One of the highlights of the ALA Annual Conference is the recognition of important contributions to our profession. On Monday, I had the pleasure of presenting the John Ames Humphry / OCLC / Forest Press Award to Pat Oyler (associate dean and professor at Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science) for her contributions to international librarianship. Pat received this award for her significant contributions to library development in Vietnam, including cataloging standards, modern services, new technology application, and training and continuing education of librarians. Juli Beall and I have had the privilege of traveling with Pat to Vietnam on several occasions in support of her efforts, and Pat was instrumental in the development and publication of the Vietnamese translation of the DDC.
Yesterday, I had the honor of presenting the Melvil Dewey Medal to Jim Neal (vice president for information services and university librarian at Columbia University). Jim’s award citation reads in part:
In recognition of: his long and distinguished career as a director of three of America's most distinguished academic libraries; his role in effectively advocating for the interests of libraries in relation to intellectual property legislation and treaties at both the national and international levels . . .; his longstanding role in promoting changes in scholarly communication . . .; his vision and leadership in helping transform the roles, effectiveness, reach, and reputation of American's library organizations . . .; his steady, future-oriented promotion of an expansive and vital role for libraries through countless publications and speeches throughout the world; . . .
I also attended the presentation of the Margaret Mann Citation to Fran Miksa (emeritus professor, University of Texas School of Information). The Margaret Mann Citation recognizes outstanding professional achievement in cataloging or classification. One only needs to peruse the titles in Fran’s list of publications to see the key figures and topics he has tackled with vigorous scholarship over the years—Cutter, Dewey, Harris, Ranganathan, subject cataloging, classification in general, LCC and DDC, reference, LIS education, research libraries, and digital libraries. There are two books in our field that I re-read on a regular basis because of their intellectual freshness and ability to prompt new insights—one is Patrick Wilson’s Two Kinds of Power: An Essay on Bibliographical Control, and the other is Fran Miksa’sThe DDC, the Universe of Knowledge, and the Post-modern Library. In the latter, Fran casts a critical historian’s eye on the Dewey Decimal Classification, library classification in general, the library as “public space” vs. “personal space,” and post-modernism (all in ninety-nine pages!). I remember being mesmerized in the audience at Fran’s July 1996 lecture on which the book is based, and his thoughts continue to provoke me thirteen years later.
Please join us for the Dewey Breakfast/Update at the ALA Annual Conference on Saturday, July 11, 7:00–8:20 a.m., Chicago Hilton, Lake Michigan Room. The program will feature a presentation on planned functionality in WebDewey 2.0 (with time for input from attendees), plus three brief presentations in a session entitled “What does it mean to ‘use Dewey’?” In the latter, we’ll be discussing uses of the new 083 and 085 fields in the MARC Bibliographic format (both fields are slated to be introduced in WorldCat in August 2009), the use of a DDC-driven representation in seven languages to provide access to digital resources in the World Digital Library, and a multilingual DDC linked data prototype service.
For those of you who attended my talk at the Texas Library Association Conference in April 2009 by the same name as the upcoming session, we’ll be showing new content at the Dewey Breakfast/Update at ALA. (By the way, Renee Patzer of Topeka and Shawnee County [KS] Public Library also participated in the same TLA program [Looking beyond Shelf Location: The Benefits of the Dewey Decimal Classification System in Libraries], and demonstrated a great use of the DDC to build “Dewey neighborhoods” in her library—her presentation and supporting materials are here.)
If you haven’t done so already, please register for the Dewey Breakfast/Update here. See you next week in Chicago.
I spent the last week of January and the first week of February in Norway and Sweden. The purpose of my trip was threefold:
Work on the mixed translation project with colleagues from the National Library of Norway and the National Library of Sweden (I’ve blogged about our mixed translation work previously—see our presentation from ISKO 2008)
Speak at a Dewey—let’s do it! in Stockholm, followed by a day of meetings with catalogers, subject experts, and members of the Libris department at the National Library of Sweden
I spent over a week in Oslo, most of it working on the mixed translation project at the National Library of Norway. Ingebjørg Rype, Karen Nisja Domaas, and I worked on developing a mixed Norwegian-English version of 006 and 616-616.1 (back in DC, my colleague Rebecca Green performed magic on the mixed translation files each evening to transform the English-language instructions into their Norwegian counterparts for Dewey records in Norwegian). Magdalena Svanberg (National Library of Sweden) joined us in Oslo at the midpoint of my visit to continue work on the mixed translation, and to discuss future project directions. Inger Johanne Christiansen gave me a wonderful behind-the-scenes tour of the National Library of Norway (a highpoint of which was the chance to look at some Ibsen manuscripts that happened to be out for an Ibsen scholar’s visit later in the day). On February 3, Magdalena, Ingebjørg, and I gave presentations at Kunnskapsorganisasjonsdagene 2009. Later that day, we met with NKKI members to discuss the needs of Norwegian librarians in the design of the next Norwegian translation. We also discussed the treatment of Nordkalotten (the area north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia). On the following day, Magdalena and Ingebjørg participated in a Dewey workshop sponsored by the National Library of Norway, NKKI, and JBI (the three of us used a break in the workshop to squeeze in a final meeting on the mixed translation research project).
After the workshop in Oslo ended, Magdalena and I flew to Stockholm for a whirlwind two days of meetings. The first was occupied by a full-day seminar on Dewey (the aforementioned “Dewey—let’s do it!”). On the day following the seminar, I met with catalogers and subject experts at the National Library of Sweden to discuss use of the DDC in general, mappings between Svenska ämnesord (SAO) and Dewey, and the addition of Dewey numbers to SAO records. We also managed to have two side discussions about classification of visual materials and proposed changes to the 780 Music schedule. (After my return home, I shared draft documents on both topics with our Swedish colleagues, and we have already received back preliminary reactions to the proposed changes in 780 Music [we will be posting a discussion paper on 780 Music for public comment shortly].) I also briefed members of the Libris department on our work on MARC, RDF/SKOS, and URI representations of DDC data, plus a prototype DDC history-of-concepts web service.
During the course of my trip, the National Library of Norway made a decision to proceed with a web version of a Norwegian translation of the DDC, and the administration of the National Library of Sweden awarded preliminary funding to a group headed by Magdalena Svanberg to launch work on the Swedish translation of the DDC in September 2009. Also, three more Swedish university libraries (Göteborg, Linköping, and Gävle) announced that they would make the switch to the DDC.
My colleague Lorcan Dempsey often writes about the need to make our data work harder. The underlying DDC data files (including the set of interoperable translations), the mappings between Dewey and other terminology resources, and the large body of content categorized by Dewey available in WorldCat and elsewhere are incredible resources in the networked information environment. We are focused right now on a number of efforts to make the DDC data available in web-friendly formats for human and machine interaction. The challenge remains to find ways to make our DDC data work harder.
On Saturday, January 24, at ALA Midwinter in Denver, we held our
regular Dewey Breakfast/Update.Diane
Vizine-Goetz presented a research update.Members of the editorial team presented outlines of proposed changes to
DDC: “Language variations” by Julianne Beall, “Rethinking meals” by Giles
Martin, and “780 Music” by Michael Panzer.Michael also previewed a history-of-concepts prototype Dewey web service
in a presentation called “More than Lists of Changes: Tracing the history of
Beall’s presentation focused on geographic language variations—dialects,
pidgins, creoles, and geographically limited slang.It described a proposal to drop current
special provisions for mother countries and other major countries in 420–490
Specific languages in favor of straight subarrangement by area notation
from Table 2.It pointed out that the
current special provisions often fail to provide a good number for
comprehensive works on language variations in the mother country.See the Dewey blog entry “Language variations
around the world” for additional information and a link to the full proposal.
My presentation on meals outlined a proposed recasting of 641.52-641.54 Cooking specific meals to
make the development more hospitable to meals from different cultures and to
update the development.
Michael Panzer's 780
Music presentation noted three particular difficulties with the overall
classification of music:the citation
order is complex; the distinction between folk music and popular music is not
universal; and the evolution of music styles is far from clean.Several strategies have been proposed for
adoption to handle these difficulties:the class-with-the-last policy should be reinforced throughout the 780s;
built number entries for popular music songs should be added; a clearer
characterization of folk music should be given; and the schedule should be kept
fairly shallow, but indexed more deeply.
Please join us for the Dewey Breakfast/Update at the ALA Midwinter Meeting on Saturday, January 24, 7:00–8:20 a.m., Sheraton Denver Downtown, Denver. The program will feature a research update and a preview of a history-of-concepts prototype Dewey web service. The editorial team will present proposed new developments for musical traditions, meals, and language variations for comment by breakfast attendees. There will also be an open question/answer period. If you haven’t already done so, please register for the Dewey Breakfast/Update here.
As I write this, the 19th Annual SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop on Classification and the Arts: Enduring
Practice, Alternative Strategies, and Contrasts with Other Domains has just
concluded. It was a small conference in
terms of the number of both active participants (6 papers and 1 poster) and
attendees (20), but rich in terms of ideas, discussion, and vitality.
In general, the
papers took an indexing approach, specifically a social tagging approach, to
subject access rather than a classification approach. A major drawback of social tagging is its use
of uncontrolled vocabulary, an issue addressed indirectly by several of the
papers. For example, one paper presented
the background use of a controlled vocabulary to clarify tags that are
identifiably ambiguous; another paper addressed the role of subject expertise
and indexing experience in achieving greater consistency of image
indexing. At the same time, a theme that
permeated the conference was the need to resist the inclination to insist on one
precise subject description of an image.
Rather than assume that knowledge organization structures should reflect
a singular view of reality, our goal should be to develop knowledge
organization tools that can reflect different social realities—your reality, my
But a plethora of
personal knowledge organization tools is not our ultimate goal. Consider, for instance, recommender systems
(like Amazon’s) that suggest new titles that might be of interest to you, based
on your previous purchases. But in
reality, it is not just your previous purchases that are taken into
account. Such systems also take account
of the purchasing patterns of many others.
They recommend title Y to you, after you have bought title X, because of
(among other things) the number of others who have purchased both X and Y. There is a role for collective knowledge
organization schemes (such as the DDC) working in tandem with personal knowledge
organization systems. That’s where mappings between knowledge organization
tools come in.
My own contribution
to the workshop came in the form of a poster (the text can be read here,
but if you’re ever in the Library of Congress, come see the wonderful job that
OCLC’s J.D. Shipengrover did with the graphic design) on chronological
organization of schools and styles of art.This poster documents the thinking behind our October 2008 New and
Changed Entries (in Word and PDF formats).In essence, we are choosing
to expand under 709.05 21st century, 2000–2099 by decade by adding period notation from Table 1.Then, rather than trying to expand explicitly
for contemporary art styles or movements, we will give guidance for them
through mapping newly created arts-related headings from external
sources (e.g., Library of Congress Subject Headings [LCSH], Art and
Architecture Thesaurus [AAT] descriptors) to the appropriate DDC class.
On September 11, Juli and I attended an all-day workshop on “New Dimensions in Knowledge
Organization Systems,” jointly sponsored by CENDI and the
NKOS (Networked Knowledge Organization Systems/Services) Working Group. (CENDI
describes itself as “an interagency working group of senior scientific and
technical information managers from 13 U.S. federal agencies[, whose] mission
is to help improve the productivity of federal science- and technology-based
programs through effective scientific, technical, and related
information-support systems.” NKOS
describes itself as “a community of . . . practitioners . . . interested in the
use of knowledge organization systems in networked environments.”) The workshop was hosted by the World Bank. (Security procedures at the Bank were
tight, but the opportunity to meet in such a stunning location was well worth
it. For one thing, there aren’t too many
places in Washington, D.C., where you can view the city from the
13th floor. For another, the
conference room where we met sported a huge table [capable of seating at least
30] with individual microphones and voting facilities at each seat, hinting at
the significance of the meetings more commonly held there.)
An important take-home message from such a workshop is that much work is
being done to make knowledge organization systems interoperable. This includes, on the one hand, projects that
build mappings between two (or sometimes more) specific knowledge organization
systems. It also includes, on the other
hand, resources for representing knowledge organization systems using shared
formats, so that proprietary representation systems do not serve as barriers to
knowledge sharing. These efforts address
both syntactic and semantic interoperability. But—extending the linguistic analogy—what we aspire to ultimately is
Forty-five librarians from fifteen countries attended the Dewey Translators Meeting at the World Library and Information Congress (74th IFLA General Conference and Council) in Québec City on August 12. The Dewey Translators Meeting, hosted annually at IFLA conferences by OCLC since 2003, brings together representatives of Dewey translation teams and national libraries plus other interested Dewey users from around the world. Since IFLA 2008 happened to be held just north of us in Québec City, nearly all Dewey editorial team members were able to participate in this year’s meeting.
We have just posted most of the presentations from the meeting. Michael Panzer presented a slightly updated version of his ALA 2008 Annual Conference presentation on Multilingual MelvilClass—this time, he included a live demonstration of a Greasemonkey script that integrates German and English captions on the same screen. Juli Beall discussed upcoming updates to groups of people and literary periods (we are currently soliciting comments on the changes to groups of people and the treatment of literary periods for authors writing under more than one name—comments on the latter were supposed to have closed by August 15, 2008, but we have extended the deadline until September 1, 2008). Giles Martin updated attendees on the approved extensions to the representation of the DDC in MARC 21 formats. Sally McCallum (Library of Congress) noted that the updates will be published in a month or so (we are still awaiting word on when the changes to the MARC 21 Bibliographic format will be implemented at OCLC). [A side note: Nancy Williamson (Professor Emerita, University of Toronto) was also at the meeting—Professor Williamson was the consultant retained by LC to prepare a report on converting its classification scheme into machine-readable form; her study facilitated the development of the original MARC Classification format.] Rebecca Green gave a quick overview of the DDC Training Program. Ingebjørg Rype (National Library of Norway), Magdalena Svanberg (National Library of Sweden), and I gave a condensed version of the talk Ingebjørg and I presented the week before at the ISKO Conference on the pilot study we just concluded with nineteen Norwegian librarians to explore the usability of a mixed Norwegian-English version of the DDC as a classifier’s tool. Patrice Landry (Swiss National Library) gave a brief update on the activities of the European DDC Users’ Group (EDUG) (EDUG working groups on archaeology, education, law, and technical issues met immediately following the meeting). Diane Vizine-Goetz (OCLC Office of Research) wrapped up the meeting with a live demonstration of the latest version of Classify, a prototype service designed to support the assignment of classification numbers.
We've already recruited our first speaker for next year’s Dewey Translators Meeting at IFLA 2009 in Milan (the exact date of our meeting during the conference is yet to be determined). Marie Baliková (Czech National Library) has agreed to discuss the top-level concordance she is developing between UDC and DDC to enable creation of an English-language topic map of the library’s collection (classed in UDC) using the DDC.
ISKO conferences are unique in their combination of breadth
(contributors at this conference came from Europe, Asia, North America, and
South America; Africa has usually also been
represented) and focus (everything is about knowledge organization). The total cast of participants varies
somewhat across conferences, but a solid core shows up pretty consistently, so
that enduring relationships are built and maintained.
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