Monthly Archives: February 2011

Curating content and form

Reading Cindy Romaine’s article “The Consumer Electronics Show – insights for SLA” on SLA’s Future Ready 365, the phrase that stands out for me is: “Data devices, or form factors, were very elegant and restrained. It seemed that there was an effort not to overwhelm the consumer with technical options, but to simplify and curate”.

Through collection management and selection, librarians curate content for their patrons. But just as a museum curator not only selects artworks for an exhibition but also takes care of showcasing them (by painting the wall where a painting is hung, for example), so librarians should not only focus on curating content but also curate form.

In my view, the presentation of our well-curated content should be as “elegant and restrained” in design as the devices Cindy talks about. No doubt our discovery systems offer a wealth of technical options (navigating, faceting, word/tag cloud etc.), but librarians should curate these options and where possible simplify so as not to try to do too much and overwhelm the users (who might just – unconsciously – shy away from a library catalog they don’t understand as intuitively as their electronic devices).

The simplicity and functionality of handhelds, cell phones or tablets shape user experience just as much as the web sites they visit, so aspects like these have to be factored in when thinking about catalog interfaces, and curation is as important for form as for content.

Findability as a business issue

Of course librarians have known for a long time how important controlled vocabulary is for subject access. The blog post “Integrating taxonomies with search” underscores the value of terminology control and highlights four techniques which improve the search experience using taxonomies.

The example screenshot in the post is from CAB Direct, a source of reference for applied life science articles (introductory video). There’s a special section in CAB Direct dedicated to the CAB thesaurus where you can browse or search for specific terms.

The databases CAB Abstracts and Global Health which underlie the database platform are maintained by CABI, a non-profit international organization in the agricultural and environmental sector.

It’s encouraging to read the conclusion that “integrating taxonomies with search is therefore at heart a business issue” – it shows that the importance of structured subject access is recognized (in the corporate sector too, for that matter), and it should make librarians confident that we have a real value to bring to the table.

Cataloging Andy Warhol

Does cataloging issues of magazines, t-shirts and leaky old Coke cans sound like fun? The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh houses an archive part of which are the Time Capsules in which Andy Warhol collected all kinds of material (such as the ones above). The contents of these sealed cardboard boxes are being cataloged on an item-level basis. I enjoyed this series of videos that give an insight into the catalogers’ work and the excitement of never knowing what a particular box contains. Interesting stuff! This is certainly not your ordinary cataloging project, so I’ll be curious to check out the database of cataloged items when it becomes available.