A Librarian’s Dilemma: Three Articles in Consideration of DDC and its Utility in Public Libraries

by Bruce A. Sullivan

Part I: Summary

The current debate over the continued utility of the Dewey Decimal System in public libraries seems to hinge on one assertion, as articulated by Michael Casey: “Dewey, no matter how good for librarians needing to locate a book fast, is simply not suited to a popular collection intended more for browsing than research” (Casey 19). Resultantly, a number of small public libraries, notably Maricopa County Library District in Arizona, Rangeview Library District in Colorado, and Frankfort Public Library in Illinois, have adapted standards designed by booksellers (indeed, for booksellers) to their collections. These BISAC standards allegedly facilitate browsing, giving the library patron a more user-centered, as opposed to professional-centered, experience.


Christmas trees and The National Union Catalog

This LISNEWS post showing a picture of a Christmas tree made of books sparked another library to do the same thing. They used their National Union Catalog books to build a tree. You can see the results here. Another photo showing the building in progress.

With their pictures of the tree building the William H. Hannon librarians also linked to this piece: What are all those green books on Level 3? The piece talks about the National Union Catalog. (The 754 volume, 528,000 page, 13 million+ record National Union Catalog, also known as "Mansell" (after its publisher), took 14 years and $34 million to come to fruition.)

For new librarians that have known nothing but electronic catalogs this piece sheds light on important history in librarianship. The article also has this interesting line:

Although our online catalog and resources like WorldCat have mostly rendered Mansell and others like it obsolete, it can still be a useful tool for researchers needing exhaustive searches for pre-1956 works and for catalogers of rare books. In fact, a 2005 study indicated that 27% of the records in Mansell still cannot be found in WorldCat.

Content and context in concept-oriented catalogs

Did you know 2010 has been designated the year of cataloging research by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services? No? That makes 2 of us. Luckily John Mark Ockerbloom knows!

2010 has been designated the year of cataloging research by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. So it’s a good time for me to continue my series on concept-oriented catalogs. Before I talk about specific ways to implement them, I’d like to give some attention to what they look like, and the ways they interact with users.

Content and context in concept-oriented catalogs

Managing "favorites" in iBistro library catalogs

If your library has "tell me when..." options for users to receive email alerts when new items are added to the catalog, you may be interested in this instructional material- it's easy to add favorites in iBistro, but figuring out how to remove them is far less obvious.... See the instructional videos at the Delaware Library Catalog blog <a href="">here</a>

A Couple More On The Community uproar over LibLime’s Enterprise Koha

Explain the Silence to Me:
"So why are these librarians taking it? Why are they being quiet? I don’t have an answer for you – and so I’m hoping someone out there can answer this for me. If you signed a contract for one product and then are told you have to use another – do you just say okay? or do you move on or demand the product you originally wanted."
I even really like citrus fruits! And yet...
"I've been having unkind words about LibLime percolating in my head for a week which I've been not posting here, because I try not to be an unkind-words sort of person. But I no longer feel restraint about that."

Libraries Imagined: stacking imaginary libraries according to whimsical classifications

This weekend, co-vocabularists have challenged the legacy of Melvil Dewey by stocking and stacking imaginary libraries according to whimsical classifications.

After Losing Users in Catalogs, Libraries Find Better Search Software

The problem is that traditional online library catalogs don't tend to order search results by ranked relevance, and they can befuddle users with clunky interfaces. Bauer, a graduate student specializing in early American history, once had such a hard time finding materials that she titled a bibliography "Meager Fruits of an Ongoing Fight With Virgo."

It Takes a Village: Koha and open source leadership

KGS, It Takes a Village: Koha and open source leadership: It truly takes a village — in many senses of that phrase. The health of an open source project, particularly for software developed for people who are not developers, depends on true diversity in participation — developers, librarians, sage administrators, brash young folks willing to experiment — and an honest acknowledgment that healthy project leadership will be inclusive of all these roles.

In Appreciation of Library Catalogers and Cataloging Standards

from all appearances cataloguers and cataloging continue to be highly relevant to our increasingly interactive and interconnected society with its growing information needs. But they need our recognition and appreciation for their many contributions.


Catalog 2.0: Your Library Catalog in a Global Environment

The State Library of Kansas cataloged about 1,000 Wikipedia articles analytically at the State Library providing links via the Kansas Library Catalog, WorldCat/OCLC and the State Library’s consortium OPAC, ATLAS. Most all of the Wikipedia articles they've cataloged are concerned with Kansas, Kansans or current topics with few resources initially available via standard library resources. They had one of the first records in WorldCat/OCLC linking to information on then-Supreme-Court-nominee, John G. Roberts, as well as an early record on Hurricane Katrina. They followed these entries with other cataloging records accessing more substantive resources, but yes, the initial records were for Wikipedia articles.

Using rather than the FirstSearch interface

Laura mentioned on FriendFeed that she is planning to propose a small change to her colleagues - that they remove the link to the FirstSearch interface to WorldCat and replace it with a link to Someone commented that they’d like to hear more about her proposal, so she's posted what she believe to be compelling reasons for them to switch.

(1) The interface. Simply put, looks more like Google. FirstSearch seems clunky to me, in part because I don’t think it’s changed dramatically since I was in library school seven years ago.

Adco Library: Goodbye Dewey Decimal System

An Adams County library district is dumping the Dewey Decimal Classification system for organizing its books in favor of one that is considered more user-friendly.

Rangeview Library District Pam Sandlian Smith said the retail-based system called WordThink encourages browsing and is more intuitive than the classification system developed by Melvil Dewey in the 1870s.

The new system, which breaks down books into about 45 alphabetical categories, will be used at all six of the district's libraries and its outreach office by the end of the year.

OCLC Policy - What is the Question?

Karen Coyle takes a good long look at the OCLC policy we've all grown to know so well (or maybe not so well). She hopes that OCLC's members will insist on a clarification of the goals of the policy as well as on how those goals will be managed over time. Sticking her neck out, she concludes that:

* there cannot be an workable policy without a clear problem statement to guide it
* a library data silo is quite possibly not the best thing for the library community today, and this needs to be addressed
* the idea that "what is good for OCLC is always good for OCLC's members" is unreasonable; no contract should be accepted that doesn't provide for negotiation between the library members and OCLC regarding uses of the WorldCat records


Delicate Precursor to the Modern Dust Jacket

A librarian at Oxford's Bodleian Library has unearthed the earliest-known book dust jacket. Dating from 1830, the jacket wrapped a silk-covered gift book, Friendship's Offering. Silk bindings were very vulnerable to wear and tear, so bookselllers would keep them in these wrappers to protect the binding underneath. When you bought the book you would take the wrapper off and put it on your shelves, which is presumably why so few of these covers have survived.

Unlike today's dust jackets, wrappers of the early 19th century were used to enfold the book completely, like a parcel. Traces of sealing wax where the paper was secured can still be seen on the Bodleian's discovery, along with pointed creases at the edges where the paper had been folded, showing the shape of the book it had enclosed.

The jacket had been separated from its book, and had never been catalogued individually. It remained hidden until the library was contacted by an American scholar of dust jackets looking for the earliest known example.

In Challenge to ILS Industry, OCLC Extends WorldCat Local To Launch New Library System

Marshall Breeding: In a bold move that could reshape the library automation landscape, OCLC has expanded WorldCat Local’s existing cataloging and discovery tools with new circulation, delivery, and acquisitions features. This new project, which OCLC calls "the first Web-scale, cooperative library management service," will ultimately bring into WorldCat Local the full complement of functions traditionally performed by a locally installed integrated library system (ILS).

Dewey Decimal Rap --from New Hanover County Public Library and Scooter Hayes

Think long and hard before you watch this <a href="">video</a>...the song might be stuck in your head all day.

New e-mail reflector

This already went out on two e-mail reflectors I am subscribed to, so I doubt there is a web page spreading the word:
Hi, colleagues: A listserv FOLKSONOMY has been created. Please following the instruction below to sign on if you are interested in this topic and would like to contribute some studies you have done on it. Also please help to spread the listserv and let more people to join our discussion. Thank you. Instruction of sign in and other commands: Here are some basic listserv commands, Each command should be on it's own line, in an email to [email protected] - Anyone can subscribe themselves to folksonomy with: subscribe folksonomy First_name Last_name - Subscribers may be able to get a list of subscribers with: review folksonomy - Archives may be available to subscribers with: index folksonomy

OCLC Defends Records Policy, Faces Questions, Suggestions, and Criticisms

If you've been following along with OCLC’s recently revised—and suspended—policy regarding record-sharing, here's a couple of stories you'll want to check out.

OCLC’s recently revised—and suspended—policy regarding record-sharing: Norman Oder covers a Lively discussion at Midwinter Meeting, he writes OCLC's Karen Calhoun defends intent, apologizes about communication while others question OCLC’s path.

DON'T MISS Consideration of OCLC Records Use Policy: "We build bibliographic records as surrogates for the desired object, meaning that the surrogate is a means to an end – retrieving the described object – and not an end onto itself. We build indexes of these surrogates for patrons to use to discover information. All other factors held constant, the better the surrogate, the greater the chance the user will find the information they are seeking. The following discussion looks at the sources of records, the way they are built, and what it means to try to share them."

Reflections upon an LJ story

It could be reasonably asked why this is in text when it could have been on the podcast. There are reasons for such. Unfortunately I cannot let loose with spoilers at this time.

Norman Oder reports at LJ online about Karen Calhoun speaking at ALA. I wish I could have been there. I do not relish the thought of asking on AUTOCAT how acrimonious the session was or was not.

The OCLC data policy has created quite a bit of consternation. This is understandable. When I was last working in libraries, my specialty is as a cataloger. I have worked at an OCLC member and at a non-member that relied heavily on Z39.50. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I've cataloged under both and have real-world experience in the past three years.

In this age of community, WorldCat is not the appropriate mechanism. There is plenty of utter crap in WorldCat that libraries freely share. The structure of cooperative cataloging now more closely resembles a command-and-control economy rather than a community. Outside AUTOCAT, catalogers cannot interact. WorldCat's structure already makes it quite difficult to remove errors. This new data policy has the practical effect of making mistakes immortal.

Z39.50 by itself does not allow interaction either. Used in conjunction with a listserv, though, collaboration can be possible. Z39.50 also allows for quality control by voting between differing record versions to find the one that fits best. Working this way would force the fostering of community as trust in records would be built on the reputations of those creating them. There would be no red tape to hide behind if you were not able to catalog materials up to par.

I am torn. In some respects, OCLC really is not fit for purpose as presently constituted. Years of mission creep have resulted in an agglomeration of functions that are not completely connected. Stripping away functions to where OCLC's only purpose is resource sharing would be a good step. The research office as well as the offices of Roy Tennant, Karen Calhoun, and Lorcan Dempsey are nice but are more appropriate in an academic setting or think-tank than where they are now. The contract services portions could just as easily be sold off to an established commercial vendor or two. OCLC is already going madly off in many directions while focus on core functionality is lacking.

My favored solution that few would likely agree with would involve a dismembering of OCLC and an expansion of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging. The PCC already offers some means for communication and interaction. As an umbrella to more local community networks it would allow for potentially simpler structure of a community. Similar organizations already exist with such structures like the American Radio Relay League and the International Amateur Radio Union. This would not be an earth-shattering kaboom but something that has precedents elsewhere.

If memory serves, there is nothing internal to WorldCat in MARC21 but in Dublin Core instead. For the purposes of inter-library resource sharing, minimal-level records would conceivably be sufficient. Full records would only be necessary at the local level. The minimal-level records in would make such a topological shift fairly simple to implement with minimal records linking to more full local records.

The data policy revisions are not a case of cranky catalogers grumbling at other folks in the cataloging realm. The policy instead relates to the topology of the knowledge ecology all librarians care for. OCLC's changes have implications not only for catalogers but also front-line reference librarians. If OCLC owns the data and provides its own discovery tools like, what manager in this economy could justify the outlay of a salary for a degreed professional that would seem to be duplicating a "free" web tool?

I have thrown some ideas out in this post of ways things could adapt to our changing economy. I do not doubt somebody might feel such to be wrong or ill-informed. Hopefully some discussion can result from this.

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

LibraryThing and CIG—the deal!

LibraryThing and CIG—the deal! LibraryThing has just partnered up with Cambridge Information Group, which owns Bowker, AquaBrowser, ProQuest, Serials Solutions and RefWorks.


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