“authorities” and strap-on sex

On my fridge I have a photocopy of a letter that Sandy Berman sent to the Library of Congress this August suggesting that they establish dildoes as a LCSH. I got many fascinating photocopies along with it for supporting evidence. I enjoy being on Sandy’s mailing list. Today, vickiep from del.ico.us sent me a link to “strap-on sex” as a new Library of Congress subject heading. Hooray! Unfortunately, links that go into the Library of Congress Authorities searches aren’t permanent but I was able to replicate the search and find the listing for dildoes in the weekly list for September 26th. Of interest to me particularly is that the authority record for strap-on sex contains Wikipedia, Google and “LC database” as notes in the 670 field. update: Tim at LibraryThing has a post showing the record.

LoC Authority files, yours to keep!

Tim made the announcement of the announcement (pdf), so I guess this is the announcement of that. Simon Spero, superhero, has released an almost-complete copy of the LoC authority files. You can just … have them. I have a copy. I like to grep through it for fun on snowy evenings (that is how my Nerve personal ad will start, I am certain of it). I am interested to see what happens next. You can’t copyright this data, but you can sell it. Now that it’s available for free, it will be interesting to see if you can even do that.

This phase of the project is dedicated to the men and women at the Library of Congress and outside, who have worked for the past 108 years to build these authorities, often in the face of technology seemingly designed to make the task as difficult as possible.

file under: big big datasets

I’ve been chitchatting with Simon as he’s been compiling and data-cleaning his set of LoC authority records. He’s at ALA now, and the data has been released into the wild. There’s something that warms my little librarian heart getting to read raw MARC on my own little laptop. Try it yourself!

subversive gardening, or why wikis?

A metaphor for wiki understanding: the community garden. If you’vbe got a little time to do some reading today, I’d dive into Luke’s article about Ranganathan, gardening and Wikipedia.

…there is no monolithic point of view, there is no monopoly on truth. From a critical perspective, if the object lesson centers around a Wikipedia article as the participants negotiate and carefully choose language to approximate NPOV (the Wikipedian “neutral point of view”), it’s going to be a pretty effective lesson, which will teach above all that no source — not even Wikipedia — should be taken on its own in constructing meaning. If, on the other hand, the questioning student is handed a Britannica article — equally anonymous but somehow anointed with some magical pixie-dust librarians call “authority” but fail to satisfactorily explain to anyone outside the profession — the lesson will fail (again, from a critical pedagogical perspective, at least).