why punctuation matters.

James Weinheimer somewhat recently (on my timescale, anyway) defended the terrible, cryptic abbreviations of cataloging.

I particularly liked this bit:

I think it is absolutely vital for librarians and catalogers to stop thinking that the text that is entered into a database or a web page is static and cannot be transformed. That is card thinking. Today there are incredible things that can be done using all kinds of tools from scripting to style-sheets to browser add-ons and who knows what else? Look at Google Translate, and think about how a much simplified tool could reformat abbreviations. And not just for English speakers, but properly done, such a tool could work for all languages who could look and work with exactly the same records.

Anything in a webpage can be transformed if you want it to be transformed and there are lots of possible ways of doing it. It can be done on the server, or it can be done on each client’s computer. This is a basic change in how people can work with our records (and how I hope they want to work with our records, if we’re lucky) that has yet to be thoroughly understood and addressed.

Yes. And now, in the same spirit, I will defend our cryptic, senseless attachment to punctuation. My claim is that punctuation in a catalog record is still important, and that we should continue to pay attention to it and do it correctly.

Ideally, we would not need to type in the punctuation. Ideally we’d have a more modern standard for encoding cataloging data. For now, in real life, we are stuck with crap ILSs and MARC for a while longer. And so the way we can manipulate our data is perhaps a bit less elegant than it could be. But encoding our data using the standards we have (MARC and ISBD punctuation) in the correct, standard way, would greatly simplify things.

That is kind of the point of standards, after all.

When I started in my current position, the 300s were being deleted from some batches of vendor records in the local editing process. Keeping the 300 data in was one of the first decisions I made here.

Ideally, I would have been able to edit my assistant’s batch-editing instruction sheets from: Delete 300 to: Do this regex find/replace on the 300. And that regex would insert “1 online resource (” at the beginning of $a. Then it would insert “)” right before the first occurrence of ” :” or ” ;”.

It would be utterly trivial to update this print-centric field to the current recommended format.

But no. This won’t work because of the sloppiness of the encoding (MARC and ISBD punctuation).

In real life, to make this simple change, I first have to identify all the ways the 300 encoding is screwed up in the file. I find treasures like:

=300 \$axviii, 405 p.$bill.
=300 \$axi, 372 p. :$bill.23cm.
=300 \$a279p ; 17 maps.
=300 \$a52 leaves :$c15 cm

Every time I think I have collected all possible weird permutations of punctuation and coding errors, and need to sit down to construct a frightening regular expression find/replace, I happen across something new.

Then I go through multiple steps to standardize the 300 fields. Depending on the size and crappiness of the batch of records, this can take 15 minutes to hours.

Then I can run the find/replace that I should be able to just run. Which takes at most a few seconds.

Something easy (making sure a $b is before any ill. statements and there is a ” :” before the $b) would make this easy. But punctuation is seen as unimportant and fiddly, anal-retentive cataloger stuff, and it’s just too hard to pay attention, or to build a cataloging system that will reject a record with a 300 field containing “ill.” or “maps” or “ports.” but lacking a ” :$b”.

Now this is a pathetically simple example, and someone with more regex-fu than me might have a magic find/replace combo that can parse any weird 300 thrown at it. (If so, and if you are reading this, please share.)

But you shouldn’t have to be a regex wizard to perform a simple data transformation.

And I will avoid sliding into a whole other tangent, but it seems clear that the movement is toward caring less and less about data quality, dumping whatever crap we can buy from Serials Solutions or other vendors into our catalogs. We have to give up control. We have to recognize the new vision of the catalog in the cloud where we can’t have hissy fits over missing colons. As long as there is some version of the title, it’s good enough.

I wonder what this new laid-back catalog in the cloud will look like and how easy it will be to manipulate its records, mash up the data, or do anything cool or useful with the information there. Probably even more frightening than WorldCat, which is saying something.

I (want to) believe that catalogers are not nitpicky because we are all anal-retentive obsessive compulsives who have nothing better to do than gripe about punctuation and pick fleas off of our cats. I (want to) believe that we are so nitpicky because we know there is a reason for being so—that attention to detail the first time around makes everyone’s job easier and quicker in the end.

invisible online access, or, that was a gopher!

Try this in whatever ILS cataloging module you can get your paws on:

Search for all the records with 856 fields either containing NO $u or an empty $u.

In Millennium create lists, the search was:
856 not equal to {nothing} AND 856|u equal to {nothing}

I did that search out of morbid curiosity and got a surprise: we had 250+ miscoded and/or obsolete 856s that had piled up over time. The result was catalog records that said: ONLINE ACCESS! And then showed the user no link or a non-functioning link (as in it just reloaded the catalog record over and over again).

These are now cleaned up in our catalog. Hurrah!



I have a job as the E-Resources Cataloger at Davis Library at UNC Chapel Hill. It’s not a permanent job yet, but I will apply for it as a permanent position when it comes up.

So, I have more things to say and share that might actually be useful to someone (instead of mainly abstract theoretical stuff that takes a really long time to think out and write). So, maybe I will update this blog more often.

Maybe. 🙂

morning fun.

In a few seconds, I will remove one of the subject headings from this record in our catalog.* Guess which one. Anyone can play! (Subject headings start with 610, 650, 651, 6??.)

245 04 The Black panther :|bintercommunal news service / |cselected and edited by David Hilliard.
250 1st Atria Books trade pbk. ed.
260 New York :|bAtria Books,|c2007.
300 xxiv, 152 p. :|bill. (some col.) ;|c28 cm. +|e1 CD-ROM (4 3/4 in.)
504 Includes bibliographical references and index.
610 20 Black Panther Party|xNewspapers|xHistory.
610 20 Black Panther Party|xHistory.
650 0 Leopard.
650 0 African Americans|xPolitics and government|y20th century.
650 0 African Americans|xCivil rights|xHistory|y20th century.
650 0 Civil rights movements|zUnited States|xHistory|y20th century.
650 0 Civil rights movements|xHistory|y20th century.
650 0 African Americans|zCalifornia|zOakland|xPolitics and government|y20th century.
650 0 African Americans|xServices for|zCalifornia|zOakland |xHistory|y20th century.
651 0 Oakland (Calif.)|xRace relations|xHistory|y20th century.
700 1 Hilliard, David.
730 0 Black panther.

* It is SO satisfying to actually be able to FIX the problems I find in the catalog!

LCSH study: Concept mapping

Welcome to the number one LIS blog in the world. *cough* Or so said some link spam junk thing that went around a while back, and that a lot of people emailed me about. The quality here is so excellent that we bring you one finely crafted blog post every six months. Enjoy…

A partial look at what LCSH tells us about concept mapping:

(I have not traced all four of Concept mapping’s BTs)

Differential invariants
has narrower subject term
Transformations (Mathematics)
has narrower subject term
Mappings (Mathematics)
has narrower subject term
Concept mapping


Each of the subject terms
Differential equations, Mathematical analysis, Mathematics, Numbers, Complex, and Set theory
has the narrower subject term
has narrower subject term
Mappings (Mathematics)
has narrower subject term
Concept mapping

A partial look at what all the libraries that contribute to WorldCat have about concept mapping:

  • Concept lattice analysis for annotation objects $h [electronic resource] / $c by Wenting Yi.

    This is also about: Data structures (Computer science), Genetics–Data processing, and Ontologies (Information retrieval).

    That seems to fit.

  • Concept mapping $h [videorecording] : $b a quantitative method for analyzing qualitative data / $c Cuyahoga County Community Mental Health Research Institute, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University.

    This is also about Research–Methodology.

    It’s a quantitative method, and probably involves fancy math. Seems to fit with what LCSH told us about Concept mapping.

  • Experimente und Computersimulationen im naturwissenschaftlichen Unterricht : $b ein empirischer Vergleich / $c Priit Reiska.

    This is also about: Science–Data processing and Science–Study and teaching–Data processing.

    I don’t know German but I see “Computersimulationen” and I know computers do fancy maths, especially when processing scientific data.

  • Understanding the nursing process : concept mapping and care planning for students / Lynda Juall Carpenito-Moyet.

    This is also about: Nursing assessment and Nursing diagnosis.

    Something seems different here…

  • Concept mapping in kindergarten : scaffolding task understanding and metacognitive affordances in a design-based study / by Amy E. Cassata-Widera.

    Well, this is not actually about Concept mapping. It’s about Concept mapping–Case studies (i.e. the work consists of case studies about concept mapping). It’s also about: Metacognition in children–Northeastern States–Case studies, Child development–Northeastern States–Case studies, and Kindergarten–Northeastern States–Case studies.

    They do concept mapping in kindergarten? Surely this “concept mapping” isn’t the same “concept mapping” involved somehow with concept lattice analysis for annotation objects.

  • Concept mapping : learning how to make them, use them, and teach them to others / by Laine Gurley

    This is also about: Concept mapping–Study and teaching.

    Really, I just wanted to be snarky about the title. What is worse: that the author, the editor, the publisher, or some schmo running the press didn’t notice that someone forgot to change “mapping” to “maps,” or that the cataloger transcribing the title proper incorrectly? I’m going to trust the cataloger…

  • A comparative study of note-taking, outlining and concept mapping learning strategies on National Taipei Teachers College students’ understanding of heat and temperature / by Hsiao-Tseng Keng.

    This is also about: Heat–Study and teaching–Taiwan, Temperature–Study and teaching–Taiwan, Science–Study and teaching–Taiwan, Note-taking, and Outlines.

    Here it is, explicitly. This book has nothing to do with any mathematical function or transformation called concept mapping. This book is about the learning strategy called concept mapping.

It would seem we need two LCSHs: Concept mapping (Mathematical technique) and Concept mapping (Learning strategy). Or something like that. It has been a while since I read the guidelines on the language to use when establishing headings.

Now that I’ve belabored that point, one more item, supposedly about Concept mapping, from WorldCat:

  • Women’s experiences of infertility / $c by Rachel Lynn Stege.

    This item is also about: Infertility, Female $x Psychological aspects.

    Ok, this is an M.Ed. Thesis. The author probably used concept mapping in some manner in the methodology. Perhaps even 20% of the thesis dwells on concept mapping. Following the guidelines strictly, you could make an argument for bringing out the topic of concept mapping using a subject heading.

    But the question that should be asked at every subject analysis decision is “What is most useful to the user?” Is it useful for the user who is looking up things on the subject of concept mapping to be presented with a thesis about women’s experiences of infertility? Hard to really argue without the item in hand. Maybe it contains a lot of good examples of concept maps. Still, that doesn’t mean it is about concept mapping—that’s form/genre.

There are 53 disparate items in WorldCat that are ostensibly about Concept mapping. Maybe that is a small enough number for someone to easily wade through. It still makes my cataloger soul feel itchy.

Here is what is worse. This concept mapping that used as a thinking and learning strategy is also popularly known as “mind mapping.” Technically, there are some differences in the concept mapping and mind mapping techniques, but if we’re lumping kindergarten concept mapping in with scientific data processing, it’s probably ok to call them synonyms. There is no heading for Mind mapping, and there is no reference to Concept mapping from Mind mapping, Mindmapping, or Mind-mapping. Nothing under Mind maps and its variants, either.

Perhaps the most well known proponent of mind mapping is Tony Buzan, who has written many books on the subject. Let’s take a look to see what catalogers have decided some of these are “about.”

Depending on how your library has it cataloged, The mind map book is about:

  • Intellect | Thought and thinking
  • Thought and thinking | Intellect | Creative thinking | Cognitive science | Verbal ability
  • Cognition | Thought and thinking | Creative thinking | Learning | Mnemonics | Note-taking
  • Cognition | Thought and thinking | Mnemonics | Note-taking
  • Intellect | Brain | Thought and thinking
  • Mnemonics | Thought and thinking
  • Creative ability | Memory | Brain

Mind map handbook is about:

  • Thought and thinking | Intellect
  • Creative Intelligence (coded as LCSH, but isn’t a heading) | Creative thinking

Mind mapping is about

  • Cognition | Thought and thinking | Creative thinking | Learning | Mnemonics | Note-taking

Mind maps at work is about:

  • Success in business | Creative ability in business | Thought and thinking
  • Success in business–Handbooks, manuals, etc. | Job satisfaction–Handbooks, manuals, etc.

Jamie Nast’s Idea Mapping : Ç‚b How to Access Your Hidden Brain Power, Learn Faster, Remember More, and Achieve Success in Business is about:

  • Creative ability in business (source of heading not specified)

And so on. No “concept mapping,” that’s for sure. The only possible linkage is from mind-mapping to Note-taking (which appears in relatively few records) to Concept mapping (which appeared with Note-taking in one record). What a mess. It makes the baby Melvil Dui cry.


Clarke’s typology of American assassins

  • Type I assassins view their acts as a probable sacrifice of self for a political ideal.
  • Type II assassins are persons with overwhelming and aggressive egocentric needs for acceptance, recognition, and status.
  • Type III assassins are psychopaths (or sociopaths) who believe that the condition of their lives is so intolerably meaningless and without purpose that destruction of society and themselves is desirable for its own sake.
  • Type IV assassins are characterized by severe emotional and cognitive distortions that are expressed in hallucinations and delusions of persecution and/or grandeur. As a rule, their acts are mystically “divinely” inspired—in a word, irrational or insane.

— Clarke JW: American Assassins: The Darker Side of Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982

Five descriptive categories of Presidential stalkers or assassins

1. Resentful
2. Pathologically obsessed
3. Infamy seeker
4. Intimacy seeker
5a. Nuisance
5b. Attention seeker

— Robert T. M. Phillips, MD, PhD. Assessing Presidential Stalkers and Assassins. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 34:2:154-164 (2006)

CFP: The Archive and Everyday Life (7-8 May 2010)

Confirmed Keynotes: Ann Cvetkovich (An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures), Angela Grauerholz (At Work and Play: A Web Experimentation), Ben Highmore (The Everyday Life Reader; Everyday Life and Cultural Theory), Michael O’Driscoll (The Event of the Archive)

This conference will bring together academics, advocates, artists, and other cultural workers to examine the intersecting fields of archive and everyday life theory. From Simmel through Mass Observation to contemporary Cultural Studies theorists, the objective of everyday life theory has been, as Ben Highmore writes, to “rescue the everyday from conventional habits of the mind…to attempt to register the everyday in all its complexities and contradictions.” Archive theory provides a means to explore these structures by “making the unfamiliar familiar,” hence opening the possibility of generating “new forms of critical practice.” The question of a politics of the archive is critical to the burgeoning field of archive theory. How do we begin to theorize the archive as a political apparatus? Can its effective democratization be measured by the participation of those who engage with both its constitution and its interpretation?

“Archive” is understood to cover a range of objects, from a museum’s collection to a personal photograph album, from a repository of a writer’s papers in a library to an artist’s installation of found objects. Regardless of its content, the archive works to contain, organize, represent, render intelligible, and produce narratives. The archive has often worked to legitimate the rule of those in power and to produce a historical narrative that presents class structure and power relations as both common-sense and inevitable. This function of the archive as a machine that produces History—telling us what is significant, valued, and worth preserving, and what isn’t—is enabled through an understanding of the archive as neutral and objective (and too banal and boring to be political!). The archive has long occupied a privileged space in affirmative culture, and as a result, the archive has been revered from afar and aestheticized, but not understood as a potential object of critical practice.

Can a dialogue between archive theory and everyday life theory work to “take revenge” on the archive (Cvetkovich)? If the archive works to produce historical narratives, can we seize the archive and its attendant collective consciousness as a tool for resistance in countering dominant History with resistant narratives? While the archive has worked to preserve a transcendental, “affirmative” form of culture, bringing everyday life theory into conversation with archive theory opens up the possibility of directing critical attention to both the wonders and drudgeries of the everyday. Archiving the everyday—revealing class structures and oppression on the basis of race and gender, rendering working and living conditions under global capitalism visible, audible, and intelligible—redirects us from our busyness and distractedness, and focuses our attention on that which has not been understood to be deserving of archiving. The archive provides the time and space to think through a collection of objects organized around particular set of interests. If the archive could grant us a space in which to examine everyday life, rather than sweeping it under the carpet as a trivial banality, we could begin to understand our conditions and develop the desire to change them.

How can we envision the archive as a site of ethics and/or politics? Does the archive simply represent a place to amass memory, or can it, following Benjamin, represent a site to make visible a history of the present, thus amassing fragments of the everyday, which can in turn be used to uproot the authority of the past to question the present? In short, what happens when we move beyond the archive as merely a collection and begin to theorize it as a site of constant renewal and struggle within which the past and present can come together? Furthermore, how then does the archive as an everyday practice allow us to understand or change our perception of temporality, memory, and this historical moment?

Areas of inquiry for submissions may include, but are not limited to, the following topics and questions:

• The archive both includes and excludes; it works to preserve while simultaneously doing violence. Are the acts of selection, collection, ordering, systematizing, and cataloguing inherently violent?
• The question of digitization: the internet as digital archive and the digitization of the physical archive. Digitizing the archive renders collections invisible and distant, yet increasingly searchable and quantifiable. Does the digitization of the archive reveal new ways of seeing persistent power structures? Or does it hide them?
• National and colonial archiving: questions of power and national identity.
• The utopian, radical potential of the archive as well as its dystopian possibilities.
• Indigenous modes of archiving.
• Visibility and pedagogy: while the archive often works to hide, conceal, and store away, it can also reveal and display that which otherwise remains invisible. Do barriers to access restrict this emancipatory function of the archive?
• Questions of collective memory and nostalgia (for Benjamin, a retreat to a place of comfort through nostalgia is not a political act).
• The archive as revisionist history.
• The archive as a form of surveillance.
• The role of reflexivity with respect to the manner in which the archive is constructed/produced/curated.
• Function of the narrative form for the archive: how does the way in which the archive reveals its own constructedness unravel the concept of the archive as “historical truth”?
• The future of the archive: preservation and collection look forwards as well as into the past. How should we understand the hermeneutic function of the archive and the struggle over its interpretation?
• The relationship between the archive and the archivist/archon.
• Mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion in the archive: who speaks and who is spoken for?
• The affective relationship between the archive and the body.

Following the conference, we intend to publish an edited collection of essays based on the papers presented at the conference to facilitate the circulation of ideas in this exciting field of inquiry.

“The Archive and Everyday Life” Conference will take place 7-8 May, 2010, sponsored by the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (John Douglas Taylor Fund). The conference format will be diverse, including paper presentations, panels, round-table exchanges, artistic performances, and exhibitions. We encourage individual and collaborative paper and panel proposals from across the disciplines and from artists and community members.

Paper Submissions should include (1) contact information; (2) a 300-500 word abstract; and (3) a one page curriculum vitae or a brief bio.

Panel Proposals should include (1) a cover sheet with contact information for chair and each panelist; (2) a one-page rationale explaining the relevance of the panel to the theme of the conference; (3) a 300 word abstract for each proposed paper; and (4) a one page curriculum vitae for each presenter.

Please submit individual paper proposals or full panel proposals via e-mail attachment by October 15, 2009 to tayconf@mcmaster.ca with the subject line “Archive.” Attachments should be in .doc or .rtf formats. Submissions should be one document (i.e. include all required information in one attached document).

Conference organizing committee:
Mary O’Connor, Jennifer Pybus, and Sarah Blacker

Website: http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~english/Taylor_2010/index.html


I had the feeling that more than a few of my Organization of Information students were looking at me with skepticism when I claimed the semantic web is not a pipe dream.

No, I cannot deploy my Agent to to make a vet appointment for my cat that works with the vet’s hours, and my sleep and work schedules. But, in the past week or so (pardon my lack of sense of time), the following have been announced:

Little by little… the web gets more semantic all the time.

Now, where is my semantic personal knowledge management tool that actually works? Blog post series in the works on that obsession…


Online Information Review v. 33, no. 2, 2009 is a special issue on personal knowledge management.

  • Personal knowledge management: Putting the “person” back into the knowledge equation
    David Pauleen (pp. 221-224)

  • Personal knowledge management through communicating
    Rachel Jones (pp. 225-236)

  • Personalising organisational knowledge and organisationalising personal knowledge
    Zuopeng (Justin) Zhang (pp. 237-256)

  • Crossings: Embedding personal professional knowledge in a complex online community environment
    Jocelyn Cranefield, Pak Yoong (pp. 257-275)

  • Developing Connectivity: a PKM path for higher education workplace learners
    Blanca C. Garcia (pp. 276-297)

  • Conceptual data structures for personal knowledge management
    Max Völkel, Heiko Haller (pp. 298-315)

  • Predictors of diverse usage behaviour towards personal knowledge management systems
    Her-Sen Doong, Hui-Chih Wang (pp. 316-328)

  • The effective use of technology in personal knowledge management: A framework of skills, tools and user context
    Raj Agnihotri, Marvin D. Troutt (pp. 329-342)

If you study PIM, make sure to add “PKM”. To your querying/information monitoring list.

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