15 September 2012

The Tie-brary

Originally published in the ALLUNY Newsletter 35.2, July 2010

Last time, we discussed how LibraryThing can make cataloging a small collection more practical.  Most of us already have cataloging software or services, though, and don't need a way to process our print material.  But what if books aren't the only things we collect?

My firm has adopted a business-casual dress code for the summer, but still expect attorneys to dress appropriately for client meetings and court.  Sometimes, one will forget an appointment and arrive at the office without a tie.  This leads to a frantic search for someone who 1) has a tie 2) that matches and 3) doesn't need it.  How much easier would it be for the forgetful attorney to simply walk over to the library, select a suitable neckpiece, and check it out for the day?  This lending collection is a tie-brary, stocked with donations from our attorneys.

Any collection requires cataloging, which simply creates a descriptive record allowing for inventory control, but most catalogs are only build for books.  Not even LibraryThing can help us here, so how can we keep track of all these pretty bits of silk?

Fortunately, fifteen years ago some folks realized that the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules were not particularly suited to describing networked resources.  They met in Dublin, Ohio to develop simple standards to facilitate finding, sharing and managing information and came away with a set of fifteen descriptive elements call the Dublin Core.  These basic metadata are broad enough to apply to almost any object or item because, well, who knows what we might want to find, share and manage?

A Dublin Core record for neckware, for instance, might look like this

Fields                          Metadata

Contributor                  Everett Wiggins (tie donor)
Coverage                     (branch office holding tie)
Creator                        Jerry Garcia (tie designer)
Date                            (date added to collection)
Description                  gray, with swirls (color & pattern)
Format                        silk (material)
Identifier                      8 (item ID number)
Language                     n/a
Publisher                     Jerry Garcia (manufacturer)
Relation                       n/a (points to other relevant items, e.g. matching sport coat)
Rights                          (denotes use restrictions)
Source                         n/a (if inspired by/ derived from something, note here)
Subject                        n/a (a controlled vocabulary field)
Title                             Junglescape (designer's name of tie/ pattern)
Type                            necktie

As you can see, these fields capture descriptive information about the physical item and its creation, as well as how it came into the collection and how it may be used.

Unfortunately, I do not have an easy way to incorporate Dublin Core records for non-book items into a standard OPAC system.  I get around this by creating a simple spreadsheet, using a column for each record field, with each individual item record on a new row.  While this doesn't give me a friendly end-user view, it does let me lock the document against changes and post the inventory to our company intranet, where attorneys can then access and sortable, searchable list of available neckties should the need arise.  I use the same system at home to catalog my DVD collection; Dublin Core provides a fast, easy way to develop records for almost any things you might wish to make available for borrowing.  Even neckties.

No comments:

Post a Comment