From the catalogs of babes

{May 20, 2010}   SOS: save our stacks

Man, I had a great segue of posts lined up for this week, with ideas that flowed into and built on one another, and then Donald A. Barclay had to go and write this.

It’s an article from American Libraries magazine (the online edition–I didn’t see it in the print issue) called “The Myth of Browsing,” and it purports that browsing the physical stacks  should not be a priority in the contemporary academic library. And with all due respect, I say “bull sh*t.”

Barclay offers a number of reasons why browsing need not be supported. First off, he claims that the physical stack browsing that current scholars feel is a historical precedent is actually false–public access to physically browse stacks is a relatively recent (20th century) concept. To this I say: so what? So what if it’s a new idea? Should we always do things the way they were done in the past? Should we take away OPACs and return to card catalogs–OPACs have even less historical precedence than shelf browsing. Oh, and let’s do away with full-text access in scholarly databases, too–that’s only been around, what, maybe 20 years? Just because something wasn’t done throughout the entirely of library history does not mean it’s incorrect or wrong–in fact, it’s quite possibly a positive innovation, and, in the case of public browsing, I think it’s been wildly successful.

Barclay also tries to shoot holes in the ‘serendipitous discovery’ valued by some researchers (especially in the humanities, and, near and dear to my heart, the arts). He tries to claim that because every resource in existence in the entire world cannot physically be on a shelf in a library to browse, that patrons are missing out, like “hitting the sale tables on day three of a three day sale.” Again, I must disagree. Of course we cannot offer every existing resource on a shelf at any given time, and yes, this will reduce some discovery possibilities. But aren’t our collections tailored to best serve our patron groups? Do not arts libraries acquire what they feel to be the best selection of books and resources for their clientele, while law libraries choose the best resources for their patrons, and so on? Yes, we must make choices, and yes, that mean perhaps choosing one resource over another and only offering selected books on the shelf. But isn’t that our job as librarians? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do, and what people rely on us for? Collection development and management are key components of professional librarianship, and to offer a collection of every resource in the known universe rather than a carefully tailored collection targeting user group needs, would be unsuccessful, and in my opinion, unprofessional. And at least with some resources on the shelves, something can be found, even if it’s only selected from a few dozen titles rather than every book in the world.  If resources are removed completely (say, to off-site storage as mentioned in the article) then nothing can be selected by browsing, and I personally think something is better than nothing at all. He also tries to claim that browsing is counterproductive due to issues with classification schema, but to me that reflects more on the appropriateness of the schema to the particular library. Regular readers of my blog know that I may be biased in this area, but I think such issues should motivate research into the library’s classification success (or lack thereof), even the success of the furniture design (as Barclay notes, books are more likely to be browsed at eye-level than on the top or bottom shelves out of view).

But what about digital access and browsing? Surely if we remove all those books off-site, people will be able to search and browse the library catalog digitally and find materials that way, right? This is Barclay’s claim–except he doesn’t mention libraries. He’s certainly keen to cite‘s “rich browsing experience” and how “so many of today’s academic library users routinely start by looking up books via bookstore websites.” He himself is saying it right here–library catalogs currently cannot and do not support the browsing needs of library users. Until we can offer the same sort of browsing and findability experiences digitally that library users can get from browsing the stacks, we are in no position to be removing stacks browsing access from our libraries. Now, I may be delusional, but I have optimistic hopes that the day will come when library catalogs are more robust and user-friendly than commercial book websites. But until that happens, we should not be putting our eggs in the basket of Amazon and other external sites and vendors over whose fate we have no control.

Finally, Barclay claims that large physical book collections have become an “unsustainable luxury.” I don’t inherently disagree with this. But why are the unsustainable? Because we’ve made them so. Perhaps better management and strategic planning, with a focus on sustaining physical collections, would alleviate this issue. As for luxuries–indeed, large book collections are luxuries. That’s what attracts people to them–it’s a luxury that most people cannot afford on their own. Libraries are luxury, that’s part of what they’re designed for. They are a luxury of civilized, educated societies, which we need to offer if that’s what we purport to be. And again, from the way I see it from behind my rose-colored glasses, if it’s a luxury people want, they will say so. Which is exactly what they did at Syracuse, and what prompted Barclay’s article. Which brings me to my final (and biggest) beef with Barclay’s piece: here are library users stepping up and saying what they want and value about the library–in this case, physical stacks to browse and a hallowed environment in which to study–and yet Barclay throws everything in his arsenal against it. He sees library users saying in no uncertain terms what they want, and yet he argues against it. No wonder librarians get a bad rap; no wonder people sometimes see us as snooty, uptight traditionalists who push our ways on people because we assume that we know better. Now, I understand that users may not always know what they want, or even what might work best for them, but we’re certainly not doing anyone any favors by shoving that down their throats and blatantly arguing against supporting their needs and wants.

I don’t know much, but I do know this: people want physical spaces to browse print materials and immerse themselves in the traditional atmosphere that occurs only when in the presence of a large number of books. I believe they want it so much, that someday, when all these libraries have taken it away from them in favor of digital access and offsite bunker storage, I will open a space for them where they can come and browse and smell and take in the atmosphere. Maybe if I’m nice I won’t even charge them for it. On certain holidays and every fifth Tuesday of the month.

ps> Way to go, American Libraries, for not allowing comments on the article.

Sing it with me: one of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong…

  • Bronze jewelry
  • Ceramic jewelry
  • Coral jewelry
  • Cut steel jewelry
  • Diamond jewelry
  • Garnet jewelry
  • Glass jewelry
  • Gold jewelry
  • Hairwork jewelry
  • Jade jewelry
  • Jadite jewelry
  • Paper jewelry
  • Paste jewelry
  • Pearl jewelry
  • Platinum jewelry
  • Shell jewelry
  • Silver jewelry
  • Textile jewelry
  • Turquoise jewelry
  • Wire jewelry
  • Wooden jewelry

Did you guess Paper jewelry? if so, you’re right!

Paper Jewellery

Why? Because paper jewelry is not an authorized Library of Congress subject heading.

It seems like it should be, right? I mean, there’s a clear pattern established for jewelry of different media types. So it seems like adding “Paper jewelry” should be a no-brainer. There’s plenty of literary warrant and everything.

So why isn’t it? Because suggesting and creating new subject headings is an involved, arduous process open to only certain members of the cataloging community. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I’m not sure how else to put it.

See, one needs to be a SACO member to submit a proposal for a new subject heading, or, if not a member, needs to “funnel” their proposals through an authorized member.  So it seems to me what it ends up boiling down to is not really what you know (either about a subject or about LCSH), but rather who you know, and what clubs you belong to.

A cataloger from a non-PCC participating institution who needs a subject heading not available in LCSH or an LC classification number not found in the LC schedules now has the following options available for sending forward a proposal to SACO. 1) Contact a nearby institution that is currently a PCC member and request to submit your new proposal through their contribution mechanism. The second alternative is for your institution to 2) explore entering into a SACO funnel cooperative project and make contributions through an active subject funnel.

I understand that SACO libraries and librarians undergo training in how to properly formulate subject headings, what constitutes literary warrant, and how to submit a proposed subject heading and guide it through the process of research and approval. And that’s great, and valuable and useful. And, imo, almost a complete waste of time and a shot in the foot for subject headings (and by extension, catalogers and library catalog users everywhere).

We’re not a SACO library, and I doubt we ever will be. I don’t currently know anyone or have connections with any library that could funnel suggested headings for us. Yet we’re one of only a few highly specialized fashion libraries in the country, which means we have an intimate and thorough knowledge of that subject area. Who better to create and modify new subject headings for fashion-related subjects? I know of other small, specialized libraries with significant subject knowledge to contribute that are in the same boat we are. Yet, rather than harnessing the specialty subject knowledge from these libraries, subject headings are created for these topics by libraries and librarians that may only have vague (and sometimes inaccurate) ideas about these topics, and not understand the depth of headings needed in some of some these collections.

Now, I’m not advocating that we do away with SACO and start creating headings all willy-nilly. Again, I think the standardization and coordination offered by SACO is a highly beneficial service for libraries. What I would like, however, is a more open process for proposing headings. (While I’m wishing, let’s make it less complicated and easier for the layperson to understand, too.) Let’s let libraries and librarians who might have the best backgrounds in specific areas propose headings like “Paper jewelry” and “Fashion styling” and let the trained SACO professionals approve or disapprove and adjust the headings to comply with standards if necessary. Lots more libraries could then contribute, and lots more needed headings would be added and in areas of specific subject need, which in turn would make more materials accessible to patrons.

ps> Any readers want to funnel “Paper jewelry” and/or “Fashion styling” for me? I even have the paperwork done on the latter, as I didn’t know you had to be a SACO member to submit until after I’d already done all the research…

There was a thread not all that long ago on the RADCAT listserv asking people how they got involved in what seems to now be called “radical cataloging,” i.e., basically, anything that questions or deviates from the proscribed traditional standards. Many people cited Sandy Berman as an influence, but I confess I hadn’t even heard of him until I was almost done with graduate school. (I may have even first learned about him on that very listserv.)

Apparently I’ve always been a radical cataloger, because I started deviating from the rules in the very first lecture of my very first cataloging class. It was my second semester in library school, but I had been working at the library where I am now for almost a year at that point, and I had already spent 5 years working for a large retail bookstore chain. The professor was introducing areas of bibliographic description with an exercise where he held up a book and asked students to suggest characteristics that might be beneficial to include in a bibliographic record. Everyone named the obvious components like title, author, etc., right away. The book was green, and I remember him asking the class if we thought that was important enough to be included. I (and several other people) answered yes, and were corrected by the instructor and told that it wasn’t.*

But all I could think about were all the years I spent helping people looking for “that book with the yellow cover” (both in the bookstore and in the arts-oriented library where I work) and how that cover color was information that people wanted to know and wanted to use to find their books, and if that information wasn’t included, we were doing a disservice to a certain percentage of searchers.

So why isn’t cover color included in bibliographic description? I can certainly see obvious reasons why it’s not: covers can vary depending on printing, covers may be multicolored and difficult to describe, books are rebound, the information in the resource and not the resource itself is what’s important, etc. I think these are all certainly valid reasons for excluding color from bibliographic description; the issues and troubles that come from documenting cover color certainly outweigh any benefits derived from including cover description, at least in most libraries.

But in some libraries, like arts-focused libraries, patrons are interested to know what covers look like. This is documented by research as well as my personal observations. So why isn’t color cover included in bibliographic description if it does, in fact, serve patrons?

Because it didn’t fit on a catalog card.
The current cataloging practices we have now evolved directly from the use of cards, specifically card catalogs. I’ve heard Diane Hillman talk about how the semantic web is going to further FRBR and move us away from our archaic self-imposed card-based standards.  I’ve watched Tim Spalding’s talk  about the limitations of standards based on physical cards. We use “main entry” and the “rule of three” because catalog cards did not have space to include every author/contributor. LC prescribes 3 subject headings because any more would tax the available space on a 3×5 card. Modern cataloging has been far too heavily influenced by what kinds of information we could cram into a two-dimensional space a little less than 15 square inches.

Once we were no longer limited to that tiny piece of cardstock, did we start including more information? Has cataloging changed significantly with the new technologies that have manifested between the typewriter and today? It certainly doesn’t seem like it. I know I’ve talked before about discarding these limitations now that we have technology that’s not held bound by these constraints: why not make the title field repeatable, so that multiple versions of a title can be included in a bib record? Why not list all the authors, instead of just the first three? But it leads me to wonder–what else we might include once we’re no longer held back by the tradition of the catalog cards? People claim that RDA will address these issues, but I see RDA as another piece atop the house of catalog cards, teetering precariously, still based on preceding rules and standards and subject to implementation challenges too.

What I would really like to do is sit down and start from scratch. Pretend like card catalogs never existed. If I walked into my library today, with its users and its collection, but without any previous cataloging, how would I organize it? Would I make a card catalog? An online database? An index? A paper list? Piles? Would the height of the book be important? The page count? Would it be enough for my patrons to simply indicate “ill.” or would I describe resources more specifically in terms of maps, sketches, charts, photographs, images, reproductions, etc.? I might include width, rather than (or in addition to) height, so as to be easily able to calculate the linear feet necessary in our increasingly cramped shelf space. I might list all the authors, not just the first three named or the “main” one. I might include categories for artists, illustrators, designers, models, and other contributors that aren’t authors but are certainly creators or co-creators of the work. I might do a lot of things differently if I was given the chance to start fresh and not required to work under the shackles of a system that not only does not serve my niche library, but cripples the evolution of other libraries as well.

Of course, we can’t start fresh—libraries already have large amounts of time, money, and inertia invested in the defunct status quo. Libraries balk at the effort to perform retrospective cataloging and reclassification projects—to throw everything out and develop new cataloging from scratch would be unthinkable. And truth be told, not only is it economically unviable and incredibly taxing to an already overworked personnel, there’s also oodles of valuable data already in catalogs that would be inefficient to simply throw away.

We can certainly harvest that data, but we need to add all the other stuff that’s missing—all the stuff that was left off in the past because it didn’t fit on that tiny little card, all the additional authors and contributors and series and width measurements and whatever else proves to be important to us and our patrons. LibraryThing already does this with some of its Common Knowledge data, which is clearly established as important information to the user group the site serves. As an arts librarian, I’d love to see development in the physical description areas, since our patrons seem to be so influenced by the physical characteristics of our resources. I wonder if this could also be crowdsourced/added socially: in the same way that LibraryThing members contribute series and character information, perhaps arts library users could describe their resources in ways that they find important to them? And if each library added the data that was important to them, imagine how fleshed out, detailed, and useful our bibliographic records could be!

Every library is different, and one tiny 3 x 5 card can’t hope to fit all the information needed by all of the different libraries out there. So now it’s my turn to hold up a book and ask which components might be important. Think about your library, its users, and its collection. Pretend catalog cards never existed. Tell me: How would you organize your library’s materials? What information would you record?

* I don’t begrudge the instructor for his answer–it was correct in context in that ‘color’ isn’t included in the traditional 8 areas of bibliographic description, which was, after all, what the lesson was about. He is actually a fantastic instructor who I would recommend to anyone, and I’m totally going to steal that exercise idea someday when I’m teaching cataloging.

{December 4, 2009}   3rd time’s the charm(?)

As if the other instances of fame this week weren’t enough, this blog has also apparently been citied in the recent issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly (Issue 8, 2009).  It’s in a new(?) column(?) called “Cataloging Blogs.” Thanks to David of Catalogablog for pointing it out to me.

It’s under the “Research and Opinion” section, as well it should be, as the tone of the piece seems quite a bit opinionated against blogs to me. I’m not sure if that’s really there or something I’m reading into it. I almost wish it was a reviewed piece instead. I confess I’m a little disappointed to see this piece given the green light for inclusion in CCQ.

Had the piece been reviewed, maybe there wouldn’t have been typos in both the title of my blog (the article calls it “From the catalog of babes” when it is in fact “From the catalogs of babes”) and the description (“An unfashionable cataloger takes on the fashion library” vs. the correct “An unfashionable cataloger takes on a fashion library”). Not to mention the repeated references to “Technocrati”–it’s Technorati, folks. Yeah, I know, these are really minor errors. But I am, after all, a cataloger–it’s my job to notice these differences. What if this were the transcription of a book title in a bibliographic record? I’d like to think someone affiliated with cataloging would have a little more attention to detail. The typo in the title bothers me more than the description, because the URL for the blog includes the “s” in “catalogs.” (Thankfully, the URL is correct in the list provided.) I’m a little surprised (and, I admit, disappointed) that these errors slipped through the publication process, of a traditionally respectable peer-reviewed journal about cataloging, no less. These omissions and misrepresentations lend an air of misinformation and prejudice to this piece that lower the journal’s claim to preeminent scholarly publication in the field.

But it’s more than just the typos that bother me. I feel like the author (who is not listed, so I can’t tell if it’s  Mary Curran or someone else)is trying to hold me up as a young person who still chooses old technology.

One of the newest cataloging blogs on the block, From the catalog [sic] of babes, started in December 2008 by a recent MLIS graduate seems to suggest that even young catalogers continue subscribing to AUTOCAT and other cataloging listservs and read them along with cataloguing blog posts.

But if the author had read back though my blog, he or she would see that I severely dislike the listerv format utilized by AUTOCAT et. al., and that I rarely actually read or contribute. Since I published that post, I’m excited to see good use of Twitter for instantaneous cataloging q & a and I think it’s only a matter of time before a major migration to better, easier, more-user-friendly technologies occurs. The author also cites an “in your face” factor as a reason people might prefer listservs over blogs, but that’s exactly one reason why I prefer blogs. He or she only seems to describe this as a negative feature, when I actually find it useful and beneficial to read articles and writings when and where I choose, rather than be forced to constantly recon with them in my inbox. Again, as I said in my post linked above, I think it comes down to each person’s personal preference, and systems should let the user choose his or her preferred method of delivery and access, a metaphor not unanalagous to libraries at large.

The author states that “AUTOCAT and the specialist cataloging listservs have become the authoritative sites to publish cataloguing news, studies, events, etc.” I’d like to emphasize the words “have become.” They didn’t start out that way, and they didn’t get to that position overnight, and neither will blogs. The author is looking at a mere two years of blogs (since 2007) which cannot hope to compare to the years AUTOCAT and other listservs have had to evolve into the authoritative resources they are today. The author also states (sans cites or statistics) that “repetition is more notable in blogs than it is with listserv cross-postings,” which is counter to my own personal observations at least–I see much more crossposting between AUTOCAT, RADCAT, and NGC4LIB than I ever do on all the cataloging blogs I read (43, btw, and that doesn’t count more general library blogs that also include cataloging topics). In fact, I’d venture to say that blogs are inclined to be less repetitive because of the very “personal rumination and occasionally ranting and whining” that the author disparages. To me, that’s what makes blogs unique and interesting, and very different from one to the next.

The author also assumes a “generational issue” in preferring blogs over listervs, and seems to assume that because I received my MLIS recently in 2008 that I am one of those new-fangled young librarians. But at this point, I ain’t that young anymore, in terms of generations. I’m not Generation Y. I am not a millennial. Nor am I a digital native, although I did grow up with technology moreso than many of my educational peers simply becuase my parents were both heavily interested and invested in technology and computers. But I remember learning cursive handwriting and sending letters to pen pals via “snailmail” before that term even exisited. I used typewriters and even wrote some school essays on college-rule paper with black pens. I remember a time before email and cell phones, maybe not as long as some others in the profession, but I didn’t grow up exposed to them like many current youth entering the profession. I was around when listservs were first new and the best technology around for the job. But I’m also around now, for new and improved technologies. And I’m not one of those young whippersnappers who went to grad school straight after finishing my BA. While I’m certainly not “old guard,” I spent 5 years in retail books and 4 years doing graphic design before it even occurred to me to consider libraries as a place to work, much less as a career. I’m proud to say that much of the insights I gained through both those areas of employment experience color my views on libraries, cataloging, and findability. I’m new to libraries, but not to user experiences.

I respect the author’s opinions and I certainly won’t complain about the exposure. I’m not even sure why an author so seemingly set against the value of blogs would bother to write such a piece. But regardless of the author’s motivations, I am glad to see blogs starting to be taken a little more seriously as professional resources and literature. So yeah, I’m glad for the citation, but I’m also thankful it’s only an opinion piece. Because we all know what they say about opinions…everybody has one. Sometimes I’m even known to have more than my share.

I know it’s barely Thanksgiving, but time is going by so fast that it feels like it’s practically 2010 already. It’s going to be here before we know it.

According to the current issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 2010 has been dubbed “The Year of Cataloging Research.” I’d heard rumors of this at ALA, but forgot about it until I saw it mentioned again yesterday.

Oddly enough, yesterday was also the day I met with our head of institutional research to discuss surveying library users about findability of materials in the library. Coincidence?

Remember the proposal I submitted for library reclassification? I got a green light to proceed, and it specifically included assessment as one of the first steps. We’re working on designing a short survey for faculty and students about how easy or hard it is for them to find books, DVDs, magazines, and other research materials in the libraries. If all goes according to plan, the survey will be distributed to faculty in late January 2010, and will appear to students via the online student portal in mid-February.

I’m so excited! I can hardly wait to see the responses. I have gut instincts and observational experiences that color my expectations of the results. But like Carlyle says in her editorial, “we need to have real evidence for the claims we want to make.” I’m so very interested to see what our library users really think, instead of just doing my best to made educated guesses from experience and observation. 

Is it really just coincidence that we’re going to be starting off 2010 with some cataloging research of our own? Well, probably. But I’m gonna milk it anyway, for all it’s worth.

{November 6, 2009}   heh.

I love the fact that ever since I posted an example from the table of contents from an art book listing painters and specific paintings that I thought people would look for, I’ve been getting hits to my blog from those search terms.

Dear keyword interweb searchers: thank you for helping to prove my point!

Well, it’s been a busy (and therefore blog-post-less month) due to our former head librarian heading off for a new start in a new state. Despite the exciting possibilities of change, I was truly sad to see her leave, so I’ve been a bit lax to post.

But the other day I found not one, but TWO awesome records that totally brightened my day and cheered me right up!

The first was for Discovering the Great Masters: The Art Lover’s Guide to Understanding Symbols in Paintings. Not only is this an amazing book, with quality large-scale reproductions of some of western art’s most famous paintings, check out the table of contents in the bib record:

505 00 $t The last judgement / $r Giotto di Bondone — $t Secrets of the animal world — $t The adoration of the Magi / $r Gentile da Fabriano — $t The Arnolfini portrait / $r Jan van Eyck — $t The Ghent altarpiece / $r Jan van Eyck — $t The Chancellor Rolin Madonna / $r Jan van Eyck — $t The annunciaton / $r Rogier van der Weyden — $t The deposition from the cross / $r Rogier van der Weyden — $t Christ mocked / $r Fran Angelico — $t The triumph of Federico da Montefeltro / $r Piero Della Francesca — $t Portinari altarpiece / $r Hugo van der Goes — $t St. Jerome in his stuidy / $r Domenico Ghirlandaio — $t The adoration of the Magi / $r Leonardo da Vinci — $t La primavera (spring) / $r Sandro Botticelli — $t Marriage of the virgin / $r Pietro Perugino — $t Virgin and child enthroned with Saints / $r Giovanni Bellini — $t The birth of Venus / $r Sandro Botticelli — $t Madonna della Vittoria / $r Andrea Mantegna — $t Pallas Athena expelling the vices / $r Andrea Mantegna — $t The last supper / $r Leonardo da Vinci — $t Mona Lisa / $r Leonardo da Vinci — $t Doni tondo / $r Michelangelo — $t The garden of earthly delights / $r Hieronymus Bosch — $t The Madonna of the meadow / $r Raphael — $t The school of Athens / $r Raphael — $t Mars and Venus / $r Piero di Cosimo — $t The three philosophers / $r Giorgione — $t The adoration of the trinity / $r Albrecht Durer — $t The Isenheim altarpiece / $r Matthias Grünewald — $t A banker and his wife / $r Quinten Metsys — $t Bacchanal of the andrians / $r Titian — $t The last judgment / $r Michelangelo — $t The enigmas of architecture — $t Madonna and child / $r Joos van Cleve — $t The French ambassadors / $r Hans Holbein the younger — $t A Christian Allegory / $r Jan Provost — $t Decoding flowers and fruit — $t Allegory of immortality / $r Giulio Romano — $t St. Luke painting the virgin / $r Maerten van Heemskerck — $t Fight between carnival and lent / $r Pieter Bruegel the elder — $t Allegory of vanity / $r Jan van der Straet (Johannes Stradanus) — $t Burial of the Count of Orgaz / $r El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) — $t Feast in the house of Levi / $r Paolo Caliari called Veronese — $t The calling of St. Matthew / $r Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) — $t Apelles paints campaspe / $r Joos van Winghe — $t Allegory of sight / $r Jan Breughel the elder and Peter Paul Rubens — $t Minerva’s victory over ignorance / $r Bartholomaeus Spranger — $t The education of Marie de’ Medici / $r Peter Paul Rubens — $t The artist’s studio / $r Jan Miense Molenaer — $t Time vanquished by hope and beauty / $r Simon Vouet — $t Fortitude brings peace and plenty / $r Eustache le Suerur — $t The consequences of war / $r Peter Paul Rubens — $t Eucharist in fruit wreath / $r Jan Davidsz. de Heem — $t Vanitas (self portrait) / $r David Bailly — $t The banquet of the bean king / $r Jacob Jordaens — $t The spinners (the fable of Arachne) / $r Diego Velázquez — $t In luxury, look out / $r Jan Steen — $t The gathering of manna / $r Nicolas Poussin — $t In Ictu Oculi (in the twinkling of and eye) / $r Juan de Valdés Leal — $t Las Meninas / $r Diego Velázquez — $t The art of painting / $r Johannes Vermeer — $t The secret language of myth — $t The spell / $r Francisco de Goya — $t Liberty leading the people / $r Eugene Delacroix — $t The apotheosis of Homer / $r Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres — $t Jupiter and Semele / $r Gustave Moreau. 

Is that not the coolest thing you’ve ever seen? (Well, if you’re a cataloging librarian at an art school where students are looking for particular works, like, say, the Mona Lisa, rather than having to flip through multitudes of art books about Leonardo da Vinci to see if they might include an image?) Now granted, this wasn’t benevolent on the part of the British Library or a helpful arts library cataloger adding this in–this is a direct transcription from the table of contents, as the 505 should be. But still! It’s amazingly helpful in our library environment, and I would love to see this sort of enhancement done for more art books, regardless of whether it’s a direct TOC transcription or not.

And if I wasn’t swoony enough over discovering that record, a few books down the pile later I encountered Ad Boy: Vintage Advertising With Character, which had the following 505:

505 0_ Ad boys — Ad girls — Ad kids — Alphabet — Anthropomorphism — Bees — Birds — Bugs — Burgers — Candy — Casinos — Cats & dogs — Cereal — Cleansers — Coffee shops — Cookies county fairs — Cowboys — Cows — Crate labels — Dairy — Desserts — Devils — Donuts — Elephants — Energy — Farm — Flower power — Frosty treats — Happy hour — Holidays — Home — Hot dogs — Indian maidens — Mechanical men — Monsters — Misters — Motoring — Muscle cars — Nasties — Nemesis — Not-so-super heroes — Orange drinks — Pigs & pork — Pop corn — Potatoes — Potato chips — Power — Public service — Puppets — Restaurants — Royalty — Scottish plaid — Sea creatures — Slogans — Snacks — Snowmen — Soft drinks — Space adventure — Supermarket savings stamps — Toys — Travel — Travel (across the U.S.A.) — Vote. 

Again, transcribed directly from the book’s table of contents by LC, but so helpful for our students, who are more inclined to search for items by these sorts of concepts and keywords. Props to the book’s editors for organizing, arranging and describing the book in such a fashion–it seems to me like they truly know their audience and readers.

I would love to see more enhancements like this in records for arts libraries. I can see where non-arts libraries might not want such keyword clutter in their records, as it might provide false or incorrect retrieval leads for their patrons. But the enhanced data could easily be included in a field that needn’t be displayed or indexed by other libraries, but could still be shared with any library that wanted to utilize it.

Just when I was getting down about something, here came these great records that cheered me up and made me smile. A big thanks to the diligent and kind souls out there at the British Library and the Library of Congress who created them, even if they were just following proscribed standards. You guys made my day, whoever you are.



We had another instance today of a patron searching for a title we hold that didn’t return in the search results. This time it wasn’t a student–it was the chair of the fashion design department.

She didn’t make a big deal out of it, blowing it off like it was a random typographical error, perhaps. Sometimes I wonder if it even occurs to patrons that it’s the catalog that’s broken, not them. When their catalog search doesn’t work, a lot of people walk away with the impression that they’ve done something wrong, when really it’s the fault of the catalog.

I worry about this building a cycle of poor self-esteem and confidence, especially considering that library anxiety is a documented issue. Not only might our patrons walking away without the resources they seek, but also without the belief that they are smart or skilled enough to find those resources in the first place.

Mostly when I talk about our school, the library and its specialties, I talk about fashion. But we’re not just a one-trick pony–we offer other majors besides fashion design and the obligatory apparel- and textile-related topics. We also offer degrees and certificates in graphic design, visual communications, digital media and interior design.

Let’s talk about interior design, shall we? Obviously, we get quite a few requests for books and materials on “interior design,” which is only logical considering that is the name of the program major and how the department refers to itself. However, the Library of Congress seems to disagree:

Interior design
USE  Interior decoration  [R

Which is okay, except that since it’s not the term our patrons use, most of them would not think to search under the heading “interior decoration.” It wouldn’t be too big of a deal if our ILS supported see and see also references, so I can’t foist all the blame on LC for that one. However, interior design!=interior decoration. If anything, I’d say the latter might be a subset of the former. To cover non-decorative topics like space planning, we’d need to also search “Interior architecture”–a phrase which I have never heard any of our library patrons use. So even with the seereference, the LCSH isn’t all that accurate.

But Dewey…now that’s a house of a different color. DDC has a separate classifications for interior architecture and interior decoration: 729 vs. 747.

                 Design and decoration of structures and accessories

Class here interior architecture (the art or practice of planning and supervising the design and execution of architectural interiors and their furnishings)

Class design and decoration of structures and accessories of specific types of buildings in 725-728 .

For interior decoration , see 747 .

See Manual at 729  .

Referring to the manual at 729 gives us this:

Use 729 only for general works that focus specifically on architectural design. Use 690 for works that treat construction alone, and use 721 for works that treat design and construction together. Use 729 for works on decoration only when the subject is being treated as an aspect of architectural decoration rather than as an art object in itself, e.g., the use of murals as architectural decoration 729.4 , but comprehensive works on murals 751.73 .
             Interior decoration

Design and decorative treatment of interior furnishings

Class here interior decoration of residential buildings

Class interior architecture (interior design) in 729 ;

Class textile arts and handicrafts in 746 ;

Class interior decoration of specific types of residential buildings in 747.88 .

For furniture and accessories , see 749 .

Yes, I understand that 729 is for interior design of structures, i.e., where the walls go. 747 is for decoration, like what colors to paint those walls. There are no inherent problems with LCH or DDC for the variety of topics in interior design. Our patrons are saying “tomato,” and libraries are saying “tomahto.” Patrons are saying “interior design” and libraries are saying “interior decoration” and “interior architecture.” It doesn’t seem like such a difficult situation, but imagine you’re a student searching the catalog for books on interior design and getting no results. I suppose we could spend a lot of time teaching them how these intricate, subtle differences work, but why? It’s not how the subject is referred to in their classes, and it’s not how the topics are handled in the interior design industry, out there in the working world. Why spend time teaching them something that’s not going to benefit any other aspect of their studies or future career?  I’m sure LCSH and Dewey are speaking the language of some users somewhere, but they’re certainly not speaking the language of ours.


That’s right. I found the mystery Tony Duquette book.

See, what I had failed to mention in the earlier parable was that while I found the book in the OPAC after the patron left, I couldn’t find it on the shelf, despite its checked-in status. I’m generally pretty diligent, and I’m no stranger to these sorts of situations. I looked for it not just on the shelf where it belongs, but the shelf above, the shelf below, the shelf to the right and to the left. I looked on the book carts, in the book drop, and in the workroom, and I never found it. I even requested that the colletions librarian order another copy.

Until today. Until I was randomly covering the reference desk, letting my eyes graze the room, and lo and behold, I just happened to glace upon a book with huge letters on the spine reading “TONY DUQUETTE.” Of course, I snatched it up right away and sent a note to the instructor who had been interested in it, apologising for the delay but informing her that we did in fact have a copy.

So, where was it? It was safely tucked between 749.092 D716 and 749.092 Ea62. The problem?

(For those that can’t read the blurry impromptu photo, that call number is 747.092…)

This book was essentially missing for 2 months, would have been longer if I hadn’t happened upon it. A patron wanted this book and was denied fulfillment of her information needs because it was simply in the incorrect location.

The moral of the story? Shelving properly is important. Shelfreading is important. Understanding the order of the DDC numbers is important. You know how librarians always whine that “if a book isn’t in the right place, it’s as good as lost”? Yeah, that.

et cetera