Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Assignment #7 - who does the Library of Congress say that I am

I had not used the Library of Congress website reference or information before this assignment, but I had been to the site. It is so dense with collections and tools that it took me a little while to get my bearings. At the top, there is a button linking to Library Catalogs. What kind of Library is so huge that it needs multiple catalogs? It seems like there are catalogs built for different collections, like the SONIC collection of sounds, the picture and print collection, the regular print holdings of course, and then a catalog of Library Catalogs! It gets overwhelming.

On the left are some of the search options including 'browse by subject'. If you use this, you can find photographs by LC subject headings, which I found really interesting. Cataloging pictures with the standard subject headings would allow them to be found in a search that might otherwise just find print materials. It also helped quickly answer my doubt as to whether "Identity" would find many pictures or not. It was not one of the main subject heading, but I decided to return to the main page and search by keyword anyway. This gave me 76 results, but most of them there identity cards, issued by a government. Others were about confirming identity. Still others were included precisely because their "identity is unknown". There were only a few that presented some sense of self. I used the LOC site to keyword search for 'identity' in the subject headings, but got no results. I finally settled on 'self-expression', but when I searched for that in the picture collections I found one self portrait.

More than a few of the pictures were not available in sizes larger than thumbnails. There were links leading to information about obtaining originals and copies, but I was interested to read that "The Library of Congress generally does not own rights to material in its collections and, therefore, cannot grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute the material."

There is clearly a difference between the type of collections in the Library of Congress and Flickr. I put the search term "african american men and music" into both, and in each case got about a dozen results (I might not have quite the right terms because that seems like a small number to me). The difference in the results seemed to lie in the time periods represented. While both had images of well dressed men playing guitar and kazoos, only Flickr had men on stage with microphones and sunglasses. I can see how this relates to the Generator's View of the World and the Generator's anticipation of the User's Needs. The Library of Congress has a particular view of what information it wants to save and rightly so, there is too much out there to catalog everything. Instead, it seems like it has settled on a niche of information relating to the historical social character of America. Just to test this, I looked up the names of some modern rappers. Here's what came up:

Black Aleck Dickinson and his dog Snoop.

Monday, June 28, 2010

who do I say that I am?

One of the properties of Flickr that I really like is that there are sometimes subtle variations on the information provided, and because storage is not as much of an issue as it may be in some other archives, they are all accessible. For instance, a search for a famous building that many people have visited might yield pictures from all angles, at all times of day, giving a much more complete view than the 'just enough' information that an encyclopedia might provide.

Having done a few searches to feel out what kinds of photos I was likely to run into, I decided to turn my subject in a different direction. I wanted to explore Flickr, but also photography itself as a way to encode information. To do this, I typed in some search terms for abstract nouns like loneliness. I typed in 'self-esteem' and found that the results were about many of the various ways of interpreting the term. Some were frustratingly literal, like the picture of an iphone playing "self-esteem" by Offspring. Then there were pictures of people exploring their levels of self-esteem through writing or quotes combined with images. All in all, I found that the results, though peppered with whimsy and kitty-cats, were getting me down a bit so I switched gears.

When I searched for "identity" I got some very interesting results but they were much to wide open, similar to the previous search. I realized I needed to clarify my search. I was looking for photos of people that communicated a sense of self, something that in someway gave the sense of self-definition. This was very different than the photos that explored the question of identity or were about corporate branding. As a side note, I did find this interesting comment attached to a photo: " I got a formspring today from someone telling me they had found a blog of somebody impersonating me. I've had people use photos without permission before, but this took it to a whole new level. There is literally somebody pretending to be me while stealing my photos and posting them on their blog."

In terms of searching for information, I think I bit off a little too much for this assignment since the search results could probably not be replicated because my decision to include a photo in the folio or not rested largely on my "I'll know it when I see it" approach. I tried looking at the tags from the photos whose inclusion was the most certain, but other tags were mostly literal tags that objectively described the photo, like 'shoes', 'beach' or what kind of camera was used. I needed to rely on the descriptions and comments to determine the context, so I could include the photos that stated an identity, rather than just the concept of identity. After considering my results, and seeing how dependent they were on their context, it seems like I was doing more of a 'knowledge search' than and 'information search'.

View the gallery.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Future and Library Science

Take a look at this unbelievable series made by the Mississippi public broadcasting station in 1985 (the year Marty McFly also went Back To The Future). In 2123, humanity is being driven to extinction by smog and a race of aliens called the Wipers, whose function in life is to disrupt communication and destroy stored information! Humans decide to evacuate earth. In this incredible first part of the first episode, a team of human information specialists, led by Ms. Bookheart, are securing the sum of human knowledge against the Wiper onslaught and, hopefully, for someone in the future to find.

Here is the first part of the second episode which features the Users, a technologically advanced race, that discovers the store of human knowledge and how they come to investigate it.

This prompts a few thoughts:
1. The historical perspective information storage and retrieval is amazing. Part of what is interesting is that the human librarians are using a computer for teaching or making lists or something, but not storage and retrieval. This makes sense when you see the Users, who are hip to retrieving information via computers.

2. I love the wonder and disbelief of the Users when they come across the book, a static mode of information storage. More than that, I love Aphos' haughty scorn at such primitive item. And more than that, I love when he is blindly groping at the concept of fiction to the point where he is confused about why mice can no longer speak.

3. It's kind of fun to imagine what we would to if we did have to leave Earth, or at least store all of the information we can currently access. The information on the internet is stored in computers in probably hundreds of thousands of places, and the access to that is governed by yet more computers. I know there are websites like, but how do you backup the One Machine?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Around the world in 80 libraries

From the very beginning of my information search, using the online services seemed to have a much smaller focus than when I was doing the searching. Asking someone else put me into a mindset of being more concise in what I was asking and more accepting of answers. I think this has a lot to do with my internal thought process, the way I sort through possibilities and combinations, and understanding that this query is relatively open ended.

The Know It Now service was relatively fast and responsive. The conversation lasted 35 minutes and yielded 10 links to information, all of which I thought would be helpful. The librarian gave me information in a mix of other people to contact, like travel agents, independent sources, and some commentary, possibly their own experience. Some of my information needs were anticipated or interpreted by the librarian. For instance, I asked about staying in New Zealand, and the librarian sent me information about the cost of living. I got a sense that this conversation ended with a thorough search with all of my questions, at least the ones I have right now, are answered.

Ask a Librarian lasted for about 25 minutes and gave me only 2 links. This conversation was more brief and gave me less information. The librarian did not keep track of what had been asked and answered. For instance, the librarian asked me if I wanted to know how to find flight information, which I said I did, but then they did not follow up with that. I think the online environments suffer from lack of emphasis and the all too easy drifting between topics that results from different pacing and typing over each other. On the other hand, the librarian could have asked if all my questions had been answered the way the Know it Now librarian did.

Know It Now answered my question better than Ask a Librarian, at least for now. KIN gave me more information to use in helping me accomplish my goal. Maybe when I start using the information I got, I'll find that more isn't necessarily better. Since I've already done the search myself, and have been thinking about what kind of information I need, I'm already in the second step of searching. If I were coming at this cold and without a sense of personal impression, they might seem both services gave me equal access. One point I thought was particularly interesting is the question of home stay families. KIN took my question and gave me two different websites to try, but with the admonition of making sure it was safe. AAL gave me the same warning, but without a specific way to investigate the safety. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I had not given the first thought to whether home stays were safe or not, so even these anecdotal pieces of information were helpful to me.

Know It Know 24x7


What do I need to do in order to get to and stay in New Zealand for 3-6 months?

Hello. You've connected to your 24x7 online
reference service staffed by librarians across the state. Please wait one moment while I take a look at your question.

It sounds like contacting a travel agent would be the way to go here.

You could book your own flight and research things yourself, but it may be best to ask a professional.

I can point you in the direction of some government sites on obtaining a passport, etc.


I'm guessing you'd also need a visa for a stay of that length. Is this for work purposes?

Thanks, that would be helpful. Any thoughts on finding a travel agent? I am also trying to make a budget, so I'd like to get a sense of what things cost


Is this for work or pleasure?

I would like to take a class there

Ok, I'll see if New Zealand has a student visa or something like that.



It looks like folks from the US don't need a visa to visit New Zealand, and can stay for 9 months...but I'd definitely verify this with a travel agent before assuming the best.


Here's some helpful info on currency rates, driving in NZ, etc.


Here's a site on the cost of living.

If there a way to find relatively cheap housing for a 3-6 month stay?


A Big Mac in NZ, for example, costs about $3.17 in US dollars.

I'll see about the temporary housing thing.

This is all great so far, thank you



Here's some info on temporary housing.


Is there anything about staying with a host family?

And here are some apartments for rent in Auckland. I found them on craigslist.



The last 2 sites are on host families.

I'd strongly suggest making sure these are safe.


As far as travel agents go, here's a list of
some in Cleveland Heights.

Thank you for all this. My last question is about finding ways to subsidize a trip like this. I'm thinking there might be scholarships available or something like that.

I know from experience that it's tough to find scholarship info online.

You may want to check with your local library directly on that one. Local scholarships are the best bet because you're more likely to get one, and they just aren't advertised online.

Nationwide competitons, in other words, are easier to find online but very difficult to obtain.

OK, I'll check at my library then.

Is there anything else you need tonight?

No, thanks for answering all these questions. There's a lot of parts to this and what you found will help me get started.

Can I get a transcript of this?

Is your email <emailaddress withheld>?


Then yes. Check with KSU's Study Abroad office or your advisor about scholarships, too. In addition to the library at both KSU and Cleveland Heights public.

Good luck!

Thanks. Goodbye!

Thanks for using our service. Come back again if you need help with another question.

Ask a Librarian
meeboguest681756: Hi. I would like to know how to get to and stay in New Zealand for 3-6 months

imaksulibrarian: you want to know how to find flights and a place to stay?

meeboguest681756: yes, and visa information

imaksulibrarian: ok please hold on while i search

meeboguest681756: thank you

imaksulibrarian: i found a site through new zealand immigration that list some requirements to travel there

imaksulibrarian: there is a lso a link on there on how to apply for the visa

imaksulibrarian: as for finding a place to stay, that would depend on the area you wish to visit and a simple google search would probably be best for that. did you want to stay in a hotel? Hostel?

meeboguest681756: I would like to stay with a host family if possible

imaksulibrarian: is this a trip you are planning yourself or are you going with an organization r group?

meeboguest681756: I'm planning it myself. My plan is to take a class while I'm there, and then stay after the class ends.

imaksulibrarian: most times host families are set up through an exchange program through schools. you may want to contact the school where you will be taking classes to see if they have arrangements they can suggest.

imaksulibrarian: i have found a few sites that have people on there willing to do :host family stays" but you run the risk of not knowing if these people from some of the sites are who they say they are or safe.

imaksulibrarian: i would try and get in contact with the school to see if they have suggestions and if they know families they can vouch for

meeboguest681756: Ok, thanks for checking that

imaksulibrarian: no problem

meeboguest681756: Did you see anything about the cost of living?

imaksulibrarian: i will look hold on

meeboguest681756: thanks

imaksulibrarian: this is the cost of living site from the newzealnd gov. this site also has amny things you probably want to know about n.z from banking to employment.

imaksulibrarian: 1 new zealand dollar =0.7037 U.S dollars

meeboguest681756: That's helpful, thank you

imaksulibrarian: you are welcome

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To the Ends of the Earth

My information gap, a rather pressing one, is how I am going to get myself to New Zealand safely, affordably and legally. This is a wide open question and it is going to have one specific answer, so I know I will have to sort through a lot of information to figure out what I need. The situation arose initially because I decided to try to find a practicum opportunity abroad. I have had to define and answer a lot of questions along the way to making this happen, from where should I look for a practicum, how can I get in touch with people there, how will Kent feel about it, up to the questions I have now like how can I get there, how will I live there, and how long I can stay. The particular question of how to get there is something that really materialized after I set up some of the broader parameters of the trip like the exact location and dates. Now that those are in place, the logistical considerations of this are really becoming apparent.

The very first query I made was to myself. What exactly am I asking for? This is sort of a reference interview that is completely necessary since the topic is so broad and undefined. It is almost more of a project in some ways with parts having a higher priority or different schedule for completion than others. Organizing my questions helped me define my information search strategy. I varied my approached to finding information by including people, books and internet sources. In some ways, I was making the most of what I had available by being open to what kinds of information were available and following the trails that seemed to hold the most promise for answering the questions I thought I needed to answer. Often, the sources became interconnected when people I talked to would recommend internet sources, for instance.

The first question was the most basic: how much are place tickets? I entered "fly to New Zealand" to google and got as a result. Getting to Auckland has an open-ended arrangement of options, so I realized that I would define an "answer" here as a sense of common costs, rather than a specific number. For example, flying from Cleveland costs more than flying from Chicago or New York, but getting from Cleveland to those places adds to overall cost of travel. Apart from that, I want to keep open the possibility of staying in New Zealand for an extended period. All the plane tickets I had bought up until now were for specific dates. I asked a friend for advice and she suggested tickets with an open ended return date, which are more expensive. This option did not seem available on, so I emailed my new, more specific question. It turns out that I can get tickets with flexible but not completely open ended return dates. In order to find out if these costs were normal or exorbitant, I talked to friends who have traveled far away both to that area of the world and others. Another route is to look at other airlines, or airline fare aggregators such as or

After the initial search for tickets (still unresolved), I knew from common experience that there might be a need to get a visa. This question is very thorny. I asked one of my coworkers, who happens to be from New Zealand, about visas and how to find out more information about them. She suggested the New Zealand embassy in the U.S., which she had contacted before for immigration matters. I searched google for their site and found it. The common threads to information were displayed prominently. I fall under the category of "going to New Zealand", but after that I am unsure. I clicked on studying in New Zealand to learn more about student visas. Technically I am studying in New Zealand, but not in affiliation with a New Zealand educational institution. I am not really working in New Zealand because I am not being paid for my work, as per Kent's requirements. I used the email contact information on the website to send a description of my plans to the embassy to see how I should proceed. I may not even need a visa since my practicum work will last just shy of three months, which is the cut off for needing a student visa. I also searched google for "new zealand immigration" which led me to the Immigration page for New Zealand. There is a lot of information about visas here also, but I think this will be more useful if I find a way to stay longer than my period of study.

Finally, I have been searching the Kent State Office of International Affairs to determine if they are able to give me information. Their website says they offer help getting visas, which could come in handy if that proves difficult. It seems like they deal more in helping students from abroad enter enrollment at Kent, or students who are engaging in a more traditional study abroad program, than graduate students, but I think they may have some practical experience with the processes.

I am still unresolved on most of these issues, but I feel much more well informed about them. I have a sense of what things will cost and what needs to happen, and around how long it will take. My decisions about this information are to act in the next few weeks even though I am not leaving until October. I am thinking about this information, price of plane tickets and visa requirements, to be valid because I am getting the information from the very organizations (i.e. airlines and government agencies) that will issue me the documents that I need. In this sense, it meets my needs for information on a overview level but there are specific details that I have yet to work out. I will continue in this vein until I have acquired the correct tickets and visas. The search for information will not be complete until I know exactly what documents I need to send and have some confidence in my travel schedule, at least enough to buy plane tickets.

Finding this type of information is not new to me, but writing about it is. This blog post is illuminating in that I see how many questions I ask at once and how much I try to juggle before I know I can move onto another stage of planning. I also see that the being more definite about the information I am seeking allows the searching yield better and more useful results. Another interesting factor is how bundled information leads leads to new questions as much as it conveniently answers current ones. On the airline sites, there are answers to my questions about costs, but there are also ideas about what to do in New Zealand, and how to get around while there, for instance renting a car. The immigration websites answer my questions about student visas, but also give me notions about how to move there permanently if I chose to try that. I did not go to those sites to get new ideas, but I ended up discovering them because the designers of the sites decided that the information about each was worth placing next to each other. I essentially am browsing for ways to enhance my experience that would not have been included in a mere filling of the information gap as I perceived it initially.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All Aboard

For the first post, just to make sure this is working alright, I thought I would put up the links to the various sites and and accounts we are creating. While you are looking at that for all of a few seconds, here is something to keep you interested in this post:

Delicious ID - cutitoutunclejesse
This ID is from a long time ago, but I think delicious works through yahoo, so I signed up using the account I already had.

WorldCat - hdrakster

Flickr - hdrakster
I typically don't have a lot of pictures on the web. For those I do I use Picasa (google) because they have the highest resolution acceptance.

Library Thing - I haven't signed up for this yet in the hopes that my GoodReads account (ID = Hank Drak) will suffice.