Monthly Archives: January 2007

NLM backs down on subheadings

This tech bulletin came out yesterday. Sometime last year there had been a move on NLM’s part to pare down the subheadings in the MeSH vocabulary. Their self-stated goal was “to make the use of qualifiers easier for the searching public,” who use PubMed. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time and it still doesn’t. They’ve backed down on this so it’s a moot point.

However, my educated guess is that the searching public wouldn’t know a MeSH term much less a subheading if it walked up and punched them in their collective faces.

Librarians and the people they train or instruct search with the MeSH. I would bet money that most non-medical users are doing keyword searches like they do in Google. The proposed list of changes would have made our jobs harder and I don’t think they would have helped the public much. Glad to see sanity has prevailed.

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What would you like on your tombstone?

I like to walk around old graveyards. I know some people find that morbid; my late father refused to set foot in a cemetery unless someone was being buried, but I like the sense of history–usually personal history–you get. For years I’ve wondered about the symbols that are present on tombstones. Some of them, like celtic knots, I knew about, others like the draped urn were a mystery. I’ve looked for books and such, but have never had much luck.

Actually when I think back on it, my search for this information was one of those screaming signs that I was meant to be a librarian. I scoured the catalog using subject headings and related terms. I browsed various sections of the collection based on call numbers. I looked through back of the book indices. All to no avail. At some point, it became more about the hunt than the end result. Anyhow…

Then recently I came across this blog, appropriately titled Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols. Inspired, I did a little more digging (pardon the pun) and found some more sites, including this one and this one and this one.

Cataloging really can be fun!

I’ve been really interested in BlogShares for the past couple of months. (Okay, obsessed, but I think this is the kind of thing librarians need to be paying attention to).

For the uninitiated, BlogShares is an online fantasy game which mimics the stock market. The stocks are based, not on companies, but on blogs. You start out with $500 in B$ currency and see how well you can do. The game can be played for free, but you are only allowed a limited number of transactions. Premium members who pay a nominal fee per year, have no such limits. Essentially, the blogs’ worth are based on how many incoming links they have, but buying and selling can result in higher or lower prices.

The truly fascinating part of the game for me, with very real library implications, has to do with the directory that they have created. The rules of the game define what makes an active blog. Players can gain and chips for correctly reporting errors for inactive blogs, spam blogs, non-blogs, etc. They can also gain chips and karma for correctly voting blogs into industries. Players with a certain level of karma, and presumably more experience/accurate votes, then moderate the initial votes before the blog is finally assigned to those categories. Moderators who are too quick or players who make consistently incorrect votes are often reported so the controls are pretty good.

So let’s say, someone looks at my blog. Demographically, by clicking on my profile, they could immediately vote for Americas, USA, New York, Buffalo, female. As I have only posted in one language, they could vote for English. If time goes by and I start posting exclusively in French (unlikely to happen), someone could come along and vote against English and pick French. Reading the content, they might then look at the industry organization and determine that the blog covers primarily libraries, and specifically university libraries. Arguably the case could be made that it also concerns a lot about education and what they term special interest libraries. Or not. (Players do get docked for incorrectly voting so they may leave the more complicated content categories to others. There is also strategic voting and how it relates to rare ideas, but that’s another post).

There’s a search interface, which admittedly could be better, as could the directory they’ve established. However, as this is meant to be a game, that’s understandable. I could, however, go out there, and search for blogs from Buffalo and get a decent enough list.

It’s not really tagging. The categories are not arbitrary. I don’t think they think in these terms, but the creators of the game have set up their own folk taxonomy. New industries come along, old ones are reorganized, it all works out in a fairly organized fashion and it’s fascinating to watch. Players are acting a lot like catalogers and they’re paying for the privilege.

I’m not suggesting that we fire all the catalogers and charge patrons to reorganize our monographs. Certainly this is nothing to fear. Just as Yahoo! Answers or Google Answers were never any threat to reference librarians. I’ve been a librarian long enough to remember the lectures on how the World Wide Web was some vast uncharted ocean that would be impossible to ever organize. Well, here are users–untrained, non-MLS-possessing users–organizing blogs. For fun.

Something to think about.

And now back to the depths of evidence based practice, from which I may never emerge…

Why don’t they want me?

Finding a library gig (especially an academic post) is neither a quick nor easy process. There is a lot of work that goes into the preparation. The resume and cover letter that works in the business world is totally unsuited to academia, so those need to be reworked. Going through postings and researching potential employers takes time as well. Cover letters have to be specific to the position. You need to line up references. Then should you be lucky enough to get as far as interviewing (phone and/or in person), there are a whole host of other things that need to be accomplished. All of this does not take place in a vacuum. Usually you’re finishing up library school, possibly working other jobs, and/or dealing with family.

And then what?

Well, I’m guessing most applicants either experience one or more of the following at least once:

  1. A rejection letter before you get to the phone interview stage
  2. You never hear from the potential employer–this happens an awful lot and there is no reason why it should. Applicants deserve the courtesy of a reply, even if it’s a canned letter.
  3. A rejection after you get to the phone interview stage
  4. A rejection after you get to the in-person interview stage

Often you just don’t know why they rejected you. You’re told over and over again by people in library school not to take it personally, but that’s a really hard thing not to do. The truth is that a lot of the times it’s not really you or anything you did.

Which is why I really loved this post from the Wandering Librarian.

Also, there’s a great thread on the NMRT-L listserv right now about rejection in the job process.
You don’t have to be a member of ALA to join.

Addicted to FN?

I’ve been taking a self-imposed break from the Food Network for awhile there. The other day I got home early and I thought, hey, let’s give it a try again. There was Sandra Lee, who post-divorce, appears to have had considerable (if inept) work done talking about making chantilly cream. She used vanilla pudding and cool whip. To top it off she was using canned (yes, canned) pears. Why? I have no idea.

I wasn’t familiar with chantilly cream until I looked it up. Turns out that’s what I’ve been making (from scratch) for years now.

The dessert concept wasn’t bad–perfectly ripe pears are insanely good, but why anyone would mess around with canned pears and thawing cool whip, when they could spend a couple of minutes peeling fresh pears and 10 minutes making whipped cream with a little vanilla and sugar is totally beyond me.

Time to back away from the FN again…

Is there a doctor in the house?

Interesting article about physical therapists in California who possess a DPT degree now being able to use “Doctor” as a title.

In other news, UK PubMed Central is now up and available.

On a roll

Saw The Holiday while I was on vacation. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet are leading lives of romantic desperation in LA and England respectively. They meet on a Home Exchange site and decide to swap houses for their Christmas vacations. It was a cute movie, but nothing special. I must admit I really did enjoy Winslet’s scenes with Eli Wallach. Wallach plays a Billy Wilder-like elderly screenwriter who she befriends.

Also got to see a play in New York. It was…wait for it…Evil Dead: The Musical. Great fun, lots of good songs, a leading man who really does look like Bruce Campbell, and loads of fake blood (they even have several rows designated as the “splatter zone”).