You might have noticed all the fuss about snow up here in Seattle last week. And while conditions were slightly exaggerated, league librarians, Ryer, Sarah, and Megan braved day three -slushmageddon, to make our way down on our first official visit to The MLLL, the student run comic book library at Reed College.
Our mission: hang out with some comic fans and talk to them about how they find good new stories to read and what we can do to make that easier at the MLLL.
And what success! We got to hang out with current signator Emlyn Thompson, an alumnus who had the position in the 80’s and some wonderful MLLL readers who helped give us some insight into the MLLL as an institution and what kind of system would help them find what they need without requiring too much upkeep. Besides requesting reading suggestions, these Reedies stressed a desire to build a community of reading and peer recommendation to go along with our tool.
A three hour brainstorming car drive later, we librarians are back in the Emerald city, rejuvenated and refocused on our task by the insights enthusiasm of our new friends down at Reed.
So what is next for this dynamic trio? Research and refinement in three parts:
1. Identify the technology. We are currently investigating Drupal, a content management system to host our taxonomy. Now that we have a clearer picture of what the back end of our site will need to do, to achieve what the MLLL requires we can investigate modules in Drupal and other systems to discover what is possible and make a final decision about what system to use.
2. What to catalog? Librarians have very strict (and currently very arcane) rules about how to represent a book in an online catalog. These rules do not work well for comic books which have all kinds of special issues that are important to the reader, but get lost when you try to force the information to fit into the mold we created for text-only books. We face the task of deciding what we should describe about the comics at Reed when we put a record for them online so we can apply our terms.
Another related consideration is the level of detail or refinement at which we will both index and catalog. The scope of our project will not allow us to catalog every single issue contained in Reed’s library. We will need to decide if we want to describe a comic at the title level (All Spider-man comics) the series level (Amazing Spider-man), the story arc (“Kraven’s Last Hunt”), or the issue (#293). Different comics may be cataloged and indexed at varying levels, but we need to define what information is important and constant within each level of detail.
3. Get the language just right! Finally, we will be breaking out ye olde Comics Thesaurus, blowing off the dust of a quarter or two and taking a fresh look at our terms, their scope notes, the structure of our indexing language and fill in any insurmountable gaps.
In other words, we’ve got work to do, but a whole lot of excitement about the direction and possibilities of our project.