Competency G - Statement and Evidence

  Portfolio of Cathleen Elizabeth Ash

understand the system of standards and methods used to control and create information structures and apply basic principles involved in the organization and representation of knowledge;

Ones. Zeros. 1101011. It might not mean anything at first glance, especially spelled out this way in black and white, in text, but it means a whole lot to a computer. It's the basis for everything in computer language, and a necessary element to consider when organizing any type of information, especially in terms of databases. Eight bytes. We're not talking how long it takes to eat a sandwich, we're talking about the amount of space available at any given moment for a character to take up residence in your database. One of them (the bytes) doesn't even really count - it's a checker. All of these bytes, every bit of data you enter, takes up residence, takes up space, and slows your database down. It is important, then, to consider not only how much information must be included, but how it can be pared down to ensure speedy access during use.

Once you've determined what to include in your database, you need to consider how the majority of users will attempt to access that information. Will they search using keywords? Will your database allow all keywords or have some "stop words" that are not searched because they are too common and will overload the user with useless, irrelevant responses? Will you allow wild cards? Will your database return hits for all words containing the chunk of phrase put into the query? For example, if I typed inform in a search box, will I receive responses that contain informing, information, and informer?

It is necessary not only to understand databases in general (their layout, use, power requirements and ability to respond quickly based on the search parameters and size of the database), it is also important to understand the users that will approach your database seeking information. In an effort to do this, I worked with a group that designed a (very small) database for a specific user. There were trials and tribulations, but we got the job done. It gave us a bird's-eye view of the difficulties inherent in cataloging, organizing, and presenting information to and for users. It was much easier working with an established set of guidelines regarding the structure and presentation of information - the MARC record. There are many, many parameters guiding the regulation of information in a MARC record. I had the opportunity to become very familiar with these while enrolled in the cataloging class on campus. As evidenced by the Final Project for the class, I gained a clear understanding of many of the aspects of cataloging in general, and MARC records specifically. I was also able to apply this knowledge in the creation of new records (my own Name Authority Record and a Hotel Reservation).

All of these examples, the databases, the MARC records, the cataloging, are clearly needed in a library environment, but other types of information are needed by the users. The Viking website is a clear example of this. Students are required to research a year-long project at the ninth, tenth, and twelfth grade levels at my school. To help them in doing this, I've prepared pages of information for them to access. This information helps them not only find information in our library (using the online catalog - with detailed instructions in how to do so), but also provides them with reviewed websites that contain some of the information they need. The site itself has been organized with the high-school user in mind: the information is "chunked" into groups so the students can quickly see (from the home page) where they might want to go for specific information. Gathering information, assessing its importance to your purpose, and then preparing with an end user in mind, allows not only for a good representation of knowledge and information, but easy access.

List of Evidence for Competency G:
Database Exercise Group attempt at designing a database for specific users, integrating anticipated user-information needs into the design.
Cataloging Final Project Link removed March 2009 - Project still in use. These examples show organization of specific items in a collection, based on Dewey.
Name Authority Record Creation of my own Name Authority Record following the guidelines of the Library of Congress.
Hotel Reservation Reservation in a Hotel in New York (Internet and Dewey-based) .
Viking Website My own library page for students at the high school where I serve as the Librarian. It includes resources to assist them in their major, grade-based, benchmark projects.
YA Lit Reviews An Excel spreadsheet tracking books read and reviewed for a Young Adult Literature class.