Teaching Students about Searching and Browsing Classified and
          Indexed Knowledge: incorporating bibliographical
  ...
criteria for publishing. We may hope they will come to understand that
searching and browsing the published literature, av...
machine extraction of words, as opposed to an indexing resource
constructed on principles of classification by subjects and...
work itself. But my astonishment fades rather quickly when I remember
that of course, someone, at some point, most often o...
periodical literature to find relevant articles that will hopefully contain
relevant passages needed for their research.
  ...
I’ll retrieve the MERLIN catalog record, so we can make a side-by-side
comparison, book to screen.
        A side-by-side ...
performed in libraries, but also the practice of classifying evident across
and within all disciplines. Also, because MERL...
library instruction exist. In particular, it might be useful for students to
consult the books in their hands, identifying...
back-of-the-book index, in that both are indexes to a solitary
bibliographical title, each possessing a library catalog re...
hand, searching and browsing the web for potential research paper
sources and on the other, searching and browsing the pub...
References

Bliss, Henry Evelyn, The Organization of Knowledge and the System of
the Sciences, with introduction by John D...
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Teaching Students about Searching and Browsing Classified and Indexed Knowledge: incorporating bibliographical and library instruction into college courses

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A presentation to UMKC Faculty, Librarians,
and Reference Librarian Search Committee, October 2004. Audience and purpose: Presentation to teaching faculty on ways to incorporate bibliographical and library instruction into college courses. For by learning how to consult various library tools while conducting research for actual course requirements, students would learn not only the conceptual subject matter for the course, but also would learn how to consult the library and its resources for further learning and knowing.

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Teaching Students about Searching and Browsing Classified and Indexed Knowledge: incorporating bibliographical and library instruction into college courses

  1. 1. Teaching Students about Searching and Browsing Classified and Indexed Knowledge: incorporating bibliographical and library instruction into college courses by Gwen Williams seealso@me.com 7 October 2004 presentation to UMKC Faculty, Librarians, and Reference Librarian Search Committee Audience and purpose: Presentation to teaching faculty on ways to incorporate bibliographical and library instruction into college courses. For by learning how to consult various library tools while conducting research for actual course requirements, students would learn not only the conceptual subject matter for the course, but also would learn how to consult the library and its resources for further learning and knowing. The various activities that people do when looking for resources can be described as searching and browsing activities. This seems to hold whether we are looking for print resources or for the current jackpot—electronic resources, full text, easily downloadable in PDF, easily downloadable so we can print copies on our laser printers. We would all likely agree today’s undergraduate students have developed facility and ease in using search engines and browsing techniques for navigating the web for various resources and various reasons. We would also likely agree one of the tasks for educators of today’s college students is to figure out ways to explain the differences between, on the one hand, searching and browsing the web for potential research paper sources and on the other, searching and browsing the published literature in books and journals. We may hope that once students understand these differences in searching and browsing, they will also understand these are differences beyond Copyright 2004 Williams. This work is covered by a creative commons license. Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
  2. 2. criteria for publishing. We may hope they will come to understand that searching and browsing the published literature, available through libraries, are acts of searching and browsing classified and indexed knowledge. Moreover, once students understand the differences between the web and the recognized, published literature, I believe they will not only select the published literature over “Kim’s Great Guide to Great Plays and Homepage of Favorite Cajun Recipes” but that they will also be quite happy to do so. Ultimately, they will also be better prepared to analyze and critique the credibility and authority claims of web resources they retrieve through Googling or following hyperlinks, skills that each of us deploy when we search and browse the web. Understanding these differences seems especially important for our students given that e-books are now available and appear poised to become ever more important for higher education in the near-future. Students will need a clear understanding of the print book in order to know an e-textbook on any subject is nearer a print book than it is to a website. We already know that students, until they encounter scholarly journals during their university studies, tend to believe that by periodicals we mean to suggest only newspapers or wide-circulation magazines, readily available in bookstores, convenience stores, and often online. And why should they think otherwise? Their experience and knowledge indicates that they can find some periodical literature on the web. Moreover, this online reading experience and knowledge seem intertwined with their initial confusion when we discourage searching and browsing the web for research paper sources. For it is probably often the case that when a student reads a newspaper article online and desires to read more on the particular subject, that he or she then proceeds to the use of a search engine, and thus encounters more web resources—maybe more newspaper articles, maybe even Kim’s website, if Kim has purchased a high ranking slot in the results display from Google. Little does the Googling student know he or she is embarking on the searching of an index, similar to say, Lexis-Nexis, in one respect: it is an index pointing to resources. But, unlike Lexis- Nexis, it is an index ordered on different principles, of a mostly exclusive commercial nature, and generally based on automated 2
  3. 3. machine extraction of words, as opposed to an indexing resource constructed on principles of classification by subjects and by periodical type. But ultimately, I believe student confusion about searching and browsing the web for research paper sources results because students do not yet have a clear understanding of the periodical as such. Moreover, as institutional digital repositories are planned, collected, constructed, and distributed in multimedia formats, understanding the principles of indexing and classifying knowledge, as exemplified by our practices in librarianship, will greatly enhance the ability of persons to search and browse these rich, often unique, often archival, resources. Students will especially need an understanding of indexing and classifying knowledge if they are to participate in these exciting repository endeavors, be it as contributors or researchers. I would argue the foundations for this understanding lies within our students learning how to search and browse the classified and indexed knowledge in books and journals. I believe it is possible to educate students on these matters by focusing our initial attention on objects much more concrete than objects in and of the digital realm: we can teach these important principles by focusing on the print book and the print journal. I also believe it is possible to educate our students on these matters by incorporating bibliographical and library instruction into courses. For by learning how to consult various library tools while conducting research for actual course requirements, students would learn not only the conceptual subject matter for the course, but also would learn how to consult the library and its resources for further learning and knowing. I am astonished whenever I encounter students who know little about the elements of a book, including the bibliographical description, very useful for compiling works cited pages for papers and used to construct library catalog records, found on the title and verso pages; the notation apparatus, be they footnotes or endnotes, which opens multiple possibilities or trails to follow in researching; the ready-made bibliography at the end of the book, carefully compiled by the author, enabling readers to search for known works and to assess the comprehensiveness of the author’s own researching work; and the back-of-the-book index, which points toward particular passages in the 3
  4. 4. work itself. But my astonishment fades rather quickly when I remember that of course, someone, at some point, most often one of my university teachers, pointed these elements out to me. I did not know of such things until an educator explained them to me, even though I had long loved books and reading in general. Now I rarely, if ever, purchase a book before consulting the index or the bibliography. I even know a few historians who thoroughly browse the index, bibliography, and notation apparatus before committing to a purchase. Perhaps all of us do such searching and browsing, or some such comparable first assessment of books before we buy, or are willing to commit precious reading time. Of course, like many of you, I have my known authors, or known works, or known subjects, that I don’t need to do this with—I just grab it and go. These four elements of a book—the bibliographical description found on title and verso pages, notation apparatus, bibliography, and back-of-the-book index—can provide the points of departure for talking to students about searching and browsing classified and indexed knowledge, as organized in libraries. By beginning from the book itself, I would suggest that the organization of and possibilities for using the library’s online catalog will become clearer to students, as they will be able to see the connections between the elements of the book itself and the bibliographic catalog record that stands as a surrogate record for the book in the library’s online catalog. It’s no secret to us that the library catalog record is an entry point for further browsing (or searching) by subject headings online, and is an entry point to the library shelves, by indicating where in the entire ensemble of the classification of books the researcher needs to go: but these might be secrets to our students unless we make them evident. Also, by beginning from the book itself, students could be shown and asked to use the back-of-the-book index to locate particular passages within the book. Not only will this benefit students quite directly if the index you ask them to consult is for a textbook for a class, but they will also begin to understand the concept of indexing itself and its vital, important feature: it points the reader toward relevant passages. In understanding the back-of-the-book index, students would than have a concrete example to return to when they are asked to use an index to 4
  5. 5. periodical literature to find relevant articles that will hopefully contain relevant passages needed for their research. Finally, by beginning from the book itself, students will perhaps be more inclined to return to their books—their textbooks, even—when given assignments to develop essays demonstrating their mastery of core concepts, or to embark upon developing researched semester papers. Particularly observant students of the author’s bibliography and notation apparatus might just conclude that they have already been given plenty of leads on potential library resources, right within the covers of their textbooks; and that all they need to begin is to search the library online catalog, or the library’s indexes to periodical literature. Imagine the focused and in-depth student writing that would be possible, and probable, if a student began at a concept from the back- of-the-book index, located relevant passages within the book, followed the footnotes to discover sources concerned with this concept, and searched the library catalog and indexes for the sources given in these particular footnotes! A student introduction to these four elements of the book could be easily accomplished in a computerized classroom; a classroom that only has networked capabilities for the lecturer; or of course in library laboratories used for instructional purposes. For, ideally, this student introduction should enable them to hold books in their hands and consult corresponding catalog records online. But, such an introduction could even occur in a classroom that has no networking capabilities at all. For the non-networked classroom space, either photocopies of a catalog record or merely one overhead slide of a catalog record would seem sufficient for students to be able to compare a library’s catalog record with the Library of Congress Cataloging-In- Publication Data printed in his or her book: this seems it would work especially well if the students were examining the same work—a required textbook for the class, for example. Your handout contains the verso page, an index page, a bibliography page, and a page with footnotes from Peter Brown’s The Body and Society. If this were a non-networked space, I would have included a photocopy of the MERLIN catalog record for this book. But 5
  6. 6. I’ll retrieve the MERLIN catalog record, so we can make a side-by-side comparison, book to screen. A side-by-side comparison of the catalog record and the book should make evident to students that various terms one would use to search a library catalog for a book comes from the book, such as title and author, or ISBN. Students would also be delighted to know all the information they need to construct bibliographies for their papers, regardless of documentation style, are found in two places: the book itself and the library catalog record. Students might also be delighted to know they can order books from bookstores by simply giving the order- taker the ISBN. If the student introduction took place in a networked space of some sort, the catalog record could also be used as a point of entry into browsing by subject heading assignments, as links are provided. As we know, when searching by subject headings, see also references are frequently provided, suggesting broader, narrower, or related search terms for the researcher. The see also option in the online catalog functions like the see also entry in a back-of-the-book index: it points the reader toward more possibilities—toward additional relevant passages, in the case of the back-of-the book index, or toward additional relevant subject headings assigned for books, in the case of the online catalog. We might also tell our students the ability to search the subject field of records, the ability to browse by subject heading assignments, and the see also option in the online catalog, are all possible because the subject heading record fields have, in fact, been indexed. Based on my experience as a teacher of college English, and as many librarians could certainly attest, many undergraduate students— and sometimes graduate students—have yet to understand the fundamental organizing principle followed by libraries in ordering books on shelves: that books are ordered by subject matter according to a bibliographical classification scheme. Again, in a networked space, students could locate the given Cataloging-In-Publication data in their books, and compare this to the LC call number assigned in the catalog record. Perhaps discussions about classifying could result if the two do not match exactly—and by classifying I mean to suggest not only the specificity of the classifying 6
  7. 7. performed in libraries, but also the practice of classifying evident across and within all disciplines. Also, because MERLIN enables a browsing of catalog records by call number, students could browse online in a manner somewhat similar to physically browsing the shelves. In fact, maybe the capability to browse a library’s call numbers online makes more evident what the library call number is: it is not simply a shelf- locator (although it does do that), but rather is a classified marking of a book that puts a book in relation to all other books within the library. Whether students realize it or not, every time they approach library shelves, they are approaching a classification scheme of knowledge. I have found that asking students to locate their majors within the general LC Classification Scheme, at the level of main classes and sub- classes, seems illuminating for them. For when they consider their majors in relation to the entire classification scheme, they discover how the library is organized overall; they find places within the scheme that are likely of interest to them; and they realize that books are shelved in a manner that corresponds well with how subjects are taught across the various disciplines. There is still another possible activity for students to learn that resources in libraries are classified by branches of knowledge and would involve the books they hold in their hands. They could, in a networked classroom space, be asked to consult the footnotes and locate five titles of books cited as sources in the footnotes. After locating their five sources, they could search the library catalog for each source, by title or by author. Upon retrieving their catalog records, they could jot down each item’s call number, thus creating a list of five call numbers. I have not tried this with my students, but I suspect students would all generate a list of call numbers from the same main class, likely the same sub-class, and perhaps even call numbers that would place the five books in very close proximity to each other. This particular activity could lead to all sorts of possible discussions about conducting research, reviewing the literature, constructing arguments, and knowing in your discipline, even as students would be learning that books in libraries are ordered by subject matter according to a bibliographical classification scheme. Insofar as examining the notation apparatus and bibliography of a book are concerned, multiple possibilities for combining this with 7
  8. 8. library instruction exist. In particular, it might be useful for students to consult the books in their hands, identifying articles cited by the author. Not only would students literally see the differences between proper citation of books and of journal articles, but they might also more clearly see the need to know not only the article’s title, but also the journal’s title when they set out to make their photocopies at the library or to download their PDFs to their computers. In fact, it seems likely some journals listed in the bibliography would be listed more than once, under more than one article: this may seem obvious to us, but to students, in particular undergraduate students, I imagine this could be quite a revelation, and would greatly benefit them when they come to the library (in person, or through a networked connection) to search and browse journal literature. Moreover, examining the notation apparatus and bibliography of book has multiple possibilities for learning that would not necessarily be library instruction per se. That is, for those educators and courses concerned with studying history or with having students research using primary sources, discussion about the differences between primary sources and secondary sources could begin from studying a bibliography in a history book. Peter Brown’s bibliography to The Body and Society is divided into primary sources and secondary sources, as all bibliographies for histories are. Students studying history and historical processes would benefit from developing an understanding of the differences between primary and secondary sources, of the sequential order of the bibliography itself (primary before secondary, always), of the types of resources consulted. I perhaps need to alter a previous statement I made: maybe this sort of classroom activity would implicitly be library, special collections, manuscripts, and archives instruction after all. With respect to educating students about searching and browsing periodical literature, in particular, scholarly journals, a cumulative subject index seems an especially valuable tool. Cumulative subject indexes could be studied in non-networked classroom spaces by providing students photocopies of index pages. In addition, the cumulative subject index to a solitary journal can be compared to the 8
  9. 9. back-of-the-book index, in that both are indexes to a solitary bibliographical title, each possessing a library catalog record. A well-written cumulative subject index could be interesting for students to study for many reasons, not the least of which is that it ought to reveal the overall contours, core concepts and definitions, and various lines of argument in a discipline’s periodical literature, even though the index is confined to a solitary journal. Even a fairly outdated cumulative subject index may prove useful for students to study, especially if one sees merit in Henry Evelyn Bliss’ contentions about the relative stability and permanence of the organization of knowledge, as determined by the disciplines themselves, over time. For example, I imagine most undergraduates, after having taken an introductory course to sociology or having roomed with sociology majors, would likely conclude the 1966-1970 index table of contents page in your handout is concerned with a sociology journal. And they would be correct, as it taken from the 1966-1970 index for American Sociological Review. I am very certain students would not conclude this is an index to a botany or mathematics journal. Moreover, when students study a cumulative subject index to a journal, they are being asked to study a specific classified portion of the scholarly literature, a specific solitary title, before venturing into the vastness of the literature available through electronic index and abstracting services. Of course the various activities I described with respect to the book could be re-fashioned so as to apply to examining the periodical literature. For we know, and we would want our students to know, scholarly journals also have bibliographical descriptive elements for making records and for writing reference pages for their papers; footnote and endnote apparatuses; and bibliographies. We also know that delving into scholarly literature will proceed by searching and browsing indexes, such as cumulative indexes for a journal as its own entity, or indexes that point to many journals, such as JSTOR, or Project Muse, to name but two. I chose this subject today because I suspect that you, as classroom teachers, encounter students each semester, who seem to have the same questions, who seem to not quite understand what we mean when we aim to explain the differences between, on the one 9
  10. 10. hand, searching and browsing the web for potential research paper sources and on the other, searching and browsing the published literature in books and journals. I know I have encountered such students in my classroom, and that librarians encounter such students in the library. I do hope I have provided you with ways to approach this vexing situation by suggesting that we should plan ways to educate our students on what it means to search and browse as they study and learn their coursework. I believe we should plan for opportunities for them to learn and understand that searching and browsing the published literature, available through libraries, are acts of searching and browsing classified and indexed knowledge. I also believe students can begin this learning and understanding by searching and browsing the elements of something they carry in their backpacks— right next to their cell phones, multi-function scientific calculators, and iPods—something they can hold in their hands: the book. 10
  11. 11. References Bliss, Henry Evelyn, The Organization of Knowledge and the System of the Sciences, with introduction by John Dewey, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1929. ____, The Organization of Knowledge in Libraries and the Subject- approach to Books, 2nd ed., New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1939. Grafton, Anthony, The Footnote: A Curious History, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997. Kelley, Grace, The Classification of Books, New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1937. ____, “The Classification of Books in Retrospect and in Prospect: A Tool and a Discipline.” In, William M. Randall, ed., The Acquisition and Cataloging of Books (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940), p. 163-186. Knight, G. Norman, Indexing, the Art of: A Guide to the Indexing of Books and Periodicals, London: Allan & Unwin, 1979. Lynch, Clifford, “Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure For Scholarship in The Digital Age,” portal: Libraries and the Academy, vol. 3, no. 2 (2003): 327-336. Ranganathan, Shiyali Ramamrita, Elements of Library Classification. 2nd ed., revised. Ed., B.I. Palmer. London: The Association of Assistant Librarians, 1959. ____, Prolegomena to Library Classification. 2nd edition. London: The Library Association, 1957. 11

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