Thursday, January 12, 2006

I’ve got to post before more fun and exciting class sessions!

For the last week I listened to six online lectures and read countless articles, but I didn’t quite understand my organization class until we had our first actual class yesterday.

One the main things we’re studying is Document Representation. A document representation is a surrogate, a stand-in, for the actual thing. It’s basically a description. There are standards in various places on what this includes, but can include author, title, publisher, date published, brief summary, subject headings, etc. It sounds sort of basic, but it’s really not. (Librarians have to organize the heck out of everything and make it all difficult. =)

But here is the importance of document representations – imagine using a library that doesn’t use document representations. All the books are on the shelves and you have to look through all of them till you find what you want. There is no searchable catalog (those are document representations you’re searching). There is no list of any sort. Luckily you at least have book titles and blurbs on the back covers (all bits of metadata which describe the contents of the book).

It’s the same with articles. If you’re searching for an article in a database, the list of results is made of document representations. And it’s the same with internet search engines. Imagine if Google didn’t return that list of results (which are document representations). Instead you’d go straight to the first website. If that’s not it you click Next to view the next site, and so forth. You don’t get to see all the options at a glance.

Any time you’re looking at a brief description of a book, article, movie, website, audio, etc – and not the item itself – you’re looking at a document representation. These things were created to help you, the public, find what you’re looking for.

And who creates these things? Sometimes they’re automatic (as with internet search engines), but mostly they’re created by people; quite often, librarians. =)

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