Between now and Sunday, April 27, Radical Reference invites you to suggest subject headings and/or cross-references which will then be compiled and sent to the Library of Congress. You can either choose one previously suggested by Sandy Berman (pdf or spreadsheet) or propose your own.
As someone who has been the recipient of Sandy Berman’s cc’s on letters to the LoC, I think this is a great idea. Still waiting for SEX TOY PARTIES and TRANSHUMANISM in my classification schemes, I am.
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.
David Weinberger has a concise summary of Thomas Mann’s long article about the concept of reference and scholarship and how it fits into modern day librarianship, especially research libraries. This is the sort of thing Michael Gorman talks about in grouchy pundit ways, but Mann really digs deeper and seems to understand both sides of the equation. Weinberger’s posts sums up some of the high points with some strong pullquotes, but I’d really also suggest reading Mann’s entire essay. Here are some quotes that I liked, but don’t think that gets you off the hook from reading it. You hve to get to about page 35 before you hit the “what sholdl we do about this?” part.
I cannot claim to have a system that flattens all the lumps, but I am concerned that many of the more important problems facing scholars are being ignored because a â€œdigital libraryâ€ paradigm puts blinders on our very ability to notice the problems in the first place.
On different types of searching:
Note that as a reference librarian I could bring to bear on this question a whole variety of different search techniques, of which most researchers are only dimly aware of (or not aware at all): I used not just keyword searching, but subject category searching (via LC=s subject headings), shelf-browsing (via LC’s classification system), related record searching, and citation searching. (I also did some rather sophisticated Boolean combination searching, with truncation symbols and parentheses, discussed below.) Further, as a librarian I thought in terms of types of literatureâ€“specialized encyclopedia articles, literature review articles, subject bibliographiesâ€“whose existence never even occurs to most non-librarians, who routinely think only in terms of subject searches rather than format searches. And, further, one of the reasons I sought out the Web database to begin with was that I knew it would also provide people contact informationâ€“i.e., the mail and e-mail addresses of scholars who have worked on the same topic. The point here needs emphasis: a research library can provide not only a vast amount of content that is not on the open Internet; it can also provide multiple different search techniques that are usually much more efficient than â€œrelevance rankedâ€ and â€œmore like thisâ€ Web searching. And most of these search techniques themselves are not available to offsite users who confine their searches to the open Internet.
While folksonomies have severe limitations and cannot replace conventional cataloging, they also offer real advantages that can supplement cataloging. Perhaps financial arrangements with LibraryThing (or other such operations) might be worked out in such a way that LC/OCLC catalog records for books would provide clickable links to LibraryThing records for the same works. In this way researchers could take advantage of that supplemental network of connections without losing the primary network created by professional librarians.
I get mail from Sandy Berman almost once a week. In envelopes with interesting stamps and adorned with rubber stamped images, he sends a pile of photocopied news articles, printed out web pages and cc’ed letters that he’s sent to the Library of Congress, to Barbara Tillett specifically. In his ongoing quest for LCSH reform — continuing even after his forced retirement from Hennepin County Library system — Sandy keeps up a regular correspondence with Tillett, the chief of the LoC’s Cataloging Policy and Support Office. Some of these letters are amusing, all of them are good reading. Tillett writes back.
Rory Litwin of Library Juice has interviewed her for the Library Juice blog, where they discuss cataloging reform, God, Zionism and, of course, Sandy Berman.
Most of our correspondence contains helpful and constructive suggestions – what criticism we receive is simply not as he characterizes it. There is no onslaught of letters and emails and faxes from outraged librarians or researchers. For the most part, public criticism comes from Mr. Berman or other individuals he has urged to write to us. Weâ€™re more inclined to react favorably to constructive suggestions than to coercive techniques such as petitions, hostile articles in the library literature, emotional attacks, or letters of complaint to members of Congress. Methods such as these are almost always counterproductive, whereas more cooperative and positive approaches usually produce good results.
Sandy Berman is Nerve’s Crush of the Week. I’d like to think I had a little something to do with that. Congrats Sandy! [misseli]