Thursday, September 25, 2008

Review of Subject Access to a Multilingual Museum Database: A Step-by-Step Approach to the Digitization Process

Subject Access to a Multilingual Museum Database: A Step-by-Step Approach to the Digitization Process

My review of Subject Access to a Multilingual Museum Database: A Step-by-Step Approach to the Digitization Process by Allison Siffre Guedalia Kupietzky (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007).
Published in Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(5), September 2008.

Cataloging items for museums and other cultural institutions may be problematic due to their visual nature and uniqueness. Libraries have benefited from cooperative cataloging and data standardization because books are text-based, often in one language, and have objective attributes repeatable among copies. Objets d’art, however, are distinctive and subjective; they lack language but must be cataloged to exceed cultural and linguistic boundaries. Allison Siffre Guedalia Kupietzky, Collections Database Manager for the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, addresses these challenges by creating a valuable guide that simplifies and regulates cataloging procedures for multilingual digital assets. To “fulfill its pedagogic and preservation missions,” a museum must integrate art history, museology, computer science, and project management to create a holdings management system (ix). Museum professionals may lack the necessary skills to accomplish this, but this didactic volume trains readers to become collections database managers.

Kupietzky reviews related literature and theoretical issues and addresses the problems of digital documentation of museum objects. She presents a comprehensive survey of curatorial systems from the mid-1960s to the present, noting their strengths and weaknesses and presents a case study of the computerization process of Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. No common platforms for data standards or schema exist, although the Getty’s art history lexicon is widely used and some metadata can be crosswalked between schemas. She stresses that a cultural heritage institution’s individuality requires custom methods, but that cross-institutional sharing can save time, money, and energy.

The highlight of the book is a set of systematic procedures and guidelines for implementing a holdings database—the Six-step Activation Guideline for E-Kulture (SAGE-K) method. The steps include museum characteristics definition, database selection, digitalization preparation, needs analysis, data standardization, and pilot project testing. Two critical elements must exist: a multilingual lexicon and a collections manager knowledgeable in museology and computer science. The guidelines for digitizing text and images used by the Israel Museum can be adapted to suit other museum’s needs.

Appendices include museum and cultural heritage standards and organizations, online monolingual lexicons, museum code of ethics, a list of museum database programs, methodological notes, a digitized collection example, digitization guidelines, and a glossary.

This book’s limited focus is on medium to large museums. Smaller institutions may lack the labor and funding to embark on a digital, let alone multilinguistic, endeavor. However, with a little creativity, the SAGE-K method can be adapted to smaller museums, as well as libraries and archives.

This book compliments another Libraries Unlimited title: Howard F. Greisdorf and Brian C. O’Connor’s Structures of Image Collections: From Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc to Flickr (2008). While Structures presents an intellectual and theoretical framework of image collections issues, Subject Access provides practical advice on the execution of a digital collection.

Dick Cheney ordered to preserve records

Dick Cheney
Vice President Dick Cheney stands with hand over heart for the playing of the national anthem, Wednesday, May 21, 2008, during the U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement ceremony in New London, Conn. White House photo by David Bohrer from

A federal judge has ordered Vice President Dick Cheney to preserve all records that relate to his office and official duties pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., the Society of American Archivists, and other historical and academic organizations. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly noted in her decision the possibility of “irreparable injury” to the historical record if the vice president’s office destroyed or failed to preserve records while the case proceeded.

Read Cheney Ordered to Preserve Records in Case Closely Watched by Academic Groups

Read Cheney Ordered to Preserve Records

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Banned Books Week Banner

Look what the Dayton Metro Library East Branch created:
Banned Books Week Banner from Dayton Metro Library East Branch

During Banned Books Week, we show our support of the intellectual freedom and the freedom to read. One of the reccuring images we have used each year is this banner we created with 99 of the 100 most banned books for the years 1990-2000. There are a surprising number of literary classics, children's books and books we've all grown up reading at home, in the library and at school. Authors like Roald Dahl, Stephen King, Judy Blume and Chris Crutcher even have several titles on this list!

Visit the Banned Books Week Banner and click on the covers to reveal their titles.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Banned Books

I've spent entirely too much time trying to find what books Sarah Palin wanted banned from the Wasilla library. Although lists have circulated, there's no evidence that she wanted those specific books removed. Rather, I would guess that whatever books she wanted banned were ones that were frequently challenged by others.

For instance, the American Library Association's 10 Most Challenged Books of 2007 were:

1. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3. “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

4. “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reason: Religious Viewpoint

5. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reason: Racism

6. “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

7. “TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reason: Sexually Explicit

9. “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Banned Books Week runs from September 27 to October 4.

Check out Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. How many have you read?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Browsing spines

Book Spines

Lisa Chellman, a writer and children's librarian, wrote an excellent post about the spines of books being even more important than their covers for browsing, especially for young, reluctant, readers.

I often weave my way around the shelves of my local library, slowing near the true crime section and the biography shelves. An interesting title, artistically presented on the spine, will make me investigate further.

"When readers are faced with rows upon rows of spine-out books, what draws them to a particular volume, causes them to pull it off the shelf so they can then be enticed by the cover design and the jacket copy?

I believe it's two interrelated variables: the title and the spine design. The title is the spine's most important content. First and foremost, the title should be easy to read. Readers should be able to identify the book without squinting or pulling it off the shelf. That's something the old-style, no-nonsense, K.I.S.S. spines had going for them: pure functionality. Artistry is important, but it should come in a rather distant second."

Read the rest of her post, Spinal Exam

Monday, September 1, 2008

Library Deaths

Pattee Library stacks at Penn State
Pattee Library stacks at Penn State

Murders in libraries are a common theme in detective and mystery novels. But what about in real life?

Recently, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an article about Betsy Aardsma, a graduate student who was stabbed to death at Penn State's Pattee Library in 1969. Her murderer was never found.

Cheri Jo Bates was beaten and stabbed to death by the Zodiac Killer outside the library of Riverside City College in 1966. A morbid poem about the murder was etched into a desk in the library soon after.

Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer who murdered 10 people in Wichita between 1974 and 1991, sent taunting letters to the police and the media. His first communication, sent in 1974, was left in an engineering book in the Wichita Public Library. In 2004, he dropped another letter in the book return box of a downtown branch.

In 1999, the Columbine massacre concluded in the school library, where 10 people were killed and the shooters committed suicide.

In 2003, two students fell to their deaths off the balcony in NYU's Bobst Library. One was a suicide; the other was a drug-induced accident.

Looking through ALA's American Libraries' archive, I found these stories:

Murder-Suicide at Atlanta Public Library

Library Clerk Murdered Leaving Job at Night

Are there other well known deaths that occurred in libraries?

Read more about the death of Betsy Aardsma.