rambly blatherings

Getting around to reading the Brief Meeting Summary of the Users and Uses of Bibliographic Data Meeting on March 8, 2007 in Mountain View, CA by Nancy J. Fallgren.

Some thoughts pop up, not even necessarily about bibliographic control…

1. The need for good, browseable representations of domains of knowledge that can be incorporated into our systems. This is triggered by the quoted stat that 77% of users that are novices in both the system and the domain in which they are searching. Because you have to know what you are searching for before you know how to search or make judgments about what you have found. I start thinking about the domain analytic approach (footnotebegin)Hjørland, Birger, and Hanne Albrechtsen. 1995. Toward a New Horizon in Information-Science – Domain-Analysis. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 46, no. 6: 400-425.
Hjørland, Birger. 2002. Domain Analysis in Information Science – Eleven Approaches – Traditional as Well as Innovative. Journal of Documentation 58, no. 4: 422-62.(footnoteend) and how it could be applied. If we could generate outlines of domains, incorporating links to authoritative overviews and most cited works. The historic development of the domain, including the development of new schools/theories and schisms in thinking and etc. The basic topic clumps covered, as the domain defines them. (footnotebegin)I’m kind of primed on this right now, being in the early-ish stages of delving into a new topic, the boundaries of which go far outside my own disciplinary knowledge and areas of expertise. I’ve been fantasizing about the tools I wish existed.(footnoteend) Kind of like a pathfinder + encyclopedia article on steroids. Or maybe you just work on improving the Wikipedia article and pull that into the system/link to it. But mostly, just thinking on how to push on incorporating good domain representations into retrieval systems… including some of Burke’s points mentioned in the report.

2. It warms my heart to see the importance and need for good/better authority data mentioned several times. In a former life, I dreamed of being an authorities cataloger, you know…

3. How the ever-increasing speed of knowledge generation highlights the need for “a balance …between more authoritative assertions and assertions that might be made through a diverse range of sources, including users.” This is definitely true. But. Yesterday on the train, Josh and I were discussing some of the difficulties in finding such a balance. How to handle the editing/versioning of bibliographic descriptions when you have multiple user groups (expert, item creators, end users, etc) being able to edit the data? Whose edits win/persist? And more… I can’t help but think that it’s going to be a hard (impossible?) sell to get Librarians to want to trust/have anything to do with records that have been created/edited by Joe Schmoe on the Interweb. I have big trouble with the idea, despite my desire to embrace it.

4. What would really, really be cool is to harness citation information in all sorts of bibliographic systems… this is necessary to do stuff like identifying inter-textuality and the strands of work in a domain, and the historical development, and who/what have been the landmarks. There’s ISI, but don’t get me started on them right now. Still, pretty much all the rich citation data in books (pretty much where the humanities happen) is all locked up, to my knowledge. Switching focus a bit, I of course go back to my old rant about all the work to be done on citations and managing them and reusing them in a sane fashion, in the individual information environment, shared groups, etc.

5. There’s a mention of scholars tagging each other. Terrell?

6. This goes on to mention one suggestion to eliminate “LCSH in favor of keywords and social tagging by faculty and subject selectors, experts in their fields.” Um, what are you going to scrape off the faculty’s collective plate so they can have time to do the library’s subject cataloging work? Oh, it’s just going to be another thing faculty are expected to do? Hmm… Will our volume/quality of content tagging count toward review/tenure? No? Where is the motivation to make this work?

7. Is MARC too complex? It’s a dinosaur as far as encoding information goes, but… if you really want to be able to exchange bibliographic data between all levels of stakeholders, you need all the data there, and MARC’s complexity stems from the myriad bibliographic situations that need to be represented. It can probably be streamlined and specified in such a way that the data are easier to work with, but think about the bibliographic universe for five minutes and it’s obviously incredibly complex. There need to be easy/automated ways of collapsing complex bibliographic data into friendlier user representations, or simpler records for applications/organizations that don’t need the full deal. But the whole representation also needs to exist in an interoperable format if all the different needs of different stakeholders are going to be met.

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