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James and the bootlace

In Rev. W. Awdry‘s story, James and the Bootlace (the second story in James the Red Engine, book 3 of the Railway Series), James is rough with the coaches and snaps a brake pipe, stopping a train. The crew ask the passengers for a leather bootlace, eventually get one, and mend the train. Yesterday, The driver of a broken-down train appealed to his passengers for sticky tape to help him carry out repairs because an exterior air pipe came loose. This happened on a Midland Mainline train to Nottingham. Unlike the Sodor incident, the passengers couldn’t help and a fitter had to be called out.

RSS feeds for local newspapers

Library Stuff reports that British local newspapers published by Johnson Press all now have RSS feeds. There are in fact several for each title. For instance, the Biggleswade Today has 13 feeds including general feeds for news around Bedford, Sport in Luton, nostalgia, and news around the county. The content will often direct you to the full print version, in this case to the Biggleswade Chronicle, but it does the advantages of a local paper without the advertising and the thick wad of paper straining to get in the recycling bin.

Bin Laden has Bounty on his head

The BBC reports that Bin Laden has a $25m bounty on his head. As I noted in the comments to a story concerning Saddam Hussein, I must express concern about the amount of coconut needed for such a confection, and the fact that it must melt in the heat of Pakistan. Presumably that is why he has taken to living in caves.

While I’m getting this out of my system, I read that Heinz buys HP sauce in £470m deal. Really, it only costs 94p a bottle at Tesco’s, although admittedly a squeezy bottle does cost about double that! It’s evil stuff, anyway, so 94p is 94p too much. I’d much rather have a bounty (34p or $25 depending on where you shop).

Leaving ALA

It seems a number of people are making a point of leaving the ALA (via and including Dorothea Salo). I have compiled a summary of the reasons why below. Apologies for any unintentional misrepresentation:

  • Michael Gorman and the anti-technology, anti-progress statements he has been making publicly in the past several months. (See).
  • The perceived racism of Mr Gorman’s remark: That does not mean that everything can be dumbed down to some kind of hip-hop or bells-and-whistles kind of stuff. As Dorothea Salo says, It is simply not acceptable for an ALA spokesperson to use a musical genre associated with African-Americans as a term of opprobrium.
  • The failure of the ALA to adequately and publicly deal with the above
  • It costs too much.
  • It does little to ensure proper pay for professional work: (I thought my $15K union card [er, MLS] was enough to at least get a foot in, but no – classic catch 22.
  • ALA are focussing on recruiting more librarians to the profession when there is arguably no need.
  • Few of my coworkers are involved in the ALA.
  • The organisation is so bureaucratic, that trying to change it would be like facing a giant, cranky squid armed only with a small, pointy stick
  • It is hard to finance participation, e.g. going to conferences

A number of these also explain why I don’t join CILIP. Obviously Michael Gorman’s impressions of Prince Philip are not relevant here, but the price, lack of value, lack of advocacy of pay (especially with regard to the professional qualification), the unrepresentativeness of CILIP amongst my colleages (of 5 cataloguers in our department, one of whom has just left, only one is a member, although she makes up for all of us with her enthusiasm and she is finding it very difficult to raise funds to enable her to go to the forthcoming IFLA conference), and the thing about the squid, certainly put me off.

DHTML Menus

This is probably nothing particularly wonderful any more, if it ever was, but I am quite chuffed by it and, if nothing else, I would be interested to hear of additional ways it may be broken. Anyway, since days of yore when I first read sil’s Unobtrusive DHTML, and the power of unordered lists I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing css/javascript menus that aren’t uncompliant arse. I think I’ve finally done it. In addition, it leaves me free of the tyranny of the three column design and lets me have a wide area of text across the screen which is also near the top. The result you can see above this page and it should work on up to date versions of IE and Mozilla/Firefox. It has been sort of working for a while but I’ve had difficult issues with overlapping submenus and suchlike.

My philosophy was that:

  • It should use css as much as possible and be light in JavaScript. JavaScript is unavoidable as pure css methods are still not possible, especially on IE. Javascript does the work and css handles the arrangement of the menu items.
  • It would work on Mozilla/IE without browser detection and any browser-specific code. There is one line of css that overcomes a minor IE glitch, which isn’t too bad. Goodness knows about Opera, although I think it’s probably OK.
  • It should work on normal biodegradable lists as mentioned in sil’s article above. For practical reasons it was easier to say that all li’s must have a’s inside them. In practice, this works out fairly easily as most menu items must point to something. Placeholding menu items have href=”#”. The script detects a menu with id of “menu” and works it all out from there.
  • It should work like a normal Windows menu that most people (especially me) are used to. This means that you should click on the menu first before things start dropping down; also, clicking on the screen should get rid of the menu. A lot of dynamic web menus seem to rush out at you whether you like it or not.

It uses two files to which you need to link: newmenu.js and newmenu.css in something like the following manner:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="newmenu.css" type="text/css" />
<script src="newmenu.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

The css is as basic as needs to be to create working but tidy menus. Additional or changed styles need (or should have) a separate stylesheet. You also need to put in something to initiate the script. I have the following in the header:

<script type="text/javascript">
	 function init () {
	  	startmenus();
		whatTimeIsIt();
	 }
	 window.onload=init;
</script>

This is because I also have a clock script that needs initializing. There are no doubt better ways of doing it. Menu items with submenus are assigned the class “sub” so styles can be added appropriately.

Cure for constipation

Try singing the theme tune to The OC. Califooooooooornia. It’s got to be worth a shot.

"Funny" subject headings

I’ve just made my first contribution to a wiki by adding some subject headings to the list of Wierd and wacky subject headings. I’ve always liked Virtual reality in management but today I found Boating with dogs (used for Boating with your dog) and Boating with cats. All three May Subd Geog.

Cataloger’s Desktop comments

The Library of Congress recently asked for feedback about Cataloger’s Desktop, the Web version of which our library subscribes to. The following are slightly edited comments that I sent:

  • The navigation is extremely disappointing and definitely puts people off: one cataloguer described it as “cumbersome” and “annoying”. I think there are several aspects to this:
    • It is meant to be a Web product but is designed as a desktop product, and not an easy to use one at that. Most people now are so used to using the Web that it is hard to adjust to using something like CD which requires you to relearn an intuitive way of doing something: simple things like using the Back button to go Back: there is an equivalent in this case, but it is disorientating not to have the navigation bar at the top. The Web could take care of so much of the usability of the site if it was left alone to do so, such as with bookmarks. CD could then concentrate on delivering the resources. I assume much of this is to do with security.
    • Web resources are presented as part of CD but, when using one of these, one is thrown back to standard Web navigation.
    • The resources are broken up in a very strange manner that might make sense for a database or an encyclopedia, but not for what are basically textual resources. One cataloguer who has been using DCRM on the Web won’t use the CD version because of this issue. Although there is a next page button, it would feel more natural to have longer stretches of unbroken text (as one would expect on a Web site) without having to navigate through an overly hierarchical tree. I am thinking mostly of AACR2 when I write this. Conversely, the opportunity to provide useful internal links has often been missed. A good example can be provided by the glossary: to me it seems more intuitive when I select the Glossary to be actually dropped into the Glossary with an index at the top rather being presented with the introductory para with the index in the left-hand frame. Maybe this is as much to do with the way AARC2 is edited, but it feels as though the theoretical structure of AACR2 has taken precedence over how it should most effectively be presented.
    • One of our cataloguers wrote the following about the clarity of the layout, with which I agree: “The interface is not very user-friendly, particularly for people with visual disabilities / small computer screens. The writing in the navigation tree is too small, and there should be a more obvious indication of where you are in the tree (at the moment it is bold, with a small arrow, which disappears if you scroll the frame). The breadcrumb trail helps, but again it is too small and unclear on a grey background.”
    • Logging in with a pop-up blocker is no fun. It would good if that were more seamless, especially when having to login again after a timeout.
    • The interface seems very reliant on images without alt text for the navigation tabs, which slow the site down, especially when logging in.
  • Cataloguers seem to find the search facility rather complicated. I have found the MARC tag search particularly useful a few times, but I generally find simple searches to be generally more effective. More emphasis on narrowing down the resources would be particularly helpful. If I’m looking for MARC fields, it’s more often than not that I’ll want particular resources.

We did use the CD-ROM version and switched to the Web version, as much for local networking problems as anything, but I did hope the Web version would be useable like a Web page.

I would like to say that, notwithstanding the above comments, Cataloger’s Desktop is a very useful resource and, especially now that is on the Web, one that has given me the confidence to begin shedding much of our department’s paper documentation, including AACR2 on paper. Some of the usability problems are due to unfamiliarity and, while preparing a recent training session on CD, the practice I gained playing with it made me appreciate it more. However, I believe the future of these resources has to lie in more standard and simple delivery, even if it means splitting up the product into fewer resources or into different packages marketed at different markets (e.g. Quick reference, Rare Books, Periodicals). Before I heard of CD I always assumed the JSC of AACR2 would offer AARC2 as a separate website and still think that offering parts of CD separately might be the way to go to simplify the navigation if nothing else. Almost all of the navigation problems seem to stem from trying to offer lots of resources at once.

Job advert

I saw the following job advertised by Bedfordshire County Council:

Ref: EBCC940/EB/int
Vacancy: Resources Assistant (Cataloguing) – Library Resources, County Hall
Scale 1/2 �10,872 – �14,106 pa (provisional grade)

Job Description: Bedfordshire Libraries

Required to work 37 hours per week alongside the Cataloguing Team in the Library Resources section of Bedfordshire Libraries.

The post involves cataloguing fiction books, some audio-visual items, and assisting in the maintenance of the Local Clubs and Societies database. Some experience of using ICT and the ability to move and lift boxes of books is essential. Training will be given.

Note particularly the following:

  • The specialised information skills required, the years of tertiary education culminating in an MA with a specialism in cataloguing and metadata: Some experience of using ICT and the ability to move and lift boxes of books is essential. Training will be given. Luckily I do have experience of moving boxes, but this wasn’t part of the course.
  • The pay commensurate with a professional post.

I’m sure CILIP will be pleased with this state of affairs. The post works alongside a “Cataloguing Team” so I’m probably being unfair, but it does say cataloguing fiction books, some audio-visual items. We require a degree, a postgraduate qualification, and several years experience for a job like that, even for copy cataloguing.

CILIP RSS feed working

It seems the CILIP RSS feed is working, although it seems this has been said before.