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Another TSRT Spring Meeting Report

Posted By TSRT Communication and Web Coordinator, Thursday, May 1, 2008
Updated: Tuesday, June 16, 2015

[Guest writer: Angela Kroeger]

The Spring Meeting out in Aurora, Nebraska, was pretty good this year. The overall topic was "Spelunking or Serendipity: Discovery in the Catalog."

Jeffrey Beal, in his keynote address, "Metadata: Promise and Practice," talked about the need for rich metadata to make online catalogs and other search interfaces work well. He addressed the ideas of "search fatigue" and "Google rage" and posited that we are nearing the point where users will demand better, more accurate search results, the key to which is good metadata. The growing popularity of faceted searching suggests the rising importance of building and maintaining solid metadata for an increasingly diverse body of resources. He compared the strengths and weaknesses of deterministic searching (exact match), stochastic searching (full-text), metatext searching (catalog records and other metadata), and metadata-enhanced stochastic searching (full-text searching using metadata for limits and facets). He suspects that Google's advanced search limits on language, file type, usage rights, etc. are likely metadata driven, but of course, Google's staff-mode, like their ranking algorithm, is a well-guarded trade secret. He finished off with an exploration of Gresham's Law.

Gresham's Law originated in the realm of coin collecting. If two coins have the same face value, but are minted with different metal content, people will hoard the coins with a higher metal value and spend the ones of lower value. Thus, as the "good money" disappears from circulation, the "bad money" becomes the only money. (Think of pennies. Pre-1982 copper pennies are beginning to grow scarce as people squirrel them away in jars, while post-1982 copper-clad zinc pennies are deemed essentially valueless by collectors and remain in circulation.) Applied to other disciplines, the idea is that when something of lower quality becomes popular due to its low cost, the counterpart of higher quality increases in price until it is driven from the market or becomes accessible only to the elite. In this way, it appears that there is a present trend wherein cheap and abundant keyword searching is replacing expensive and accurate metadata searching.

But perhaps next-generation catalogs which rely on facets will reverse the trend, as facets require metadata or "metadata surrogates." (I'm not sure what "metadata surrogates" would be. Wouldn't any new descriptive encoding scheme be, by definition, metadata? Of course, eventually the word metadata will go out of vogue, and then we'll call it something else, even though it will be the same fundamental concept, much in the way that metadata itself is just the trendy name for cataloging.)

After the keynote came the first of the breakout sessions. Jan Boyer and I presented "Classifying Music CDs: Unearthing the Collection," showcasing our recently-completed music CD project. We had about nine people in attendance, and it seemed to be well received. No one threw vegetables at me, anyway. Some of the attendees had done similar projects with CDs or DVDs, and so I learned some new and cool things while talking to them after the session.

The majority of folks went to "Image Indexing: A Philosophical Approach" by Peter Konin. I have heard that this was a fascinating session. The subject material is certainly cool. I would imagine that cataloging images so they could be indexed and searched effectively with keywords would be very challenging, not to mention fun.

After the first breakout session, we had the TSRT business meeting, followed by lunch. Then we had the second breakout session. Jim Shaw presented "Broken URLs and Access to Content via the Catalog." I am sure he did an awesome job, but I attended "Connecting Print Titles with Their Electronic Alter Egos in the Catalog: Analysis and Full Disclosure" by Judith Wolfe, Dana Boden, and Joan Konecky of UNL. I figured, I need to learn all I can about electronic resources and about serials. They presented a project they did to find and correct various searching problems and disjoints between their catalog records. Sometimes the record for a print title would make it appear that it had ceased, and there would be no link or direction of any kind toward the electronic record that superseded it. They had a fairly diverse range of problems they encountered, from simple missing URLs to garbled, misleading records.

The majority of attendees, picked the third option for the afternoon session, Sue Ann Gardner's "LibraryThing and You: One Face of the Future of Catalogs and Cataloging." By all accounts, this was an excellent session. I would have loved to attend that one, as well as Jim's presentation, however the nature of breakout sessions is that sometimes you have to choose and bypass something else of interest. How sad. Everything on the program looked interesting.

Overall, it was a good and worthwhile meeting, even with the high winds whipping the cars all over the interstate on the way to and from Aurora.

Tags:  conference & meeting reports  spring meeting  tsrt 

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