Abigail M. Wickes

December 6th, 2012

Moving to WordPress

Posted by awickes in Uncategorized    

Slightly misleading title, since I am actually staying in WordPress but moving away from my school’s WordPress since I graduated in May. :)

You can now read everything from the past and everything in the future here: http://abigailmwickes.wordpress.com

April 6th, 2012

Charles Schulz Museum Library… aka another dream job

Posted by awickes in Dream Jobs, Metadata    

There is a Charles Schulz Museum in California, and THEY HAVE A LIBRARY!

Snoopy Reading, Courtesy of http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/images/SnoopyReading.gif

Let’s think about what a particularly dreamy dream job this would be… I’ve been really interested in the concept of creating metadata for mixed text/graphic material for a while (ever since I learned about the existence of CBML–COMIC BOOK MARKUP LANGUAGE!)

March 22nd, 2012

Another Readers Advisory

Posted by awickes in Readers Advisory    

These readers advisories are from another class assignment we had to do in Collection Development, and my cool group chose to develop a collection of travel DVDs for a hypothetical public library in a small town with an active foreign exchange student program. It was nice, because I got to write-up Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, which is my favorite show ever that is not The Golden Girls, anything Jim Henson, MST3K, or originally aired on BBC. (That sentence originally just read “…originally aired on BBC” but then I thought of like a million of my favorite shows. It is wishful thinking because I have been writing my ding dang masters paper for so long that I haven’t gotten to hang out and watch TV and do craft projects in like foreverrrrr, wahhhhhh.)

Globe Trekker – Middle East (2003)

This two-disc set from the travel company responsible for Lonely Planet travel guides provides a great survey of Middle Eastern geography and culture. Several hosts travel through Jordan, Beirut, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, Dubai, Oman, Israel, and the Sinai, all the while letting viewers in on the local customs, cuisine, entertainment, transportation, and other cultural signifiers they encounter. Globe Trekker episodes have a more intimate feel than many travel series; professional footage is mixed with hand-held clips, and the guides are often talking over their shoulder or shot from eye-level, making it feel as though you are lucky enough to be their travelling companion, rather than a viewer at home. A selection that highlights the beauty in the culture and scenery of Middle Eastern countries seemed particularly important in today’s political climate, so we were happy to find a resource which depicts the beautiful parts of the Middle East without glossing over aspects of the turbulent reality, such as battle torn Kuwait. This set is available for about thirty dollars, and Globe Trekker provides great complimentary content –such as guides to lodging and cuisine–on their website.

Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations (1995-2010)

Although our collection will primarily focus on world travel, it seemed pertinent to include a selection that provides a unique look at the United States. Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations was a program that aired on PBS from 1995 through 2010; the hosts traveled across America, visiting 39 states, in the name of viewing “outsider art” or “folk art”. This is art created because an individual felt the drive to create, (for example, a landscape of concrete dinosaurs in the backyard) in spite of a lack of formal or traditional training. Often overlooked, outsider art can provide a unique glimpse into pockets of distinctly local, charming, and often strange American culture, and the show does an excellent job of exploring these uncharted waters while maintaining an informed, yet humorous and off-the-cuff tone. We considered obtaining a DVD entitled Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations – Eastern Weaseling, because several episodes are devoted to outsider art in North Carolina. DVDs are available through the program’s website (http://www.rarevisionsroadtrip.com/) and at the low cost of $19.95 it was very tempting. However, this DVD has been tabled for the time being. The program’s niche appeal is both a strength and a weakness, and we elected to choose a DVD with broader appeal and geographic range to represent North America. In the meantime, we will recommend patrons take advantage of the opportunity to stream episodes for free via the Kansas City Public Television website.

The National Parks – America’s Best Idea (2009)

Emmy award-winning Ken Burns’ 2009 The National Parks is a six-disc set that tours America’s national parks and brings viewers into their stunningly beautiful scenery, while telling the story of the history of the parks’ inception, creation, the work that goes into maintaining their pristine beauty, and the environmental and cultural preservation they represent. Burns’ signature style mixes historical photographs with beautiful contemporary footage to weave a compellingly told and illustrated narrative across the coastal United States and into Alaska and Hawaii. This set is a good fit for the collection, since it covers a lot of North American geography, it is the work of a renowned director with excellent reviews, it is aesthetically and educationally robust, and it is affordably priced online at less than sixty dollars, bringing costs down to less than ten dollars per disc. Breaking up the set so patrons can borrow the discs individually will broaden the circulation options, and we will also let patrons know that portions of the series may be viewed for free online via the PBS website.

Globe Trekker – Ultimate Australia (2011)

This two-disc Globe Trekker title is an update to 2004’s Globe Trekker – Australia. This DVD set repurposes footage from a previous trip down under while adding new sights and scenes, including the famous “big red rock” Uluru, traditional Aboriginal rituals, historical Port Alfred Prison, and wildlife all over the island and its coasts. Contemporary city life is also visited, via a rousing bachelorette (or “hen”) party and the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney. As always, Globe Trekker provides an excellent range of topics and locations while making the viewer feel as if he or she is right on sight with the host, and maintaining tone and content that is relevant to viewers of all ages. At about thirty dollars for two discs, this set is also within the price range of our collection budget. Complementary content is also available through the Globe Trekker website.

…price, relevancy, and covering all of the globe were our main considerations. (The portions above only represent my contributions to the project.) What’s that you say? You *declined* to purchase your FAVORITE show for the library’s collection? Yes, yes I did, for the purposes of this project I’m sorry to say I did. Partly, this is because we had to decide on two resources (out of a list of twelve total) that didn’t make the cut. This was the most difficult part of the assignment! As you can see though, we decided The National Parks was a better fit for our population for the first round of collecting. If this was a real scenario, instead of just an exercise for class, I would advocate for Rare Visions to be purchased at the next possible juncture, because it is just that awesome. You should watch an episode or two! As Lavar Burton says, you don’t have to take my word for it…

And, let’s end on this lovely note:

YouTube Preview Image

“She said can we get married at The Straaaaaaaaaaand?”

February 21st, 2012

Field Experience

Posted by awickes in Cataloging, Field Experience    

This semester I am working on a field experience doing AV cataloging at Davis Library on campus. I’ve been keeping a notebook of daily activities, but I’d like to blog a little bit about it as well–especially since it is incredibly interesting. Truly, I should have taken advantage of the option to complete two field experiences for my degree and done this a lot sooner. It’s such a good learning experience.

My typical field experience day starts with signing into OCLC Connexion and Millennium, reviewing the notes on the items I was working on during my previous shift, and then either going over records with my supervisor or working on creating new records for the ever-growing pile on my desk. I’m doing both copy and original cataloging, depending on the resource at hand. DVDs that are pretty common get copy-cataloging, which means I look for an adequate record in WorldCat (a determining factor is usually the number of Holds it has, e.g. other libraries using this particular catalog record) save it in my local save file, and then modify it by making any necessary corrections and adding fields for our local standards.

The original catalog records I’ve created have mostly been for items created by UNC (like filmed guest lectures) and more obscure items that can’t be found in WorldCat (like two awesome DVDs of turtle hatchlings, created and distributed by the Turtle Conservancy!) AACR2 dictates that information for the catalog record should ideally be taken from the opening and/or end credits, so screening bits and pieces of DVDs that require original cataloging is necessary. When it involves catching glimpses of tons of teeny tiny terrapins, it is alright with me! :D

Mostly though, it is a lot of fast-forwarding and rewinding and typing information from the screen into a text document so I can copy it into Connexion.

One of the main challenges of AV cataloging is that there are SO MANY contributors to consider. Luckily, the Online Audiovisual Catalogers (OLAC) have come up with guidelines and best practices more specific than what AACR2 prescribes. Generally the screenwriter, director, and editor are given space in the statement of contribution area, and other contributors (such as actors and actresses and musicians) are given their due in added entries.

In spite of these helpful guidelines, another challenge of AV cataloging is that even if you know who you’d like to list in a record, there is not always an easy way of obtaining the information. For example, you want to include the release date of the DVD, but that date is not always provided on the container or within the credits; sometimes the original release or broadcast date is all that is available, and sometimes the container has what seems like it could be a release date, but it could just as easily be a copyright date for the container artwork.

More to come as the semester goes on! This week I will be doing some copy cataloging for DVDs created in Spanish speaking countries, which should be pretty challenging.

February 13th, 2012

Readers’ Advisory

Posted by awickes in Readers Advisory    

We had an assignment recently in my Collection Development class that involved writing a readers’ advisory. I chose to do one on the latest Bill Bryson book, At Home – A Short History of Private Life, which I LOVED. It turns out readers’ advisories are extremely fun to write, so I thought I would post it here and maybe get in the habit of creating them as I get the chance to read recreationally (although I just got approval for my masters paper research, so spare time is not going to be abundant over the next couple of months… it is a really terrible time to be engrossed in Game of Thrones.) Anyway, here is my first stab at a readers’ advisory; please enjoy!

Best-selling author Bill Bryson delivers his masterful weaving of obscure but fascinating historical fact and wry wit yet again in his latest, At Home: A Short History of Private Life. Instead of travelling across the world, this journey takes us from the basement to the attic, with pit-stops in closets, parlors, kitchens, and bathrooms, all in the name of getting at the details of domestic human life so often overlooked or taken for granted. Why do we keep salt and pepper at the table, rather than paprika or coriander? Just how novel is the arrangement of your living room furniture? In answering these questions, Bryson is able to describe little known—and often peculiar—pivotal events and innovative individuals that most history texts pass by.

Similar to the author’s other works, the pacing is a sprightly meander peppered with delightfully arcane detail and a running narrative of the author’s own jocular commentary. Read it all in a few sittings, or come back to it chapter by chapter; jumping in at a particularly interesting term from the index or intriguingly titled chapter will prove just as enjoyable as reading cover-to-cover. The level of detail is high, but not prohibitively so, and Bryson does a great job keeping things grounded, fun to read, and makes many connections throughout the text. This book is recommended for public, private, and academic collections, for anyone who enjoys history, trivia, and collecting peculiar or esoteric facts, and for fans of Bryson’s previous works. As the author says in his introduction, “…whatever happens in the world—whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over—eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house.” Read about the objects that surround you every day, and learn some strange history along the way!

Reflection on Review Criteria

Since this is a non-fiction work by a best-selling author, it seemed prudent for the review to focus on readability in terms of pacing, narrative tone, density, and audience. Although it is non-fiction, it is not designed as a go-to reference source. A brief mention of the index and the ability of chapters to lead into one another or stand alone will suffice, with the most emphasis placed on elements of readability listed above. Focusing on the author’s tone in terms of his wry humor and delight in bringing obscure and strange historical fact to light is important information for readers deciding whether or not they will enjoy him as an author. Bryson’s presence in his own books is indelible, so describing his role and ever-present narrative voice is useful information; if you don’t like Bill Bryson’s personality, you will not like his books. The selected criteria is evaluative, and it gives the reader not only an idea of what the book’s content is like, but what it feels like to read. J.G. Saricks’ assigned chapters on creating a readers advisory proved to be especially useful when selecting criteria to focus on (citation below.)


Saricks, J. G. (2005). Articulating a book’s appeal. In Readers’ advisory services in the public library (3rd ed., pp. 40-73. Chicago: American Library Association.

January 24th, 2012

A Beautiful Cup, Customer Service, and an Update from the People’s Library

Posted by awickes in Cool Things / General Interest, Occupy Libraries    

I am home sick today, blargh! I spent the morning on the couch, knitting and watching The Adventures of Pete and Pete, but now that I am feeling a little bit better, it is time to be productive! The goal for today is to finish and submit my IRB so masters paper research can commence on schedule, draft cover letters for at least two jobs, and catch up on reading and slides that I missed by whimpering and on the couch instead of making it to class this morning.

First things first, this beautiful cup


One of my classmates just posted this on Facebook. I have long been considering getting a tattoo to commemorate either graduating with my MLS or my first library job out of school, but I hadn’t found anything suitable. The Dewey Decimal number for tea might be just the thing. Especially since I have way way way more mugs than a person could ever ever need, even if they were having the biggest tea party, and cannot justify purchasing this one. The number of mugs I have stashed around my apartment probably exceeds the legal occupancy limit. But there’s no such thing as too many tattoos!

The customer service thoughts are from a recent discussion in Archival Description about archive users. The users needs of people visiting archives are somewhat different than the user needs of library patrons. As mentioned before, libraries are cataloged on an item-by-item level, so even if the patron is overwhelmed, there is almost always some clearly marked path towards what they are looking for that a librarian can help navigate. Archive users do not always have this luxury; each item in archival collections (or fonds!) cannot be cataloged, so a finding aid is developed to provide some basic guidelines and suggestions of what the collection generally contains. This means successful archive users need either more agency, or more help from the archivist who may or may not have the time to provide assistance. I got the impression from several comments at this point in the discussion that there are archive users who need a lot of hand-holding, and that it can be a real strain. However, within a few minutes a classmate made what I think is an excellent point, that anyone who has ever held a job in retail or food services is not only familiar with but better prepared to deal with, let’s say, clingier users.

Up until recently, I was not all that thankful for the retail experience I have racked up over the years. It was honestly stressful not to have a library-related job my first year of school, and I was anxious to leave the retail world behind, although my most recent position had been a generally pleasant environment. My classmate is completely correct though; if you have good customer service training, difficult situations with customers and patrons go so. much. more. smoothly. You learn how to be patient and sympathetic (or at least how to convincingly feign sympathy) even when you want to abandon a frustrating interaction, and you learn how to graciously answer any question, or at least provide a partial answer as a stand-in while a more complete answer is retrieved.

One of the best customer service training tips I ever received was to imagine yourself in your work environment as if you were hosting a party in your home; you want people to feel comfortable and provided for without making them feel like you are a helicopter host who is overly concerned with their activity. There are certainly many ways to learn these skills, but good customer service training can come in handy no matter what environment you find yourself in. So, I am admitting, perhaps begrudgingly, that the years in retail have probably turned out to be worth all those hours on my feet, smiling permanently. It gets easier, and it is an important social skill to master.

Lastly, a mini update from the People’s Library! In order to prevent their collection from being destroyed yet again, they are going mobile and distributing their resources on carts placed throughout the city. I hope this works; it may be good for building their collection and the number of patrons, since no one will have to go down to Zucotti Park to donate/access resources, but I wonder how potential users will know where to find the book carts. Like many other people, I kind of got away from keeping up with the Occupy Librarians over Christmas. Our own Occupy movement in Chapel Hill has largely disbanded, and the news (even BoingBoing) hasn’t been covering anything Occupy as much lately. This is probably because of the election, but I really hope the Occupiers maintain their role as a whistling kettle–I think it’s made a difference, even if it is somewhat intangible. I’m also learning that the Occupy Librarians will be at ALA midwinter, which will probably be fascinating. One day I will make it to more conferences, but probably not until I have that first library job…

January 11th, 2012

Archival Description, Day 1

Posted by awickes in Cataloging, Metadata    

I’m taking Archival Description this semester, and so far it is way cool! Apart from the fact that the campus portal listed it as being in Wilson 202 when I wrote out my schedule last week… I went to Wilson Library and found out that there wasn’t a room 202, so I went to Wilson Hall and found a dark and empty room 202, at which point some nice lady let me use her computer and I found out the location was changed to Manning. In spite of these travails, I was only five minutes late.

Anyway, so far the class itself is really interesting, and I’m really enjoying coming at it from a cataloger’s perspective. I was inspired to enroll after learning a little bit about EAD last semester in Metadata, and because description theory is just interesting. One of our first readings is Margaret Nichols’ “The Cataloger and the Archivist Should Be Friends: or, Herding vs. Milking Special Collections”. The article makes a really interesting comparison of the cataloger versus the archivist perspective. Here are some points I’ve gleaned:

  • Catalogers describe individual works and distinguish among manifestations; archivists summarize the characteristics of an entire collection and do not typically describe individual items
  • Elements that describe history, provenance, and contextual aspects are required for archival description but optional for catalog records
  • Catalog records follow strict rules and therefore may be used interchangeably among most institutions; archival descriptions will not be reused, since they are for unique collections

It is already so intriguing to think about these different viewpoints, especially since it has come up in cataloging classes whether contextual information can enhance findability. That’s certainly one of the ideas central to FRBR, with collocation and the “inherent relationships” among Group 1 entities. (Again, thank you, “What is FRBR?”) I hope by the end of the semester I have a broader perspective on the benefits of different levels and points of access, and I will certainly consider principles of archival description when creating metadata.

The article also quotes Oklahoma!, which I was in, as a seventh grader. I was a townsperson, and my main memory is getting yelled at by some of the older kids for singing unrelated songs in the wings.

December 20th, 2011

John Allison loves Libraries

Posted by awickes in Cool Things / General Interest    

Somehow it has taken me years …FIVE years, of reading John Allison’s many amazing comics to find his personal blog, which is just as delightful to read. Here’s an entry/cartoon he wrote at the beginning of this year in support of libraries!http://networkedblogs.com/rNyHO 

On behalf of librarians everywhere, thanks for your support, John Allison! One thing I really like about this comic is that it charmingly evokes so many librarian stereotypes (the silence, the glasses, the Dewey Decimal System…) which I think will remain entrenched in the concept of “librarian” forever.  (A fun exercise that totally upholds this idea is to search “librarian” on Etsy.)

The Dewey Decimal System in particular seems like it will stay in the public mind for the long haul, quite possibly because it is the formative cataloging system lots of people learned in elementary school, but also because it is not an obscure acronym. (To be fair though, I can’t tell if this librarian is raging against the Bran Flakes because the metadata on the cereal box is not Dewey Decimal, or because somehow it is.)

Based on what I’ve found in various Guardian articles, it seems like public libraries in the UK are having an even worse time than libraries here. So sad, but there’s some comfort in the fact that they’re receiving support from so many authors. It may lead to good things in the long run. It’s intimidating to think about entering this field at such a mutable time, but ever optimistically I would like to think this low point is just part of a societal/cultural sine wave that will eventually have an upturn once we figure out what role libraries can best play in the new terrain. Push on, librarians!

December 20th, 2011

Two Cool Things

Posted by awickes in Cool Things / General Interest    

1.) The Soundings Project at the National Humanities Center

I had the opportunity to visit the National Humanities Center this past semester with my Special Libraries class, and the librarians there are so kind that they let a classmate and I come back for a subsequent visit that included lunch and more information about some special projects they’ve been working on. Check out the Soundings Project!

Soundings was a radio program that was on in the eighties and nineties featuring Humanities Center fellows talking (solo, and in discussion) about their fields of interest. The Humanities Center has worked with a couple of organizations to  digitize and preserve the shows, and you can listen to them for free! Nerd out on literary theory, religion, art, poetry, history… they would make excellent podcasts, which may be in the future…

Several of my classmates have volunteered creating metadata for this collection, and if I’m still in the Triangle this summer I’m very interested in donating my time to this project as well.

2.) ALA Boing Boing

ALA Marginalia and Boing Boing have announced … an ALA Boing Boing collaboration! This is just the push I need to finally join ALA (especially since I will soon no longer be a student…) I’m very excited about the prospect of this group, since Boing Boing already does such a good job promoting cool library things. For example, this library in my very own home county, has proposed a hackerspace! I really like the idea of public libraries playing a role in the maker / DIY movement. Maybe one day it will be an integral role… imagine a Scrap Exchange library-ish kind of environment… OH MAN.

December 8th, 2011

Metadata Marathon

Posted by awickes in Cataloging, Metadata    

I had the opportunity to take part in Jane Greenberg’s Metadata Marathon this afternoon, or as she preferred to call it, a Metadata Sprint. It was a really great chance to meet professional metadata enthusiasts, since many local (and not so local) library and information professionals gave interesting lightening talks. Here are highlights from several that particularly resonated with me:

Joseph Busch

Senior Principal, Information Management, Knowledge Lead for Metadata and Taxonomy Project Performance Corporation/AE Group

This lightening talk was about metadata in social media. One of the most interesting points was the idea of analyzing trends in your own social media metadata, specifically your LinkedIn profile. Trends can be the result of relocating (e.g., you will have a trend towards making connections in your new city) changing jobs, developing new interests, or reconnecting with old colleagues. Identifying these connections as a trend can help you strengthen your ties to this emerging area. It made me realize that one of my trends is the connections I’ve made working through various institutions of the Episcopal Church, and I’m thinking about joining the Church and Synagogue Library Association or the Theological Library Association (especially since they have good deals for student members…)

He also brought up a fun site called Portwiture, which takes words from your most recent tweets and gathers photos from Flickr with similar words in the metadata. I don’t really tweet enough to create my own image, but I did one here for FakeAPStylebook. You can click on the images to see the metadata they have in common.

Ryan Shaw

UNC Chapel Hill School of Information Science

As the self-professed “metadata heretic” of the group, Ryan Shaw asked us to consider whether metadata can become irrelevant if tools generating metadata can grab so much of a work. As an extreme example, he asked to consider if metadata exists that is so complete that it includes every word of a book, is it really separate metadata, or is it another iteration of that book? This is especially interesting (to about .01% of the population…) when you consider this idea with FRBR Group 1 entities; we did an exercise in Metadata class earlier this semester where we tried to think of something that you can’t apply metadata to in some way. Is there anything? Are things like tables and chairs actual things, or are they just manifestations of the work “table” that some clever IKEA employee came up with? Interesting stuff, riiiiiight? (I think so!)

Also, I pull up Barbara Tillett’s “What is FRBR?” so often that I probably need to just bookmark it to my toolbar…

Jenn Riley

Head, Carolina Digital Library and Archives (CDLA), UNC-Chapel Hill

Jenn Riley makes the point that library metadata was designed for finding physical things, but that’s not what we really need it to do anymore. Most libraries’ collections are composed of fewer and fewer things, and we can start thinking instead about how we can be using library metadata to “contribute to a global encyclopedia.” (That quote is an approximation; she said it better in real life but you can only take so many notes…) She also called for an end to copy cataloging and suggested that a better idea might be something like an all encompassing omnibus catalog that libraries share and select appropriate records from. It sounds a little bit like WorldCat and OCLC, but each institution needn’t literally copy all of the relevant information into their own catalogs/servers/so forth.

Thomas Baker

Chief Information Officer, Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI)

Thomas Baker gave the longest presentation at the very end of the Marathon, and he had a good explanation of Resource Description Framework (RDF). Library Science is full full full of acronyms, and this was one I was only kind of familiar with. Like, it’s definitely been mentioned and showed up on a few slides, but I haven’t done any in depth reading or practice with it. But, now I think I understand it better! RDF can be thought of as a grammar for languages of description, and the triples are like sentence structure (with subject, predicate, object.) The subject (x) is the unique ID assigned to the item, the object (y) is an attribute of the item (such as title or author) and the predicate (–) describes the relationship of the Object. For example, X –has the author– Y. X –has the title– Y. This is useful terminology to have at your disposal when considering the relationship of items to metadata, and Thomas Baker makes a good point that it’s a technique that could liberate siloed information and bring it into a bright, interoperable future.

Thanks for a great Marathon, everyone!

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