open shelves classification – a project in search of a leader

I’ve always thought that one of the troubles with librarianship was that there are always more great ideas and projects than anyone has time for or can get funding for. As a result we outsource projects to the people who have time and money and thus lose control over the end product. I have no idea if Library Thing’s open source Open Shelves Classification Project is going to wind up looking like a library product or a vendor product, but I’m curious to find out. As Tim Spalding says “You won’t be paid anything, but, hey, there’s probably a paper or two in it, right?” I haven’t seen much chatter, blog or otherwise, about this just yet but I’ll be keeping my eyes open. Whether or not this project it ultimately successful, I think it’s an interesting grass rootsy way of looking at ideas of authority and rejecting the top down let-us-have-you-contribute-and-then-sell-it-back-to-you models we’ve been working under.

19 thoughts on “open shelves classification – a project in search of a leader

  1. If you want chatter look at autocat archives, as they have been talking non-stop about it.

  2. And mostly with hostility. Meanwhile, on LibraryThing or, say, among the Open Library people, almost ever one is in favor of it. There’s some sort of sad lesson there. What you hear is too much about where you’re hanging out…

  3. And there is another wonderful lesson in there, Tim. You need to completely define the problem you are trying to solve before you pose it.

    And I say that out of love. Really.

  4. Oh, that went through! Well, anyway, I’m glad to share more thoughts with you if you want to get a hold of me, Tim. (Passive-agressive, I know, but I’m doing 4 jobs at the present.)

  5. Deschamps’s First Law of Innovation:

    If an idea is on the right track, the problems will begin to proclaim their existence.

    Deschamps’s Second Law of Innovation:

    All problems are people problems.

  6. Sorry, but this carping is just pathetic. Yes I started a project without knowing fully what it was for and how it should work. I thought it might be useful to see what other people thought.

    I’m not speaking of OSC. I’m speaking of LibraryThing, and it’s currently employing nine people—three of them librarians. We figured it out as we went along. And that was *good*.

    You do NOT need to “completely define the problem you are trying to solve before you pose it.” That is an excuse to do nothing. It is, in a word, bullshit.

  7. Tim, I’m not sure why you call my comment “carping”. Perhaps you’ve confused it with other comments you’ve read elsewhere.

    My point is that your call for action confuses classification schemes, subject thesauri, and folksonomies. It’s not clear which you’re trying to build and they are distinctly different.

    But calling another’s well-meant criticism “bullshit” won’t make you any friends. Good luck with the project.

  8. Hey… Tim… ouch… these are people on your page. I had to say when I read it I thought, this is a fly-by idea. You have many of these and I don’t mind reading them; sometimes they’re quite interesting. But you’re lashing out at people who are now doing what you want them to do: turn the ideas over in their head, run ’em up the flagpole and see who salutes ’em, etc.

  9. Karen,

    The sentence I was responding to was: “You need to completely define the problem you are trying to solve before you pose it.”

    It would follow that I should not have posed this topic—that I should have shut up and that asking people to develop an idea “in the open” shouldn’t be attempted. That is the opposite of running things up the flagpole, or turning ideas over, and therefore the opposite of both reasoned discussion and what libraries need.

  10. Check out last night’s Uncontrolled Vocabulary for an ‘interview’ and discussion with Tim about the OSC –

    My general opinion – I love projects that develop organically like this. Experiment, explore, discuss, change things mid-stream until they work, then change them again when you discover another way they can work. It’s exciting and creative and will shake things up. Will it be a success? Dunno yet. But it will definitely be a fun trip!

    So far, I’m enjoying the discussion, and learning a lot, in the group –

  11. Scot can speak for himself here, but I believe we have patched this over. Apparently I misunderstood what he was saying. Although I’m not quite sure how, I’m sure this was a misunderstanding.

    I do apologize for the language. I have been getting it rather hard from various quarters. This would be fine if it were about ideas, but I am offended by constant necessity to imply I am an ignoramus—that I don’t know the difference between tagging and classification, and have never looked into the history of the field. Having spent two years obsessed with these issues, this line of attack just ticks me off. Good grief, I’ve personally interviewed the catalogers at the Athenaeum and Forbes Library, and a scholar of dead classifications, to understand the Cutter Classification better. Give me some credit, at least until there is some solid evidence.

    I also liked the suggestion that I take the time to read David Weinberger The latter ticked me off something fierce. I not only had one of the first ARCs, but I’ve read it three times, have two separately underlined copies, ordered a case of the book and gave them out at librarians at conferences and have had extensive online and off with David. He even sent me draft articles to comment on.

    But sometimes I should try humor instead of sleen. My wife suggested “I got his numbah. How do you like them apples?”

  12. It seems to me that the ongoing RDA process (I almost said “death spiral”) is a fine example of what happens when you try to anticipate all of the implications of a major change before you start working on it. It satisfies neither traditionalists nor the Web 2.0 crowd, which probably means it qualifies as a successful negotiation…but doesn’t answer to anyone’s aspirations.

  13. Tim, I understand how you feel about the “feedback” you received on Autocat. I suggest bypassing that forum – the rest of the library world is and will continue to. Enjoy your new project – may it bear useful fruit. Allen

  14. Tim is absolutely correct. We have patched things over. I always knew he had his heart in the right place (hence my “I say this out of love” comment) and I totally understand how the situation can make one grumpy. I’m glad things are moving along.

  15. To what Allen says, I say Ouch! Come on, let’s put the response to Tim’s project on AUTOCAT into perspective. There was a good mix of “for” and “against,” based on my reading of the posts, and let’s not forget that the response either way represents only a very small fraction of AUTOCAT’s total membership (Subscriber statistics as of 11 January 2007: more than 4,000 subscribers in 40+ countries-according to the listowners).

    Supporters or curious observers of Tim’s project probably just prefer to remain in Lurkdom.

    Can’t we all just get along?

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