Sunday Quotables

I’m a librarian, so the following is undoubtedly biased. Oh well!

green coffee pnggreen coffee pnggreen coffee png

Without libraries what have we? we have no past and no future.

Happy Sunday!

What the Asterisk is Linked Data and What’s that Got to do with Libraries

My fellow book nerds, I pause my regularly scheduled reviews, to contemplate some work-related things. I work in a library so, it’s still totally relevant. Below is an altered more profane (and hilarious)* form of a blog post I did for work.

April 10-16 is National Library Week and the theme this year is Libraries Transform. So, I wrote about linked data and BIBFRAME — aka bringing libraries into the 21st century, FINALLY.

What’s Google Got to Do with It?:  Linked Data Transforms Library Catalog Searching

So, what is linked data? Tim Berners-Lee (July 2006), wrote an article for W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) where he outlined the concept of Linked Data. He listed four principles. 1. Use URIs as names for things. 2. Use HTTP URIs so people can look up those names for things. 3. When someone looks up a URI provide useful information using the standards RDF and SPARQL. 4. Include links to other URIs so people can discover more things (probably the most important principle for library data).

Okay, okay, so what does that mean? Well, currently most of the internet is made up of hypertext links that allow people to move from one document to another document, but with Linked Data, there are hyperdata links that allow people and machines to find data that is related to other data that was not previously linked. Basically, rather than people creating these little desert-island documents on the web, everything can become interconnected. Who knows how data can be used after it is all interconnected in this way, but as Berners-Lee says, “It is the unexpected re-use of information which is the value added by the web.”

What does that mean for libraries?

Enter BIBFRAME.

bibframe

BIBFRAME model

What exactly is BIBFRAME? Let’s try to simplify. BIBFRAME is a model for bibliographic information that allows libraries to become part of the World Wide Web internet (World Wide Web sounds so nineties to me).

In BIBFRAME, words (search terms) are tied together by relationships. It’s like searching for information the way human brains think. Read: a convoluted mess of interconnections and relationships, and a lot of “oh look, squirrel!” moments. For example, maybe I want to find items about Felicia Day (because I lurve her). Searching for “Felicia Day” in the library catalog will lead me to a plethora of items like books, journal articles, or films maybe her new book, and in times past, this would probably be the end of my search.

I totally tried searching for Felicia Day at work, and nothing came up. Sad face. I do work for an academic library though, so maybe I would have had better luck with the public library. Also, in my work blog, I used “Civil War” as my search terms example. Boring! (Sorry if you’re super into the Civil War.)

Now, with BIBFRAME, the items that pop up for “Felicia Day” will contain links to other terms that are related to Felicia – dates, people, places, etc., but also information on the publisher, where the item was published, and other items available in that same format. Perhaps you’re thinking that this is already available in a catalog record, through Subject Headings. You would be mostly correct, except BIBFRAME facilitates searching that is more akin to the random internet hopping we all end up doing when we start with a simple Google search.

Perhaps I start with a “Felicia Day” query, but end up looking at every. single. web show. involving. video. games. ever. Or, maybe I end up looking at comic books featuring female heroes. Or, I may end up looking at cat videos. Let’s be honest, that happens. The possibilities are endless! Also, BIBFRAME links library holdings up with the rest of the freaking internet. I mean, come on, it’s about time that happened AMIRIGHT!?!? That’s really the kicker here. Now libraries get to play in the same sand box as the rest of the internet. Can you tell I’m excited about this yet? Maybe this will help:

dean excited

BIBFRAME sort of Google-ifies library catalog records (not technically, but I wanted to say Google-ify) so that, when people query search engines, those search engines can pick up on the available library data. Meaning, if you searched Google for “Felicia Day The Guild”, it would not only pull up all of the images, videos, websites, and blog posts associated with those keywords, it would also pull up holdings in local libraries. If my local library had The Guild comic, I’d be like:

charlie is this real life

So, if you really wanted Felicia Day’s new book or The Guild comic, but you didn’t want to buy either of them from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Google Play or wherever, you wouldn’t have to do an additional search in the library catalog. Google (or another search engine, but only monsters use other search engines) would automatically search the library catalog for you (because the library catalogers made that data available to the interwebs through BIBFRAME). 😀

Let’s see what the Library of Congress says about BIBFRAME (so we can be academic and such):

When users begin their information hunt with a search engine or social network, whose objective is to help users locate information, then cultural heritage organizations need to help those engines and networks direct users to answers, especially those held by libraries. The BIBFRAME model is intentionally designed to coordinate the cataloging and metadata that libraries create with these efforts, and connect with them. In short, the BIBFRAME model is the library community’s formal entry point for becoming part of a much larger web of data.

So how exactly does that transform library searching?

I can only speculate at this point, but I believe by incorporating library data into the larger web of data, libraries will finally accomplish what we’ve been striving for since the advent of search engines. Namely, we will remain relevant and at the forefront of information querying. Most people do not begin Two people in the known universe begin information searches at the library. Normal people Google. Google is a noun, a verb, and a way of life for many of us. So by allowing search engines, like Google, to have access to library data, we bring that data directly to the people. You know, those pretty pretty people we want to actually darken our doors! Finally, modern day information seekers will be able to Google their way to library holdings. Not only that, but the catalog records we house will themselves be little universes of information, with links to objects related to the original query terms. As I said before, the possibilities here, are endless.

The Road Ahead

BIBFRAME, as I mentioned, is an initiative. It has not yet been implemented in the library-verse at large. BIBFRAME will serve as a replacement for MARC, the standards for bibliographic description that has been around since the 1960s. Per usual, this has caused some dissension in the ranks of catalogers. The biggest question seems to be, if this is a new format, why is BIBFRAME concentrating so much on mapping MARC fields? And, if we concede that we need to implement BIBFRAME, when should we move to BIBFRAME?

The Library of Congress provides answers to these and other frequently asked questions at their FAQ page. The answers to the above questions are: We’re talking about mapping so we don’t have to waste tons of records already in existence — they’re totes different formats…BIBFRAME is still in the discussion and development stage. After it reaches adolescence, vendors and suppliers will need time to adjust to it, and after that there will still likely be a mix of MARC and BIBFRAME for a while (you know, because nobody likes change).

So, as in all things technical, we still have a ways to go, but BIBFRAME will be a very big next step in library metadata, and it will certainly transform the way people use library catalogs.

Further Reading and Additional Information:

I leave you with some gifs of my favorite über-nerd, Charlie/Felicia Day:

charlie its good to be queen

charlie peace out bitches

*The author realizes that humor is subjective and she probably finds herself far more hilarious than anyone else ever will.

**If I missed something/got something wrong/etc. feel free to rip me to shreds in the comments. Peace!

Confessions of a Control Freak: Sharing is Caring Part II

So, you have to share a byline. A particularly difficult feat for the control freak. Here are three things that might help in your quest for co-authorship.

Step one: breathe and let go.

breathe

That’s nearly impossible advice for a control freak to take, but I recommend you try. For one reason or another you’ve been required to share your byline so rather than fight it head on the whole time, take a deep breath and let go. Holding on to negative energy and resentment toward your writing partner will only hinder the creative process. Not only that, but it could bleed through into your work, causing the end product to be sub-par. If this happens, it will only reaffirm your thoughts about sharing your writing space so that, the next time you have to co-author something, you will begin this negative cycle all over again. Stop it in its tracks!

I recently read an article about letting go of control. The author, Amy Johnson, compares being in control mode to paddling upstream. That’s exactly it. Stop trying to paddle upstream! You and your writing partner are in that boat together. You might as well turn around, drop your oars, and let the writing flow.

Step two: consider the positives.

positives

Some really amazing things can come from having to share your writing assignment.

1) Less stress for you because

2) Less work for you, and

3) You get the benefits of an alternative point of view.

Remember that old idiom: two heads are better than one? Yeah, well, as much as control freaks want to dismiss it as fable, it is more than likely true. With two people sharing the workload, stress will be minimized. With less stress comes more freedom for creativity. With more creativity comes a more fluid and interesting writing project.

Now that you’ve allowed the creative juices to flow, consider this:  in a writing partner you receive a built-in sounding board, editor, and collaborator. They will inevitably possess a different viewpoint, and therefore different ideas. Try to remember that different doesn’t mean bad, it just means different. Writer’s block should be non-existent because if you hit a snag, your partner can offer immediate assistance. They are guaranteed to be the only person near you who knows your work as well as you do. Take advantage of that!

Next, relish in the opportunity to be both creator and editor. Write something, pass it off to your partner, and when you get it back consider their critiques objectively (I know it is hard to separate yourself from your work, but try. It can only help). Now switch! Read something of your partner’s, critique objectively, and pass it back. Continue this process until the end, and witness a magnificent brain child.

Now, I hope you’re listening. This next part is crucial to your success.

Step three: COMMUNICATE.

communicate

Communication:  do it early, do it often.

If you fear working with others because you’ve heard horror stories from other authors who tried to co-author something or were part of a horror story yourself, chances are that things fell apart because of a lack of communication. There are so many ways co-authoring can go wrong. From the minute (my name should go before your name debate) to the grandiose (why am I stuck writing every draft?), clear and consistent communication is the only thing that will keep your project headed in the right direction.

Now, if you are anything like me, the moment you discover you have to co-author something, you immediately search out literature on the topic of co-authoring (rather than get started on the project). I was surprised by the lack of material out there. Granted, I didn’t search for very long, but I will share with you some of the information I found.

First, I wanted a little information on the human brain. If you ever feel like you are the only person in the world with a weird brain, you are not alone. I feel that way every day! In my searches I ran across an article about the man who discovered that the brain is split. I think we take for granted that there are left-brained and right-brained people, but we didn’t always know that. People used to think the brain was a homogenous entity. Thanks to Michael S. Gazzaniga, we now know differently.

Why am I talking to you about brains? Your partner’s will inevitably work differently than yours. Try to be mindful of who they are, how they operate, how they think. In short, practice empathy. Empathy is always my first step in communicating with others.

Second, I wanted information specifically about working on an academic paper with another person. I located Richard P. Enfield and Faye C. H. Lee’s article Co-Authoring Papers in Research Teams: Avoiding the Pitfalls. In it, the authors discussed pretty much what I expected to find. Co-authors need to have frank discussions and come to agreements about intellectual property and authorship before starting on projects. It seems obvious, but there are horror stories for a reason. People often skip over these important conversations before starting work, and then many toes are metaphorically stepped on. For another brief overview of collaborating and co-authoring I recommend checking out Philip N. Howard’s article. He is Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Washington, and his article is short and straight forward.

Third, I wanted a perspective on co-authoring from a more general perspective. I found that perspective in Co-authoring: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Frank Viola. Mr. Viola is not a loner-scholar. He enjoys working with others so this was a very different take on the topic from my own, but I enjoyed reading about co-authoring from his perspective. Again, the ugly is miscommunication. He lays out three steps to avoid the pitfall.

let go

To conclude, here is a picture of a girl taking flight. This is the visual embodiment of breathing and letting go. As a control freak I know it is foreign to let go of anything, but I do hope you’ll try. I know I’m going to. For only when we let go, can we truly fly.

Best of luck to all you type-A, control loving, members of society, and remember: sharing is caring.