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How to make tea and how to buy tea

Sil rants about how to make a decent cup of tea, most of which I agree with. To complete the picture Scary Duck rants about how to get hold of a decent cup of tea outside the UK. Both of these refer to ordinary tea bag tea, the sort that goes well with a fried breakfast, first thing in the morning, coming home from work, visiting someone with a rich tea biscuit, that sort of thing.

For those who also like leaf tea (and don’t think one is any better than the same in the same way that I enjoy an instant coffee more on the aforementioned occasions and a filter coffee when I am relaxing at the weekend; it is generally pointless to have a 30 year old Macallan in the pub but I would always prefer one at home; I don’t want Belgian chocolate on the train home from work, but I would always prefer something from Hotel Chocolat if I am relaxing at home, preferably with said Macallan (which I don’t (sadly) own)) I can heartily recommend Copeland and Shaw, an online tea business recently started by some friends. I particularly recommend the cherry-flavoured Japanese Sencha (roasted green tea), the Mau Feng (white tea), and Russian Caravan (blended black tea).

A small note here on teabags: if you want to try green or white tea, don’t use teabags: green tea for one tends to go bitter very quickly- even with leaf tea it is best to only brew it for about 30 seconds- with the fine tea you get in tea bags it goes bitter when you bring the teabag home from the shop; white tea is so delicate in flavour that it’s nearly (though not entirely) pointless.

End of cataloging?

In response to an idea that surfaced on the mailing list Autocat suggesting the reduced need to maintain individual cataloguers with the rise of Google, Google Scholar, Open Worldcat etc., I posted the following:

Which makes a lot of sense why are thousands of trained cataloguers around the world all cataloguing the same books so we can all put variant records onto international cataloguing utilities? In the vast majority of cases, we would surely only need local holdings appended to one centralized catalogue record. The few trained cataloguers left would deal with the more individual items not held by anyone else then contribute these records to GoogleCat so no-one else has to.

This, and the idea generally, didn’t get too much sympathy. One member of the list even replied to me off-list to say Well, last one out the door, please turn off the lights. I think this is a little over the top. I think there’s a lot of sense in the idea; I also think I didn’t explain myself too well.

At the moment, bibliographic records are shared between libraries, often internationally, via services provided by organisations such as CURL, RLG, and OCLC. Typically, a library will periodically upload new records to one or more of these organisations of which they may be a member and routinely download individual records to add their own databases. Each library will generally edit the records it downloads according to local policies and authority files, to correct small errors, or update CIP data. If a library can’t find the item, they will make a catalogue record from scratch. The main point here is that every library is maintaining its own database of bibliographic data, which duplicates a lot of other libraries’ catalogues in terms of books described, though not necessarily in terms of the actual description. I think this is frequently needless in terms of staff time and leads to absolutely unnecessary differences in the record.

To give a petty example, libraries A and B download the same CIP record from CURL which has no physical description (MARC 300 field). Library A notes that there are illustrations and thinks the map on p.46 is significant; Library B thinks it isn’t. Library A gives 300 $a200p :$bill., map;$c24cm.; Library B gives 300 $a200p :$bill. ;$c24cm.. This doesn’t really matter too much, but extend this to authorities (Library A follows LC authorities slavishly; Library B used them when there is a conflict of headings), classification (Library A uses Dewey so makes sure the 082 field is correctly filled in; Library B uses its own scheme so couldn’t care less), fixed fields, subject headings (Library A uses MeSH for medical books; Library B is content with LCSH for all books), not to mention GMDs, and the relative importance and content of various note fields. Many libraries seems to give LCRI equal weight to AACR2, and MARC21; others, including my own library, don’t. All of these choices are valid for an intelligent cataloguing agency to make, and in some cases for individual cataloguers within an institution. The result is, as I said above, thousands of trained cataloguers around the world all cataloguing the same books so we can all put variant records onto international cataloguing utilities. If Library C has catalogued a book once, why must hundreds of other libraries do the same. Downloading other libraries’ records should solve this problem but doesn’t.

What if all libraries literally used the same record? GoogleWorldCat, or whoever, would hold a bibliographic record for Dan Brown The Da Vinci Code, which others link to. I’m no systems librarian or programmer of note, but it seems that catalogue records in modern systems (or at least Aleph) have an admin record from which hangs the bibliographic (bib) record, item records, order records, etc. So, the Da Vinci Code might be held on admin record 100. When someone wants to view it on the OPAC, the system pulls in bib record 645 from the bibliographic database and item records 6789 and 7923 from the item database and shows them to the user. What if the bibliographic database were held remotely and the system merely fetched the bib record from there, so http://www.googleworldcat.com/bib.cgi?record=645 or something more realistic or elegant. Considering the increasing speed of network connections and the volume of internet traffic in emails and the internet (I am probably showing my university library bias here), this would surely be possible: something like stealing an image from another website, except the bandwidth would be purposefully stolen. Something similar is happening on most web catalogues anyway as they are, of course, web catalogues. This is why I don’t think it would be hard for system suppliers to implement.

This model is not a million miles away from what happens with authority control now. It is senseless for each library to maintain its own authority files when NACO and SACO do it anyway and vendors sell the file whole and with regular updates, although even here we don’t quite link directly in the same way. It would have other benefits too: if the record is changed in any way, the whole world would get it seamlessly.

There are problems, of course. Security and bandwidth are a couple, and mirror sites would have to be used. Another is how to deal with items that don’t yet appear on GoogleWorldCat. The system outlined above could still accomodate local records if necessary (point to local record 789 rather than a remote one). Alternatively, libraries could catalogue and contribute records of such material to the central repository in the same way that “qualified” libraries already do for LCSH and authority records. Although GoogleWorldCat might endanger cataloguers’ jobs, which was the original idea behind the proposal I believe, it would instead give the opportunity to spend more time actually cataloguing unique materials. The benefits for serials and electronic material in particular must be high.

It’s an idea anyway.

"Cleric defends Da Vinci Code book"

To add to the fun, the BBC reports that a Catholic bishop has suggested that Da Vinci code need not be banned after all, although “I don’t know if people are capable of distinguishing the elements of fiction from those of reality”. I notice the archbishop of Canterbury is keeping his cards close his chest on this one. What’s the sly old dog keeping quiet for I wonder? Maybe he’s too busy orchestrating the recent conspiracy to silence the Pope by keeping him in hospital. Or something.

NHS recruitment

Librarywebbie makes the interesting point that librarians have been left out of the recent NHS recruitment campaign on TV and wonders if CILIP should be doing anything about it.

On a vaguely related note, CILIP have released a report (summary available to non-members in yacky pdf) profiling their membership following a survey and includes a section on what CILIP members would like CILIP to do to “improve their professional standing” which came out as:

  1. Pay and grading issues (25%)
  2. Recognition of librarianship as a profession (20%)
  3. Image of librarians (9%)
  4. Chartership issues (7%)
  5. CILIP to be more proactive (7%)
  6. Advertising of low paid jobs (6% though surely the same as item 1)
  7. Professionalism (5% and I’m not sure precisely what is meant)
  8. Training (4%)
  9. Other (17% presumably)

I’ll be interested to see if anything comes of this, especially with regard to the high demand for action on pay and grading issues.

"Church fights Da Vinci Code novel"

The BBC reports that the Vatican is fighting back against the claims of Da N. Brown’s Da Vinci code. This is funny enough and needs no further comment.

What struck me from the story is the fact that 10 books have already been written to debunk the novel’s claims. It’s a novel. You don’t need to debunk its claims. More alarming is that Tom Hanks, who I dislike but who seems to pop up in lots of good films (Forrest Gump being a particularly hateful exception), is going to star in a film version. I see the IMDB have already pencilled something in for 2006: it is apparently being directed by Ron Howard. There you go.

I wonder what the secret societies make of all this publicity. It must really piss them off. There they were happily getting on with restoring the Merovingian bloodline of Jesus Christ and keeping their secrets close for centuries until Mr Baigent and friends came along. At least no-one took it seriously (because it was presented as fact); now, Mr Brown comes along, which everyone believes (because it is presented as fiction), and starts the whole Hollywood machine in motion. Heads will roll I suspect, especially John the Baptist’s.

Another test

I scored 48/70 (69%) on the BBC’s Test the Nation big entertainment test. Although the faintly irritating Sooperman Cooperman thankfully didn’t come up with an EQ for the occasion, this was apparently ranked as Above Average. This is odd: anyone who knows me must know that my knowledge of films, musicals, and entertainment trivia in general is awful. Apparently, Piers Moron, formerly of the Mirror and someone who has spent his whole life in the media, got the same score.

See also Various tests.

Bill Gates KBE

Bill Gates is due be made Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. All a bit naff I feel and puts me off wanting a KBE, although I still wouldn’t sniff at a baronetcy if one floated my way. Still, as Jack Straw put it:

Microsoft technology has transformed business practices and his company has had a profound impact on the British economy, employing 2,000 people and contributing to the development of the IT sector (my emphasis).

This is like those job references where He was unrivalled in his punctuality could just as well mean No-one else was as consistently late as he was.

More advanced tagging

Following my post yesterday on del.icio.us and my comment thereto on the shortcomings of its tagging system, I came across an article on the Next generation of open tagging systems on Library Stuff via Catalogablog. It reports on a service called Wists which uses “themes” and dodgy underscoring to get round the problems I mentioned in my comment: lack of fields and inability to use multi-word terms in del.icio.us. Sounds good, though I confess I haven’t played with it yet. As I see it though, the question is not, Could this be the ‘middle of the road’ that will make librarians (more structured in their classifications) and open tagging zealots satisfied? but Can we all be arsed to change our bookmarking system every time someone else improves it?

On a related note, I can’t describe how much I hate the word Folksonomy. I don’t know why.

Cows in art on delicious

I have started using del.icio.us to collect examples of cows in art. Whereas with Famous Cows and Cow Games, which I compiled using browser bookmarks and straight to html, del.icio.us lets me collect them a little more efficiently and have rss feeds published as well. I have used the Description field to record the title of the work of art and the Extended field to record the artist’s name. One day, I would like to ‘catalogue’ them better using far more detail (date, breed of cow, etc.) in xml or something, but this is a far easier way to get a list like this done. It’s a good experiment anyway.

http://del.icio.us/rss/aurochs/cows+art is a general feed of cows in art with the tags cows and art; http://del.icio.us/rss/aurochs/cows+art+sculpture is the same narrowed down to 3 dimensional works, i.e. sculpture.

Suggestions to be added are always welcome. Try to find a large image, preferably from a gallery (rather than a saleroom or poster site which might disappear), and preferably with some explanatory content. I would normally link to a page with text, rather than just the gif or whatever. For instance, the background information I found on the Wall Street Charging Bull after wading through a million souvenir sites, adds a lot to the piece. Add a comment or email me.