July 23, 2017

CFP: Ethical Questions in Name Authority Control

Call for chapter proposals
Working Title: Ethical Questions in Name Authority Control
Editor: Jane Sandberg
Submission Deadline: October 20, 2017
Publisher: Library Juice Press

Book description
Catalogers hold very specific types of power when they describe people, families, and corporate bodies. When creating a personal name authority record, for example, catalogers determine the authorized name by which an individual will be known, then identify a few characteristics of the individual that distinguish them from others, while balancing their judgment with respect for the individual’s self-concept. This is a powerful position, and that power must be exercised ethically.

As name authority control moves toward an identity management model, catalogers are taking on new roles, authority data is used in innovative ways, and libraries increasingly interact with non-library datasets and name disambiguation algorithms. During this transition, it is imperative that the library community reflect on the ethical questions that arise from its historical and emerging practices.

The present volume raises many of these questions in the hope of building toward a framework for the ethical practice of name authority control. This framework would include — at minimum — the following concepts:
* Respect for the people described in authority systems, including deceased people
* Fulfillment of name authority control objectives for names from a variety of cultural naming traditions and personal histories
* Local community needs
* Acknowledgment of historical and contemporary injustices
* Consideration of potential future uses of authority data
* Ethical employment practices

This collection will explore and develop this framework through theoretical and practice-based essays, stories, content analyses, and other methods. As it explores ethical questions in a variety of settings, this book will deepen readers’ understanding of names, identities, and library catalogs. The chapters from this volume are intended to spark conversations among librarians, archivists, library technologists, library administrators, and library and information science students.

Possible topics
Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:
* Ethical dimensions of an identity management approach to authority control (e.g. how should catalogers approach linking to flawed name authority data?)
* Responses to the PCC Ad Hoc Task Group on Gender in Name Authority Records recommendations
* Representations of people with Arabic, CJK, and Indigenous names in Google Scholar, ISNI, ORCID, Scopus, and online repositories
* Applying contemporary gender and demographic terms to non-contemporary people
* Describing people using demographic terms taken from thesauri other than LCSH or LC Demographic Group Terms (e.g. First Nations House of Learning thesaurus, Homosaurus)
* Barriers (technological, structural, etc.) to ethical name authority control
* Assumptions and flaws in name disambiguation and clustering algorithms
* Author privacy concerns
* Online name authority files in the context of right-to-be-forgotten laws
* Decolonizing name authority files
* Ethical dimensions of corporate and family name authority control
* Creating authority data in conjunction with the people and groups they describe
* Emotional labor in name authority work
* Connections between hiring and employment practices and name authority work
* Ethical name authority questions in consortial environments
* Effective advocacy for ethical name authority control and identity management practices

Abstract submission deadline: October 20, 2017
Notification/Feedback regarding submission: December 1, 2017
First drafts due: April 13, 2018
Final drafts due: June 8, 2018
Final manuscript due to publisher: July, 2018

Please email abstracts of up to 500 words to sandbej [at] linnbenton [dot] edu.

Abstracts should briefly describe your topic and how your chapter will help to build a framework of ethical name authority control practice. You are welcome to submit multiple abstracts about different possible topics. If your submission is tentatively accepted, the editor may request modifications. Material cannot be previously published.

Final chapters will be in the 2000-5000 word range. The volume will contain perspectives from a range of NACO and non-NACO libraries. Abstracts that explore the ethical dimensions of name authority work in tribal libraries, HBCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions, community colleges, public libraries, archives, school libraries, special libraries, and libraries outside the United States are particularly encouraged.

Please direct any questions to Jane Sandberg (sandbej [at] linnbenton [dot] edu).

About the Editor
Jane Sandberg received her MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the Electronic Resources Librarian at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon, where she coordinates library cataloging and systems. Her research interests include linked data approaches to name authority control, queer and trans local histories, open source software in rural communities, and historical dimensions of online transgender activism.

July 21, 2015

Interview with Catelynne Sahadath

Catelynne Sahadath is the Head of Metadata Development at the University of Calgary, where she manages the cataloging section, where she was responsible for leading their transition from AACR2 to RDA in 2013. Catelynne has previously worked on cataloging and digitization projects for the Government of Canada, and her research focuses on change management in technical services and the impacts of cataloguing changes on public services. Catelynn is teaching a class for us next month, on AACR2 Legacy Practices, and a class in September titled, Introduction to Library Classification in Dewey and LC. She agreed to do an interview about these classes for the LJA blog.

July 16, 2015

CFP – Conceptual Crowbars and Classification at the Crossroads: The Impact and Future of Classification Research

Conceptual Crowbars and Classification at the Crossroads: The Impact and Future of Classification Research

Workshop sponsored by ASIS&T SIG/Classification Research
ASIS&T 2015 Annual Meeting
Saturday, November 7, 2015, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch, USA

This year’s Classification Research workshop consciously and critically engages the general conference theme, “Information Science with Impact,” in order to frame conversations about the results and significance of classification research. With the increasing emphasis on impact in and around information science, the theme provides us with an opportunity to consider some of the ways in which we define ourselves as a Classification Research group and how we understand our research to affect and influence theory and practice. Classification matters not only in the functioning of information systems and technologies, but also in the lived experiences of individuals, and in society, organizations, and all information contexts.

The spate of violent events in the U.S., together with the resistance and response, quickens a crucial set of questions about the nature of our work. This workshop aims to cast such violence as a knowledge organization problem. We also aim to consider whether and how classificatory acts and systems can be reparative, or even transformative: What bearing does the structuring of knowledge have upon the seeking, reception, circulation, and use of knowledge and information? Do classifications tell us something about agendas, political contexts, or authority? What role do our classification systems play in constituting, and challenging categories of difference? In what ways have communities used and/or challenged classifications in civic action and protest?

We welcome papers that address positive or negative and intended or unintended consequences of classification, as well as papers and projects that explore potential and possibilities for classification systems and research. Doctoral students are encouraged to submit paper/presentation proposals, and two scholarships covering workshop fees will be awarded to student authors. We also invite presentations and posters of classification design projects in any stage of development, as well as nontraditional presentation formats.

We are interested in work that addresses questions and issues such as the following:

· Encounters with classification in daily life, on- and off-line
· Material effects of classifications, e.g., how do classifications bar or grant access to information, and in what ways does this matter?
· Structures and hierarchies and their effects and consequences
· Design and aesthetics in classifications
· Consequences of specific systems or types of systems, e.g., thesauri, universal classifications, folksonomies
· Reparative/transformative classifications
· Classification research as it relates to diversity initiatives
· Limitations and possibilities for assessing impact of classifications
· The role of classifications in constituting and ordering value in information science, i.e., how measurements of impact rely upon the classification and ranking of what counts as research, users, and knowledge
· Critical / theoretical discussions of classifications, e.g., critical race studies, queer theory, disability studies
· Classificatory mechanisms as tools for building or dividing communities
· Classifications as reflections of agencies, nations, individuals, or organizations
· Classifications in particular contexts, e.g., health information, libraries, archives, the Semantic Web, Linked Open Data, social media, etc.
· Knowledge organization in scientific and political debates, e.g. climate change
· The construction of users (user types, user communities, user identities) through classification


August 20, 2015: Submit abstracts of no more than 500 words for a paper, poster, or alternative format presentation to Melissa Adler: melissa.adler@uky.edu
Include your name, title, and institutional affiliation with your submission.

September 10, 2015: Tentative author notification date, to be determined so that authors will be notified ahead of the early bird registration date.


$100, SIG/CR members
$110, non-SIG/CR members
(Fees increase after the early bird registration deadline)

Melissa Adler, University of Kentucky
Jonathan Furner, UCLA
Barbara H. Kwasnik, Syracuse
Joseph T. Tennis, University of Washington

January 30, 2013

CfP: Call for Participation (NASKO 2013)

Please note that the deadline has been extended to midnight Friday, February 15th

*Call for Participation (NASKO 2013) *

*Transition Cultures, Transition KO: Evolving Exploration, Critical Reflection, and Practical Work *

ISKO C/US invites submissions of abstracts for its Fourth North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization (NASKO 2013) to be held June 13-14, 2013, in Milwaukee, WI, USA.

*Conference Venue*: Continuing Education Center, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

*Conference Dates:* June 13-14, 2013

*Deadline for Proposals*: *January 31, 2013*

“The essence of Transition is in its name. It describes the era of change we are all living in. The Transition idea is about us all being an engaged, active part of that change.”
–Transition Towns Movement

Transition is a grassroots movement that pulls on communities to improve local and global conditions in a sustainable way. Similarly, the KO community contributes to the greater good both locally within our own institutions and globally through interoperable systems, standards, and technologies. In the spirit of transition, the Fourth North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization (NASKO 2013) conference invites participants to come together to forge and strengthen the connections that will shape the future of knowledge organization.

Proposals for research papers, position papers, posters, unconference topics and a doctoral symposium are welcomed. Acceptable languages for conference submissions include English, French or Spanish. Graduate students are especially encouraged to submit proposals.

Topics to explore include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Theory of KO
• History of KO
• Legacy and emerging KOSs
• Epistemological status of KO
• Domain Analysis approach to KO
• New challenges in teaching KO
• KO research sustainability
• The future of KO
• Sociocultural studies of KO

*Proposal categories:*

*Research and Position Papers:* Proposals should include a title and be no more than 1500 words long. Proposals should situate themselves within the extant literature of knowledge organization, and have a clearly articulated theoretical grounding and methodology. Those that report on completed or ongoing work will be given preference. Diverse perspectives and methodologies are welcome.

*Posters:* Proposals should include a title and be no more than 650 words long.

*Unconference Sessions:* Proposals of topics for sessions driven by attendees. The unconference will include 30-minute breakout sessions with two or three topics per session, depending on attendance. The proponents of the topics selected will be hosting the session and deliver a final lightning talk.

*Doctoral Symposium:* This is an opportunity for doctoral students to discuss their research in progress in a 15-minute presentation. Proposals should consist of a 500-word abstract with citations (citations not included in word count) and a one-page CV. Students will also have the opportunity to attend a general advising session to discuss their CVs, service commitments, and how to approach the job market.

*Proposal format:*
Proposals should include the name(s) of the author(s), their complete mailing and e-mail addresses, and their telephone and fax numbers. Please send proposals in Word or .rtf format to *nasko2013@gmail.com *

*Publication: *All accepted papers will be published online. The papers most highly-ranked during the peer-review process will, with permission of the authors, be published, in full, in a future issue of Knowledge Organization.

*Important Dates*
February 15, 2013: Submission deadline.
March 8, 2013: Notification to authors.
May 8, 2013: Final copy submission.

*Bursaries for students*
ISKO C/US will offer a limited number of bursaries for students presenting at the conference. Application guidelines will appear on the ISKO C/US website later this year:

*Planning Committee:*
Cristina Pattuelli, Pratt Institute, New York
Kathryn La Barre, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Richard Smiraglia, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee
Hur-Li Lee, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee

*Program Committee:*
Arsenault Clément, Université de Montréal
Clare Beghtol, University of Toronto
Melanie Feinberg, University of Texas, Austin
Melodie Fox, University of Washington
Jonathan Furner, University of California, Los Angeles
Lynne Howarth, University of Toronto
Michèle Hudon, Université de Montréal
Elin Jacob, Indiana University, Bloomington
Barbara Kwasnik, Syracuse University
Aaron Loehrlein, University of British Columbia
Elaine Ménard, McGill University
Elizabeth Milonas, Long Island University
Hope Olson, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Joseph Tennis, University of Washington
Nancy Williamson, University of Toronto

See website for details: http://iskocus.org/nasko2013.php

January 8, 2013

Interview with Melissa Adler

I have just done an interview with Melissa Adler, instructor for Library Juice Academy’s cataloging courses. Melissa is a recent graduate of the PhD program in LIS at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a cataloger as well. Our interview gives a good sense of the content of her two courses with Library Juice Academy and what she is like as an instructor.

December 14, 2011

CFP – 2nd Milwaukee Conference on the Ethics of Information Organization


2nd Milwaukee Conference on the Ethics of Information Organization

June 15 – 16, 2012
Milwaukee, WI

Information organization, like other major functions of the information professions, faces many ethical challenges. In our literature, ethical concerns have been raised with regard to, topics such as, the role of national and international tools and standards, provision of subject access to information, deprofessionalization and outsourcing, education of professionals, and the effects of globalization. These issues and many others like them have serious implications for quality and equity in information access. The Information Organization Research Group and the Center for Information Policy Research of the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee join in presenting this second conference to address the ethics of information organization.

Like the first Ethics of Information Organization conference held in Milwaukee May 2009, this conference (June 2012) welcomes papers on ethics and any element of information organization from cataloging standards to tagging; subject access; technology; the profession; cultural, economic, political, corporate, international, multicultural and multilingual aspects.

Opening Speaker: Jens-Erik Mai
University of Toronto

Closing Speaker: Richard Smiraglia
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Other invited speakers will be announced

We invite submission of proposals for papers which will include: name(s) of presenter(s), title(s), affiliation(s), contact information and abstracts of 300-500 words. Presentations will be 20 minutes. Time will be set aside for questions as well as broader discussion. All abstracts will be published on the Web site of the UW-Milwaukee Information Organization Research Group. Full papers will be published in a special issue of Knowledge Organization.

ABSTRACTS DUE: February 15, 2012
FULL PAPERS DUE: July 15, 2012

Submit proposals via email to: Hope A Olson, Conference Chair (holson [at] uwm.edu)

CFP poster available here

December 22, 2010

West Publishing to pay 2.5 million in an interesting case of false attribution of authorship

Just a brief item of interest. West Publishing is being forced to pay $2.5 million in damages to two authors who had stopped updating their legal treatise, but were named by West as authors of a new update that contained virtually no new material. Sounds like an example of a business practice that could be called “slazy,” if you get my drift. Personally, I find it encouraging that the courts are taking questions of authorship as seriously as this.

March 31, 2010

Note on the role of knowledge

David Bade sent me the following note about some LC cataloging that demonstrates (though absence) that librarianship requires more than just knowledge of tools and technique but also knowledge of subject matter. I will write more at some point on the way we can mislead ourselves and others about our role and our skills when we say “I don’t know the answer but I know how to look it up.” David writes:

Just found LC copy in OCLC for a Russian book (translated: The political (“Asiatic”) mode of production: its nature and role in the history of humanity and in Russia). The LC cataloger had this as Slavery—Asia—History; Forced labor—Economic aspects–Soviet Union. Apparently s/he was not familiar with the old theory of “Asiatic mode of production”? Does such knowledge date me as having lived in, known and studied the world prior to 1989? This kind of disconnect? ignorance? carelessness? in cataloging just leaves me reeling in disbelief. At least in the old days (pre 1989) LC had a bunch of cold warriors who knew exactly what was under discussion.

Usually I think about the role of general knowledge and subject knowledge in reference service, but this shows it applies equally to cataloging.

June 16, 2009

Review of David Bade’s Responsible Librarianship in Interactions journal

The current issue of InterActions, the UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, has a review of David Bade’s Responsible Librarianship. The review, by Michael Wartenbe, provides a thorough and accurate overview of the book, so anyone who is curious about what Bade’s book is all about might find it useful.

January 28, 2009

The Netflix Prize – not what’s needed

I am a big Netflix user. Netflix has a library of about 100,000 movies that users can watch. Because of the size of the library, much of their business comes from customers who have a strong interest in film and want to see movies that they’ve read about in books and are not otherwise easy to find. In fact, Netflix is often talked about as the one of the biggest proofs of the long tail phenomenon in action, along with Amazon.com. Their bread and butter is the semi-obscure.

You have probably heard about the Netflix Prize, which promises a million dollars to the person who programs the best improvement on their Cinematch(SM) recommendation system. I have found a lot of movies that I’ve enjoyed using Netflix’s recommendation system, and have never exactly been disappointed by it. A recommendation from Netflix is only one factor in a decision to have a movie sent to me. Other, more important factors are facts about the film. Their recommendation system already does all the thinking for me that I want it to do. I don’t really need it to be improved. I need it to be easier for me to find what I want based on my own thinking.

What I want from the Netflix website that I’m not getting is a more useful search engine. The search engine on the site searches words in titles and directors’ and actors’ names, and does fuzzy matching to catch misspellings, which is useful. But it doesn’t do anything beyond that. It doesn’t search the synopses of movies, and there is no indexing of the films based on subject matter, or other people involved in the film (composer, screenwriter) or much else. There are user-created lists of movies based on certain themes, but these are difficult to find and tend not to be all that useful.

The reason I want a better search engine is not mainly because I’m a librarian, though that may be part of it. The reason I want a better search engine has to do with the way movies interest me. When I think about movies I want to watch, I don’t think, “Hm, how can I find a movie that I will rate with five stars?” More likely I think something like, “I’m really liking these Robert Altman movies from the 70s, I want to see more, or other 70s movies with Elliott Gould.” That’s actually something that Netflix accomodates just fine, but there are also times when I’m interested in seeing movies with certain subject matter, like movies about con artists or movies about writing. Netflix does not make it easy to find them; other sources are required to pull them together.

There a number of things Netflix could do along these lines, and some of them I think it is already doing. I have noticed in its recommendation pages that narrower genre categories have appeared, like “Pre-20th Century Period Pieces” and “Classic Movie Musicals from the 1930s.” That is certainly a step in the right direction. However, they don’t make it easy to access these narrow genre lists. (They also treat “Foreign” as a genre, which strikes me as ignorant.)

These narrower genres, though, don’t give the ability to search on subject matter, which is often the thing that makes someone choose a movie. For example, if someone in my family is diagnosed with autism, I’d be interested in seeing films that relate to that (of which there have been a number). Similarly, if I’ve just lost my job and have a lot of time on my hands, I might want to see feel-good movies about people who lose everything and then have some kind of good fortune or succeed because of their creativity and persistence. The facts about a movie that might make it relevant can be things like “stock car racing,” or “horses,” but equally, and I think this is something Netflix would have to suggest to users, the theme or type of plot that the movie has, or genres and sub-genres in the industry sense.

What Netflix doesn’t quite get is that their service, with its immense library, implies an approach to marketing that is entirely different than what the studios have to do to get people to come to see movies in current release. It’s not only movie buffs and the intellectually curious who can be better reached with an attribute approach rather than an algorithm (though of course I would like it if Netflix encouraged more people to be intellectually curious). This is because Netflix has the potential to interest people in movies based on changes in their intellectual interests and emotional needs from day to day, which is something that a recommendation engine doesn’t capture since it assumes that people are basically the same one day to the next. The size of the Netflix library and the nature of their service should allow them to do marketing based on more than just the single dimension that the recommendation engine creates.

I think that million dollars needs to go in another direction. So, they should call me.

November 14, 2008

OCLC Powergrab?

I have not been following this, but apparently OCLC has issued proposed new policy guidelines that would allow it to claim ownership of its catalog records, with serious consequences for libraries and other organizations that use information about books. Aaron Swartz (of Open Library) puts it in context on his blog in a post from yesterday.

I have a feeling many people reading this know more about it than I do. Please comment and link to bring me and readers up to speed. This seems like an important development.

November 5, 2008

The Ethics of Information Organization – Conference Announcement and Call for Papers

The Ethics of Information Organization – Conference Announcement and Call for Papers

May 22-23, 2009
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Information organization (IO), like other major functions of the information profession, faces many ethical challenges. In the IO literature, ethical concerns have been raised with regard to, for example, the role of national and international IO standards, providing subject access to information, deprofessionalization and outsourcing of IO, education of IO professionals, and the effects of globalization. These issues, and others like them, have serious implications for quality and equity in information access. The Center for Information Policy Research and the Information Organization Research Group at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee join in presenting this conference to address the ethics of information organization.

The themes of the conference may include, but are not limited to, ethical aspects of and approaches to:
• The role of standards in IO
• Subject access to information
• Description and Metadata
• Folksonomies and social tagging as IO
• Day-to-day practice in IO
• Professionalism and IO
• Education for IO
• Culture and IO
• Economic, social and political factors in IO
• International, multicultural and multilingual aspects of IO

The keynote speakers will be:
Clare Beghtol
Professor, University of Toronto, Canada
José Augusto Chaves Guimarães
Professor, Universidade Estadual Paulista, Brazil
Janet Swan Hill
Professor, Associate Director for Technical Services, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries, USA

We invite interested participants to submit proposals for papers to include: name(s) of presenter(s), title(s), affiliation(s), contact information and abstracts of 300-500 words. Presentations will be 30 minutes. Time will be set aside for questions as well as broader discussion. All abstracts will be published on the Web site of the UW-Milwaukee Center for Information Policy Research. Full papers will be further reviewed and selected for publication in a special issue of Cataloging and Classification Quarterly.

Abstracts due: January 1, 2009
Notification of acceptance by: February 1, 2009
Full papers due: April 3, 2009

Submit proposals electronically to: Hur-Li Lee, Chair of the Program Committee (hurli@uwm.edu)

The Program Committee:
Grant Campbell
Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario, Canada
Allyson Carlyle
Associate Professor, University of Washington
Clara M. Chu
Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
Edwin Michael Cortez
Professor/Director, University of Tennessee
Birger Hjørland
Professor, The Royal School of Library and Information Science in Denmark
Hur-Li Lee, Chair
Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Steven J. Miller
Senior Lecturer, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Hope A. Olson
Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Sandra Roe
Editor, Cataloging & Classification Quarterly
Bibliographic Services Librarian, Milner Library, Illinois State University
Richard P. Smiraglia
Professor, Long Island University
Michael Zimmer
Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Center for Information Policy Research, UW-Milwaukee
Information Organization Research Group at UW-Milwaukee
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries
Milwaukee Public Libraries

June 7, 2008

Thomas Mann’s Foreword to Responsible Librarianship

Thomas Mann’s Foreword to David Bade’s Responsible Librarianship: Library Policies for Unreliable Systems:

There is a kind of “code word” situation that has developed in the library profession in recent decades; it is manifested in an appeal to a set of beliefs that, while largely unarticulated, is nonetheless socially endorsed without a perceived need for argument or evidence. The evidence is assumed to be there; after all, when enough people share the same assumptions that support networks can be appealed to, those social networks functionally take the place of what, in other situations, would require considerable explicit justification. Were the “code words” actually based on the “science” part of “library science,” then their adherents would have to realistically consider the possibility of falsifying evidence, of counter-examples, of whole bodies of literature to the contrary, and of the possible–perhaps radical–incoherence of their beliefs when situated in larger contexts of other beliefs known to be true via other tests. What matters with the “code word” mind set is not whether one examines possible falsifying considerations; what matters is simply whether one “gets it” or not. Fashion replaces argumentation.

Perhaps the most insidious of the “code” beliefs in the library profession today is the oft-repeated statement “We should not let the perfect stand in the way of the good”; or “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” This assertion has various implications in practice. Most frequently it means that, particularly for library catalogers, “throughput time” or “speed” in turning out records is now to be considered “the gold standard” of quality. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary (Cataloging and Classification Quarterly, 23 [3/4], 1997), it is further assumed that “indexer consistency studies” demonstrate that trained catalogers don’t agree with each other in any event, in the supposedly-perfect products they have been (vainly) trying to produce up to now. And therefore, it follows, consistency–i.e., standardization, categorization, authority work, cross-referencing, etc.–is not a realistic goal to pursue in the first place; instead, we just need more transcribed or harvested keywords taken from books themselves, that can be relevance-ranked (not standardized) by machine algorithms; or we just need more “tagged” keywords added to records by the general public, whose collective folk wisdom can replace (not supplement) subject experts who have actual knowledge, not just of the book (or other work) in hand, but of the larger context of its subject relationships to other works that are within, or related to, its own field. Neither relevance-ranking nor democratic tagging by non-librarians, of course, is expensive; neither requires thinking by library personnel. Neither requires any expensive professional work. Whether the needs of the library’s users–particularly academic and scholarly users–are met by such processing procedures is irrelevant, because “the code” also assumes (without argumentation) that the very goal of cataloging is no longer to show “what the library has”–that is much too parochial a focus when there is an entire Internet out there with billions of things in it–but is, rather, to provide “something quickly”–and provide it especially to remote users outside library walls who are further assumed not to need any training or education in how to go about finding what they need. (The “under the hood” software manipulations of whatever keywords they type into “a single search box” will handle those problems for them.) Traditional library-access mechanisms will obviously not “scale up” to dealing with billions of records; so it follows that they must be simply abandoned (rather than having them continue to deal with a much more manageable subset of all informational records, such as the set of pesky books that keep being published each year.)

So: where do we go from here? I suspect many librarians will have visceral feelings that something is wrong with “the code” they hear so frequently repeated. Perhaps instead of endlessly repeating these assertions we should actually look at the evidence, either in their favor or falsifying them. That’s where David Bade comes in. Bade, a cataloger at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library, is a genuine scholar in the library profession. And he has done something that is rarely seen in library literature: he has read widely enough to examine library science as a whole in the context of related disciplines. He has immersed himself in the literature of high reliability organizations, human error studies, ergonomics, reliability engineering, and joint cognitive systems. He brings to bear a knowledge of philosophy, history–-and even farming!-–in his considerations of what actually works in libraries, and for what purposes. What he offers in this book is a coherent integration of what is, demonstrably, established knowledge from a wide variety of relevant fields, weighted not by machine algorithms but rather by a fine professional discrimination based on decades of actual experience in doing the work of librarianship. He combines the perspectives of a 30,000 foot overview with the necessary corrections that must be made, extensively and routinely, at ground level. A sure sign of a real scholar is his or her ability to provide concrete examples from that “ground level” experience, with an extended analysis of their further implications, not just out-of-context individual sentences cherry-picked from user surveys devised by people lacking that experience, who may have therefore failed to ask the right questions to begin with. Bade’s extensive quotations from the literature he has researched–N.B.: extended quotations from, not just superficial footnote citations to–provide the rest of us with a coherent patterning and integration of knowledge that the library field so desperately needs at present. Bade offers not the “snippets” of information that quick and dirty searching offers, but a deep understanding that comes from his rare combination of very wide reading and very extensive personal experience, not just with the intentions, but with the results of the systems he’s talking about.

“The perfect is the enemy of the good”? Perhaps, after reading this timely and much-needed study by David Bade, the library profession might actually consider a counter-proposition: “The even greater enemy of the good is the slipshod, the incompetent, the superficial, the incomplete, and the demonstrably incorrect.”

Thomas Mann
Washington, D.C.

April 23, 2008

Felipe Meneses reviews David Bade’s Responsible Librarianship

Felipe Meneses of Mexico City has written a brief review of David Bade’s Responsible Librarianship: Library Policies for Unreliable Systems. It’s in Spanish, so you may or may not be able to read it without a friend to help.

Thanks, Felipe!

March 28, 2008

Responses to Mann on LC report

Candy Schwartz, a LIS professor at Simmons, is maintaining coverage of the discussion that has ensued in response to the Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control (and Tom Mann’s response). If you want to follow that, go here.