Blog Article #3

By cmcrilly

Blog Article #3

The field of Library and Information Science has grown and expanded as the world has progressed. This expansion has extended to online spheres from digitizing archives to online library collections. Coming from Upstate New York, I grew up in the shadow of Kodak and everything relating to George Eastman. The George Eastman House provides a lot of historic options for someone interested in photographic archives. It is because of this that I chose to do my third blog article on the George Eastman House online archives database. I am unable to conduct an in-person observation of the archives as they are a six hour drive but I am more interested in combing the online collections to see how such a vast collection is being translated digitally.

From class discussions, the article that most stood out to me on this subject is Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Due to the digitization of documents and photographs, Benjamin’s article is pertinent in that it offers up the question of whether or not we are losing something in the digitization process. While this article may be a little out of date, having been written in the nineteen thirties, it still provides a valid viewpoint from which to consider the impact technology has on works of art and photographs. What could we possibly lose by digitizing photographic collections that record historic events, individuals, and other such precious time capsules into our past? Benjamin argues that the essence of the moment is lost in the reproduction of the image, “[e]ven the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” (Benjamin) It interesting to wonder if this doesn’t happen almost immediately after the act of taking a photo as the image itself is produced from a negative. On the other hand, as the negative is the pure image, would it technically be called reproduction if the negative is used…”in photography, process reproduction can bring out those aspects of the original that are unattainable to the naked eye yet accessible to the lens, which is adjustable and chooses its angle at will. And photographic reproduction, with the aid of certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, can capture images which escape natural vision. Secondly, technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself. Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record.” (Benjamin) According to Benjamin’s logic, it would still lose its presence in the time and space in which it was taken so even the act of developing a photo from the original negative would make it a reproduction.

The George Eastman House Online Collections are split up into several categories including collections of negatives, lantern slides and many smaller collections of photographs on historic events and persons. While there is some access to these collections, it is nowhere near complete which the sites recognize. I perused the main collections that the site highlights to judge the general functionality of the online collections. On both the Eastman Museum website and the George Eastman House site, there is a useful “Search” tool which allows someone to pin down a specific collection or photograph. Although this tool exists, there isn’t a lot of free movement between the collections which makes it difficult to compare images unless you open up a new window from which to view the images side by side. The licensing website that houses the collections is organized by general collection (technology, rare books, Civil War, Portraits of Photographers, 19th Century Streets, Eastman’s Legacy, and Frame clippings). The site recognizes that there is missing material and urges visitors of the site to check back regularly for updates to the collections. There are collections on these two specific sites and both offer different collections, one of the major cons with using these online collections is the difficulty of maneuvering within and between the collections which is a bit cumbersome. The Eastman Museum site recognizes that the database is only a fraction of the photography collection and is not a comprehensive representation of all of the museum’s materials and there is still much work to be done. However, they are off to a good start.

Blog Post #2

By cmcrilly

Blog Article #2

In our class discussions, I often wonder about the under-represented groups of people who are not able to access the technologies on which we focus.  This could be because of physical restraints, mental restraints (not having the knowledge or skills necessary to access information), geographical restraints (not living near a library or having access to internet at home), or a variety of other hindrances that I sometimes feel are swept aside in order to narrow the discussion into a workable framework.   For the sake of narrowing it down and to talk about a group with which I have personal experience working with, I’m going to try to focus on those with special needs, that is, those with developmental disabilities and physical impairments.

In class we have looked heavily at the user experience within the library system.  While we have touched on those lesser represented in the studies and research we’ve looked at, I would like to flip the lens and see how little those studies would apply to those with special needs.  I was reminded of Wilson’s article “Human Information Behavior” and wondered how well his definitions would apply to certain minorities.  Wilson defines information seeking behavior as the “purposive seeking for information as a consequence of a need to satisfy some goal. In the course of seeking, the individual may interact with manual information systems (such as a newspaper or a library), or with computer-based systems (such as the World Wide Web).”  I like this definition when I apply it to myself.  However, I have huge issues with this definition when I try to apply it to individuals with whom I have worked with developmental disabilities.  One is a young woman who is my age and would be a fully functional individual had she not been, at four years old, plagued with a sickness that resulted in the non-verbal, non-ambulatory life she now lives.

Even though this young woman is unable to speak or get around on her own, she is still able to make herself known and heard.  She is able to communicate her wants and needs to those she works with.  Now, according to Wilson’s definition, she would only portray information seeking behavior if she were to actively seek that information and interact with information systems.  So say she wanted to have the opportunity to listen to a book on tape.  She wouldn’t be able to go to the computer room and look up the books on tape available at her local library.  She wouldn’t be able to drive to that library and ask questions of the librarian.  She wouldn’t be able to check the item out on her own, nor would she be able to return it on her own.  So what are her options according to Wilson to demonstrate information seeking behavior?  As far as I can tell, she has none.

Would it be beneficial to alter Wilson’s definition of information seeking behavior in order to make it more widely applicable?  Should there be a completely separate definition based on various groups of people?  I would argue that there should be a broader definition to determine intent of the user as opposed to simply actions of the user in order to include those that may not be able to act on their intent.  I’m concerned that if there is a separate definition created for those groups of people that are already marginalized, it will further the perception of their being placed on the outskirts of the community.  Although this doesn’t happen in all cases, and in many cases there are communities within communities made up of these particular underrepresented groups which make a lot of headway in making sure there is equality across the board.  I am speaking of general societal perception and stereotypes that go along with these groups.  I have found that there is a distinct discomfort in talking about such things in the company of those who have not have personal experience working with people with developmental disabilities.  I think an open dialogue is a necessity for considering the creation of new, broader, more-inclusive terms of the “user” and “behavior.”

The assumed notion of health, accessibility, and skill is what bothers me primarily when I am looking at research and studies about user friendliness and something as narrowing as “experience.”  It trims the fat and focuses on the meaty majority that has the resources and skills available to them.  I am not saying that there are not resources available for people with special needs, I am simply arguing that there is not much, if any, recognition of this group in studies or research.  I feel that this pushes us to look further into underrepresented or misrepresented groups like prisons, halfway houses, psychiatric hospitals, the VA, rural schools, immigrant populations, visually and auditory impaired persons, this list could go on forever.  In a world that is increasingly focused on the individual can’t afford not to include such groups of people when looking at the future of information and librarianship.

Blog Post #1

By cmcrilly

Blog Entry #1

I have become preoccupied with the idea of keeping tabs on changes throughout the classification and cataloging systems both within the field of Library and Information Science (LIS) and some outlying fields as well. Let’s focus on LIS for the time being. With the progression of thought and terms and what should be considered “politically correct” at any point in time, the LIS field faces the task of determining how things should be classified and cataloged. The goal is to make things more accessible while making it continually more accurate. However, within this voyage for accuracy, there are loads of biases one has to account for within these classifications. For example, cross classification of terms that could mean one thing to a middle class white American and something else entirely to a person in Eastern Europe or Africa or Asia. This could go both ways though, right? Who is to say that our classification systems are the best and most current or even the most correct? Should there be an international system? Who decides that? This could go on forever. At this moment in time, there is no one way of classifying or cataloging and that is okay, because within those differences is the opportunity to learn and grow from others. My primary concern is the lack of communication and interconnectedness between world classification systems and how that affects the rapidly changing information.

I personally think that the changing of language and overall perception is seen most clearly within the Mental Health field. The language used there comes from the American Psychiatric Association and is conveyed through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) which outlines diagnoses. Changing language, that is, the way something is explained or categorized in this sense, is a revision process that can take a prolonged period of time. So what happens when mental health professionals are trying to change the perception of how the general public views something as well-known as suicide? When did it go from “committing suicide” to “completing suicide”? Who considered changing the wording based on the idea that “committing” makes it sound like the person has gotten away with a criminal act (omitting the Church’s viewpoints for simplicity’s sake…let’s pretend we live in an atheistic society for now)? How is that translated to the non-mental health professionals of the world?

The idea of mental health professionals changing how something is portrayed is to tackle it at the ground floor in order to change the public’s sense of a specific thing. With this in mind, and knowing that changing terms in the DSM is time consuming, what really matters when keeping track of these types of changes when looking at an academic library setting? One international system for the electronic exchange of clinical health information is SNOMED-CT (Systemized Nomenclature of Medicine-Clinical Terms) ( SNOMED provides structured medical language that is consistent across the board to draw on the same vernacular and as a way to categorize terms within the medical fields. SNOMED keeps track and maintains this medical database and language, allowing the option for libraries to draw from that resource. Another database is the ICD-10 (International Classification Database) which incorporates the DSM language making it more accessible for academic libraries, universities, academia-related searched, and new keywords out to medical professionals ( This database creates a sort of crosswalk between the ICD codes and the DSM codes to increase specificity and classify clinical health issues. The ICD is also largely used for billing purposes, as people and services need to know what they are being billed for, which increases the need for precision of the database.

So how are these resources helpful in the classification, cataloging and changing of terms? Let’s go back to suicide. Instead of the term “suicide” let’s pretend that the APA decided to change it to “picking flowers” because that sounds nicer. If someone were to do a search for the new term “picking flowers,” a week after the new term was decided upon, the chances of there being anything written on picking flowers in slim. However, within search engines, there is an electronic crosswalk between suicide and picking flowers which links the old term with the new. The extent of the crosswalk depends on who is maintaining those search engines and from where they are receiving their information. Would Google have a relationship with the APA to keep track of changing terms?   Perhaps.

Now if it’s once again “committing” vs. “completing” the database would implement fuzzy logic which doesn’t require it to be one or the other, only that they can be close enough within the same meaning in order for the software to alert the database of the parameters (like a thesaurus). This comes in handy, especially as medical terms are being updated constantly. Libraries can have access to those types of systems and software as they are all Internet-based though they can be costly, especially if only being used for research. However, libraries form a powerful lobbying force and can often negotiate a more cost-effective contract.

The possibility of accessing these databases on an academic level and the interconnectedness of those databases with the APA relieves some of my fears about the loss of changing information within the mental health field. However it gets me thinking about other fields of study that may or may not have those options for sharing information. If so, do they also share their information and open it up to libraries? Would there be a need for a more vastly overlapping, more inclusive cataloging system in the world we live in today? We would probably need to take that on a case-by-case basis but the general idea is the same. Regardless of topic, there is always some benefit with information sharing that includes library systems which can help to maintain and catalog the influx of information as it comes in this now digital world.


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