Field Experience

This semester I am working on a field experience doing AV cataloging at Davis Library on campus. I’ve been keeping a notebook of daily activities, but I’d like to blog a little bit about it as well–especially since it is incredibly interesting. Truly, I should have taken advantage of the option to complete two field experiences for my degree and done this a lot sooner. It’s such a good learning experience.

My typical field experience day starts with signing into OCLC Connexion and Millennium, reviewing the notes on the items I was working on during my previous shift, and then either going over records with my supervisor or working on creating new records for the ever-growing pile on my desk. I’m doing both copy and original cataloging, depending on the resource at hand. DVDs that are pretty common get copy-cataloging, which means I look for an adequate record in WorldCat (a determining factor is usually the number of Holds it has, e.g. other libraries using this particular catalog record) save it in my local save file, and then modify it by making any necessary corrections and adding fields for our local standards.

The original catalog records I’ve created have mostly been for items created by UNC (like filmed guest lectures) and more obscure items that can’t be found in WorldCat (like two awesome DVDs of turtle hatchlings, created and distributed by the Turtle Conservancy!) AACR2 dictates that information for the catalog record should ideally be taken from the opening and/or end credits, so screening bits and pieces of DVDs that require original cataloging is necessary. When it involves catching glimpses of tons of teeny tiny terrapins, it is alright with me! 😀

Mostly though, it is a lot of fast-forwarding and rewinding and typing information from the screen into a text document so I can copy it into Connexion.

One of the main challenges of AV cataloging is that there are SO MANY contributors to consider. Luckily, the Online Audiovisual Catalogers (OLAC) have come up with guidelines and best practices more specific than what AACR2 prescribes. Generally the screenwriter, director, and editor are given space in the statement of contribution area, and other contributors (such as actors and actresses and musicians) are given their due in added entries.

In spite of these helpful guidelines, another challenge of AV cataloging is that even if you know who you’d like to list in a record, there is not always an easy way of obtaining the information. For example, you want to include the release date of the DVD, but that date is not always provided on the container or within the credits; sometimes the original release or broadcast date is all that is available, and sometimes the container has what seems like it could be a release date, but it could just as easily be a copyright date for the container artwork.

More to come as the semester goes on! This week I will be doing some copy cataloging for DVDs created in Spanish speaking countries, which should be pretty challenging.

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Readers' Advisory

We had an assignment recently in my Collection Development class that involved writing a readers’ advisory. I chose to do one on the latest Bill Bryson book, At Home – A Short History of Private Life, which I LOVED. It turns out readers’ advisories are extremely fun to write, so I thought I would post it here and maybe get in the habit of creating them as I get the chance to read recreationally (although I just got approval for my masters paper research, so spare time is not going to be abundant over the next couple of months… it is a really terrible time to be engrossed in Game of Thrones.) Anyway, here is my first stab at a readers’ advisory; please enjoy!

Best-selling author Bill Bryson delivers his masterful weaving of obscure but fascinating historical fact and wry wit yet again in his latest, At Home: A Short History of Private Life. Instead of travelling across the world, this journey takes us from the basement to the attic, with pit-stops in closets, parlors, kitchens, and bathrooms, all in the name of getting at the details of domestic human life so often overlooked or taken for granted. Why do we keep salt and pepper at the table, rather than paprika or coriander? Just how novel is the arrangement of your living room furniture? In answering these questions, Bryson is able to describe little known—and often peculiar—pivotal events and innovative individuals that most history texts pass by.

Similar to the author’s other works, the pacing is a sprightly meander peppered with delightfully arcane detail and a running narrative of the author’s own jocular commentary. Read it all in a few sittings, or come back to it chapter by chapter; jumping in at a particularly interesting term from the index or intriguingly titled chapter will prove just as enjoyable as reading cover-to-cover. The level of detail is high, but not prohibitively so, and Bryson does a great job keeping things grounded, fun to read, and makes many connections throughout the text. This book is recommended for public, private, and academic collections, for anyone who enjoys history, trivia, and collecting peculiar or esoteric facts, and for fans of Bryson’s previous works. As the author says in his introduction, “…whatever happens in the world—whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over—eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house.” Read about the objects that surround you every day, and learn some strange history along the way!

Reflection on Review Criteria

Since this is a non-fiction work by a best-selling author, it seemed prudent for the review to focus on readability in terms of pacing, narrative tone, density, and audience. Although it is non-fiction, it is not designed as a go-to reference source. A brief mention of the index and the ability of chapters to lead into one another or stand alone will suffice, with the most emphasis placed on elements of readability listed above. Focusing on the author’s tone in terms of his wry humor and delight in bringing obscure and strange historical fact to light is important information for readers deciding whether or not they will enjoy him as an author. Bryson’s presence in his own books is indelible, so describing his role and ever-present narrative voice is useful information; if you don’t like Bill Bryson’s personality, you will not like his books. The selected criteria is evaluative, and it gives the reader not only an idea of what the book’s content is like, but what it feels like to read. J.G. Saricks’ assigned chapters on creating a readers advisory proved to be especially useful when selecting criteria to focus on (citation below.)


Saricks, J. G. (2005). Articulating a book’s appeal. In Readers’ advisory services in the public library (3rd ed., pp. 40-73. Chicago: American Library Association.

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A Beautiful Cup, Customer Service, and an Update from the People's Library

I am home sick today, blargh! I spent the morning on the couch, knitting and watching The Adventures of Pete and Pete, but now that I am feeling a little bit better, it is time to be productive! The goal for today is to finish and submit my IRB so masters paper research can commence on schedule, draft cover letters for at least two jobs, and catch up on reading and slides that I missed by whimpering and on the couch instead of making it to class this morning.

First things first, this beautiful cup

One of my classmates just posted this on Facebook. I have long been considering getting a tattoo to commemorate either graduating with my MLS or my first library job out of school, but I hadn’t found anything suitable. The Dewey Decimal number for tea might be just the thing. Especially since I have way way way more mugs than a person could ever ever need, even if they were having the biggest tea party, and cannot justify purchasing this one. The number of mugs I have stashed around my apartment probably exceeds the legal occupancy limit. But there’s no such thing as too many tattoos!

The customer service thoughts are from a recent discussion in Archival Description about archive users. The users needs of people visiting archives are somewhat different than the user needs of library patrons. As mentioned before, libraries are cataloged on an item-by-item level, so even if the patron is overwhelmed, there is almost always some clearly marked path towards what they are looking for that a librarian can help navigate. Archive users do not always have this luxury; each item in archival collections (or fonds!) cannot be cataloged, so a finding aid is developed to provide some basic guidelines and suggestions of what the collection generally contains. This means successful archive users need either more agency, or more help from the archivist who may or may not have the time to provide assistance. I got the impression from several comments at this point in the discussion that there are archive users who need a lot of hand-holding, and that it can be a real strain. However, within a few minutes a classmate made what I think is an excellent point, that anyone who has ever held a job in retail or food services is not only familiar with but better prepared to deal with, let’s say, clingier users.

Up until recently, I was not all that thankful for the retail experience I have racked up over the years. It was honestly stressful not to have a library-related job my first year of school, and I was anxious to leave the retail world behind, although my most recent position had been a generally pleasant environment. My classmate is completely correct though; if you have good customer service training, difficult situations with customers and patrons go so. much. more. smoothly. You learn how to be patient and sympathetic (or at least how to convincingly feign sympathy) even when you want to abandon a frustrating interaction, and you learn how to graciously answer any question, or at least provide a partial answer as a stand-in while a more complete answer is retrieved.

One of the best customer service training tips I ever received was to imagine yourself in your work environment as if you were hosting a party in your home; you want people to feel comfortable and provided for without making them feel like you are a helicopter host who is overly concerned with their activity. There are certainly many ways to learn these skills, but good customer service training can come in handy no matter what environment you find yourself in. So, I am admitting, perhaps begrudgingly, that the years in retail have probably turned out to be worth all those hours on my feet, smiling permanently. It gets easier, and it is an important social skill to master.

Lastly, a mini update from the People’s Library! In order to prevent their collection from being destroyed yet again, they are going mobile and distributing their resources on carts placed throughout the city. I hope this works; it may be good for building their collection and the number of patrons, since no one will have to go down to Zucotti Park to donate/access resources, but I wonder how potential users will know where to find the book carts. Like many other people, I kind of got away from keeping up with the Occupy Librarians over Christmas. Our own Occupy movement in Chapel Hill has largely disbanded, and the news (even BoingBoing) hasn’t been covering anything Occupy as much lately. This is probably because of the election, but I really hope the Occupiers maintain their role as a whistling kettle–I think it’s made a difference, even if it is somewhat intangible. I’m also learning that the Occupy Librarians will be at ALA midwinter, which will probably be fascinating. One day I will make it to more conferences, but probably not until I have that first library job…

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John Allison loves Libraries

Somehow it has taken me years …FIVE years, of reading John Allison’s many amazing comics to find his personal blog, which is just as delightful to read. Here’s an entry/cartoon he wrote at the beginning of this year in support of libraries! 

On behalf of librarians everywhere, thanks for your support, John Allison! One thing I really like about this comic is that it charmingly evokes so many librarian stereotypes (the silence, the glasses, the Dewey Decimal System…) which I think will remain entrenched in the concept of “librarian” forever.  (A fun exercise that totally upholds this idea is to search “librarian” on Etsy.)

The Dewey Decimal System in particular seems like it will stay in the public mind for the long haul, quite possibly because it is the formative cataloging system lots of people learned in elementary school, but also because it is not an obscure acronym. (To be fair though, I can’t tell if this librarian is raging against the Bran Flakes because the metadata on the cereal box is not Dewey Decimal, or because somehow it is.)

Based on what I’ve found in various Guardian articles, it seems like public libraries in the UK are having an even worse time than libraries here. So sad, but there’s some comfort in the fact that they’re receiving support from so many authors. It may lead to good things in the long run. It’s intimidating to think about entering this field at such a mutable time, but ever optimistically I would like to think this low point is just part of a societal/cultural sine wave that will eventually have an upturn once we figure out what role libraries can best play in the new terrain. Push on, librarians!

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Two Cool Things

1.) The Soundings Project at the National Humanities Center

I had the opportunity to visit the National Humanities Center this past semester with my Special Libraries class, and the librarians there are so kind that they let a classmate and I come back for a subsequent visit that included lunch and more information about some special projects they’ve been working on. Check out the Soundings Project!

Soundings was a radio program that was on in the eighties and nineties featuring Humanities Center fellows talking (solo, and in discussion) about their fields of interest. The Humanities Center has worked with a couple of organizations to  digitize and preserve the shows, and you can listen to them for free! Nerd out on literary theory, religion, art, poetry, history… they would make excellent podcasts, which may be in the future…

Several of my classmates have volunteered creating metadata for this collection, and if I’m still in the Triangle this summer I’m very interested in donating my time to this project as well.

2.) ALA Boing Boing

ALA Marginalia and Boing Boing have announced … an ALA Boing Boing collaboration! This is just the push I need to finally join ALA (especially since I will soon no longer be a student…) I’m very excited about the prospect of this group, since Boing Boing already does such a good job promoting cool library things. For example, this library in my very own home county, has proposed a hackerspace! I really like the idea of public libraries playing a role in the maker / DIY movement. Maybe one day it will be an integral role… imagine a Scrap Exchange library-ish kind of environment… OH MAN.

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Dream Job

A classmate of mine posted this on Facebook a few weeks ago. How great would it be to catalog for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library? (!?)

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Games With A Purpose (GWAP)

This is a short essay I wrote for Metadata class on creating metadata with Games With A Purpose. They are fascinating! I would love to develop a game for the institution I work at where employees identify people in old photographs. We do the best we can in the image database, but drawing from a collective knowledge-base would be so much more effective.


When considering who should create metadata, some advantages of turning to crowds include being able to draw from a collective knowledge-base, spending less time to create metadata for large collections, and often spending less money by soliciting volunteers or users to contribute metadata within communities they are already a part of. There are some disadvantages to crowd-generated (or crowdsourced) metadata, including lack of expertise and controlled vocabulary among contributors, but collaboration between metadata professionals and the crowds creating metadata can assuage this downside to some degree. One interesting crowd-generated metadata method is through Games With A Purpose (GWAP).

GWAP takes advantage of the fact that “humans, as they play, can solve problems that computers can’t yet solve” (von Ahn, 2006). The ESP Game, for example, involves two players working individually to come up with synonymous labels for the same image. GWAP use can also contribute to improved metadata in the Semantic web. Online content is ever-expanding in quantity and dynamic in nature, and it can be difficult to convince users to create metadata for content they create and modify. Although many users are able to create tag sets through Web 2.0 applications, this practice does not make the web truly semantically navigable (Siorpaes, 2008). However, through the motivating and entertaining structure of a game, semantic information can potentially be added on a large-enough scale to make the realization of a more thoroughly Semantic Web a viable concept.

The list of applications that have the potential to benefit from enhanced metadata via GWAP will continue to grow and already includes increased accessibility programs for the visually impaired, language translation, monitoring of security cameras, and text summarization (von Ahn, 2006). Projects that are already taking advantage of GWAP theory and technology include transcription of older print material that has been digitized called ReCAPTCHA, an image annotation game called KissKissBan, similar to the ESP Game but with a “blocker” player to prevent cheating, a Dutch game called Waisda? used for labeling audio/visual material, and games for music and sound annotation to enhance searchability including TagATune and Herd It, (von Ahn, 2009; Ho, 2009; Gligorov, 2011; Law, 2007; Barrington, 2009).

Luis von Ahn, an original innovator of crowdsourcing and GWAP, closes his 2009 article on Human Computation by pondering, “Will somebody find a cure for cancer while playing a game?” Although it is not a metadata generating game, gamers on Foldit, a collaborative online GWAP that gets users to “fold proteins into intricate shapes” for points were able to solve a puzzling “molecular structure of the enzyme of an AIDS-like virus found in rhesus monkeys” in September of this year” (MailOnline, 2010). Games with a purpose can do infinitely amazing things, and curing cancer may well be among them in the years to come.

GWAP Bibliography:

Barrington, Luke, et al. (2009). “User-Centered design of a social game to tag music”, KDD-HCOMP, p. 7-10.

Gligorov, Riste, et al. (2011). “On the role of user-generated metadata in audio visual collections”, K-CAP, p. 145-151.

Ho, Chien-Ju et al. (2009). “KissKissBan: A competitive human computation game for image annotation”, KDD-HCOMP, p. 11-14.

Law, Edith L.M., et al.(2007). “Tagatune: A game for music and sound annotation”, Austrian Computer Society (OCG).

Little, Greg, et al. (2009). “TurKit: Tools for Iterative Tasks on Mechanical Turk”, KDD-HCOMP, p. 29-30.

MailOnline. (2011). “Gamers solve puzzle which stumped scientists for years and could hold key to curing AIDS”. Retrieved November 16, 2011 from

Siorpaes, Katharina. (2008). “Games with a purpose for the semantic web”, IEEE Computer Society, p. 50-60.

von Ahn, Luis. (2006). “Games with a purpose”, Invisible Computing, p. 92-94.

von Ahn, Luis. (2009). “Human Computation”, DAC, p. 418-419.

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5,000 books trashed

I’m so sorry Zuccotti Park was so recklessly dealt with last night. It’s a tremendous waste, and it’s also baffling that such drastic measures were taken so suddenly.

Apparently the OWS Library’s 5,000 book collection was just dumped in the trash, despite the NYPD claiming that protestors ‘ possessions could be reclaimed once removed from the park.

Who knows what will happen next, but it seems quite possible to me that this ruthless reaction against the protestors will not be quelling anything. We’ve had some extreme reactions to our own little Occupy Chapel Hill movement as well. I may just be naive, but I really do not understand what is so inherently dangerous about these groups of unhappy people–that have so far been pretty peaceful–that requires a SWAT team.

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