Monday, January 24, 2011


This week I have started learning the more technical side of cataloguing.  This is to say what the rest of the world stereotypes to be the librarian's main work. 

I was interested to find out that the kind of cataloguing I do most often in my library is what is called copy cataloguing. According to the Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science (ODLIS) this the practice of adapting a pre-existing bibliographic record to fit the item in hand.  I also learned that rather than referring to an item it is more useful to refer to the material to be catalogued as a package.  This allows one to think of form the item takes and this would be one of the aspects that we catalogue and use to differentiate it from other packages.

I was surprised to discover that the MARC record and Machine Readable Cataloguing standard has been in existence since the 1960s.  This just show how forward looking and up-to-date librarianship has been and continues to be.

The ODLIS is quite the collection of terminology and cataloguing minutia.  It at first looked like one of the driest collection of terms one could ever hope to assemble.  After a little browsing though it turns out to be a cornucopia of obscure but fascinating concepts and terms not just about cataloguing but about the packages themselves that are catalog (I may have inserted my tongue slightly into my cheek here, but there is no denying the usefulness and importance of this resource).  Here are just a couple to whet your appetite:

chiffon silk: A layer of extra-thin but strong silk tissue applied to mend or strengthen a leaf in a book or other document printed on paper.

chi-rho: A monogram consisting of the letters XP, the first two characters of the name for Jesus Christ (chi and rho) in Greek, often used symbol in early Christian art

cinching: A condition that results when loosely wound film is rewound too tightly on a reel, causing the film to move against itself on the roll.  As the film tightens, any dirt or irregularities on its surface will cause fine scratches called cinch marks, angled in the direction of movement.

cocked: A serious binding defect in which the spine of the book is angled or twisted in a way that prevents the boards from line  up evenly with each other.
cockle: A slightly puckered finish produced naturally or artificially as paper shrinks unevenly when dried under little or no tension, as in the production of onionskin.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How Search Engines Determine Relevancy and Ranking

What you see and what you get when you use a search engine is a result of a fairly complex set of factors. These factors vary according to the search engine or directory you use. I did some sleuthing about how search engines in general operate and how Yahoo in particular works.

 The spider software that each search engine uses is the first part of the process.  No seach engine site has the capacity to have their spider examine all the pages on the Internet--the amount of pages is just too vast.  What the spider looks at will vary from spider to spider. It would seem where on the Internet that these spiders work also varies.  The strategy, agenda or market to which search index and engine developers appeal to or follow is a mystery but I would think that looking for sites that are popular and could provide marketing opportunities to the search engine service would be the ones to be indexed first by their spider. Already the ranking of information has been influenced.

 It is not always completely clear exactly how each service's spider reads web pages.  Yahoo say that they gather information from the "web page text, title and description as well as its its source, associated links, and other unique document characterisitcs."  From what I have read elsewhere on the Yahoo site these unique characteristics would include any metadata or metatag information that has been included in the site. This will determine what they will put in their index or database. This is what you actually search when using a search engine.  You are not searching the world wide web directly.

How information is retrieved is a product of a complex algorythm that webservice uses (and which it constantly tweaks).  How this search engine works is of course a trade secret.  Knowing how they work makes them vulnerable to manipulation by webpage creators who wish to have their web pages ranked at the top without having to pay for the privilege.  Sponsoring a link is surest way to get it moved to more relevant ranking position when the search engine is used to retrieve information from the index (a little more about that later).

Website designers can improve the ranking of their sites by careful titling of their webpages, including the terms that they believe they will be searched by in the text of their webpage and in their internal links. Sites that use keyword metatags and description metatags that are relevant to each particular page of their site will in general get a better relevancy ranking than sites which use the same general keywords for their entire site.

It would seem that the saviness of a website designer has a lot to do with whether or not a website will show near the top of the relevancy rankings.  If titles and metatags, and links are not well planned no matter how important or relevant the site content it may still get a low relevancy score.  Although this fact is may lead to a disappointing overlooking of good information relevant to search engines users it is something that is fairly easy to accept.  A well crafted webpage would most likely have more superior content on average than those which are amateurishly made. The fact that results are greatly influenced by sponsorship shows the greatest need to search engine users to educate themselves.  In Yahoo a web site owner can sponser their site by biding on keywords.  The more they have bid on those words the higher their site will be ranked when those terms are searched.  The search engine user is not necessarily getting the most relevant site, just the site which the sponsor wants you to see the most.  What is the agenda of that sponsor?  Who knows?  They certainly want to either attract you for an opportunity to advertise to you and sell you a service or to push their point of view to the exclusion of other competing websites on the same topic.

Digital Library Collections

My question to reflect on is: How have you provided ongoing support for digital media including Internet sites, school or library sites, online encyclopedias and reference materials, and social networks such as facebooks and blogs.

I have made a few school websites over the past ten years and created my first library website four years ago.  The ability to keep the library open longer (at least digitally) has been a net benefit to all users. I do not have the financial resources to keep my library open for very long after the school day is complete, neither do I have the time or resources to even have the library open during the lunch hour.  The lowcost solution is providing digital access to my patrons.  Just having students able to access the library catalog from home to plan their next library visit and know beforehand what they want to read has led to more successfull reading experiences for at least a few of my patrons. Now that my students have the ability to recommend, review and discuss books using their own personal profiles in DestinyQuest there is an added vibrancy and sense of community surrounding our library collection.

Providing the school community with access to Worldbook Online, The Encyclopedia of BC and Culturegram has been a great support to students and parents.  A web presence with access to Internet links, databases, OPAC access, news and some advice has helped us begin our transformation into a learning commons.  Our library is breaking down its physical walls despite the lack of resources to staff for longer hours before and after school.

Just as an aside, our working towards being more of a learning commons has also involved two open houses a year that are opportunities for parents to learn about and learn to use the digital resources from our school. We have also created a SMARTBoard equipped teaching area that is not only used with library classes but is access by classroom teachers and is used as the gather area for staff meetings, PAC meetings and various school clubs.

Providing access to Internet websites has been an ongoing challenge. Years ago I spent a good deal of time making links to websites.  The amount of time and effort required to keep these resources organized, working and current was unsustainable.  I have changed to providing teachers access to our school's home page in Destiny Library Manager so they can add links for their classroom and I maintain links that support what classroom teachers are doing for the school year and what I cover in my teaching.  I often start new at the beginning of the school year. It is better to teach people good search skills then it is to anticipate all the possible resources students and teachers would want to access.  I need better tools and knowledge if I am to re-engage in the process of organizing Internet websites.

There are some tremendous digital resources out there.  Access to cataloged streaming video web services is something I highly desire but have no hope of affording.  The challenge for elementary school libraries is the same everywhere.  We need to maintain and renew our book collections which is extremely costly.  Now we also have many costs associated with annual subscription fees for OPAC services and their added features and for the quality encyclopedias and databases to which we subscribe.  We also have a great deal of computer equipment to purchase and maintain. Our funding has not kept pace with the services we need to offer.

In terms of social networking and blogs I have limited my students to the MyQuest accounts they have through DestinyQuest.  I restrict this to grade 4 and 5 students.  It is social networking environment that has a limited scope and can be easily monitored and restricted to our school community. Opening my students to a much wider world has not appealed to me at present as I feel uneasy about relinquishing control and feel they are too vulnerable.  In my technology classes we talk a lot about social networking and use the Passport to the Internet curriculum. I can see this being expanded as I learn to access tools and sites that allow the creation of restricted online communites.  We can only afford to use free resources and still we just have the pure limits of time and access to computers (one lab of 32 computers and another pod of 15 computers located in the library and 300 student users).


My name is Ben Koning and I work as a teacher-librarian and technology teacher at Torquay Elementary school in Saanich, BC.. As part of my studies for a diploma in teacher-librarainship through UBC, I have been asked to keep a learning blog.  It is a new experience for me.  I have not really been a blogging fan but must admit that I really shouldn't knock something unless I have tried it mayself. So here is my first post:

I am originally trained as a high school teacher and taught Social Studies, Math, French, Technology and History at the high school level for a few years. I then took a break from the classroom and worked as an Educational Consultant for four years in the late 90s in a partnership program with BCTel and the Ministry of Education. The purpose of the partnership was to help schools integrate technology with the curriculum. The majority of my work was training teachers in the use of educational software and the Internet and co-teaching with teachers from K to 12. I then worked for five years as school technologist with the Greater Victoria School District. My work involved the automation of some school libraries and establishing and maintaining school computer networks.

I then returned to the classroom beginning with a year as an Adult Education teacher in the area of Business Education and technology. Since that time, I have worked for the past seven years exclusively at the elementary level. I have taught grade 5 and 6 as a classroom teacher and for the past five years have worked as at K to 5 Teacher-Librarian and Technology Teacher in two different schools. I worked one of those years as a Vice Principal as well.

I have completed five courses in the Diploma Programme for Teacher-Librarianship. My primary interests are information literacy and resource based learning. I bring to my role a good working knowledge of the curriculum at all grade levels and some teaching experience at each level as well as a strong technology background.

Our school district has centralized the management of technology over the past few years. Our work stations and library systems are managed at the district level with some management functions delegated to the school. All libraries in our district use a union catalog from Follett called Destiny Library Manager. We order, process and catalog books at the school level but have access to a district clerk who will catalogue items for which there are no Marc records or will provide cataloging advice. Our library manages its own website and subscribes to a number of online services such as World Book Online, Culturegram, DestinyQuest and Titlepeek.

In addition to a district library clerk, our district has a strong teacher-librarian association which meets regularly and shares information and problem solves together through the use of central emailing list. Cataloguing issues are a regular part of these communications. Just recently a committee has been struck to standardize the use of Marc record fields in the union catalog and to develop methods to eliminate duplicate records in the catalog.

I am very much looking forward to this course. I had hoped to have had such a course much earlier in my career as a Teacher-Librarian. I have struggled over the past few years to find ways to make our library holdings more accessible for our younger patrons (K to 2) and at the same time trying to stay true to traditional organizational systems and cataloguing conventions. I am looking for insights into best practices in this regard as well as insights into the organization and management of electronic resources. I also hope to find answers to questions I have regarding the cataloguing of items such as biographies, graphic novels and series written by a variety of authors.