Rebooting ZLOD Project


September 11th, 2022 | Topic: Librarianship, Metadata, Uncategorized, Zen | Author: | no responses |


The ZLOD (Zen Lineage/Linked Open Data) project is something I first began as a final project in a linked data course I took during grad school. It is something I wanted to finish, and keep revisiting, but find that it might make more sense to do a full reboot.

My desire initially was to solely run SPARQL queries against Wikidata. There is a lot of great information there, but cleaning the data for my needs is not working out as I had hoped. What I am going to do now is restart from scratch, and hand build a test lineage chart in JSON-LD. This will help me determine what the application profile needs (i.e., will schema.org be enough or will I need more). It will also give me an opportunity to experiment visualizing solid data in the form that I will need.

I will try to keep posting updates here as I make progress with the project. Sketched out, it so far looks like Schema.org can handle all of my needs:

…and where it makes sense to, I can then link to Wikidata URIs from objects in the triples, such as Person (subject) -> affiliation (predicate) -> soto zen (object) then soto zen (subject) -> URL (predicate) -> Wikidata URI (object)

Mission MLIS Complete


August 28th, 2022 | Topic: Uncategorized | Author: | no responses |


Graduation Photo - Kent State University, August 20, 2022
Graduation Photo – Kent State University, August 20, 2022

It was an intense couple of years, but I made it. Before applying for my MLIS, I spent time investigating impressions about similar programs from various colleagues, acquaintances, blogs… even Reddit on occasion. My determination was that I should jump in and do this now, rather than regret it later in life. I look back, and can say without a doubt that it was the right decision.

Library and Information Science, I would quickly learn, encompasses so much more than I ever dreamed. It is a massive discipline, moving from its common association with Libraries, Archives, and Museums (LAMs) to more uncommon fields such as corporate information management, government archives, hospitals, instruction, and zoos. The expansiveness of the information landscape means there is a large mass of broad reaching theory to pour over. It was a lot to take in, but it was an important foundation and definitely changed my way of thinking.

As I progressed through the core course of the MLIS program at Kent State University, I had to make some decisions about what direction I was going to take my studies. I happened across a course, which I briefly blogged about, that piqued my interest in information organization, metadata, and linked data. I was unsure that it could be a professional direction for me, but I find I deeply enjoy the field.

I decided that even if it wasn’t something I would do professionally, metadata could still be something I worked with on the side. With that mindset, I went ahead and took more metadata and linked data classes, a decision I do not regret one bit.

I began a project in my Linked Data course (see zenlibrary.org/visualization) that I am going to continue working on. It was ambitious but met the assignment requirements by way of its design. I pushed it as far as I could, but it contains loads of bumps that need smoothed out. I would also like to expand upon it by adding a user interface to modify and filter the RDF data, perhaps even run live SPARQL queries constructed by web form POST input. I will continue to blog about this as I have significant updates.

I am glad to have completed my MLIS. The main impression I can share is that you get out what you put in. Stretch the papers, go outside the recommended readings, and find ways that the assignments fit into real world applications you are interested in. Once I was doing this, I saw the true value in the program.

MLIS: Entering my final semester


June 9th, 2022 | Topic: Librarianship, MLIS | Author: | no responses |


Today is the official start to my final semester in the MLIS program at Kent State University. It has been a challenging balancing act alongside my day job, side jobs, and general life stuff, but a great experience all the same.

The one thing I will say about this particular program — you 100% get out of it what you put into it. I learned so much! Fell in love with metadata, got to see the real value of linked data, and learned very quickly just how challenging cataloging really can be.

I am taking three classes as I button up my degree: Copyright, Information Policy, and a course framed to help develop portfolios and prepare students for entering the LAM field as a professional.

Part of my portfolio course will involve creating an online portal of sorts for it. I will be using my personal domain name that I have squatted on for many years: ryanspellman.com Once it is up and ready I will be sure to post about it here and get them both linked together.

Here we go! In less than three months this journey will commence… and who knows what will come next?

Katagiri’s ‘Each Moment is the Universe’


December 27th, 2021 | Topic: Zen | Author: | no responses |


Book cover image of Each Moment is the Universe by Katagiri.

Each Moment is the Universe is by far among my top-ten favorite zen books. It is a collection of teachings that are shaped by Dogen’s concept of uji (u-ji), which is typically translated as being-time. This is more of a recommendation rather than a discussion of the book’s subject matter — if interested, there is an excellent introduction to being-time from Lion’s Roar available here: Notes on Dogen’s Being-Time by Shoshu Roberts.

One of the things I deeply appreciate about this book is how digestible it is. A chapter can be finished in one sitting and still leave the reader time for reflection. Katagiri manages to use Dogen’s concept of being-time in ways that gave me much to think about concerning both zazen and everyday life.

As digestible as it is, it is also a book that warrants rereading. I look forward to pouring over this text again. If you have an interest in zen literature or the practice of zazen meditation, I highly recommend checking this one out.

You can find a good synopsis from the publisher at this page.

Fight the system!(?): Inclusivity, discoverability, and straying from authorities in the library catalog


December 16th, 2021 | Topic: Librarianship, Metadata | Author: | no responses |


Libraries are more complex than many realize. This is why discussions about inclusivity, discoverability, and critical librarianship are so important for the realm of the library catalog. Rather than build upon the backbone of antiquated systems already in place, we need to move toward a more agile system. Our resource description methodologies and tools must be able to respond more efficiently with social change that they are in the current state of things.

User experience

Let’s focus on a library catalog’s user experience impact in two primary areas: discoverability and inclusivity (both of which overlap in many ways).

Whether from aging authority files, the accumulation of poor and/or inconsistent key terms, or incomplete records, the negative impact on discoverability rises as metadata quality declines. Ross mentions that a list of 180 “outdated and offensive” terms has been compiled through the African American Subject Funnel Project in an effort to improve inclusivity in the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) (American Libraries, 2021). That is a long list that would not only improve inclusivity, but also impact discoverability. Inclusive language ensures the catalog accurately and fairly represents the diversity of a library’s user base without “othering” them in ways that would exclude or discourage them from library services. Additionally, proper term use is crucial for discoverability, and changes to make language more inclusive will modernize vocabulary in ways that will improve discoverability.  

Description of resources

Hobart shares how Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings lacks terms that would make it discoverable via a library catalog when searching for race or racism; the topic has to be inferred from the description, which such a catalog search cannot generally do (American Libraries, 2021). The description of resources does more than just explain what the information object is once discovered — it ensures that it can be found based on need.

Authority control & access points

So why not just fix it and be done with it? Well, with this talk of updating catalogs, it is important to recognize that authority files can tie the cataloger’s hands in ways that stunt both discoverability and inclusivity. Yet, authority files are very important for access points. The general effectiveness of a catalog’s search capabilities depends on them. 

A classic example of the importance of authority control is how a user can search for either George Sand or the author’s real name of Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin and still find works by the author — which is possible in catalogs that follow authority files, such as the Library of Congress Name Authority File (Library of Congress, 2005). Granted, names are quite straightforward when it comes to access points. The trouble creeps in when we start looking at authority control that requires interpretation, such as subject headings. 

Deviation from authority control can have a big impact, especially when catalogs are using authority control that has been in use since the 19th century such as LCSH, which is interconnected in ways that make changes quite laborious (American Libraries, 2021). 

One commonly cited issue and ‘resolution’ is the change of LCSH Illegal Aliens to Noncitizens / Undocumented Immigration. This change to the authority file took over two years, after being first denied, and LC still did not accept the proposal of Undocumented Immigrants that ALA’s governing body was urging for (Freedman, 2016). It is still a good change, but makes LCSH feel sluggish and inflexible. 

Question

My question then becomes: Should catalogers continue to strictly adhere to LCSH even though change has been very slow to take root? 

Granted, this is not an all or nothing question. Consider high-level contributors to WorldCat such as Jenna Freedman who has over 4,000 zine entries that might be copy cataloged by others (2016, Freedman). Her approach is to use MARC 653 fields to incorporate custom, uncontrolled index terms. Otherwise, LCSH will not cover the topic of her zines well enough. The negative to this? As she points out, if LCSH is updated it will be updated on her zines by others through typical workflows. Her 653 entries will be there forever unless manually discovered and fixed. It is likely that such considerations are why authorities such as OCLC instruct catalogers to prefer the use of subject headings from established subject schemes (OCLC, 2020).  

In another example, the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library Statement on Cataloging acknowledges that long-standing professional biases and issues stemming from national and internationally standardized metadata exist, and that they seek suggestions and will fix problems (Schneider et al., 2020). This method of crowdsourcing fixes for inclusive language issues and other errors, while making a concerted effort internally, could be quite effective. Does deviating from LCSH cause more harm than good? 

A non-answer

In my opinion, it is time to seriously think about moving toward a new way of doing things. In one example, advances toward a new system such as BIBFRAME could remove the onerous authority file change / MARC record update that make some hesitant to update terms. BIBFRAME’s use of unique identifiers that will never change, even if the subject heading, etc. that it relates to does, can make for a nimble cataloging system (Librarianship Studies & Information Technology, 2021). Removing the MARC update cascade effect that results from authority control changes is long overdue. Not saying that this is the only thing that makes changes to authority files so sluggish, but I think it could help.

I see this as an important step for the future of libraries. Perhaps not “the answer,” but certainly a step in the right direction.

References

American Libraries. (2021, November 1). Decolonizing the catalog: RUSA webinar explores avenues for antiracist description. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2021/11/01/decolonizing-the-catalog/

Freedman, J. (2016, March 27). Can I quit you, LC? Lower east side librarian. https://lowereastsidelibrarian.info/lcsh/quityou

Librarianship Studies & Information Technology. (2021, April 23). BIBFRAME (bibliographic framework). https://www.librarianshipstudies.com/2017/12/bibframe.html

Library of Congress. (2005, October 28). What is a MARC record, and why is it important? https://www.loc.gov/marc/uma/pt1-7.html#pt5

OCLC. (2020, August 29). 6xx fields. OCLC Support and Training. https://www.oclc.org/bibformats/en/6xx.html   

Schneider, N. M., Fenning Marschall, R., Sanchez-Nunez, A., & Riley, M. (2020, June 1). William Andrews Clark Memorial Library statement on cataloging. UCLA William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. https://clarklibrary.ucla.edu/research/statementoncataloging/ 

Fact Sheet: Dublin Core Metadata Initiative


November 28th, 2021 | Topic: Librarianship, Metadata | Author: | no responses |


This is a fact sheet that explores the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI). DCMI’s work is in wide use on a global scale. It is simple to employ and easy to interpret, yet flexible and fully capable of becoming part of metadata application profiles that meet a wide range of use cases.

Budding Metadata Interest


November 13th, 2021 | Topic: Librarianship, MLIS | Author: | one response |


I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my first full-on metadata course has really piqued my interest. The focuse has been on developing a basic understanding of various core schemas (such as DCMI and VRA Core 4.0) and how to develop schemas and application profiles to address specific needs. It has been deeply fascinating to see how it all works behind the scenes. It is powerful, yet unseen stuff!

Part of the class has involved making “fact sheets” for various popular schemas. I plan to share those over the course of the next month or so. I am not sure that it could be a viable professional direction for me. Regardless of that, I have plans to keep learning and working with it. All sorts of interesting projects have come to mind!

Ango


September 9th, 2021 | Topic: Zen | Author: | no responses |


In brief, Ango is a three-month period of intensified zen practice that began in Japan. It would sometimes be observed twice a year, fall to winter and spring to summer. Treeleaf annually observes a 90-day Ango from fall to winter, roughly September to December. This is my second Ango with them and I find it to be a lovely practice. In essence, everyone commits to intensifying their practice individually, and then we all support each other along the way.

Some examples might include longer daily meditation periods, donating to charity, letting go of a certain attachment, participating with sangha activities such as the annual precepts study, zazenkais, and so on.

This can be challenging for me, especially while in grad school! In fact, I had reservations at first… how am I going to fit this all in? Do I really have time for these commitments? These questions and reservations melted away as I actually began Ango this month. I find I am grateful for it once I do it. It gives me reason to pause and pull myself out of the rush I all too often get swept into. It opens doors for me to get to know the sangha better. Overall, it reminds me the importance of observing our practice that is beneficial in so many ways.

MLIS midpoint: One year down, one to go!


August 20th, 2021 | Topic: Librarianship, MLIS | Author: | no responses |


Here I am, soon to enter my fourth semester in Kent State’s MLIS program. If all goes as planned, this is my half-way point to finishing my degree.

It has been excellent so far, and I am looking forward to what is to come. I have to admit that working 40 hours a week at a library and doing 2-3 graduate level courses about library-related work can push me to the edge of burnout on occasion, but in the end I feel I am in the right place.

I took three classes over summer session: one on data fundamentals, one about internet technologies in which I got to work with some new web development concepts (to my pleasant surprise!), and a survey-type course on information institutions and professions (the last of my MLIS required core courses).

I picked up a lot from all of these courses. In particular, my favorite was learning how to work with RESTful APIs on a basic level and incorporate JSON into dynamic web builds. I have a lot of background in web design, and a little in web development, so I wasn’t sure if I would pick up anything new. However, the course was excellent. It has even given me an idea for a new web project I would like to work on when I have time. I might share more on that soon.

Moving forward I plan to dive deeper into metadata, information organization, and hopefully take a special topics class on linked data if Kent offers it this coming spring semester.

Anyway, I think of this blog often and always look forward to tossing an update in when I can. Both work and my studies have been quite hectic lately!

Strategic Planning


June 2nd, 2021 | Topic: Librarianship | Author: | no responses |


From approximately April through December of 2020, I had the pleasure of serving as co-chair for my library’s Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee. It was an amazing experience. A lot of work and exhausting at times, yet energizing in so many ways. Our sub committees consisted of one that focused on stakeholder research, one on environmental scanning, and a third that was tasked with using data unearthed by the other two committees to collaboratively write a draft of the strategic plan with library staff.

This was an entirely staff-led process. For me, the energizing aspect of this approach came from the genuine passion that everyone brought to the table. The care and hard work everyone put into the process was inspiring! The end product feels authentic, and I am confident it will provide real guidance over the next three years.

My co-chair and I learned so much during the process, and are excited to have opportunities to share share and discuss with others that might be considering a similar endeavor. You can read a news article about the strategic plan here University Libraries Announces Strategic Plan. The public facing page that contains the strategic plan is available here University Libraries Strategic Plan 2021-2023.

So far we have shared a poster presentation at ACRL 2021 (see below). We also have some other plans to expand upon our knowledge from the process and engage with others in the broader library community — but more on that later!