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Miscellaneous Metadata

Creativity under the dome

October 8th, 2013 by Sarah Theimer

Recently I have seen commercials for a TV series called “The Dome” where people appear to be trapped mysteriously under an invisible barrier. I have never watched it and aside from seeing a few birds fly into it in the promos, I have no further idea of what it is or why it is there. However once the people realize that they are under this dome I imagine they either need to figure out how to break through it, or figure out how to live under it.

I have written previously on the importance of creativity in all aspects of library work and especially in the area of Cataloging/Metadata, so I am aware that creativity does have a downside. Not all creative solutions will work. Some workplaces or units within a larger organization may have more tolerance for failure. If your work environment is especially sensitive to failure you may be facing a dome of your own.

So how can creativity thrive under the dome? You simply need to pick a project or an area where less than 100 percent success is allowable. You can think apply creativity to a meeting agenda. You could (with a cooperative group of people) have a creative meeting. Creativity is a muscle works better when used. Once we practice it in a few places we become more creative people. If we have small successes we may be able to build off of those to demonstrate the usefulness of this particular process. We will be able to live under our dome or break through it.

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Hitchhiker’s guide to the future of cataloging. Part 2. How?

January 3rd, 2013 by Sarah Theimer

The National effort to change cataloging has been a multipart affair.  It started with Resource Description and Access (RDA). RDA was written for the web environment.  It was created with input from people outside the library community.  Its name was changed from AACR3 to RDA in 2005. Dropping the word “Cataloging” in the move from the old rules to the new rules was called a step forward.   Unlike the term cataloging the words resource description are well understood by other communities that create metadata so this term will emphasize the universal nature of the descriptive principles.   The go live date for RDA is in 2013.  So obviously this part of the change has been a long drawn out process.   RDA will work with MARC, but also in the non-MARC environment.

The next step is the Bibliographic Framework Initiative, the MARC replacement.   Content agnostic, it could accept RDA, DACS, CCO or other content standards. Recently the tentative code was released for transforming MARC into the Bibliographic Framework.  This has generated responses and should.  Moving MARC records into the 21st century will be a major accomplishment, but requires a lot of work and deep thought.   Linked data can live in the Bibliographic Framework and this would allow connections impossible at this point in time.  (See Dbpedia.  Over 1 billion RDF triples.  More than 6.5 million links between Dbpedia and external data sets).

So how can we get ready for a change we know is coming but we don’t know when.  It is tempting to ignore the meteor until it gets closer to the earth.  That is not the responsible thing to do.

For the next 0-3 years:

  1. Look at the Bibliographic Framework Code and hypothetical transformations from MARC.  What would work and what would be a problem.   Keep current on the discussion and participate. Those who do not participate cannot complain about the results.
  2. Have an honest look at the current MARC data. What are the strengths and weakness of the local records?  Identify opportunities to increase current access as well as prepare for a transformation?
  3. Develop an institutional understanding of the term “quality metadata”.  Metadata comes from many streams: users, vendors, internally created.  Even internally metadata can be created by students, archivists, catalogers, interns, and others.  Metadata for various projects, created in various parts of the library with different standards quality is being compromised.
  4. Quality also requires understanding how the data is being used by the system.  Metadata experts need to have regular communication with systems staff to discuss  how data quality and search and display capabilities impact quality.
  5. Brainstorm creative uses of MARC data. Are there uses for the data we can take advantage of now.
  6. Education is never a bad thing.  Regularly talk with staff about why change is coming and the status of the Bibliographic Framework Initiative.  Give staff experience with non-MARC metadata projects. Involve them in other uses for MARC data.

In the next 3-5 years

  1.  When the Bibliographic Framework becomes clearer we can determine how MARC metadata will transition.  That transition must be planned out and may occur like other large projects in the past.  When the card catalog closed and when we moved from Dewey to LC we changed based on circulation.  I think there will be a population of records that should move easily.  There will be some that need some help and there are some where we will have to determine if they will simply stay forever in MARC.  The same way we still have a Dewey population.
  2. Once we are closed to transitioning.  There should be a sandbox where staff can play.  The reason we are moving is to enable creative uses for more.  To create links that we currently can’t do.  We should consciously make an effort to be creative and develop some of these connections.


Don’t panic

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the future of Cataloging. Part 1 Why?

January 3rd, 2013 by Sarah Theimer

Predicting the future is dangerous.  Even the smart people get it wrong.  So many variables are in play.  We only know that things will change.  First we need to understand why cataloging needs to change.  Once everyone has a common understanding of why there can be a spirited debate on how the change will happen.

Our goal has been, is and continues to be to help the library user.  It is not to create perfect records, or hundreds of records or MARC records.   These may be techniques we use to help the user, but they are not our final goal.  To help the user find information we must understand the environment they are used to and their expectations for searching.  Because this is a short blog I am only tackling one user expectation.

Users expect to interact with data and their online environment.  Some examples of this are:

BookRx, Built by students at Northwestern University, enables you to enter your Twitter username (or a username of a friend if you’re looking for gift ideas), and BookRx dishes out recommendations in a variety of different genres. Based what the person has tweeted and who they follow.  It basically analyzes their twitter life. I have tried that one for myself and it worked well for me.

Pandora. Forms a playlist of music for you based on what kind of music you say you want. As you listen you have the option of giving songs a thumbs up or thumbs down.  These opinions help Pandora determine your exact tastes and develop a more specific playlist.  Pandora is based on the Music Genome Project. Each song in the Music Genome Project is analyzed and metadata is created using using up to 450 distinct musical characteristics by a trained music analyst. These attributes capture not only the musical identity of a song, but also the many significant qualities that are relevant to understanding the musical preferences of listeners.

Amazon  I am sure everyone is familiar with this one.  Amazon determines your interests by examining the items you’ve purchased, items you’ve have reported that  you own,  items you’ve rated, and items you’ve told us you like.  They compare your site activity site with that of other customers, and using this comparison, are able to recommend other items that may interest you. Recommendations change regularly based on a number of factors, including when you purchase, rate or like a new item, as well as changes in the interests of other customers like you.  There are “Why Recommended?” and “Fix this recommendation” links next to recommended items on most product home pages. These links provide  a chance to rate, unlike or exclude the specific purchases, ratings and likes used to make a recommendation and therefore influence future recommendations.

Examples of interactions in Library, Museum and archive sites.

At the New York public library  John Cage Unbound: A Living Archive, is a project that is a collection of his manuscripts and a series of videos featuring interpretations of Cage’s work.  That is pretty standard, but it also an interactive element as the library is inviting people to submit their own performances of Cage’s work and, hopefully, a discussion on why he was so influential.  NYPL says do you pluck a cactus?. “Slam the lid of a piano? Crumple a piece of paper?” Everyone is welcome to submit, and it is appropriate considering Cage’s belief that anyone can make music.

The Cooper Hewitt is the Smithsonian’s National design museum.

Encourages the public to download its metadata and clean it up for them.  It says “ the prospective uses for this data in the scholarly realm are extensive, from researchers who may reveal new patterns and connections across the collection, to new relationships between datasets in global catalogues of design and decorative arts, to improved Wikipedia articles. The dataset can also be used by developers in creating exciting new applications, which may combine the museum’s collection records with other data to produce a timeline, online publication, widget or mobile tool. Other museums that have released their metadata in this way have often been surprised by the innovative ways in which their data has been used and improved upon.

The museum of Old and New Art in Australia gives all visitors who enter a modified IPod. The museum does not have plaques on the wall explaining what you are looking at.  Your Ipod knows geographically where you are and it provides that information (metadata) on the screen.  Like Pandora it allows visitors to give each work of art a thumbs up or thumbs down.  It then will tell you how liked (or disliked that piece of art is.

Europeeana began as an effort to create a virtual European library, to make Europe’s cultural heritage accessible for all. This group produced a white paper in 2011 that discussed a business model perspective of open metadata. The white paper discuss the benefits and risks of opening the collected metadata and they concluded that benefits outweighed the risks. They strongly stated how lack of action and continuing business as usual with metadata will quickly lead to institutional invisibility and irrelevance.

Notice that none of the examples above involve MARC.  The MARC format does not work well on the web.  It does not easily allow for play and even play-like interaction. This is why we need to change.


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Creative problem solving or 20 ways to defeat Godzilla

November 16th, 2012 by Sarah Theimer

Creative problem solving or 20 ways to defeat Godzilla


Like Tokyo in a Godzilla movie, librarians may feel under attack. Recently Harvard sponsored a debate on library obsolescence, an Illinois news report asked whether libraries are a waste of tax money (Davlantes, 2010), and the conversation “Are libraries necessary anymore?” appeared on (Are libraries really necessary anymore?, 2009).  Combine this mindset with a weak economy and you have a tense work environment for many library staff.   More complications arise for the “sandwich generation” who care for both children and aging parents. To run screaming is an alluring, though non-permanent solution.  Initially I was tempted to run when I read that 80 percent of life’s problems should be approached creatively (Lumsdaine & Lumsdaine, 1995, p. 15). Creative problem solving seemed an overly complicated time drain for an already overloaded individual. Who need one more thing to do?  Eventually creative problem solving justified itself by simultaneously identifying solutions, encouraging a more balanced life and lessening stress.

What is creative problem solving?

Creativity, appropriately enough, has many definitions.  It integrates analytical and imaginative thinking to generate nontraditional solutions.  It makes new combinations of objects, colors, notes, numbers, chemicals, or ideas to satisfy a need or desire (Olson, 1980, p. 11).  Applying a creative thought process to a problem produces multiple diverse answers by linking apparently unrelated ideas. Formal education often teaches that there is only one correct answer.  This single-answer mindset blocks creativity and must be overcome.  Like any other skill some people may be naturally creative than others, but everyone has potential to increase their ability. Even though you may not have felt creative in a long time, creativity, like crabgrass, springs back.  Clear a path and creativity will emerge (Cameron, 2002).

Stress impacts your thinking

Stress impacts thinking in several negative ways.  When stressed we may develop tunnel vision and concentrate only on the problem at hand. Stress disrupts the rational parts of our brains leaving us vulnerable to negative thinking and hopelessness.  In chronically stressed rats regions of the brain associated with executive decision making and goal directed behavior shrank while those involved with habit formation grew.  Behaviors became habitual faster in stressed animals and the stressed animals couldn’t switch back to goal-directed behaviors. Stressed individuals get stuck in an endless loop instead of actually finishing the task and moving on (Angier, 2009).

Creativity fights stress

Creative thinking removes you from the nonproductive habit loop.  It eliminates negative thought patterns. Creativity distracts from the problem and focusses attention onto a solution.  When you are immersed in creative thought, you can achieve an intense focus similar to the focus and concentration you can achieve through meditation. Your body relaxes.  (Scott, 2012). By identifying multiple solutions a person gains some degree of control.  Creative thinking encourages exposure to a large variety of stimuli, resulting in a more balanced lifestyle    Ruth Richards lists twelve benefits of living more creatively, one of which is better health.  She reports that cathartic writing “not only boosts health clinically – both physically and psychologically – but also can boost measures of immune function ” (Richard, 2007, p. 294).

Self expression

Though this article focuses on creative problem solving, creative self-expression is vital for stress relief.   You experience events emotionally before reason is activated and the more intense your emotions the more likely it will influence your actions.  That is why when faced with Godzilla we tend to let fear take over. You control how you manage that emotion.  (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009). At work and in public when faced with strong emotions we mute them to conform to societal and professional standards. Eventually strong emotions need expression. Experiment at home with different methods such as poetry, painting, sketching, modeling clay, dance or as Ruth Richard recommended, writing..  All these can express intense feelings which sometimes feel beyond words.   Expressing emotions though verbal and nonverbal outlets does not solve the problem.  Godzilla is still stepping on things. Expression gives recognition and dignity to a moment.  Self-expression is an important act of self-respect.  Once you acknowledge the emotions around the problem it is easier to being solving it.

Creative Problem Solving Tools

People behave creatively when they possess three attributes.  You need in depth knowledge of a subject.  It is hard to be a creative cook when all you know how to do is boil water.  Library staff already has an in-depth knowledge of the work environment and most people have an expert knowledge of personal life.  You also need the proper mental attitude.  Creativity requires tolerating chaos. If you have a need for orderly thinking this may be challenging. You may be inclined to solve problems quickly and move onto the next one. This need for order and resolution may block creativity.  Solving problems creatively takes time.  Ideas need to be incubated; they do not always pop out fully formed.  Creativity can be a mentally messy process. Accept this.  (Edwards, 1996).   Once the thinking is done you must have a willingness to take action.  Thinking is the easy part, action requires risk.  Failure is part of risk.  Not all attempts will work.  Be prepared to make changes on the fly, to adapt and correct as needed.

With an in-depth subject knowledge, chaos acceptance and willingness to act, you are ready to begin the creative problem solving process. I derived the following steps from many resources on artistic and business creativity, several of which are in my bibliography.  The bullets represent ideas I use to accomplish each step.   Some may work better than others depending on the individual, the problem and your state of mind.  You may develop other ways that work better and that should be celebrated.

Step 1.  Feed the open mind

Skills need to be practiced and muscles toned.  This is ideally done before the crisis hits.  The creative environment exposes us to new ideas without totally disrupting daily life.

  • Learn 3 things a day. Read unusual blogs. Wander into the library stacks.  Select a random call number range and pick a book at random.  Read until something new or different strikes you.  I recently grabbed “The Bankruptcy of Marriage” by V.F. Calverton published in 1929.  He wrote that marriage exists in cultures where the man has “excessive and inequitable power over the wife.” Cultures where there is no economic or legal advantages have a loose succession of cohabitations.  (Calverton, 1928, p. 6)  Is this true?  I don’t know, but to me it was a new idea.  Playing online word game with my daughter, she played the word Qi.  I looked it up. Qi is an active principle part of any living thing. Often translated as life energy, life force or energy flow. (Qi, 2012)  Another new idea to me was that  Godzilla is considered a metaphor for the United States and nuclear weapons. .
  • Stretch all senses.  I recently saw a list of 100 things to eat before you die.  Some I have consciously chosen never to eat, but new tastes count when broadening the mind. Listen to different music.  Music you know well you may tune out.  Music from a different genre may cause you to listen in a different way.  Some bad music may make you tune out completely, but again the point is to experience different sounds.
  • Unplug.  Take a break from electronics.  This allows for a different input into the brain.  When there is less competition for attention, the brain can focus.
  • Practice breaking barriers.  Often we solve problems within imaginary constraints.  I spent a short amount of time with a different work schedule.  The world is a different place when you are at home at an unusual time.  When I was at home in the morning I discovered a woodpecker was violently attacking my house.
  • Keep a private journal. Write for a solid block of time.  You may think of a problem and write on that, but do not be judgmental or worry about spelling or grammar.  You want a continuous thought flow. Many authors recommend doing this first thing in the morning.  I have tried but cannot do it, so I journal at night.  Fatigue often is good for creativity because your internal censor is weaker and allows for a summary of day’s events.  Writing early in the morning may reveal what has been on your mind at night.  Keep a separate list of creative ideas you should pursue.
  • Try creativity exercises.  What are 100 uses for a square foot of aluminum foil?  List 6 ways to express half of 12.  What is the one thing I would do if I knew I could not fail?  List 20 ways you could stop Godzilla from destroying Tokyo.

Example:  I read a New York Times article on global language death.  I remembered that I have read several articles in library literature about MARC dying.  MARC is that language the catalogers speak to each other and the catalog. Exposure to one idea enabled me to relate that to a work situation.

Step 2:  Define the problem

Attack the wrong problem and you may not attain desired results. To get the right answer you need to ask the right question.  Problems have two components a difficulty and an opportunity to improve.

  • Prioritize.  Where do you (or your department) want to be in 2 (or 5 or 10) years.   What is preventing you from getting there?  That is a problem.  If there are other problems that do not impact on your goals they may be less important.
  • Make sure it is the problem and not your perception of the problem.
  • Get to the root problem by asking why?
  • Break large problems into smaller parts.
  • Research so you thoroughly understand the problem.
  • Keep in mind that some things are best left unchanged.  In my house I cannot be creative with dinner.  Especially when other elements of life are stressful some old things should be dependably the same.
  • Don’t try to attack too many problems simultaneously.
  • Once you identify a problem, formulate a positive problem statement.
    • Sample Problem: My job isn’t respected.  Positive Problem Statement:  In what ways could I bring positive publicity to my profession?
      • Smaller chunk : How can I identify and publicize professional skills? What are additional nontraditional uses for metadata?

Example: If you had Rheumatoid Arthritis your first reaction could be emotional.  The problem is not the disease but how we deal with the disease. Form a positive problem statement: In what ways could I improve my quality of life?  What are specific actions I can take to help my joints? What are ways to have more enjoyable weekends?

Step 3: Idea generation

Once you have identified a problem, imagine and document as many different and varied solutions as possible.  Do not make judgments.  Go beyond the expected. Break thought patterns and challenge assumptions.  I try to have a twenty idea minimum, but it depends on the situation.

  • Write down the obvious normal answers first.
  • Play what if I was Walt Disney or The Incredible Hulk, or Donald Trump. What would he/she/it do?
  • Put your thinking in reverse.  How could we make the problem worse?
  • List your assumptions about this problem and consciously challenge them.
  • Change your environment. Think outside or in a museum.
  • Relate your problem to a random physical object or idea.
  • Get someone else’s perspective.


Example:  Problem statement:  What are nontraditional ways to use library metadata?

I know online games are popular.  I play them all the time.  Could the library take advantage of that?  Having just played Words with Friends, I think you could play a Scrabble-like game with metadata.  Imagine that instead of letters you could draw subject heading subfields.  Then you would create a subject heading out of the pieces you drew.  The playing board would know what the correct order is and what is geographically subdividable.

How about playing Rock-Paper-Scissors with the Library catalog?  Instead of paper it would say “Catalog card”  It could also say “Rush flag”  for paper.  There are many kinds of paper in libraries.  Instead of” rock” the catalog would say “withdrawn book” or “dead computer”.  Scissors might have to remain scissors.  Games would have a defined ending point when the Library catalog would play “Electronic Databases” which defeats everything else.

Can we play RDA (Resource Description and Access) Jeopardy?  That would be a fun way to teach and train on rules changes.  Note this idea is not a new way to use metadata but came in the flow of game ideas.  I write it down and later move it to a different list. (I’ll take Manifestations for $500)

What if pieces of the MARC record resulted in certain musical notes being played.  Subject headings could be trumpets.  Main entries could be flutes. The note fields could be various percussion instruments.  That way you could hear a MARC record.  What if you could artistically express a MARC record?  What if each field was a geometric shape?  Or each field is a piece of a great painting? Then the catalog would be a museum.

What if RSS feeds allowed me to pick any metadata field and tell me anytime any resource was added anywhere with that chosen field.   I could choose the subject heading Jazz and no matter what the metadata scheme used or where it is database it is in I would get a list of newly added resources.

I then become stuck.   I ask myself what Donald Trump would do with metadata.  He would say we have great metadata and need to advertise it. He would assign it as a task to his apprentices.  Maybe he would bet on it.  Is there any way to bet on metadata?  He would want to have the best high-class metadata in the world.  Donald Trump would say “We need to make it sexier or I’m going to have to fire it”.   Great metadata needs a great system to exploit it and make it sexy.  Ideas generated: Develop a way to bet on metadata.  Develop extravagant metadata.  How do we make metadata sexy?

Still stuck, I try reverse thinking.   How could we make our metadata less useful?  It could have only one field.  It could not crosswalk anywhere and only be useful in one setting.  It could be totally incorrect.  It could not work with our search systems.  It could have typos.  This way of thinking indicates the factors that are important.  To be useful to searchers the metadata needs to be of good quality.  (Playing Rock, Paper Scissors with it does not require quality).

For more ideas I relate the problem to a physical object.   How can metadata relate to Angry Birds?  They travel in large flocks.  Each individual bird has separate parts just like a bibliographic record.  Sometimes birds work as egg layers.  Hens live in big buildings, don’t have very fulfilling lives.  The people who buy eggs never see where the eggs come from.   Eggs are actually an ingredient in many foods yet the egg goes unnoticed.  A bad egg can ruin a food and make many people ill. The public uses metadata every day and don’t think about where it comes from or under what conditions it was produced. Metadata is like an egg.  We can use it by itself, but most often it is used as an ingredient in a more complicated dish.  The trick is to identify the other ingredients and not simply try to feed people a raw egg.

Step 4: Creative idea evaluation

Play with all ideas. Think how an idea could be changed to work. Continue to defer judgment.

  • Don’t throw the crazy ideas out immediately.  See if there is a way to make them work or if they reveal something else.
  • Sort and combine ideas.   Ideas that might not work on their own might be merged
  • Reverse brainstorm.  Point out flaws in every idea so you know what they are.
  • Identify criteria for success.  If a solution does not meet criteria yet you feel bad crossing it off your list, pay attention and determine if the criteria need to be amended.
  • What are possible positive and negative side effects?  Create an advantages and disadvantages grid.  Recognizing and positives and negatives will help in the implementation phase.
  • Select the one that you feel best about and that you feel is most likely to succeed.

Example:  Resources I need for research are being moved from the building where I work to a location across campus.  Problem statement: In what way can I easily access resources I need?  One of my crazier ideas was find a library near a beach with my research material. Upon deeper reflection this reveals that I would like to take a beach vacation. Perhaps not a permanent solution to this particular problem, but the desire should be acknowledged. There are good libraries by beaches.  This combines with by wanting to have a higher quality of life.  This solution might solve multiple problems. I like the idea.

Step 5: Solution implementation.

This is hardest step.  Charles Kettering said “Action without intelligence is a form of insanity, but intelligence without action is the greatest form of stupidity (Thought of the day archives, 2002). “Success depends less on the ability to think of something and more on the ability to do something” (Olson, 1980, p. 191). Creative individuals need to expend effort and have high levels of persistence.  Remember the story about Edison inventing the light bulb.  He failed before he had success. Implementing a solution is very energy intensive.

  • Be prepared to sell.  Accompany ideas with a plan of how this would get done. If you need permission to act, you must convince others that this solution is worth pursuing.  A good idea should be beneficial to everyone and meet everyone’s goals.
  • Some institutions are interested in products not ideas.  Make the proposal solid.  Make sure your idea is a real thing.
  • For an idea to have the greatest chance of success it should not be too expensive or too cheap.  Not too simple and not too complicated.
  • People will criticize.  Some people are determined to criticize everything and anything.  Expect it like rain or snow.
  • Learn from failure.
  • Celebrate small successes whenever and wherever they occur.
  • Be ready to adapt the idea as needed.  Evaluate as you go.
  • Don’t seek perfection.  Accept flaws and correct them as they are identified.
  • Plan in small steps.

Example:  I had the idea that a dying language may be similar to MARC which may or may not be dying.  I looked at article submission guidelines and calls for articles.  I researched and wrote a proposal.  After proposal acceptance I wrote the article, submitted it, and rewrote following reviewer comments.  Idea implementation required time and work.  I keep an up to date list of good article ideas and work on them one at a time. Now that I have an established process, it is easier to follow through.


Confucius says “Habits take us where we were yesterday and attitude keeps us there” (Olson, 1980). Creativity changes our attitude.  Some problems require immediate instinctive action, such as running away from the monster.  This action does not permanently solve the problem.  Creative problem is an active process.  It is not possible to give this much attention to all problems, but as you start the process with one or two, multiple answers will appear even when you aren’t consciously looking for them.


Works Cited

Thought of the day archives. (2002, December). Retrieved May 3, 2012, from

Are libraries really necessary anymore? (2009, August 22). Retrieved May 3, 2012, from

Qi. (2012, April 30). Retrieved May 10, 2012, from Wikipedia : The Free Encyclopedia:

Angier, N. (2009, August 17). Brain is Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop. New York Times.

Bell, S. J., & Shank, J. (2004, July/August). The blended librarian: a blueprint for redefining the teaching and learning role of academic librarians. College and Research Library News, 372-375.

Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego: TalentSmart.

Calverton, V. F. (1928). The Bankruptcy of marriage. New York: Macauley.

Cameron, J. (2002). The Artist’s Way: a Spiritual Path to Creativity. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Cannon, N. (2002). Yahoo! Do you Google? Virtual Reference Overview. The Reference Librarian, no. 77, 31-37.

Davlantes, A. (2010, July 11). Are libraries necessary or a waste of tax money? Retrieved May 3, 2012, from

Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of Habit: Why we do what we do in Life and Business. New York: Random House.

Edwards, D. D. (1996). How to be more Creative. Moutain View, California: Occasional Productions.

Lumsdaine, E., & Lumsdaine, M. (1995). Creative Problem Solving: Thinking skills for a Changing World. New York: McGraw Hill.

Olson, R. W. (1980). The Art of Creative Thinking. New York: Barnes and Noble Books.

Richard, R. (2007). Twelve Potential benefits of living more creatively. In R. Richards (Ed.), Everyday Creativity and new views of Human Nature Psychological, Social and Spiritual Perspectives (pp. 289-319). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Scott, E. (2012, February). Art Therapy Relieve Stress by Being Creative. Retrieved April 22, 2012, from Stress Management:



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John Cage and metadata

November 6th, 2012 by Sarah Theimer

In my latest ALCTS blog I talked about ways in which the public is becoming involved in digital projects.  Here at Syracuse we have the Black Historic Preservation Collection which contains  documents and images from the public. We were very excited when ContentDM finally allowed outside tagging to allow the opportunity for added knowledge.  There is somewhat of a divided mind about how or if these tools should be used.  Some say that by allowing the public to help we will open ourselves up to evils of spam and misinformation.  (Not to mention typos)  How can we be gatekeepers if anyone can do it?  On the other hand we cannot and definitely are not experts in everything.  There are people on this campus and many others that would be able to add context and meaning to the images, text and sound recordings that we have digitized.  Rather than shuddering about the harm that they might do, energy is better spent thinking how to creatively phrase the invitation.  The Cage Collection first reached out to experts in the field asking them to add their interpretations.  The Economist held a contest on data visualization and interpretation.  The Cooper-Hewitt Collection gave away its data so others could improve it and put it in a different context. All these are options for us as we look for ways to improve metadata and socially network at the same time.

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Role of catalogers and metadata people

October 19th, 2012 by Sarah Theimer

In my latest ALCTS post I talk about the future role of catalogers and the gap that exists between what should be expected/performed by catalogers and what is expected/performed by catalogers. How are we at Syracuse attempting to tackle this problem?

Examples of collaboration between metadata/cataloging and systems include:

  • bulk loading of records for ebooks, OCLC project loads,
  • monthly uploading Bibliographic notification records
  • transfering metadata from  ContentDM to the XTF platform

If cataloging professionals were to take the cosmological view described by Murray and Tillett (Cataloging Theory in Search of Graph Theory and Other Ivory Towers Dec. 2011) we would contribute our specialized knowledge in the organization of information to inform the conceptual and structural planning of new services.  In theory this is great, however, it reminds me of wanting to repour the foundation of your house while you are unclogging the kitchen sink.  Currently cataloging/metadata staff are necessarily knee deep in stack and database maintenance issues rather than creation of new, better methods of creation, displaying and accessing metadata. This is partially due to the long standing traditional idea of the role of catalogers/metadata staff.

How do we break out?  There is a chicken and the egg dilemma here.  Do you get a new skill and then hope somewhere to apply it will appear or do you wait until the need is evident and then go get trained? Because these are new skills the first instinct might be to assume that cataloging/metadata staff can’t do that and to immediately go to a different department.  That is the box that cataloging and metadata staff must think outside of.

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The Bibliographic Framework Initiative, language and training

October 4th, 2012 by Sarah Theimer

Many metadataists have a very deep interest in language.  We consider what words are best used to search something and to how to convey a fact about a resource.   I recently published article in the Journal of Library Metadata on what we can learn about MARCs death by studying the death of languages. This includes suggestions of how the new MARC should learn from language planning.

I gave a few examples of differing meaning in an ALCTS blog.    But what does this mean here at Syracuse?  Why should we care?

When people do not share a common understanding of what words mean then communication gets garbled.    If I think soon is in five minutes and you think soon is in two weeks, someone is going to be extremely disappointed (not to mention fired). When the new MARC emerges in whatever form it comes, the vocabulary it contains will seem ordinary, but proper understanding and future staff training will require examination of terms and understanding the new 21st century definition of words like “Annotation” and “Instance”

When a person hears a word they do not understand, they immediately realize they need to pay closer attention to track the conversation.  This happens when training. People are very bad self assessors. They frequently over estimate their abilities. So when we train, we consciously redefine familiar terms with concrete examples to solidify the concepts.


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Obscenity and Metadata Quality

September 18th, 2012 by Sarah Theimer

There are some things that everyone is instinctively for and in the library realm quality metadata is one of them.   Like a strong economy, jobs, and well educated kids in theory everyone supports high quality metadata .  However does everyone agree what quality is?  The first hurdle is identifying quality.  Some people may be tempted to use the phrase “I know it when I see it”.

The concept of “I know it when I see it” was used by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964),) to describe his threshold for obscenity, his attempt to nail down the fuzzy subjective concept.

In a later case Memoirs v. Massachusetts (1966), the court refined its definition of obscenity by listing 3 criteria which also interestingly relate to metadata quality.

  • Whether an average person applying community standards finds the work taken as a whole to apply to prurient interest.

Metadata quality is often determined by an individual applying community or institutional as well as national standards.

  • Whether the work describes in a patently offensive way….

Patently offensive could translate to blatant errors in data.  Patently offensive also depends on the audience doing the judging.  It could mean non-objective data, or incredibly insufficient metadata records.  It depends what would be patently offensive to the staff member looking at the metadata.

  • Whether the work taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

There is no doubt that If metadata lacks value it cannot be of high quality.

Metadata has value when it accomplishes the tasks for which it was created.  This usually means describes a resource and in conjunction with a search mechanism enables the resource to be found.  Today what were obscenities and words and images that were once never used in public now are common.  Our tolerance has changed.  Decades ago all MARC records had to be reviewed on a local level.  At this University we only accepted records created by the Library of Congress.  This tolerance has also changed.  Just as what would have been considered in questionable taste now appears on sitcoms, what once would have been considered low quality metadata now in bulk loaded into our catalog.  Once we understand what today’s users and staff need and want, (what the community obscenity standards are) we are one step closer to creating and maintaining quality in our gosh darn metadata.

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September 17th, 2012 by Sarah Theimer
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