Systemic Thinking

Tonight’s class had a guest speaker and part of his information dealt with the topic “systemic thinking.” I’ve been doing this my entire life and never knew what it was called. Consider it a combination of analysis and otherwise “digging.” It’s seeing patterns and trends in life processes. I first learned to do this with scriptures. Looking for parallels with life and with what I read, this is now a normal part of life for me happening daily, like breathing.

I don’t know whether I am “good” at it or not. It simply comes to me when looking around at life. There were other aspects of the discussion like leadership- a real leader is someone who inspires others to their best behavior by looking to help those people become better themselves. A real leader also has interest in the development of his or her cor-workers, staff, comrades, or just plain friends or family. I want to add here, irrespective of whether or not they can benefit him or her. Honest and active leadership involves recognizing the strengths and benefits of the people who surrounds one. Working hard to make a positive impact is the main result required from positive change, even if change is not easy.

The older I get, the more that I see change as necessary to make any progress in life. I recently moved six miles. That may not seem like much, but in a city like where I live, it is the difference between drug stores on every corner, and actually having corners. I live in a space that feels safer, and that should hopefully host some sort of social event or gathering for a small group once I have a clue where I really want to put my bed.

Moving in has taken time and energy, but the good thing is that I am now frequently on-campus, and thus I have more emphasis on homework and less time spent in other measures or other pursuits. Focus was an issue, but now I am normally in the same room nearly every waking hour. This does happen to be my favorite room between both campuses, but I am grateful that tomorrow I will change it up a bit and go to other places where I may pursue other endeavors.

Thanksgiving will be a local event, and I still cannot choose with whom to participate in the matter. There are other temptations which try to hit my mind, but I know in Whom I have trusted, and even if there is no other way out I have Him and will power. There is the example of not giving heed to potential issues. No matter how late it is, no matter how cold, or lonely, there is determination and endurance. Called “true Scottish grit” by some, it is knowing that the Lord will keep His promises whether or not the results are instantaneous, and especially when you wait for years and try your best and keep going the best that you know how to do, admitting candidly imperfections if called upon.

For those who scoff at faith, try a dose of HEAVY duty trials. There will be no more scoffing shortly thereafter. Friends and love come and go, but God ever remains. The methods may change like a DVD player to ITunes, but the message content (what another professor likes to call data) stays the same. The expression of the thought process is manifested in various ways, and they’re not bad.

Just like how God loves all people no matter how stupid we all get. Yeah, sure- people get on each other’s nerves. Best friends sometimes need to breathe. But that doesn’t mean that there is a lack of goodness there. I wonder sometimes if people don’t believe in God because of trust issues, or not wanting to commit, or for any reason, openly, they’re scared. It takes faith in emergencies to get through it. Not sure whether anyone else thinks this way, but I do. It’s not a complete thought, but hopefully it gets people to think.

I have no idea what God has in store for me, but I think that whatever it is, it’s going to be fun. Not sarcastically-meant, either. I believe in a God of miracles, of love and light, who likes and respects intelligence, but doesn’t treat people unfairly. If you’re going to do God’s will, He will likely start working with you more. That’s not to say that there won’t be opposition, but God overcomes things. It’s how He works. This is the Deity that I believe in. This is part of Jesus Christ.

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Training for Reality: Librarians and Genealogists

Why don’t library schools train in family history/genealogy? It’s the same methodological thought processes, just more of them and more of the historical aspects. If librarians get requests for it regularly, then why in Hades not train for it? I hear in library school all the time about how librarians get requests for genealogical help or information and they seem incapable of answering the questions. Um, duh- teach the students how to deal with it. Make sure that they know something about what is there, beyond simply Ancestry.com, and have the librarians start working on their own family history as the assignment.

Nothing about family history matters until you try looking up your own family. The next thing you know, it’s the most fascinating stuff in the entire world. YOUR history, not someone else’s, exactly. Yes, it is training that helps a person with customer service skills in the ability to help others, and it’s the most addictive stuff on the planet. Instead of getting into crack, people needs family history training. The only people for whom it is boring are the people who have never tried it, or more accurately, the people who never found anything. One hit, and you’re hooked. Maybe it would be better likened to LSD. Never having taken drugs, I really don’t know what the proper analogy would be for this, but instead of getting depressed over the ineptitude and vicissitudes that accompany familial rejection, despair, loneliness, or otherwise some combination of vices that really helps no one, go to the library and find someone who has some good training in a topic that is the main crux of the problem.

A feeling of the sense of self that completes a person enough to get them away from depression or the things meant to lift it comes from knowing where you come from, coming to grips with it, and dealing. (I am no psychologist, and not a professional in that regard at all. I have nothing against anyone who needs medication or similar things whatsoever.) It takes a lot of strength to see that your family is not perfect, and even (heaven forbid!) sharing it with the relatives involved.

I saw the cover of a book last year that showed a librarian looking like Superman, but a girl. Train librarians in what the people need, and then no one will ask whether or not libraries are worth the funding necessary to keep them open!

More thoughts on New Apps?-NUCMC Mobile

Since I plan to learn how to program apps for historical repositories to make the genealogical world an easier place to navigate for friends, relatives, and the rest of the world, I want to work on getting more thoughts down on paper. I make notes everywhere. Can’t stop writing if I wanted to, but they do not always make it here. Must write this down before it leaves my thought processes.

So, NUCMC exists. It’s this massive union catalog of manuscripts done by the Library of Congress.

  •       For anyone not heavily invested in libraries, a union catalog is how a bunch of libraries together (supposedly) try to save money by using one major catalog and adding entries as needed. Since supposedly no government entity has money anymore (and most libraries are the forgotten beneficiaries of Borders closure, hence making a lot of people try to return to libraries that lost funding and programs in the never-ending stream of budget cuts that come out when people lose interest in culture) then the union catalog supposedly helps people find their information faster. Once I had a teacher who was extremely upset about converting a library to a union catalog. I need to hear positive opinions about them before I can give a more-accurate conclusive judgement. So, consider the above paragraph biased due to that experience.

NUCMC is a manuscripts version of OCLC’s WorldCat. In the end, it’s all about finding the right piece of information as quickly as possible. I was wondering when it comes to NUCMC, is there an app for that? I know that is a trade marked catch-phrase from Apple, but really- IS there an app for that? I am investing my time and energy in learning more about how to make existing technology work easier. If something exists and it’s not incredibly easy to use and does not function on a level where it only takes a few taps, then it’s outdated already. Not as if everyone has the time or power to use such technology on a grand scale. That is not the point here. Accessibility, while a hot topic in any archive or library, along with a basic design, (advanced design principles) that clarify and streamline are the essentials to an effective group’s work.

History matters to the people who live it and somehow either loved it or hated it. And it also matters to the people who don’t know about it for themselves, meaning “Was this family story for real?” That is where the repositories come in. The places that physically host or hold the information must be open virtually, 24/7, while the staff go to bed, live, eat, take care of children’s runny noses, and have lives. They don’t have to operate staffed all the time, although this would be a little ideal for the world employment situation. Someone complains about money issues and then everyone curls up in virtual fetal positions or raise their hands and say no.

I can see when war is the only option to divest tyrants, and military actions tend make really great, detailed records, but it’s like no one has the ability to tell me where all of the money went. Congress has not passed a real budget in 3/4 years of the current presidency and runs on these strange executive orders. I’m sorry. I don’t elect kings. I elect a president and I can get them out. America feels more like a police state now than it did ten years ago. I am not a fan of the illusion of security over the reality of corruption in every level of government and spying on your own people because you are afraid of losing your power. That smacks of fear and lack of confidence in a huge degree. I mean, when you are done being president, you continue with your security detail, you have a huge paycheck, and if the spouse wants to, she can run for president, too. I mean, it seems incredibly silly to worry so hard over the power struggle. And no, it’s not a case of scarcity of resources. It’s a struggle against innovation to clean things up versus keeping costs low. Other countries figured out how to get away with much less oil consumption back in the 1970’s during the first oil crisis by using sugar and other plant-based fuels that Americans seem completely unaware of. No, it does not cost more to convert over. It costs lobbyists and politicians their dependence on the fuel profits from corn shares that literally change how all food grows in the US. I may not know a ton on this topic, but I do see inter-connected webs throughout. It’s a pain in the rear.

Back to the libraries and archives, there is need for NUCMC to be accessible by app if it is not already. When thinking about how historians actually work, it’s not just IN libraries and archives. We need as much portability as any other traveler. Most of my research time is on a day off from other things, or maybe on Saturdays. I research on the way to other places instead of that place being the only thing on the list. It’s the only way that I do not feel guilty for taking the time out to make my work happen. I have yet to be able to do a work trip specifically geared for simply research unless I plan it way in advance. I know of other professionals who actually do plan for research trips and spend their time in the libraries and archives akin to gold.

Due to the expenses involved, online record repositories like Ancestry are incredibly popular, and if I am correct, just passed the one billion mark for profits for good reason. Some of the basic records should be free, and it would be the ideal in the best of world for the whole thing to be, but that is not going to happen either in the current economy or any other. A market economy will not allow it. However, instead it comes down to enough people basically buying into the program to lessen the charge for everyone else.

A lot of apps are free or else people do not try them. I want to do things that are free and somehow make ends meet and get paid for it. I am too much of an idealist in that regard. Not sure how in the world it will work out, but I love the idea of flooding the earth with the ability to find what is necessary to get the research done. I am a romantic in this ideal, and I understand it. Going into academia unfortunately will not pay for it, but I also love teaching. Why is it that everything that I get a kick out of does not pay bills?

*sighs from the GenealogyDr*

Notes From Cataloging Class

While working on the RDA overview, I started thinking about bar codes on books and wondered why didn’t the bar code have embedded standardized cataloging in it? A quick scan and the information is all there. This is not to say that catalogers become extinct at libraries. Far from it, employ more of them in diverse media fields, like music and within publishing houses if they are not there already. There is usually one of maybe tops of three catalogers in any given institution. At larger institutions, I have only heard of a maximum of five.

Change the structure a bit and pre-catalog in AACR2 and RDA. When the books or similar materials get to a library, scan the book, and if institutions need to tweak an entry for individual use, that is the functional role of the staff cataloger. We do not lose catalogers that way, we add to them. I am not sure whether this is already being done, but I see no reason it is not. For union catalogs, it still works.

Adding catalogers to staff of book sellers, DVD processors, CD processors, and etc. Even iTunes needs cataloging standardization and methodology to help with making content more accessible. These thoughts do not seem new. I am a new GSLIS student, and I am all about not reinventing wheels when it is not necessary, but in finding the fastest and the best methods possible for a given task. They are not always mutually exclusive endeavors.

I would love a systematic cataloging system utilizing Mills citations for sharing across the genealogical world. As of this writing, I am not aware of anything that comes close. Something inexpensive or free for home cataloging. And something that allows a Creative Commons use for archival uploads. Catalog an item once. Do it once (if possible) and do it right, no matter which institution it belongs to, whether NARA, a historical house, or a private collection. I want the Creative Commons ability for my crusade about digitizing as many documents as possible with keyword-search abilities to make searching easier, faster, and better. That said, cataloging should function in similar manner. Do it once and allow for downloads anywhere needed or the bibliographical information.

No future-proofing option exists now, but if the current motions for acceptance of RDA come true, and international standardizing bodies recognize it and start using it, then there is an obvious need to turn the AACR2 information into compatible work. Software with dual screen abilities, populated by OCLC Connexion or similar software should give current catalogers a chance to keep using their skills even as they merge over to the new fields. If someone has need to look up information backwards, they should also be able to do it. AACR/2 has been around for 30+years and all efforts in American academia up to this point revolve around this system, Dewey, Cutter, or a similar method with Library of Congress information. The idea is not to interrupt workflows, but to make for as seamless a transition as possible.

My class uses OCLC Connexion for double-checking basic bibliographical references and we do not add to the records. Seems like good reason as we do not know what we are doing, and wish not to disrupt the entries of those that do. AACR2 has a million rules to follow, also. Following the rules means that people get really good at proving their cases for things. Akin to lawyers’ court cases, or mathematicians’ proofs, or family historians’ Genealogical Proof Standard, everyone uses evidence as proof of things. In most places of life after introductory basics, a person is proving him or herself all the time. Very few people accept anything on face value unless tired, or the facts are not sufficient to alarm them.

Even God uses evidence, although there is a certain degree of faith attached. “Prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts” is part of a scripture asking for people to try out the promises that God gives. Try it, akin to trial, perhaps. Who’s trying whom? To be determined.

That aside, I want things to run efficiently. Let the para-professionals simply scan in books or other items as they come in. If there are back logs of previously cataloged items, then use the logs to help with populating the new material or union catalogs for distribution. There is always more cataloging to do. Whether it is new acquisitions, or archival items, or even simply cataloging Google images and items, it needs doing. Search terms help, but they’re not enough. An Advanced search on Google is almost impossible unless a person literally searches Google for it. And while there is a lot on Google, there isn’t everything there yet.

For those of us who did not grow up in the instant information-Fast Pass (thank you Disney) mentality of the Internet, there is still a lot of material left to cover and a lot not yet available online. Even for what is there, keyword searching does not always cover it, nevertheless cross-cultural information algorithms.

Hire more catalogers. Improve and increase software, and make sure that what is there is known.

Best to all from the Genealogy Doctor.

Respect and Digital Accessibility for Sacred Objects

This post is a reaction to a reading for Digital Media class and reflects the thoughts of the author only. The author read the articles assigned and chose the article that most closely featured pertinent issues for the author. However, the other articles are not discussed within this blog post.

When reading the article dealing with Māori religious artifacts and their digital representations*, I thought about the issues of accessibility to knowledge versus respect for the knowledge. The Internet naturally gravitates toward a view of life where everything is accessible to anyone at any time. If an object, theory, or other concept or construct is not yet emblazoned across the billboard of utopian transparency then it is somehow clique-ish, strange, or “other.”

The theoretical nature of graduate school holds the pre-requisite of needing proof of previous knowledge assumed by the gaining of a degree in order for entrance.  It is the experience of the author that most people would not automatically assume that “just anybody” could or would want to do this. Many people stop their formal education at Bachelors degrees is that is even available to them. Graduate school is open and available to those who choose to do the work necessary, make the sacrifices and pay the price for the added benefit. Whether that price is high depends upon the individual circumstances of the person in question. General requirements are open and should a person choose to apply, they receive consideration. Being accepted, learning, and matriculation/graduation are important for the individual and the people around them and their future capacities. Otherwise, why bother?

It is a similar parallel with objects of a sacred nature. Not everything receives respect outside of a cultural group. Digitization for preservation purposes is a good idea. While this viewpoint is contrary to the “All Access all the time” viewpoint espoused and preached by the ALA, not everything needs display against a digital billboard. There are some things that require respect and more than simple curiosity to understand.

Accessible control of digitized objects is a hot topic within the utopian viewpoint. Most people are only willing to pay a sum for access to whatever they want instead of intangible or character traits. This is the kind of respect required with sacred things. I am not against controlling access so long as there is accurate or positive explanation behind the lack of access. That is fair. Not everyone needs or even wants access to something until they think that it is something desirable only due to inaccessibility. That is not the point.

Positioning objects within a digital realm is about networking connections for the people who treat sacred things as sacred. Profaning sacred things or making it common or gross is heinous whether or not it gauges the people who protect those things as somehow less than their peers. Increased sensitivity is necessary in a culture otherwise calloused in its standards and behavior patterns. Tolerance is something that needs equal distribution to everyone, not simply to people who say that everything is a free for all without implications or responsibilities.

*Deirdre Brown, “Te Ahua Hiko: Digital Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Objects, People, and Environments,” 77-91.

GIS Coding Structures and WikiMap for Historians and Genealogists

I have to learn more about GIS. Sitting in an LIS 701 final last semester, suddenly connections between my different worlds (family history or genealogy, public history, library information systems, history of genealogical technology, cemetery obsessions, and now current technologies and their use in historical applications along with history of technology in general) coincided in a flash of insight. The idea came for WikiMap, or map for historical research repositories/locations (MHRL). Cute and clever name to be decided.

 

The idea is that present day apps have natural GPS features, and I use them non-stop to find my way around unfamiliar locations. Seeing mapping technologies and how they’ve changed since their primordial days in the late 90s, now there is continuous tagging and classifying of places and events. The idea behind this app is to either smush together the needed layers of maps akin to Adobe Photoshop layers.

 

  1. The layers would start with the basic Google Map. Although it may or may not be “fancy,” I do not know enough of the background coding or development as to its build to make sure that it is useful for this purpose.
  2. Add on top of that an “appative” (app plus additive or added layer) where a person could choose to look up an address and using the app immediately know all of the libraries, archives, historical societies, cemeteries and/or any other vital agency of pertinence (or that added themselves to this pertinence layer). That is the main “value-added” layer.
  3. Another layer would be subsections of mass census ethno-graphic data from the Minnesota Population Center, modern census information (optional layer).
  4. This would help with a cross-layer of historical (back to 1850’s) data. When crossing this data layer with that of layer three, suddenly patterns emerge concerning who used to live somewhere and who lives there now. When these patterns have the contextual usage of finding information from a death record, for instance, a simple address search suddenly becomes the beginning of immediate population with the closest archives, libraries, historical societies, cemeteries, churches, hospitals, funeral parlors, or other places where information of genealogical relevancy is kept.
  5. All of this turns into a self-guided walking tour if in the town in question, or a virtual physical space directory hosting Wikiguides to links to the places that pop up, preferably with user ratings.

 

Thought-process wise, this is taking yelp, specifying the searching mechanism, and turning it into a historical demography tool. These are the things that literally keep me awake at night, and on the computer past 2:30AM. That, and completing class reading assignments. There is one class (that I know of) at Loyola University Chicago that deals with GIS- UNIV 410, and I want in on it to make this happen.

I currently have a Digital Media class that may address this topic, but I need to crunch data with hard numbers that I probably cannot comprehend. I want to take massive data quantities that are all open source code variables and throw them into a matrix that makes them useful to the lay researcher who only needs a few sources here or there.

 

For once the source is going to the person and back to the map instead of the document being the end of a research question and the only payment for hard work is following the efforts with analysis and reporting back to the client. Although available before through more clicks than necessary, this tool would make it possible for anyone to walk a town and find the right sources in the right places immediately.

If there were agreements with the publishers of the Handybook for Genealogists to add their records data for the different repositories in their collection, that would be incredibly useful. 

Preserving History: A Take on the Egyptian Library and Personal Documentation

As a genealogist but more particularly as a preservationist of useful historical artifacts, the burning of the Egyptian library got to me. The first truly preservationist blog recommended buying a fireproof box, and keeping essential documents inside that box. I wish that Egyptian library followed that policy. As soon as I heard that it burned, I thought about flame-retardant systems and how Egypt had one example of this already more than a thousand years ago. Personal time-travel wishes for going back to the library of Alexandria and rescuing documents is not an option. Neither is there an option for saving the 1890 census from the 1920’s fire, or the St. Louis NARA military records fire in the 1970’s.

While becoming a digital documentation fanatic, I love my paper. When I was a child, I had to stop and stare at stationery in stores, and I love the smell of a well-cared for museum. It’s the one of the most glorious smells in the world. The smell of old, well-cared for books versus musty dusty rusty is vast. The archivist in me knows that digital only takes one good electro-magnet to erase despite best efforts at keeping it functioning whereas paper, when done properly, lasts for hundreds of years if not thousands. Metal is better for inscriptions while rock isn’t bad for more everyday use. And no, I’m not suggesting using metal or rock for making different items, but they’re not bad choices for consideration of things meant to last literally for thousands of years. Thank you, again, Egyptians and hieroglyphs.

I wish that more people realized that their lives are important. Not as in they themselves are the best being that ever was since the beginning of time, but their existence matters. People who understand that existence matters like documenting it. Maybe there is a natural proclivity toward removing traces of existence in the short term. My gas receipt although theoretically useful for tax deduction benefits at the end of the year isn’t something that I really care about. I try to pay with cash, and so there aren’t any strong numbers on there to hold against me. That said,

DOCUMENTATION IS IMPORTANT! No, I do not recommend becoming a pack-rat and storing every single paper that a person ever created in their entire lifetime. That is unwieldy and unmanageable when there are hundreds if not thousands of papers for the life span of most educated people. Vital records- store them, make copies, and put them in bank vaults. These matter. Tax documents going back at least seven years, and if possible a copy from every year (the IRS can audit going back that far, technically, but seven years is the minimum). Medical records, especially immunizations, matter. Religious documents, wills, and court records, or anything that a government or governing body of any kind creates also matters. That includes school transcripts and similar records. Within my own record stashes are my father’s high school varsity letter in chess, (yes, he’s smart. Brilliant, honestly,) his and my mother’s wedding pictures, and some of my and his school transcripts from when we were both in grade school. Things like this add human interest in the “blank space” otherwise occurring between birth and marriage for most ancestors.

Although many people are hugely into scrap booking, I am not. However, scrap booking is a valid personal history builder as is blogging, etc. Family websites are good things, and there is no way to get away from digital documentation in family history. I wish that the current software programs kept up with the needs of the field, although I need to test out RootsMagic 5 to see if they upgraded their documentation systems. I love the Memorize Feature for ease of use in referencing a document multiple times, but otherwise regarding genealogical software programs they all still have issues or else I have not found one with sufficient quality to address my daily needs. Still/always searching!

I’d give a lot for a program to have all of Evidence Explained‘s examples in Wizard format along with automatic digital download capacity for websites and similar mediums, and be transferrable between computers or more compatible utilizing basic GEDCOM utility languages. Makes me wonder what the limitations are for the underlying code structures.