Showing posts with label library science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label library science. Show all posts


Photo: Library of Babel

Photo of the interior of New York University's Bobst Library - taken from a few floors up.
Being inside the Bobst Library on New York University's campus can feel a little like vertigo - especially if you are looking down.
Bobst Library, NYU
People say walking the upper floors of the Bobst Library  the main college library at New York University surrounding Washington Square Park  grants a feeling of vertigo. It's true. Also, I get a feeling I am inside the infinite library written about in Jorge Borges's short story "The Library of Babel".


Film Clip Analysis: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Library Scene

image credit: © 1989 Lucasfilm
"X marks the spot!"
So, I was at Pier 1 in Brooklyn for their summer night outdoor showing of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. You know, the one with Sean Connery as Daddy Jones and Harrison Ford as Junior? This 1989 installment has its perks: we get to meet the knight who guards the vestibule of the holy grail (kind of like the Wandering Jew, but not) and we get to see the beautiful walled city of Petra in current-day Jordan. Well, amidst the hijinks and Holy Grail seriousness, not at all like Monty Python, there is a brief moment of library silliness that I should add to my post entitled, Libraries and Librarians in Film.

The scene spoofs two hallowed librarian stereotypes: silence and stamping books - as if that is all librarians do all day: shush people and stamp books.

The film pays clever homage to this trope by having Indy clobber his way through a tile in a library in Venice, Italy (X marks the spot) that will eventually take him through a sewer tunnel, and eventually (way-in-the-future-eventually) to the holy grail.

image credit: © 1989 Lucasfilm
Careful not to disturb the silence of the library, Indy takes a library guardrail and pile drives the thing into the floor quick enough not to be noticed! Not very believable, right? The comic relief, though, and the link to our sustained suspension of disbelief is while simultaneously, in clever cut-to-shot, the librarian is quietly stamping books. Every time Indy drives a hit into the marble Venetian tile, the clamoring thud is synchronized with the librarian's rubber book stamping. It's a hilarious sound gag.

After a few deafening blows, the librarian retires the stamp for a new one. Obviously, he illogically thinks his rubber stamp carries a huge sound effect. How is that for post hoc propter hoc

Sometimes a cause of X is not always Y. And X does not always mark the spot.


Gone Flat Land: Why XML Seems Promising

A nerdy post on library science and the future of library cataloging.
image credit: "Tempus Fugit" by abbeyprivate
This essay was written as a requirement for an introduction to cataloging course. An entry like this is not typical stones of erasmus fare, but I post it for all my library and cataloging buddies out there. I warn you, though, I made a C+ in Cataloging. I took the course as an online component. While I like the Reference and Information Services course I took online (which garnered me an A+) I found the Cataloging course online more challenging. My satisfactory grade is most likely attributable to my difficulty keeping up with deadlines, but I also found the assignments hard to conceptualize. Most catalogers use a cataloging application (e.g., Connexion) on a PC to create MARC records or to copy catalog. But, for this class, we had to use a generic MS word document to fill in the fields which I found to be terribly awkward. So, a word from the experienced: if you take an online class in cataloging make sure you have access to a good MARC program.
Anyway, here is my report on XML from a C+ point of view. Enjoy:


“A Mere Labyrinth of Letters”: Preoccupations of Librarianship and Epistemological Conjecturing in Borges’ “The Library of Babel”

An illustration of the Library of Babel by Erik Desmazieres 
Librarians share two major philosophical preoccupations:

  1. The idea of a total library
  2. The futility of such a library.

Librarians are “total” in their desire for a perfect, or a complete library, but, unfortunately, the totalitarian nature of librarians has fossilized the notion that if it isn’t in the library then it doesn’t exist. The "if it is not in the records it does not exist" idea is as old as recorded history. The promise of complete, total, accessible knowledge (the first preoccupation) is shadowed by the librarian's futile wading through miles and miles of totality (the hell) to search and find that one piece of totality that one is looking. The total nature of the catalog is supposed to mirror precisely what is on the shelf. But the maddening job of the cataloger is to constantly check the catalog against what is on the shelf and fix any errors; this process has the hope of finish but is bound to be endlessly nonfinished. Librarians spend hours cleaning records, assigning call numbers, shelving books in an endless cycle of return. This nature of librarianship is actually not only the preoccupations of Library Science but of Western Philosophy in general.  Ever since the philosopher Thales posited that there must be something material that underlies all existence — we will forgive him for positing water — philosophers have searched for a univocity, or an absolute to explain that which undergirds reality. Of course, the philosophical search comes short. There is a futility in this search (think of Adam futile search to name all animals or Aristotle's futile search to give names to everything) although it does not cancel out the desire to search. That, my dear, is the paradox of the quest.


Software Review: Access My Library for the iPhone

Have you ever wanted to use your iPhone to access your library's electronic resources? Well, you can with Access My Library.
I love access to my public library's online resources, like EBSCOhost and Galegroup resources.

I'm pleased to know I can access some of the resources I pay taxes for, not only on my computer but on my iPhone.

Gale Group, a leading reference resource has developed a nifty iPhone app that uses geotracking to locate the nearest public libraries in your area and allows you to access electronically through an app.

What this means is I can access Scribner's Writer's Series on my phone.
If I lived in San Francisco, then I could access the public library there as well.

Gale allows this access for free because it knows it helps libraries reach out to more of its patrons who may not have access to the stacks because of work or other commitments. This ensures libraries will continue to use Gale as an online database service.

The app enhances iPhone's ability to search out reputable resources. The worldwide web does not always contain the most desirable sources, and sometimes I need access to a subscription database to locate trustworthy information.

Now, only if the legal battle can cease, then Google can offer a similar service through its Books feature.


Libraries and Librarians in Film

EW did a thing on 18 movies with libraries, but I thought I'd add to the mix with just 3:
Citizen Kane
The Library Matron
The librarian grants access to a journalist to read the diary of Charles Foster Kane's guardian William Thatcher.
Citizen Kane (1941)
William Thatcher's diary in the famous Citizen Kane library scene
A stern-looking librarian leads a reporter into a cell containing a diary by Charles Foster Kane's guardian William Thatcher that may give him leads to the infamous newspaper magnate's sudden death. The journalist in the film plays the part of the dogged researcher who seeks out every possible avenue to sort out why did Kane spout out before he died, "Rosebud." He arrives at a fortress (or what appears to be a prison) that turns out to be an imposing archive. Granting permission to the journalist to peruse Thatcher's diary, The librarian tells him he can only read pages 83-142 and that he must leave the library premise by 4:40 sharp. I watched Citizen Kane for the first time with a librarian and she was quick to point out how librarians are erroneously depicted in popular culture as stern "guardians of the stacks." The mantra, it seems, is "the book shan't leave my sight!" I chuckle because the Kane library scene is sometimes true. I knew a librarian who went to the grocery store one afternoon and saw a patron in line and instead of telling her hello demanded to know why she had not turned in her overdue library book. True story. Anyway, I still consider this scene the quintessential library scene in film history even though it stereotypes librarians as "sole proprietors" of knowledge, I still love it. I think I was mesmerized by Greg Toland's brilliant cinematography: the way the light shines from above, illuminating the manuscript on the spare table, the way the camera makes you feel trapped inside the library walls, chained to nothing but a book. Then the camera focuses on a page in Thatcher's diary, I first encountered Mr. Kane in 1871." The book morphs into a flashback scene of little Charlie Kane playing in the snow with his sled. It's a stark effective scene as well as a metaphor for the increasing mystery of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane's mysterious life.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
The Library Know-it-All
Obi-Wan Kenobi scours the library databases in the Jedi library but to no avail.

Obi-Wan is surprised that not even the library has it!  
Obi-Wan Kenobi goes to the library to look for a planet in the star database in the Jedi Archives.  Obi-Wan has the right information but cannot find the planet. The librarian insists the planet does not exist because it does not appear in the star charts where it is supposed to be located. If it is not in the database, then it does not exist, the librarian remarks. Coincidentally, I was with the same librarian I saw Citizen Kane with when I saw this movie and she pointed this out to me with the same chagrin on her face as she did when she pointed out the Kane librarian trope. The Star Wars librarian is another variation of the Kane librarian: not only does the knowledge not appear in the record, if the knowledge is not in the record then it does not exist. So, does that mean if I do not have a birth certificate I do not exist? I become a tad bit nervous when librarians began messing with my existential priorities. The flip slide is the student researching a term paper: "I cannot find anything on my topic." It doesn't exist? Even Obi-Wan knows that; in case you were wondering, it was the Sith who smudged the planet from the star charts to hide their nefarious plans to create a clone army. So it just goes to show you, if it is not in the database, and it is supposed to be there, someone bad took it out, like a Sith Lord.    

The Library Catalog Haunted by a Ghost

I ain't afraid of no ghosts
The Ghostbusters stumble upon a ghostly specter in the stacks.
 If you thought an archive powered by the Force was cool, what about a card catalog haunted by a slimy ghoul? Ghostbusters has a fun opening sequence that features none other than the famous New York Public Library (although the interior shots were filmed in a library in California). I like the part when the green slime emits from the card catalog. Priceless shot!

EXTRA! EXTRA! See my post on the library scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade


Why I hate Wikipedia naysayers and why tutoring sucks

LIS 501 Reference and Information Services

I got an "A" in my LIS class.
I am happy because this is a sign that I am on the right career track. Now, I just have to get my FAFSA shit together and I am set for success. That, and I need to apply to some Ph.D. programs. I have until December. If you have any Ph.D. programs that feature both philosophy, literature and theory, let me know. But, that is a conundrum for another blog post.

I am glad the group projects in the online lit class did not bring me down. I was disappointed that one of our group wiki projects bombed. We had to create a survey of ready reference websites. We chose LGBT as our topic but quickly realized it was TOO hard to find Ready Reference for that topic.

But, you know, let me digress a bit.
Ready Reference ClarificationsI disagree with traditional definitions of ready reference. It is erroneous and limiting to assert that a source is a ready reference and ready reference only. I disagree with ready reference shelves. If you are going to have a Ready Reference shelf: make it an almanac. Ready Reference depends on the needs of the user. For example, Wikipedia is a ready reference at times, especially for cursory questions like, "which movie won the academy award for best picture in 1939?". But at other times Wikipedia attempts to answer encyclopedic questions and users are prompted to follow the links at the bottom of the page.

Why I love Wikipedia
I love Wikipedia no matter what the nay-sayers say. Even Lexis-Nexis with all of its pizazz has corrupted data. And EBSCO does not always transcribe information correctly. I have not done the pre-requisite research, but data loss in huge conglomerate databases is probably under-reported. I mean, you hear about glitches in Google book scan where technician's hands cover up text, but other than that, most people blindly assume that for the most part subscription databases are accurate. I mean, I want to see people hooraying for open source databases and open-source directories like and Instead of demeaning Wikipedia, let us try to create more critical thinkers, which won't be easy because I mean, like, look at all the people who blindly believe mass forwarded emails warning against a virus. The one deterrent to accuracy is people are more willing to believe something they read based on fear rather than reason. I mean ever since that movie Taken came out, young women are not traveling to Paris anytime soon. But, anyway, the other wikis went over well and I was so happy with the class as a whole. Hooray for the University of Southern Mississippi School of Library and Information Science!

I am taking cataloging this Fall. I think I am in for a rude awakening because
everything I know about cataloging is so organic. Greig is set to FAIL!

Speaking of FailI got a tutoring job last week. Made 25 dollars helping this crazy guy prepare for his GRE test. Here is my advertisement on Craigslist. Send it to your needy friends.
Man, you gotta be careful who you instruct through craigslist job spots. This dude is veritably crazy. Thank you very much. He acted like he was doing me a favor allowing me to tutor him in writing. He did play the piano for me in his apartment and sang mellifluously but hey, I am here to tutor, not hang around for a social call. He wrote to me today informing me he was going to prepare for the GRE himself. He was odd. I hope my next set of students fair better than this one. I think I am going to gamble that 25 dollars on the video slots to at least try to milk it for what's it worth. Or lose it.

Future Blog Posts: Siggraph 2009 and Dirty Linen Night
So looking forward to Siggraph 2009 in New Orleans. I promise a blog from there as well as a blog on Dirty Linen Night this Saturday on Royal street.
Note: picture co-opted from Used without permission


Reference Book Review: First Fun Encyclopedia (Available as a Searchable Database on EBSCOhost)

First Fun Encyclopedia
First fun encyclopedia
     Targeted to primary school children and hosted on the electronic databases MAS Ultra - School Edition and Master File Premier, First Fun Encyclopedia was published by Mason Crest in 2003 and edited and written by Jane Walker. The book is part of the series First Fun Reference Set which includes "First Fun Atlas," by Andrew Langley; "First Fun Dictionary," by Cindy Leaney; and "First Fun Science Encyclopedia," by Brian Ward. 
Available on EBSCO
     EBSCO only has the encyclopedia available digitally for now. The entire encyclopedia is available as HTML full text with graphics. The EBSCO version has 118 entries arranged alphabetically. Each entry has a persistent link feature available so users can email or post links back to the entry. The encyclopedia is searchable and references are cross-linked. 
Encylopedia Articles are Written for Young Readers
     Categorized under the subject heading "Youth & Children's Interests" the text is written at a LEXILE rating of no more than 730. To give an idea of how the book is arranged the "Ocean and Seas" entry also directs users to the "Animal Kingdom" entry. For vocabulary skills, entries include a word box related to the subject with short, simple definitions. Some entries include a word game or puzzle for fun. Each entry has high-resolution graphics to accompany the text that are instructional rather than decorative. The "Fish" entry, for example, has an illustration of a fish with labels identifying the essential anatomical parts. The entry on "Trains" includes graphics of different types of trains  subways, bullet trains, steam trains, and so forth. The entry on "Homes" describes tall homes, tent homes, and houses in rows. 
      No entry is more than 400 words.
Create Non-Fiction Text Sets
Teachers can use the entries from the First Fun Encyclopedia to create text sets for their classrooms. For example, if an English Language Arts teacher plans to teach a unit on Carl Hiassen's novel Flush, a book that takes place in Florida, then the teacher can pre-select non-fiction articles to supplement the reading. Have kids read about the sealife of Florida, or about ecology, and environmental protection efforts to create sustainable habitats for animals.
Source: Walker, Jane. First Fun Encyclopedia. Philadelphia: Mason Crest, 2003. Internet resource.


Journal & Rants: Mishmash

My Writer's Blog Stones of Erasmus Has Become a Mishmash
This blog has become a mishmash. It originally began as a place to place all of my musings, whether they originate from a journal, from Myspace (when I had that service) or Facebook.
Here is how I think I look when I am writing blog posts.

It has also, on occasion, served as a travel blog. And when I wrote a lot of poetry, it was a place to put my poems (but not too much of that here).

Now, I have been mainly sending my "text novel" to here and to Facebook.

Did I tell you, though, that I have signed up for a 3-hour Graduate level course in Reference and Information services?

Get this:
Who wants to be equipped to answer any ready reference question?

I think I am going to buy a kindle and make it into my very own ready reference shelf:
  • Merriam Webster Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • World Almanac
  • CIA World Fact Book
  • World Atlas
HMMMM what else

oh yeah:
  • Famous First Facts
Hah Hah

that would be awesome

OK ... got to log in to chat for LIS 501 (the Library Science class I am taking at the University of Southern Mississippi.


Reference Video Guide: Anatomy of a Call Number

In this video guide, my colleagues and I at the Saint Joseph Seminary College Père Rouquette Library in Saint Benedict, Louisiana break down the anatomy of a call number.

"Anatomy of a Call Number" Library Instructional Video


"Taking it Where They're At": The Origins of an “Anatomy of a Call Number”

A real challenge at our small seminary college library is getting students from their rooms (and their computers) to the stacks. I don't think this is just a 21st century problem. I think this is a problem that has plagued libraries for a long time. Students avoid the library. This was true in the days of paper as well as in the days of 0's and 1's.
     Maybe the particular challenge for libraries today is that often, students feel that the library is obsolete (as well as the print materials it holds) and would rather do all the research from the comfort of their dormitory room: where one can access the library catalog, review online databases, or more generally, scan the web for trenchant articles on a particular topic. While it is more than possible to find resources that one needs without ever stepping foot in a library, what is missing in this “grab and bag” approach to research is the skill to effectively find what you are looking for; most students think they know how to find the most accurate and authoritative source for their research without understanding the fundamental of library research. Because as librarians we know that the current trend tends to keep students from interaction with librarians and the library, I felt the need to take an approach of “where they’re at” to give students the skills to become better researchers.
     When a student does come into the library with a call number in hand, especially new college students, usually what I get is the “deer in headlights” look. At the reference desk at our small seminary college library, looking for that book that they desperately need for the next day’s assignment, they are lost in the stacks. Or, on a tangential note, when the power goes out, and all we have is “paper,” the students have no idea how to browse Dewey to find what they want. It is a joyful day when our director gets to take out her trusty Sears List of Subject headings to instruct a student “how to find a book”.
    Students do not know how to use the Sears book of Subject headings because they do not have the information literacy to navigate the Web (studies have shown that students do not know how to use online databases, or even worse, they do not know what they are). And there is not a librarian at their computer desk to show them, even if they can instant message a librarian or send an e-mail. Because of this physical absence from the library, and also absence from guided research, and the delusion students have of their own research acumen, I have noticed, working as a library assistant, that students do not understand basic principles of how a library is organized. Or, if they do, the librarian language to describe how the library operates differs from the students’ own understanding of how a library operates. Phrases like “Dewey Decimal System” and “library catalog” are sometimes lost on them. A student would look at me, and ask, “I just want to know where the philosophy books are”. Can you get me this article?
    And, even professors, do not always know how to use the library’s resources to supplement their own courses. I attribute this to what I call, the “Barnes and Noble” mentality. It is a product of the erroneous mentality that the library patron is a customer and the library is supposed to fill instantly the customer's needs.
There is a resistance, oftentimes, in gaining lifelong learning and information literacy skills. So, thinking about this problem, I brainstormed ideas to use where they’re at (at their computer consoles) to reach students as a guide to get what they need but at the same time introduce students to tools to enable them to become better, life-long, researchers. One way to do this was to use a schema I devised, “the Anatomy of a Call Number” and to duplicate it and propagate as many ways as I could for student use: as a photocopied handout, on the web, on iTunes, on Facebook, and even as a QuickTime movie.
    Because I noticed students were lost to the geography of a call number, I came up with a graphic to introduce students to how to read a call number and understand it. This is not a novel idea. Many libraries have on their websites Call Number tutorials that guide a user on the basics of library organization. And the notion, “an anatomy of a call number,” is not novel to our specific library. But, I noticed, many of the tutorials I found on the web were not designed for college students nor where they clean and easy to follow. I needed a “one page” graphic that I could then break down into subsequent parts.
    I was first inspired by Aristotle. In his book the Categories, he lays down principles of organizing knowledge into hierarchical degrees. From general to specific. And also specific to general. Aristotle thought that you could organize all knowledge from the most general to the most specific, deductive reasoning, or by specific to general, inductive reasoning. By using the rudiments of deductive logic, Aristotle claimed, for example, one could go from the most general categories, like “living things” down to animals, then to mammals, then to whales, then to giraffes, to dogs, and cats, and humans. One could also inductively surmise that knowledge about Faith and Reason is also related to the broader picture of Theology and by extension belief. This system proved to be a highly successful manner in the West to organize knowledge, even to the present system of organizing animals into Phyla and Species. In a similar manner, a library organizes itself based upon this Aristotelian means of nomenclature and organization.
    Because our program is geared to philosophy and to the humanities, I thought using a philosopher that students had already studied in their curricula to illustrate how the library organizes itself was a useful way to not only reach where they are at, but also to show how the library acts as an interdisciplinary mediator between academic disciplines. Once, the students could grasp that what they are learning in their philosophy courses was related to the way in which the library organized its knowledge, I figured this would increase their interest in the library and also teach them how to apply the theoretical concepts that they have learned in the classroom.
    Because we use the Dewey Decimal System at our small college library, I came up with a one sheet handout that I called “Anatomy of a Call Number”. It shows how the alpha-numeric “call number” is not merely an arbitrary placeholder. It represents the placement of the books within an hierarchy of knowledge. To show this, I broke down one call number,
    (The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck) to show how the call number reflects The Grapes of Wrath not only as a novel shelved next to the other Steinbeck novels, but how it is placed within Contemporary fiction (813.54), which is placed within 813 (American Fiction), which is placed with 810 (American Literature) which is placed within 800 (Literature). Placing these handouts at the reference desk, and taping them to the stacks, the idea was that it would aid students in teaching them basic library literacy at the point-of-contact-level. While helping students “find a book” we could use the handout to illustrate how the call number in the catalog corresponds, hopefully, to the placement of the book on the shelf. And, most importantly, we could relate the act of locating the book on the shelf, to the philosophical quest for knowledge, something they were already learning in their coursework.
    While the handout worked, to some extent, the library staff looked for more ways to introduce library literacy skills to students, “where they’re at”. Like I said, in the beginning, students are in their dormitory rooms, using their computers. Or they are using library computers. Because we have an online OPAC, students usually look up the books they would like to use for their research, then they come to the library, to get their material, and then they leave. Realizing this, we decided to use the Internet and the local school intranet as a way to stream library resources directly to their rooms.
     Obviously, the library web page seems to be an advantageous place to post information literacy resources, like our “Anatomy of a Call Number”. But, we thought, the students do not check the library’s web page like they check their MySpace or Facebook profiles or listen to iTunes. So, we started to stream the library to those online locations and applications on the Internet and on our local intranet.
     We first set up an iTunes application in the library that was connected to the school intranet. iTunes has a feature called “Sharing” where a user can rip music and audio files onto his or her computer, download them into their iTunes file organizer and set up a sharing folder that other users, who are also using the same Internet access point (in our case, our seminary college campus) can also listen to and use without actually possessing the actual files on their computers.
      iTunes makes it fairly easy to not only store PDFs, files, and audio files, but also to stream these electronic resources right into students' rooms. Through a very easy interface and set-up, we started a Rouquette Library streaming share that anyone on the local intranet, using iTunes, would see on their own screens, and could access. This includes audiobooks that students in our curriculum would use, as well, as library resources, including the original “Anatomy of a Call Number”. We are even in the process of making the original analog document into a QuickTime movie that breaks down the call number into its anatomical parts.
We also realized that we could stream library resources through other internet hotspots that students frequent, like Facebook. By setting up an account on Facebook, the library has been able to stream library resources to students, where they are.
      So, the handout I had created, “An Anatomy of a Call Number” has gone through various permutations from a one-page handout to a multimedia presentation to a quick time movie, as you can see in our Poster Session.