by libraries for which English is not the language of the cataloging agency.

Huh. So basically this is to accommodate the different rules and language of different countries.  Why then can we not have AACR2 records and RDA records?

Perhaps I’m missing something but that seems to be the same concept…or am I being blonde again?

Categories: aacr2, catalog, cataloging, OCLC, RDA Tags: , , ,

Wales = Brilliant Librarians + Digitization

June 11, 2010 2 comments

Have you seen this “A Librarian Takes on Google Books“*? It is just brilliant on so many levels:

  • librarians not just recognizing the need but taking action
  • non-librarians seeing the worth of the project
  • purchasing and utilizing appropriate technology
  • quality AND quantity being considered and acted upon

Best of all? This near the end of the blog entry:

The librarian believes he has found a new cause for his profession, to give a secure home to digitized texts produced with the highest quality standards and available freely to all. “These are huge benefits,” he says, “and should be fought for by all of those who care about unimpeded public access to knowledge.”

I think Andrew Green is my new hero (then again, I haven’t yet seen what he is doing about metadata).

*Please note, the idea of the Google Book project is lovely.  Let’s get everything so everyone can access it.  The issues involved in such an endeavor are incredibly complex (from copyright to access to cost to quality and beyond).  I admire the ideal but am not enamored with the reality. For your edification, Library Journal has published a list of links regarding the topic. You can also just search for tons of for/against articles, blogs, etc.

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