Libraries in action: community outreach and integration as disruption

              Traditionally, libraries have required their users to come into the library to use library services. More recently, libraries have begun to go into their communities and to engage with them to better serve the community’s needs.

               One way that libraries have displaced themselves from their traditional manifestation is with bookmobiles. By going out into their communities, bookmobiles shed light on “the accessibility of roads, where roads go, what and whom they connect,” and they increase institutions’ awareness of the ways that they communicate and interact with their communities. By removing the traditional library context, librarians can have informal communication with their community that is more flexible and can “accommodate (or even foster) a plurality of voices.” By integrating with the community, bookmobiles have an opportunity to “acknowledge and respect local knowledge of infrastructural limits and capacities” With this knowledge, they can identify and “communicate broken infrastructure.” Ultimately, “[t]he work of bookmobiles cannot be reduced to the act of passing out books or even to producing networks of people, texts, and technologies. The political capacity of bookmobiles, as mobile institutions, can manifest along axes of transportation, language, and memory. (Lingel 2018).”

               Another way that librarians participate in community action is through disruptions of the prison system. The industrial prison system has repeatedly curtailed prisoners’ access to resources and reading materials. Sometimes these restrictions take the form of malevolent donations such as the “gift” of e-readers to prisoners that charge by the minute to read books. Sometimes access is censored due to the book’s content being seen as promoting liberation, criticizing the industrial prison system, or not following the prison’s guidelines (Inklebarger 2018).  Books to prisoners groups, such as the Prison Book Program, were founded to address the need for reading materials (legal, educational, and recreational). Prisoners can write to the Prison Book Program to request books. Then, a team of volunteers will read the letters, pick the books from the Prison Book Program’s library, read the books to make sure they don’t contain “forbidden” items, and prepare the books for mailing. Librarians who volunteer are responsible for maintaining the organization of the Prison Book Program’s library (Throgmorton 2016). Another example of librarians providing aid to their incarcerated community members is the Brooklyn Public Library’s establishment of Telestory to 12 different prison sites. With Telestory, families have a library-housed video conference space filled with books, stuffed animals, and crayons where they can read together and share private moments. (Cottrell  2017). Within the prison library setting, Dan Marcou of Hennepin County Jail established the Read to Me program, which allowed incarcerated parents to send books and voice recording of them reading the book to their child (Cottrell 2014).  

Community outreach is central to the development of reciprocity between libraries and the communities they seek to serve.

Annotated Works Cited

Cottrell, Megan. “Keeping Inmates on the Outside.” American Libraries, vol. 48, no. 1/2, Jan. 2017, p. 50. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=05b557cd-7c7b-4f77-a7a7-60e980b709b5%40sessionmgr4007

In “Keeping Inmates on the Outside,” Cottrell explores different ways that libraries have created systems to maintain inmates’ links to the outside world and to help them navigate life after prison. Dan Marcou created a guide to re-entry for folks who are leaving their correctional facility. Going Home includes library and shelter locations, advice on finding housing, jobs, and education. The guide also includes legal, self-care, and addiction resources. Another initiative that Cottrell explores is the Brooklyn Public Library’s Telestory initiative. Telestory is a library-based video conferencing service for inmates and their families, thereby allowing them to have a private and more welcoming space to read to their children. Cottrell also looks at the Women’s Open Lab initiative, where women released from correctional facilities, who are often survivors of domestic abuse, can seek information in a safe and welcoming environment.

Lingel, Jessa. “A Bookmobile Critique of Institutions, Infrastructure, and Precarious Mobility.” Public Culture, vol. 30, no. 2, May 2018, pp. 305–327. 

Jessa Lingel explores the place of bookmobiles in society. Lingel examines the role bookmobiles in Pakistan, where mobility is minimal and access to Arabic texts is highly contested. Lingel also looks at the fluidity of bookmobiles with the use of taptaps to navigate the roadways of Haiti. Both examples display how bookmobiles become part of the day to day landscape in a way that centralized libraries cannot. In being mobile, bookmobiles are more flexible and can interact with their communities to provide the best for them and react to challenges in a quicker manner.

 Other Sources

Appalachian Prison Book Project. “How Much Does it Cost to Read a Free Book on a Free Tablet?,” November 2019.
https://appalachianprisonbookproject.org/2019/11/20/how-much-does-it-cost-to-read-a-free-book-on-a-free-tablet/
Cottrell, Megan. “Reading on the Inside,” American Libraries, December 2014.
https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2014/12/08/reading-on-the-inside/

Inklebarger, Timothy. “Restricting Books behind Bars: Books-to-Prisoners Groups Face Roadblocks.” American Libraries, vol. 49, no. 6, June 2018, pp. 22–23.
http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=19&sid=42456a9b-204e-4cee-a6db-fcccc2f05bfe%40sdc-v-sessmgr02

Throgmorton, Kaitlin. “The Freedom of Reading: librarians help bring books to prisoners,” American Libraries, October 2016.
https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2016/10/31/freedom-of-reading-books-to-prisoners/


End of Semester Reflection

In the first four months of graduate school, I have come to realize how vast the world of librarianship is.  There are intersecting concerns beyond the boundaries of academic, public, and school librarianship that resonate deeply with my interests. We first started our learning journey by looking at how information is defined. Was information to be thought of as more than textual documentation? Could, as Otlet suggested, objects become information if they contained “traces of human activity” (Buckland, 1997)? Could information as Briet believed, be “any physical or symbolic sign” that “represent[s], reconstruct[s], or demonstrate[s] a physical or conceptual phenomenon”? As the human record expanded, so did the systems through which humanity classifies information.  In advance of modern systems of classification, there was Otlet & La Fontaine’s Mundaneum with its universal decimal classification.  With Robert Goldschmidt, Paul Otlet went on to invent “the standardized microfiche to generate documentation” through the reproduction of “books or periodicals and newspapers.” (History, 2019)”. The microfiche was one of the early attempts at the preservation of documents in a compact formula, in advance of more digital objects like the floppy disk, cd, and external hard drives. Themes such as organization and the preservation of information, though of interest since the renaissance (Blair, 2003), have only grown in importance as the amount of information that humans received on a day to day basis increases. Otlet himself had proposed the invention of the memex, an alternative computer-like object that would allow users to view information (objects, documents, audio) from different sources and reproduce them (Bush, 1945). Since then, librarians have created many systems of classification and sorting information: Dewey decimal classification, library of congress subject heading, incorporation of tagging, OCLCs, and more. One of my learning journal’s main explorations has been looking at how information is organized and who decides how information is organized. Similarly, I’ve been concerned with preservation issues and who decides whose voices get preserved as well as how the information gets preserved. One problem in the preservation field is the lack of infrastructure to support cultural heritage projects. Relying on grant funding and other fluctuating funding sources can come at a price that, prior to taking this course, I hadn’t considered. Cultural heritage projects that are generated and supported by non-community members can suffer from a lack of continued diligence and perseverance necessary for the project’s continued success (Strathman, 2019).  Admittingly, even projects lead by community members are impacted by funding and technological concerns (Barone et al., 2015). Examples of when digital preservation fails its users such as the loss of Kwetu due to lack of continuous funding and technological issues despite the database’s backers and unique resources (Barone et al., 2015) and the IRKMNA aboriginal project, which never went live on the web (Strathman, 2019). Houghton (2016) confesses that it is impossible to digitally preserve all human artifacts, which has left me questioning who decides what will be persevered? I was able to find that the NASIG (North American Serials Interest Group, Inc.) has established a committee, the Digital Preservation Task Force, responsible for addressing this question. Thus far, they’ve created a 101 Guide to Digital Preservation to help librarians decide what to save and what to cull. The digital preservation task force has also written guides for understanding the Keepers registry (Guide to Keepers, 2019). The keepers’ registry works as a sort of stability evaluator for digital information by looking at how many copies of any given journal exist in the wider web with the belief that the more copies of an e-journal, the less likely the journal is to disappear. One of the downsides to this line of thinking is that it only examines one type of digital information, the e-journal. Part of the reason that the stability of digital information is so difficult to assess “weigh[s] heavily on how much faith preservation can place in third-party digitized content” (Teper, 221). Since my initial learning journal, I’ve only increased my questioning of this for-profit model. How are users being impacted when digital information is being stored, imputed, and access restricted by third-party cooperate groups? Can these third-party groups be trusted with community materials and will these groups eventually leverage access to this information as justification for astronomical licensing fees? On the other hand, do open access models have the bandwidth in funding and manpower to not only initialize the digitizing of materials but storing and maintaining them online? How can we find a balance between commercial and open information systems? I’ve explored several commercially-run databases and information organization tools throughout this semester, including Overdrive, Hoopla, GoodReads, LibraryThing, OCLC’s WorldCat Identity. While many of these are available for free to users that register, they are run by companies who are making a profit through advertisements and user data. Whose best interest do these products serve? Is GoodReads, who was bought out by Amazon in 2013 (Amazon Buys, 2013), aiming to have its users buy their books through Amazon? What of user data? Already, we know that LibraryThing pulls from its users’ tags to make a commercially available tag package to supplement existing OCLCs under the name LibraryThing for Libraries (DeZelar-Tiedman, 2011). If the outcome of these products function as capitalistic ventures, how can we know that they are built to serve our users? If the information we receive is filtered through proprietary algorithms, then how can we understand what information we aren’t receiving? Who has created these algorithms, and who is their imagined user? In order to have an effective end product, we have to consider our user group. By week 4, we had already been given a few considerations: to make sure that our users know the resources that exist at the library (Spencer, 2019), to have physical space for users to occupy (Barbakoff, 2017), and to have a collection that is useful to our users rather than just to cater to librarians (Dempsey, 2016). The user should be considered at every level of the library, even in the metadata of each item. The metadata entered by catalogers and used by librarians is not always intuitive to users (Nesset, 2016 & Klenczon, 2014) and, in certain cases, it is even offensive (Adler et al., 2017 & Howard et al., 2018). Information retrieval is impacted by the metadata that is used. In Bate’s (2011) examination of library OPACs, information retrieval for queer texts was not intuitive. For maximal results, users would have to search for plural nouns (e.g., lesbians or gays) instead of singular nouns (e.g., lesbian or gay). Though language is constantly in flux, and thus is hard to balance standardization needs (Gross et al., 2015) with contemporary language, there has to be a way to improve access conditions for folks who don’t reflect the average librarian (white, English language native speaker, cisgender female, straight, and neurotypical). Users do not benefit when the landscape of librarianship doesn’t reflect them. Relational database design (Harrington, 2016), for example, mirrors the database creator; the way the designer will create entity to entity interactions is a product of their cultural/lived experience and may not reflect the users’ experiences. If only one experience and way of moving through the world is considered, then all the tools that users will be using to navigate the library reflect that lived experience will contain the same biases, and may create access barriers. Moreover, users who share that same lived experience will not have occasion to question their beliefs, which can lead to insular thinking and continue to feed behavior such as the appropriative consumption of native iconography (Riley & Carpenter, 2016). So, what should we, as librarians, strive towards? One tactic has been to incorporate user-generated tags into pre-existing library metadata, most commonly used in catalog entries (Rafferty, 2018). I spent a few learning journals looking into the use of tags across platforms (Instagram, GoodReads, LibraryThing). My interest in tagging is two-fold.  Most importantly, I believe that own-voice community members need to be involved in each step of the library processes. Regardless of intent, I believe that it is impossible for a singular person (or committee) to account for all the needs of the communities they serve without continued communication. Especially when one accounts for the homogenous makeup of the wider librarian community.  There is also a potential for the lack of long-term commitment when involving non-community members in collections that are sacred to the community (Strathman, 2019), which could cause lasting harm to the community, especially if materials are lost and impact an already tenuous trust. Moreover, non-own voices community members may not consider who the materials are intended for and may distribute the information (Christen, 2015) in ways that disrespect the community. Involving community members who are interested in library matters may also bring new voices into the library. Secondly, prior to graduate school, I have been active in the bookish social media scene and had found many books using tags. While tagging falls short with its inclusion of personal tags (Hedden, 2016), spelling errors, and inaccuracies (Gross & Joudrey, 2015), tagging does tend to use more user-friendly terms and more contemporary terms. My examination of user-tags across GoodReads, LibraryThing, and Instagram platforms reflected these pros and cons. In the second half of the semester, I also investigated other databases that use linked data, such as WorldCat’s Identity Network (WorldCat Identites, 2019), to better understand FRBR principles (Tillett, 2003). During the spring 2020 semester, I will be taking the metadata class. I am hoping that this will give me a more practical understanding of metadata and the ways that metadata operates and impacts information retrieval. It is my hope that with the metadata course coupled with the naming and power course, I will have more information in my toolbox to think of actionable ways of working toward change. Ultimately, I am more for community-driven and designed databases. Instead of creating these systems ourselves and potentially embedding them with our pre-existing biases, as well as potentially neglecting to provide community members with the tools and information to manage the databases themselves thereby leading to the loss of sacred information (Strathman, 2019), we should support the creation of community-created and community-managed databases.  This belief is what led to my last journal entry, where I questioned: “what are tactics that librarians can use to support and promote new voices in librarianship without tokenizing people?” I don’t think this is a question that will ever have a singular answer. Rather, I believe the answer will vary from person to person. It is an insult to assume that there is any one way of reacting to a situation and that members of a given group should be treated as a monolith. Librarians, especially those of us who have a significant amount of privilege, should learn to ask our colleagues what they need and truly listen instead of trying to interject with what we think on a given topic. That said, I’m learning. It has been a wonderful first class, and I know I will continue to explore these themes and reflect on what I have learned as I continue in my studies.

References

Amazon Buys Goodreads. (2013). In Publishers’ Weekly. Retrieved from: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/article/56575-amazon-buys-goodreads.html

Barbakoff, A. (2017). Balancing connections and collections. In Library Journal. September 15.Retrieved from: https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=balancing-connections-collections-library-design.

Bates, J.; Rowley, J. (2011). Social reproduction and exclusion in subject indexing: A comparison of public library OPACs and LibraryThing folksonomy. Journal of Documentation 67(3): 431-448. Retrieved from: https://www-emerald-com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/insight/content/doi/10.1108/00220411111124532/full/html

Blair, A. (2003). Reading strategies for coping with information overload ca. 1550-1700.  Journal of the History of Ideas 64(1): 11-28. Retrieved from: https://www-jstor-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/stable/3654293?origin=crossref&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Buckland, M. K. (1997). What is a “document”? Journal of the American Society for Information Science 48(9): 804- 809. http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~buckland/whatdoc.html

Bush, V. (1945). As we may think. In Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved from:http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-may-think/303881/.

Christen, K. (2015). Tribal Archives, Traditional Knowledge, and Local Contexts: Why the “s” Matters. Journal of Western Archives. 6(1): 1-19. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=http://www.kimchristen.com/publications/&httpsredir=1&article=1046&context=westernarchives

DeZelar-Tiedman, C. (2011). Exploring user-contributed metadata’s potential to enhance access to literary works. Library Resources and Technical Services, 55 (4), 221-233. Retrieved from https://www.scopus.com/inward/record.uri?eid=2-s2.0-84860126184&doi=10.5860%2flrts.55n4.221&partnerID=40&md5=8ed263cd72a666e256b92c96be06901b

Dempsey, L. (2016). Library collections in the life of the user: Two directions. LIBER Quarterly 26(4). Retrieved from: https://www.liberquarterly.eu/articles/10.18352/lq.10170/

Guide to Keepers Registry. (2019.) Retrieved from : https://www.nasig.org/site_page.cfm?pk_association_webpage_menu=311&pk_association_webpage=13830

Gross, T.; Taylor, A. G.; Joudrey, D. N. (2015). Still a lot to lose: The role of controlled vocabulary in keyword searching. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 53(1): 1-39. Retrieved from: https://libkey.io/libraries/15/articles/53345370/full-text-file?utm_source=api_274

Hedden, H. (2016). Chapter 1. What are taxonomies? The Accidental Taxonomist. 2nd ed. Medford, NJ: Information Today, 16-32. Retrieved from http://www.library.uiuc.edu/proxy/go.php?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=390140

History. (2019). In Mundaneum. Retrieved from: http://archives.mundaneum.org/en/history.

Howard, S. A.; Knowlton, S. A. (2018). Browsing through bias: The Library of Congress Classification and Subject Headings for African American studies and LGBTQIA studies. Library Trends 67(1): 74-88. Retrieved from: https://libkey.io/libraries/15/articles/243650247/full-text-file

Keller, S.R.; Robertson, W.; Steinle K.; Thibault, D.R. (2019). Digital Preservation Task Force Update, The Serials Librarian, 76:1-4, 51-54. Retrieved from: https://www-tandfonline-com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/doi/pdf/10.1080/0361526X.2019.1583545?needAccess=true

Klenczon,W.; Rygiel, P. (2014). Librarian cornered by images, or how to index visual resources. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 52(1): 42-61. Retrieved from: https://libkey.io/libraries/15/articles/48665936/full-text-file

Nesset, V. (2016). A look at classification and indexing practices for elementary school children: who are we really serving? The Indexer 34(2): 63-65. Retrieved from: http://content.ebscohost.com/ContentServer.asp?EbscoContent=dGJyMNHr7ESep7M4wtvhOLCmr1GeqK9Sr6y4SbCWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGut1C3rLZNuePfgeyx43zx1%2B6B&T=P&P=AN&S=R&D=lls&K=117820430

Rafferty, P. (2018). Tagging. Knowledge Organization 45(6): 500-516. Retrieved from: http://content.ebscohost.com/ContentServer.asp?EbscoContent=dGJyMNHr7ESep7M4wtvhOLCmr1GeqK9Sr6y4Ta%2BWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGut1C3rLZNuePfgeyx43zx1%2B6B&T=P&P=AN&S=R&D=lls&K=132395543

Riley, A. & Carpenter, K. (2016). Owning Red: A Theory of Indian (Cultural) Appropriation. Texas Law Review, 94(5), 859-931. Retrieved from: https://texaslawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/RileyCarpenter.FinalPDF.pdf

Spencer, K. (2019). Creating a culture of use. In Against the Grain. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/31SEHol  

Strathman, N. (2019). Digitizing the Ancestors: Issues in Indigenous Digital Heritage Projects. International Journal of Communication, 13:3731-3738. Retrieved from: https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/8018/2748

Teper, J. H. (2014). Selection for preservation: a survey of current practices in the field of preservation. Library Resources & Technical Services 58(4): 220-232.­ Retrieved from: http://content.ebscohost.com/ContentServer.asp?EbscoContent=dGJyMNHr7ESep7M4wtvhOLCmr1GeqK9Sr624S7OWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGut1C3rLZNuePfgeyx43zx1%2B6B&T=P&P=AN&S=R&D=a9h&K=99263271

Tillett, B. (2003). What is FRBR? A conceptual model for the bibliographic universe. Retrieved from: http://www.loc.gov/cds/downloads/FRBR.PDF.

WorldCat Identities. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.oclc.org/research/themes/data-science/identities.html

In anticipation of the professional panel…

I’m deeply interested in the lived reality of attempting to change existing systems of information organization, especially at the metadata level.

What push-backs have you received?

What are tactics for guiding conversations forward when faced with push-back?

What does actionable progress look like?

Presently, what does the landscape of acquiring grant funding look like when it comes to access and discovery issues?

How do you balance equity concerns with the interests of the funding agencies (government and private)?

Where can we follow your ongoing projects?

What can we do to support you? *

This semester has taught me that issues of access and discoverability help perpetuate pre-existing systems of power within our society. At the heart of the inequity is the lack of diversity in librarianship.  

What are tactics that librarians can use to support and promote new voices in librarianship without tokenizing people?

*I was influenced to ask this thanks to Dr. Tressie McMillian Cottom’s and Dr. Roxane Gay’s podcast Hear to Slay Podcast. They ask this question to all the invited speakers, and prior to hearing it on Hear to Slay, I had never thought to ask it in spite of “What can we do to support you?” being an extremely important question.

References

Cottom, T.M. & Gay, R. (2019). Hear to Slay [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from: https://luminarypodcasts.com/listen/roxane-gay-and-dr-tressie-mcmillan-cottom/hear-to-slay/b52dbaee-2243-4230-ac20-8dc36ca6a453

The Cost of Collaboration, a meditation on librarian allies

According to Marina La Salle and Richard Hutchings (2018), collaboration is “colonial whitewash” that is “ultimately rooted in cooptation and dependence” that does little to actually “decolonize” the structures of power (p. 1). For them, when “collaboration is seen as the means and the end,” it ultimately results in “less power to Indigenous communities” (p. 12). Their arguments are persuasive, particularly if we are to assume that these digital projects are about the collaborative process and not the final product. It raises the question: Whose interests are being served?

Nicole Strathman

During this week’s reading, I was struck by Strathman’s (2019) article Digitizing Ancestors. Digitizing Ancestors examined five collaborative projects with indigenous communities (four resulting in functional databases and one whose funding ran out before the database came into fruition). Since these databases were constructed as part of Masters theses and PhD dissertations, they weren’t built to be sustained. Rather, they were just a jumping off point for these researcher’s careers. Strathman states, “the creation of a digital heritage program was part of their dissertation, and, like all good scholars, they would take the lessons learned, build on them, and move on to other projects.” I was personally taken aback at how casually Strathman states that the students involved in these projects just disregarded them. While this is an honest statement, I object to the descriptive of “good scholars.” The sacred cultural heritage of indigenous communities should not be left with stewards who aren’t committed to ensuring its survival, especially in an environment where digital preservation is tenacious at best.

Moreover, Strathman’s (2019) article left me questioning the ability and intention of allies. Throughout the years, I’ve found myself asking if those who do not belong to a marginalized community can genuinely be allies. Often, the actions of those who label themselves as allies do not match their intentions and mission statements. In the article, we see multiple graduate student researchers (Christen, Srinivasan, Shorter, Verran, Christie, Ridington, & Hennessy) take action to create or envision systems of organizing information that are better suited to indigenous cultures. These projects were done in collaboration with and with the permission of the indigenous communities. The problem with this situation is that the researchers were not personally connected and thereby committed to these projects. Once the funding ran out, and their degrees were completed, the databases were left untended. The technology, flash, became hackable and thus fell into disuse. With no researchers to update the database, they became less interactive (videos became stills) and, for some, completely unusable (Strathman, 2019). Call me optimistic, but it is difficult for me to imagine that an own-voices researcher would let the database fall into disrepair. This isn’t to say that I believe that the burden of fixing the system should be on indigenous and other marginal groups, but rather that those who are aware of the given issues and who are part of the dominant group should give communities the resources, platforms, and spaces back. Giving indigenous communities these databases, but not leaving with the tools to manage them, is an empty gesture. In class, we talked about how fragile digital repositories can be (Barone, Zeitlyn, Majer-Schönberger, 2015). What happens when communities lose entire collections to poor database management?

My opinions are compounded by the fact that I fall in the camp of intent doesn’t matter, if your actions are resulting in harm or contributing to continued marginalization. So what should librarians do? We all have biases that impact our ability to serve, and accurately perceive marginalized communities. Notably, white librarians like myself state that we want to improve conditions that our ancestors have created and society continues to uphold, but what actions are we willing to take to balance the scales? What privileges and power are we willing to part with? Are we honest with others and ourselves? Even for communities that I am a part of, I know I have internalized biases and -isms that impact the way I navigate my world.

I believe that Christie’s (2015) more recent work is a small step in the right direction as there more of an emphasis on indigenous youth being taught to manage the databases. Christie has also worked with lawyers to address the use of stolen objects, songs, and dances through the use of TK codes. In spite of her efforts, TK codes can not override the pre-existing property laws. Is that sufficient? What is sufficiency in light of what is owed? I believe that we should be teaching the youth of communities how to access and manage information, facilitating the acquisition of grants, teaching community members how to write grant proposals to fund database projects, and providing legal and financial support. In doing this, the actions of librarians like those in the “Digitizing Ancestors” article would read less like performative activism and, in the context of the funding climate in 2010, a grab for easy grant money.

References

Barone, F., Zeitlyn, D., & Mayer-Schönberger, V. (2015). Learning from failure: The case of the disappearing Web site. First Monday, 20(5). Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i5.5852.

Christen, Kimberly. (2015). Tribal Archives, Traditional Knowledge, and Local Contexts: Why the “s” Matters,” Journal of Western Archives, 6(1). Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/westernarchives/vol6/iss1/

Strathman, N. (2019). Digitizing the Ancestors: Issues in Indigenous Digital Heritage Projects. International Journal of Communication, 13:3731-3738. Retrieved from: https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/8018/2748

Serendipitous Discovery through WorldCat’s Identity Network?

Bell (2014) wondered at how serendipitous discovery in libraries could be maintained now that physical collections are dwindling, and library collections are shifting to the digital setting. Maloney & Coney (2016) mentioned the possibility of designing for serendipitous discovery by developing algorithms and ways of recommending that help filter information without erasing that “a-ha” moment. In the May 2019 review of the various companies that offer ILSs (integrated library system) and LSPs (library services platform), one of the companies mentioned was OCLC (Online Computer Library Center). OCLC creates ILSs, which are less in vogue and have a lower overall chance of having a web-based interface than LSPs but cater to libraries’ needs and pre-existing systems (Breeding, 2019). During class on Monday, we were allowed to select various platforms to explore. While I didn’t choose WorldCat Identity for the in-class activity, I was intrigued by it as a source that could incorporate this idea of serendipitous discovery. WorldCat Identity utilizes linked data to connect different people. I decided to search two authors that I admire, Hanya Yanagihara and Rivers Solomon.

Visual Diagram of Relationship between Rivers Solomon and other writers

Initially, the search results excited me. Out of the linked identities, I only recognize four of the linked authors: Roxane Gay, Cristina Henriquez, Dina Nayeri, and Téa Obreht. The links between genre fiction and “literary fiction” are blurred at best for me, but I haven’t seen these authors paired together before.

List of how each entity (author) is related to the queried author (Rivers Solomon). The charts list their related works.

When looking at how Rivers Solomon connects to the other folks on this list, it became quickly apparent that they were all in an anthology, The Best American Short Stories edited by Roxane Gay (2018). On the one hand, this is great because you could get a sampling of several different authors through one text, but what if you had already read The Best American Short Stories? What if you were looking for a novel similar to Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts or to their novella similar to The Deep? Perhaps additional functionality like the inclusion of limiting filters. By narrowing the result not to include The Best American Short Stories, you could help diversify the overall results. Or is the function of linked identities to show authors who are tied to one another through shared texts? Hopefully, looking at Hanya Yanagihara’s entry will provide more insight. 

Visual Diagram of Relationship between Hanya Yanagihara and other writers

Off the bat, I don’t recognize any of these authors. While that does mean there is potential for discovering a lot of new authors, I would also like to see someone that I recognized as it would instill trust in the way that this data is linked.

When dialing into the results of the related works, the pattern we saw with Rivers Solomon holds. Works included as related works are either translated versions of Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees and A Little Life or works that she has co-authored or edited. 

From the examples above, I believe that Identity Linker is a tool that is best suited for researchers than the general public. While it might be useful to the general public to know what works have either been referenced or included the searched identity, that level of detail might be more helpful to researchers. Entries with a higher number of connections would elicit more interesting networks. These networks can be seen through the 100 identities, which are, unsurprisingly, mostly white and male. The trend of white and male creators mimics the biases of society and the history of silencing minority voices/promoting white supremacy.

Let’s look at Virginia Woolf, one of the top 100 identities. The identity connections between Virginia Woolf are more numerous and expansive. The authors listed are from many different periods; some are contemporary writers like Michael Cunningham and Djuna Barnes. Others are Virginia Woolf’s contemporaries like Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce. Vanessa Bell (her sister) and her husband (Leonard Woolf) are also linked. Hogarth Press, the press that Virginia Woolf and Leonard Woolf created, is also included.

After exploring WorldCat Identity by myself, I decided to look at the OCLC Research site for more information on the tool. WorldCat Identity uses FRBR to pull from the general WorldCat metadata and create clusters of work written by From the OCLC research site, I’ve learned that WorldCat Identity has an entire for every name that appears in WorldCat. OCLC uses FRBR to pull from the WorldCat metadata to link works (including the variety of editions) written by a singular entity. WorldCat Identity is updated quarterly. Moreover, OCLC research explains that “[a] typical WorldCat Identities page will include a list of most widely held-by-libraries works by and about the identity, a list of variant forms of name the identity has been known by, a FAST tag cloud of places, topics, etc. closely related to works by and about the person, links to co-authors, and more” (WorldCat Identities, 2019).

Overall, the WorldCat Identity Network was not what I expected, but it is an interesting tool, nonetheless. I’d like to see a similar visual network that links WorldCat entries by themes and settings. This visual network may already exist, but I haven’t encountered it.

References

Bell, S. J. (2014). Collections are for collisions: design it into the experience. American Libraries, 45(9/10): 46-49. Retrieved from:

Breeding,  M. (2019). Library Systems Report 2019. Retrieved from:
https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2019/05/01/library-systems-report-2019/ 

WorldCat Identities. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.oclc.org/research/themes/data-science/identities.html

Maloney, A.; Conrad, L. Y. (2016). Expecting the unexpected: Serendipity, discovery, and the scholarly research process. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing. Retrieved from: http://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/serrdiscovery.pdf

Solomon, Rivers. (2019). Retrieved from: http://experimental.worldcat.org/idnetwork/display.html?query=lccn-no2017130463

Solomon, R. (2017). An unkindness of ghosts. Brooklyn, New York: Akashic Books.

Solomon, R., Diggs, D., Hutson, W. & Snipes, J. (2019). The deep. New York: Saga Press.

Yanagihara, Hanya. (2019) Retrieved from: http://experimental.worldcat.org/idnetwork/display.html?query=lccn-nb2001075052

Yanagihara, H. (2015). A little life : a novel. New York: Doubleday.

Yanagihara, H. (2013). The people in the trees. New York: Doubleday.

In which a GoodReads’ User explores LibraryThing

In preparation for next week’s LibraryThing in-class workshop, I’ve decided to use this learning journal entry to explore LibraryThing and to try to apply principles of information organization. I’m especially intrigued to see if it makes use of linked data, item vs. work concept, and how LibraryThing functions as a database. The tagline of LibraryThing, “Catalog Your Books Online,” leaves the impression that the tagging interface for texts on GoodReads will be comprehensive and that certain functionalities may be more interlinked as with OCLCs. An added nuance will be my history with GoodReads. I’ve been using GoodReads on and off since 2011. For better or worse, I have some preferential bias as I have already made an active community of friends and familiarity. I wanted to acknowledge my bias, while also stating that I’ve been unhappy with a lot of Amazon-acquisition drive changes.

I’m going to start my project by taking importing my GoodReads library into LibraryThing from one interface to another. Immediately, the system prompted me on titles that were missing ISBNs and asked me what resources I wanted to use to search for my titles (Amazon.com, WorldCat, LOC). The breadth of LibraryThing’s search function to crosscheck information is impressive and helps fill data-gaps.

List of favorite books from 2018. This will be the list of books transferred to LibraryThing.

Let’s take a closer look at The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara. From the main page, we are given quite a bit of information. Immediately, the LibraryThing user is giving a numerical value for how many other users’ have The House of Impossible Beauties on their shelves. GoodReads gives the number of ratings and provides many reviews, but doesn’t include information for how many users have put the text on their shelves. This information could be guessed at by looking at the top shelves (GoodRead’s tagging system) and through the number of ratings, but this isn’t an accurate method. LibraryThing also has a more straightforward method of ensuring that the user finds the correct manifestation (Tillett, 2003) of the work. Selecting a different cover on the popular covers’ section and selecting information will confirm what format and ISBN that new cover may have. Switching to that edition is a matter of pressing the “choose this cover button” (The House, n.d.).

Main page for The House of Impossible Beauties on LibraryThing

LibraryThing has more of a concept for Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) (Tillett, 2003) in that it differentiates between the item (in LibraryThing’s system the Book) and the work. In the work portion of the LibraryThing entry, you are given more generalized, catalog centric information. The title, amount of members shelving the text, number of ISBNs associated with the text, the text’s popularity amongst other LibraryThing users, DDC/MDS (Melvil Decimal System) number, and the original language of the text. Here, one can also find the Library of Congress classification and the Library of Congress Subject Heading.

Work details page of The House of Impossible Beauties on LibraryThing

The Book entry in The House of Impossible Beauties is intended to represent the user’s actual book. There are fields for more expect book data points like title, author, rating, media, publication date, publication, and ISBN. Some attributes, like the physical description field and item comments, allow the user to personalize the book entry. The physical description on GoodReads is limited to the information entered on the original manifestation entry into GoodReads. The LibraryThing book-entry also includes a date acquired field, which GoodReads neglects to do.

Book details of The House of Impossible Beauties when in user edit mode.

The Book entry in The House of Impossible Beauties is intended to represent the user’s actual book. There are fields for more expect book data points like title, author, rating, media, publication date, publication, and ISBN. Some attributes, like the physical description field and item comments, allow the user to personalize the book entry. The physical description on GoodReads is limited to the information entered on the original manifestation entry into GoodReads. The LibraryThing book-entry also includes a date acquired field, which GoodReads neglects to do.

Conversations page of The House of Impossible Beauties.

The clear separation between the work and the item leads one to think that LibraryThing has more of a database step up. Every user (entity) has a relationship (has shelved) an item (book) that was created by the author (another entity) (Harrington, 2009). The author’s relationship to the item is that of creating it. The different users on the LibraryThing website can have book-specific conversations with one another, which creates another relationship between the users and the book.

LibraryThing allows users to contribute tags to publications. These tags, if utilized by enough users, feed into the main page. Any given entity’s (user’s) tags go into their TagClouds. Other users are able to see what tags folks have used for their books in the Tag Mirror.

Overall, LibraryThing is a useful interface for cataloging one’s shelves. It has many capabilities for those with small libraries, including a TinyCat OCLC, for those who may want to start micro-community libraries or have an OCLC for their own shelves. The website itself is less user-friendly than GoodReads and has less easily found social networking functions, but it’s statistics and organization features are far superior.

References

Harrington, Jan L.(2016). Relational database design and implementation clearly explained (Fourth Edition) Amsterdam; Morgan Kaufmann/Elsevier.

Favorites of 2018. (2019). In GoodReads. Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/5883786-sarah?shelf=favorites-of-2018

Tillett, B. (2003). What is FRBR? A conceptual model for the bibliographic universe. Retrieved from: http://www.loc.gov/cds/downloads/FRBR.PDF.

TinyCat. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.librarycat.org/

The House of Impossible Beauties. (2019). In LibraryThing. Retrieved from: https://www.librarything.com/work/20935787/book/174987095