Yee's Defense

Yee's Defense of subfield V

From EFS4CMB@MVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU Wed Feb 14 15:50:05 1996
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 1995 14:30:16 -0500
From: "Martha M. Yee"
Reply to:
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Why 655 is not a good replacement for $v


In a sense, this is a question about the value of precoordination. For a complete discussion of the value of precoordination, see: Pre-coordination or not? / by Elaine Svenonius. Paper delivered at the IFLA Satellite Meeting in Lisbon, 1993.

It is very valuable to provide the user doing a topical subject search with a break-down of his or her subject by form. That is the function that the $v subdivision would allow an online catalog to carry out. It allows online catalogs to create browsable displays of precoordinated headings. Use of subdivisions allows the user to browse through headings and make decisions based on format (as well as period of coverage, geographic coverage, etc.)--factors that may not have been specified on the initial search.

Consider the following display that can result from a user's search on the term 'wills':

Wills--California--Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Wills--North Carolina.
Wills--United States.
Wills--United States--Bibliography.
Wills--United States--Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Wills--United States--History.
Wills--United States--Popular works.
Svenonius refers to the quality of precision provided by precoordination; by that, she means that precoordination allows the user to deselect irrelevant documents. Thus the user who is looking for a handbook on how to write a will according to the laws of the state of California can reject 'cases,'and 'forms,' as well as the works on other irrelevant geographic areas.

A number of user studies have noted that users of online public access catalogs frequently encounter long displays and have trouble scanning through them. (1) One of Nicholson Baker's complaints is about the inability to scan through large retrievals quickly the way one could in the card catalog. (2) Using form and other subdivisions to break down large displays can facilitate browsing.

The above display also has the quality of suggestibility described by Svenonius. That is, such a display can help users imagine how to expand or reduce their retrievals, without their having to be familiar with the indexing language ahead of time.

It is not uncommon for a form category to apply to only a part of the work represented by a cataloging record. Consider the following two examples: 1) a newsreel with a number of stories on it, one of which includes aerial photographs of Death Valley and Mount Whitney; and 2) a book which includes a bibliography of French incunabula.


Hearst Metrotone news. {Vol. 2, no. 246}. United States : {Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1931-03-07}

Version released in U.S. cities outside of Detroit. Newsreel reconstructed from story fragments by UCLA newsreel archivists based on available documentation. Newsreel. Cataloged from copy lacking head and tail logos; title from intertitles. Volume and issue number, distributor, and release date (date of distribution to theater) from Hearst Corporation records. Intertitles: Spain's internal struggle shown for first time. Metrotone gets scenes of loyal troops in Madrid quelling revolt threat. Marching under the flag as a pledge of allegiance. Spain's man of the hour, Admiral Aznar, the new premier -- Canadian ice plow rams choked river. Breaker Mikula smashes into St. Lawrence jam, clearing channel for merchant shipping -- Hoover at Capitol as Congress quits. President signs more than sixty bills when the Seventy-first Session adjourns. It's vacation time for Speaker Longworth of the House, and "the boys" {crowd on Capitol steps sings Carry me back to old Virginny} -- What Grandpa had to pick from. Paris shows how flappers charmed the boys of fifty years ago in the good old days -- Turf season on in England. British steeplechase riders come from winter quarters to resume hurdle jumping in meet at Plumpton -- Sometimes it pays to be chesty. Samson comes to life in Germany and a lot of modern Delilahs give him a tough time ..., cont. Intertitles continue: ... Skim peril spots high and low in daring flight. Northrup {sic} planes dip down into Death Valley and soar o'er Mt. Whitney.
RIGHTS: Rights held by UCLA Film and Television Archive.
GENRE(S): 1. Newsreels. 2. Shorts. 3. Sports event coverage and commentary.

1. Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964. 2. Curtis, Charles, 1860-1936. 3. Longworth, Nicholas, 1869-1931. 4. United States. Congress. 5. Northrop Corporation. 6. Ice-breaking operations--Saint Lawrence River. 7. Ice-breaking operations--Canada. 8. Ice-breaking vessels. 9. Costume - -History--19th century. 10. Fashion shows--France--Paris. 11. Steeplechasing--England. 12. Muscle strength. 13. Spain--History--Revolution, 1931. 14. Spain--Armed Forces--Spain--Madrid. 15. Washington (D.C.) 16. Death Valley (Calif. and Nev.)--Aerial photographs. 17. Whitney, Mount (Calif.)--Aerial photographs. 18. Stunts and novelty acts. 19. UCLA preservation.
1. Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964. 2. Curtis, Charles, 1860-1936. 3. Bland, James A. (James Allen), 1854-1911. Carry me back to old Virginny. 4. Longworth, Nicholas, 1869-1931. 5. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 6. HNRv2n246. 7. ZVA300.
Author: Armstrong, Elizabeth.
Title: Before copyright : the French book-privilege system 1498-1526 / Elizabeth Armstrong.
Published: Cambridge {England} ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Description: xvi, 317 p. ; 24 cm.

Subject(s): Book industries and trade--Law and

Printing industry--Law and
Book industries and trade--France--History--16th century.
Printing--France--History--16th century.
Bibliography--Early printed books--16th century.
France--Charters, grants, privileges--History. Notes: Includes index.
Bibliography: p. 296-299.
In both these examples, precoordination of the form category with the topical heading to which it applies offers user service in the form of specificity and contextuality, to use Svenonius's terms again. It allows the user to specify a relationship between the form category and the topic desired. It allows the user to see the two aspects of his or her search in context, so that irrelevant documents can be quickly rejected, and relevant ones quickly chosen. If the form categories 'aerial photographs,' and 'bibliography' were placed in 655 fields, the specific relationship between the form and the topic would be lost, and the potential for false drops would exist. For example, the user interested in aerial photographs of Madrid, or of Washington, D.C. would be given the newsreel record, even though it contains no such photographs, and the user interested in a bibliography on the history of publishing law in France would be given the book, even though it contains no such bibliography.

1.) Yee, Martha M. "System Design and Cataloging Meet the User: User Interfaces to Online Public Access Catalogs," Journal of the American Society for Information Science 42:2 (March, 1991), p. 93.
Summarizes applicable research findings.
Johnson, Debra Wilcox and Lynn Silipighi Connaway, "Use of Online Catalogs: A Report of Results of Focus Group Interviews," (typescript, Feb. 1992), p. 8.
OPAC (NLS) users interviewed by Johnson and Connaway complained that subject searching often retrieved a large number of records, and asked for better display algorithms to allow scanning through the retrieved records.

2.) Baker, Nicholson, "Discards," The New Yorker, Apr. 4, 1994, pp. 68, 81-83.

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