Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cataloging - First Assignment Submitted, and Thesauri Discussion

I did an analysis of an online discussion forum that I belong to ( I think it went alright, but index analysis is harder than I expected! I think it’s because when an index is well-designed, you don’t really have to think about it – you just use it. It’s quite difficult (for me) to break it down into its working parts, especially with an online index where some of the working parts are combined (ex. locators that also contain their own inherent data). It’s even harder to talk about these components in an organized way – I would set out to talk about one aspect of the index, and end up talking about others as well – they go hand in hand, and it’s almost impossible to talk about one without mentioning others.

It was an interesting exercise, though, especially critiquing the index and talking about how it DOESN’T work well. Really got my mind going on how this particular index could be improved (which I imagine was one of the main points of the assignment).

This past class session, we talked thesauri (which are more-or-less vocabulary indices). THAT was interesting. After showing us the nuts and bolts of thesauri and their notation, the professor had us try to develop a small one for chocolate. It quickly became clear that a thesaurus is not just an index of specialized vocab, but can represent an entire conceptual framework. We talked some more about how preferred terms and hierarchical relationships can become so important, especially when you are creating a thesaurus about culture or religion. I really had no idea. It’s amazing.

There are some crazy-cool thesauri available online too. Here are some she showed us.

Art and Architecture Thesaurus

Maths Thesaurus (this one still has a few glitches)

Visual Thesaurus

That last one is a heck of a lot of fun to play with, but it’s a for-profit product so you only get a limited trial. Still, pretty neat!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

First session of the interdisciplinary seminar class

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had to sit through an entire day of classes. The first all-day session of this class really tested my learning stamina, or more specifically, my listening stamina. The lectures were a mix of congratulatory fluff (“we’re the greatest information school in the country, or should be!”), which I could have done without, and really great content on the history of communication technology. I have to confess that I was nearly brain-dead by the end…

...which was a perfect time for us to meet our small group members and work on our technology problem exercise and subsequent presentation (she said, sarcastically)!

To be honest, this work session went much better than I expected. As far as gender and cultural divides go, they seemed to have little effect. The striking differences showed up in expertise and language use. Our conversations took a lot of time because the Information Management folk have a very structured vocabulary for project work, which they threw around with great speed, and the rest of us (me especially) had to ask for clarification quite a lot. Thankfully, despite these language barriers (hardly the ones I expected!), I think we designed a decent project and will probably have a halfway decent presentation to do.

I was surprised at how I feel less intimidated all the time. There are so many smart, smart people in all of the programs, but I never realized how many presentation and communication skills I have developed over the past few years. I suppose I assumed that everyone can do this effectively – not true! (At least, they can’t yet – I couldn’t always, either.) And a good deal of project management skill also rubbed off on me inadvertently.

It’s nice to be surprised by your own competence!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Youth services: who are we willing to serve?

I have been mulling over my career options (it's a constant thing with me, really), and I keep coming back to youth services in a public library setting. There are many reasons for this. First, I genuinely enjoy young people. They energize me. Second, while I loved school myself, I just can't see myself working in a school setting for any length of time. I'm not sure why, but school media specialist work is not for me. Third, I'm convinced that it's vitally important work. Not just because the library was hugely important to me as a young person, but because I'm learning already that libraries (like most public organizations) are in the fight of their lives to prove their relevance and ensure their longevity. It seems to me that reaching out to young people is crucial because they will be the library users of the future - and if they don't use the library now, will they ever?

With that in mind, I started poking around for blogs by youth services librarians, and found a wonderful post that juxtaposes the issues of youth librarianship with social work issues (general human service is important to me, too). In her post entitled Youth in libraries - are you really ready to welcome them in? , Librarian Deb asks some hard-hitting questions of youth services librarians. We say that all teens are welcome, and that we are interested in promoting literacy - but what if we do a good job with this, and the result is that youth with "undesirable" behaviors frequent our youth library spaces? How far does our committment to youth literacy go? What are we willing to tolerate, and what is not tolerable? How do we serve both underpriviledged individuals and the so-called "good kids", and make them both feel comfortable in the youth library space?

I would say that I want to find a way to welcome anyone, but the logistics of this are difficult. As Deb states, it might require partnership with social workers, teen outreach workers, who knows who else. This type of teen library is really appealing to me - it's the logical extension of a public library that's already serving as a meeting place for various community groups, a place that's already doing adult and emerging literacy work, etc. However, the issue of making 2 groups of teens (those who already frequent the library, and those who don't yet do so) comfortable in one space is a very, very tricky one. I'm not sure how it could be achieved, but if one were successful with it, the possibilities for community transformation seem quite rich.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Social Networking: It Benefits Us All

I promise that I'll write a more serious and thorough post about social networking sites and their connection to library science someday soon.

However, I just had a library-related "eureka!" moment thanks to 43 Things, a site with which I've been involved for about a year or so. Although 43 Things has connections to, which is off-putting to some (I guess they fear that their lives will be used as market research material?), I find that there are a wide range of individuals using the site. The MySpace-Xanga-LiveJournal set definitely does, and older folks seem to like it, too. I think the goal-oriented flavor of 43 Things makes it appealing to many different people.

Now, my amazing discovery: it's not so much an amazing discovery as it is a fun and unexpected benefit from someone else's goals and hard work. I ran across an entry by an individual who remembered an educational series called Tomes and Talismans that was created in 1986 to teach children the basics of library and research skills. This series really made an impact on me when it was shown to me in the school library during 2nd or 3rd grade - the concepts are presented in the course of a science fiction drama about censorship or loss of knowledge resources (I think) and the preservation/rediscovery of knowledge. Pretty far out for children's educational television! I think that it definitely contributed to my life-long interests in science fiction, dystopian societies in fiction, and censorship issues, and it probably taught me some things about using the library, too.

Anyhow, this 43 Things member knew not only the title of the series (which I have been trying to remember for years), but he or she also did the legwork to discover that I might be able to obtain my own copy of the whole series for about 50 bucks. I think I may have to invest in this series once all of my loan money comes through. $50 is not much to pay to have access to such a formative part of my childhood. Amazing that this should turn up now; I'm just beginning my library degree, and suddenly I am connected with the (most-likely) low-budget television series that may have started the whole thing.

For those who might be interested: according to the 43 Things member, here is how to get ahold of your own copy of Tomes and Talismans.

Send a statement requesting a copy, and a check or money order for $48.00 to:

Mississippi Public Broadcasting
Attn: Millard O'Baner
3825 Ridgewood Rd.
Jackson, MS 39211