Data cleanup as a force for evil

A quotidian concern of anybody responsible for a database is the messy data it contains. See a record about a Pedro González? Bah, the assumption of Latin-1 strikes again! Better correct it to González. Looking at his record in the first place because you’re reading his obituary? Oh dear, better mark him as deceased. 12,741 people living […]

What makes an anti-librarian?

Assuming the order gets made and shipped in time (update 2017-06-22: it did), I’ll be arriving in Chicago for ALA Annual carrying a few tens of badge ribbons like this one: Am I hoping that the librarians made of anti-matter will wear these ribbons to identify themselves, thereby avoiding unpleasant explosions and gamma ray bursts? […]

How to build an evil library catalog

Consider a catalog for a small public library that features a way to sort search results by popularity. There are several ways to measure “popularity” of a book: circulations, hold requests, click-throughs in the catalog, downloads, patron-supplied ratings, place on bestseller lists, and so forth. But let’s do a little thought experiment: let’s use a random number […]

Cataloging and coding as applied empathy: a Mashcat discussion prompt

Consider the phrase “Cataloging and coding as applied empathy”.  Here are some implications of those six words: Catalogers and coders share something: what we build is mainly for use by other people, not ourselves. (Yes, programmers often try to eat our own dogfood, and catalogers tend to be library users, but that’s mostly not what we’re paid […]

Natural and unnatural problems in the domain of library software

I offer up two tendentious lists. First, some problems in the domain of library software that are natural to work on, and in the hopeful future, solve: Helping people find stuff. On the one hand, this surely comes off as simplistic; on the other hand, it is the core problem we face, and has been the core […]