Month: August 2012

Reston Century 2012

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27 August 2012, I rode the Reston Bicycling Club‘s Century for 2012. It rained in torrents, I got lost a few times and had a blast pedalling through the Virginia countryside. Oh, I rode 131 miles total for the day. More than a century for sure.

Metadata and "Aboutness" – JOT and Tagging

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     Currently, The Neighborhood Writing Alliance is working on a project in which interns are adding sets of non-hierarchical keywords (sort of like a tag cloud in social media) to an internally accessible bibliographic database of the journal it has published for more than 20 years, The Journal of Ordinary Thought – Or JOT as it is called. The database is being created in a log-in controlled environ called CiteuLike. This application works like other reference-maintenance software available. Users, who are given controlled log-in web-based profiles, build collections and can add multiple levels of information to each bibliographic record. One of the types of information users can apply to records is tags.

     I am working as Metadata Specialist on this project, overseeing the work of the interns, editing tag-sets for better search potential and presenting examples through assorted instructional techniques best practices/policy for adding tags to the collection. One of the questions anyone who considers subject access in library catalogs is this notion of “aboutness”  – that of determining what a piece of writing or other cultural artifact is about.  In other words, if we could attach a subject to some cultural artifact, what would it be, how many subjects can one artifact have and how do we decide? To make matters more abstract, “subjects” themselves are also cultural products based on factors such as who might be in charge at the time, who is most likely to be the common users or viewers of said artifacts and whether there are requisite resources (money and other factors) at the time of creation of the bibliographic record to add or attach all possible permutations. For example, here is a link to a search for manuscript papers connected with Abraham Lincoln in Library of Congress’ holdings. If one clicks on Andrew Johnson Papers, 1783-1947, it is apparent the record contains a summary of that collection’s contents. This summary works to tell what the collection is about. On one level, this bibliographic record contains pure data referring to the collection. But on another level, the writing of the summary is a human-decided process that involves processing (thinking) and writing (also a human experience). It is not obvious what a piece of writing is “about” – even if the writer or bibliographic record creator states so – nor how it will affect the reader or viewer.

     These are the fun challenges in front of us on this project. It is underway and progress is being made. The document which holds the tagging Best Practices [which Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines as performances or forms which excel all others]* is being written along with some other helpful guidelines by way of examples with specific explanations. I think we will each learn a little something along the way.

Thank you.

 – Jesse.

PS: As always, dialogue is welcome. 

* Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Ed. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2001. 108, 912

James B. Hunt Library in Norwegian

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     James B. Hunt, who held the office of Governor for the state of North Carolina in the spot of 69th and 71st has an institute named after him (the Hunt Institute Tweets) – and now a library.  He established his legacy in the state for emphasizing and promoting education. Now, North Carolina State University has named the newest addition to their collection of libraries after him. The building is in-construction currently, but the design plans exhibited thus far have this image as its future. 
     I am not an architect, obviously, but I just want to draw attention to this new library being built in the United States on the east coast because North Carolina State University is known for being an engineering school made of red bricks as far as one can see. The campus even has a brick-yard in a place used daily by thousands of students year-after-year. Image from here. And this library is something different.
     A Norwegian architectural firm named Snøhetta won the contract (or whatever method was used to get the right deal for the University). And a good thing too. The influence of Scandinavian architecture added to the NCSU Centennial Campus is only beneficial because it breaks up the aesthetic of that campus quite well. Plus, it looks from what I could see from outside the construction site and from the officially released images that this library will let in a lot of natural light. The history of libraries has seen a lot of metaphors of light tossed about. Why not? But this does not contradict the stated purpose of this library building. The James B. Hunt Library has plans to be the  “best learning and collaborative space in the country.” Obviously, this library’s impact will be felt most directly by the NCSU community, but maybe I too will get a chance to do some research inside its well designed walls. Just wanted to let the library world know about this one while it’s in-progress.  
PS:  There are a few good food joints in the area of the library as well as coffee (which every library researcher needs). 
Thoughts or Comments on the Library are welcome.