What is cyberinfrastructure? A word.  And what is in that word “cyberinfrastructure? Air. A trim reckoning!   Who has it? He with grants a’Wednesday. Can he built it? No. Can he use it? No. T’isn’t sensible then? Yea, to the tenured.  But will it not work for the working? No. Why? Implementation will not suffer it. Therefore I’ll none of it.  Cyberinfrastructure is a mere scutcheon – and so ends my catechism.


When I coined the term cybrarian back in 1991, all I was trying to do was come up with a cute name for a Usenix  birds of a feather session for people working on sites protocols and software for finding and sharing information on the net (We’d need a bigger room now.) 

It wasn’t creating a new reality – the word just sounded pretty, and would be easy to filk with. 

 Cyberinfrastructure is different.

 It doesn’t scan well.  


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This is the latest version of the Doorbell -> Mammal graph; it shows the direct and indirect broader terms of doorbells in LCSH.

This incarnation of the graphic adds one new piece of visual information that seems to be very very suggestive. Dashed lines are used to indicate broader term references that have never been validated since BT and NT references were automatically generated from the old SA (See Also) links  in 1988.  Click to download the PDF version

Dashed doorbell graph

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Concepts are made with sets of documents; words with sets of things.

The classes of OWL are the words of Svenonius.
The concepts of SKOS are the terms of Svenonius.

Wm. Blake (Spirit)

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By a curious coincidence, I just noticed that the earliest surviving entries in the LCSH Subjects files were created on January 27th, 1986. This date would have been the first Monday after the ALA Midwinter conference (Jan 18th-22nd ,1986).

From the time stamps, it seems as if the system became live for new entries on this date. Older entries weren’t added until Feb 11th.

Less than half of these converted entries have had their references evaluated. This is suggestive.

Reference evaluation (008/29)

Value Count Percentage
a (Evaluated) 45,495 38%
b (Not Evaluated) 46,387 39%
n (No References) 27,320 23%
Total 119,202 100%

[LCSH 150s, established, as obtained from authorities.loc.gov of December 2006]
The oldest surviving record, for “Grouper fisheries”, was assigned LCCN “sh 86000005″.
You should have seen the ones that got away.

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What is a document? The sad thing is, this still makes sense to me in context.

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The more one reads Ranganathan, the more one appreciates just how far ahead of his time he was.

Now, thanks to the internet, we can begin to make his vision a reality.

Behold – the Ranganathong !

(This is all Kristina’s fault. Mostly.)

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Over the past few months I’ve been building up some frameworks for large scale metadata mining; there’s still a few pieces left to go, but I’m reasonably satisfied with the general architecture.

I’m using a distributed approach layered over MPI. MARC parsing is handled using custom code that tries to minimize copying and consing.

Performance is quite reasonable; using six cores on three low-end machines, I can count all tag/subcode usage in 7 million gzip compressed marc records (LC Marc Bibliographic records from 12/2006) in just over 23 seconds.

What I’d really like to do is install grid agents on the public access machines in the university library. With a bit of luck it should be possible to run a complete pass of support set counts in under a second. Moore’s law scares me sometimes.


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When you look at the Library of Congress Subject headings as individual entries it’s almost impossible to understand just how confused much of the hierarchical reference structure has become.

I’ve written some code to generate graphical representations for the Broader Terms of entries in the LCSH. The starting term appears at the bottom of the graph; according to the rules, this term is a specialization of every other term on the graph. Top level terms are highlighted using double circles.

Layout and rendering is courtesy of the wonderful graphviz (AT&T Research). I have generated dot files for all entries in the LCSH; I need to set up an dynamic renderer so they can be viewed online, but a p7zip archive raw dot is available here. (5M compressed, 672M uncompressed)

Lets see what the LCSH has to tell us about Doorbells.

Doorbells are a Social science. Doorbells are Souls. Doorbells are even Ontologies – which would explain why Protege keeps beeping at me. But most of all, Doorbells are mammals.

Obviously this conclusion is absurd. Everyone knows that doorbells aren’t hairy. But where are the errors that lead us to this mistaken conclusion, and how can we start to correct them? That’s the subject of tomorrow’s post.


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From next Monday onwards, I will write and publish a minimum of five blog posts per week (Monday-Sunday).

Each week’s postings must, on average, gather more comments than lawsuits.

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A British cataloguer  might choose a different subject heading…

100 1  $a Lafond, Paul, $d b. 1847.
245 12 $a L’aube romantique; $b Jules de Resse?guier et ses amis …
260    $a Paris, $b Mercure de France $c 1910.
300    $a 354 p. 1 leaf $b port. $c 19 cm.
650  0 $a French letters.

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