A Mid-Semester Retrospective

It’s been a little over two months since I started my MLIS degree at the iSchool, and I have more questions than ever. In spite of feeling full of questions, I have discovered an avenue of librarianship that intrigues me. During week 2, I was introduced to Briet’s perspective, where documents include the unexpected, such as live animals being observed by humans. To Briet, anything that documents humanity, whether it be in a traditional paper/stone format or not, is considered a document (Buckland, 1997). By extending the definition of what a document is, of what information is, also impacts users and access. It impacts users as the massive influx in information may cause users to feel overwhelmed and become unable to filter through all the information thrown their way. Information overload negatively impacts information literacy and users’ ability to absorb information (Bawden, 2009). Why am I mentioning this since I didn’t write about it in any of my learning journals? Well, understanding what impacts patrons’ ability to access and absorb information ties well into the overall themes that I have been exploring. Those themes are accessibility (through discoverability of resources and through accessing titles for folks from minority groups) and the sustainability of digital texts. Sustainability of digital texts ties into access because if the information stored in a digital format is as vulnerable to disappearing as those explored in class (Barone, 2009), then that information is at risk of not being accessible to the users of the future.

My first learning journal looked at the availability of Latinx texts (pulled from BookieCharm’s 2019 Latinx recommendation list) across two library platforms: hoopla digital and overdrive. I first considered the discoverability after reading Spencer’s (2019) “Creating a Culture of Use”. Generally, I like to explore concepts by applying them to projects. An aspect that I hadn’t examined in my learning journal, which could be a way of measuring use, is to look at the amount of holds/wait period. I also didn’t realize that, when I was trying to look at the steps that my local library had taken to inform users of the library’s electronic features, I was looking at a LibGuide.

I explored measures being taken to steward (Sheffield, 2016) and preserve digital information (Houghton, 2016) in my second learning journal. I also began questioning what measures were being taken to decide what was worth persevering and what was not worth persevering. How much time is being taken to consider each piece of information (Teper, 2014), and perhaps more importantly, who is making those decisions? What is their frame of reference for making decisions on what to digitize? How do they decide what items to digitize when weeding to reduce their physical collection to allow for more community spaces (Barbakoff, 2017)? Could there be a push for workshops and further daily self-education to help us as librarians to identify our biases for better stewardship of the information we have access to and to better propagate that material, when appropriate?

The impact of bias on information access and retrieval is a topic that has concerned and continues to concern me. Before starting graduate school, I believed that social media could be a way for libraries could better connect with the communities that they serve and better understand what our communities want and need. I also viewed social media space as a place to make users aware of library services that they might not initially expect. When week 6 began discussing metadata, I became very interested in explorations of tagging. At first, I wasn’t sure if tagging would be included under the umbrella of metadata. Pomerantz (2015) article helped me understand how all-surround and impactful metadata is our everyday lives, but Elings (2007) showed me how metadata doesn’t always take the same format depending on the type of institution. While this may seem like something intuitive, it wasn’t for me. I’m still wrapping my mind around the concept of metadata, and this curiosity is what has driven me to focus two learning journals (3 & 4) around it.

The impact of bias on information access and retrieval is a topic that has concerned and continues to concern me. Before starting graduate school, I believed that social media could be a way for libraries could better connect with the communities that they serve and better understand what our communities want and need. I also viewed social media space as a place to make users aware of library services that they might not initially expect. When week 6 began discussing metadata, I became very interested in explorations of tagging. At first, I wasn’t sure if tagging would be included under the umbrella of metadata. Pomerantz (2015) article helped me understand how all-surround and impactful metadata is our everyday lives, but Elings (2007) showed me how metadata doesn’t always take the same format depending on the type of institution. While this may seem like something intuitive, it wasn’t for me. I’m still wrapping my mind around the concept of metadata, and this curiosity is what has driven me to focus two learning journals (3 & 4) around it.

Both of these journals centered around the idea that user-generated tags, could potentially address where the traditionally controlled vocabulary has some inherent biases and gaps in access points. Some of these biases were discussed in week 8’s reading. Adler’s (2017) article examined the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSHs) being born out of the 19th century, where discussion of eugenics and sterilization of disabled folks were commonplace. Howard’s (2018) article pointed out the racist placement of LCSHs and the limited amount of subject headings concerning African Americans. Howard (2018) also examined the limited amount of LCSHs concerning LGBTQ+ texts.

In journal 3, I sought to understand better there was research on user-tags compared to a more traditional controlled vocabulary. I was able to locate an article that compared LCSHs to LibraryThing user tags (DeZelar-Tiedman, 2011). Both DeZelar-Tiedman and Rafferty (2018), point out that the greater the number of user-generated tags, the more reliable the tags. Gross (2016) pointed out the many flaws of eliminating controlled vocabluary and stated that user-generated tags have many redundancies (personal tags, spelling errors). Having read the Gross (2016) and Hedden, I wanted to take a closer look at user-generated tags. Having seen book-related tags on Instagram and different “shelf” tags on GoodReads, I decided to compare them to the LCSHs. For one reason or the other, hands-on activities like the GoodReads to Instagram to LCSHs comparison of Pet by Akwaeke Emezi and Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds help me absorb information.

Moving forward, I’d like to look at more examples of metadata in action. I’m finding myself gravitating more and more toward information organization and cataloging. I want to understand the pre-existing framework that has been used to organize information. I also want to learn about alternative systems of organizations, like Mukurtu CMS (Christen, 2017). Understanding metadata is crucial as our daily lives become increasingly digital and as the information we receive becomes increasingly filtered depending on how we query the system and based on our pre-existing preferences and biases, however unacknowledged.

References

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

Barone, F.; Zeitlyn, D.; Majer-Schönberger, V. (2015). Learning from failure: The case of the disappearing website. First Monday 20(5). Retrieved from: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5852/4456

Bawden, D.; Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: Overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. Journal of Information Science 35(2): 180-191. 

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

Charm, B. (2019, August 25). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oS3rSAM9_M

Christen, K. (2017, July 13). We have never been neutral: Search, discovery, and the politics of access. OCLC Distinguished Seminar Series. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/rMd6-IS3cmU

Connaway, L. S.; Powell, R. R. (2010). Chapter 3. Selecting the research method. In Basic Research Methods for Librarians. 5th ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 71-106. 

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

Elings, M. W.; Waibel, G. (2007). Metadata for all: Descriptive standards and metadata sharing across libraries, archives, and museums. First Monday 12(3). Retrieved from: http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1628/1543

Emezi, A. (2019). Pet (First ed.). New York: Make Me a World.

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.

Hedden, H. (2016). Chapter 1. What are taxonomies? The Accidental Taxonomist. 2nd ed. Medford, NJ: Information Today, 16-32.

Houghton, B. (2016). Preservation challenges in the digital age. D-Lib Magazine 22(7/8). Retrieved from: http://www.dlib.org/dlib/july16/houghton/07houghton.html

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. 

Pomerantz, J. (2015). Chapter 1. Introduction. In: Metadata. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1-18. 

Rafferty, P. (2018). Tagging. Knowledge Organization 45(6): 500-516. 

Reynolds, J., Nabaum, A., & Reynolds, J. (2019). Look both ways : A tale told in ten blocks (First ed.). New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Sheffield, R. T. (2016). More than acid-free folders: extending the concept of preservation to include the stewardship of unexplored histories. Library Trends 64(3): 572-584. 

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

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://www.library.illinois.edu.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/proxy/go.php?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edswss&AN=000346756100002&site=eds-live&scope=site 

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