Saturday, August 20, 2005

025.431 : The Dewey Blog

Since our library is organized by the Dewey Decimal Classification, we thought you might be entertained by 025.431: The Dewey Blog, maintained by Jonathan Furner, assistant editor of the DDC. Mr. Furner's discursive and cheerful approach to what everyone thinks of as an intractibly dry subject--classification--might give a little window of insight into how the numbers get chosen, and what makes book A shelve next to book B instead of three aisles over... (Although practically speaking what you want to see are the actual numbers laid out: the 10 Classes and the 100 Divisions, and the 1000 sections. Or straight from the source as a PDF file.)
       A number of other scientists and thinkers from OCLC, the bibliographic network we belong to, also are blogging. It's like eavesdropping telepathically on the net gods, as they post about what they are thinking about. Lorcan Dempsey, VP of Research for OCLC, posted to his weblog ("On libraries, services and networks") last week with the news that Flickr is working on an algorithm for ranking by "interestingness"; talked about classics as "complex works with many derivatives" in discussing the Hollywood meets Bollywood film Bride and Prejudice; mentioned that the OCLC database had reached a billion holdings--you weren't wondering why we say that Interlibrary Loan rarely fails, were you?--, about the term "memory institution" as an umbrella term for libraries, archives and museums, about library logistics and resource sharing... his posts most often are not only relevant to libraries but also helpful for thinking in wider ways about this networked world in which we live.
       His colleague Thom Hickey (OCLC Chief Scientist) frequently posts about technical standards and other topics that might seem fairly abstruse, but he also posted about the billionth holding --well, they all did :-)-- and it was he who wrote about all the things delivered to his door and to the houses on his block, and what that might mean for libraries. I'm still thinking about that one five months later.
       Other OCLC bloggers include the three folks who do It's All Good (Alice Sneary, Alane Wilson & George Needham), and Stu Weibel, Senior Reseach Scientist at OCLC. Obviously, you needn't care at all about the network from which we borrow books, and pull down the catalog records which are most of the time what you see when you look in our catalog. But it is somewhere between entertaining and deeply reassuring that as they go about the massive technical task of integrating and making accessible the one billion holdings of 53,548 (or so) libraries, they make time to think about what we are all doing together.

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