Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Political Act of Cataloging

Cataloging, for any non-librarians reading this, is the practice by which a librarian decides what something is about. I'm oversimplifying, but for the purpose of this blog, let's go with that.

So a cataloger will look at the object-- usually a book, but it can also be a CD or DVD or magazine or any other object that a library owns and wants people to find-- and assign official subject heading(s) to it, taken from an approved list, such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Examples of LCSH subject headings:
  • Farm life in mass media
  • Human behavior-- endocrine aspects
  • Male Friendship-- religious aspects

This week, as a result of a reference question about homeschooling curricula, I stumbled upon a record in our system-wide catalog of this book: The Science of the Physical Creation in Christian Perspective.

It's basically a textbook for creationism.

Okay, fine. I know such books exist. I'm not naive enough to think that such a book wouldn't appeal to a certain demographic. And I'm a librarian-- I'm not going to argue that we remove all misguided voodoo tracts from our collection.

However, what bothered me about the creationism textbook was its catalog record, which had the following subject headings attached to it:
  • Science -- Study and teaching (Secondary)
  • Geophysics -- Study and teaching (Secondary)
Such a book is neither a science nor geophysics textbook. It's a religious text posing as one. So I thought it was really curious that whoever cataloged the book used those subject headings. To be fair, they also added:
  • Creationism -- Study and teaching.
  • Science -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Geophysics -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Bible and evolution.
  • Religion and science.
I don't object to any of those subject headings. But because of those first two listed, someone doing a search on high school science textbooks in our catalog would get this book in their results.

Even if the cataloger was just trying to be a thorough and conscientious librarian, it seems like an unwitting political act. Don't label it a science textbook unless it includes real science.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Those Are Not Tennis Shoes

Some people order shoes online. I have no idea how they get the right fit that way.

I'm very particular about my tennis shoes. Because of blisters and other foot-related maladies that spring up when I play too much tennis, it's hard to find a pair of shoes that protect my feet in every way. I've bought shoes at Target, Dick's Sporting Goods, and the Tennis Center. But I can never find the perfect shoe and size for my game. Each new pair I buy will bring up some new issue, some new part of the foot that gets overworked. I always have to experiment with different combinations of socks to get the right fit.

So when I found my current pair of shoes at-- of all places-- Meijer, I was surprised to see how well they fit. I didn't have any issues while playing in them. I think I've found my tennis shoe!

But here's the problem. The shoes wear out after about six months. I need to replace them, and shoe manufacturers can't just leave well enough alone. They insist on redesigning their shoes every six months. So the model that fits so well on me, it's been "upgraded" and I can no longer find them. Reebok Men's Smoov Courtblaster II becomes Reebok Men's Smoov Courtblaster III, and then IV. I think my current shoes are two versions behind.

I went online. After much searching, I was able to find ONE pair of my miracle shoe left, and it was in my size, and just to add a sense of destiny, it was even the exact same color as my current ones. So I didn't waste any time placing an order.

I was nervous, because I've never bought shoes online before, and I worried that they might not fit. But I was reassured by the fact that these were the exact same model and size as my current ones. I've bought stuff online before. Mostly books and CDs. And I've never had any problems with those.

But when my shoes were delivered, and I took them out of the mailing box, something looked suspicious:

That doesn't look like the box for tennis shoes, I thought.

This is what was in the box:

Definitely NOT what I ordered. I think these things would give me all kinds of problems on the tennis court.

I contacted the vendor and asked about the mistake. Obviously, I'd been delivered someone else's shoes, and vice-versa. It turned out that my shoes-- the seeming last pair in existence of that model and size-- had been delivered to someone out of the country, and getting them back would be difficult.

The vendor tried to make it right, and said he would send me my shoes when the other customer sent them back to him, along with a mailing label for the ones I received, so I could send them back.

Weeks passed, and the vendor eventually said he couldn't get my shoes back, so he refunded my money and asked me to send back the pumps. I will, but I'm still just really deflated from this whole experience. I'm holding on to them for a while out of spite and disappointment. I was so close to replacing the perfect shoes. No other place on the internet appears to have them. They are lost forever.

Once again, the search for the perfect tennis shoes continues.