When I was at Computers in Libraries this year I saw Lorcan Dempsey’s presentation on “Exploiting the Value of Structured Metadata” (ppt slideshow) in which he showed a Greasemonkey script that inserts audience level information into Amazon records. At the time I just filed it way in the “huh, that’s interesting” part of my brain, but today it’s consumed more time than I’d prefer.
The backstory: At MPOW the Reference & Instruction librarians are responsible for collecting for the reference collection. Faculty members do most of our collecting for the main collection (with help from both an automated system and our collection development department), but the R&I librarians select the reference books. Well, it’s coming up on the end of the fiscal year and it seems that we’ve all been too busy to think much about this part of our jobs. I can’t speak for my colleagues’ organizational and piling skills, but I had a hanging file full of “unprocessed” (by which I mean “I haven’t looked at these at all”) Choice cards, Blackwell slips, and promotional postcards. Then I had a stack about 6 inches deep of catalogs and the larger promotional mailings. Most of you don’t know me and my office, but I don’t tend to let things pile up. I’m one of those who deals with things and then either files or throws them away.
So this was really starting to get on my nerves, but it just wasn’t very high on my priority list compared to all the other things I’ve been doing lately. Not only that, but I don’t consider this the most enjoyable part of being a librarian. I just don’t have enough of a sense of how to select the “good” stuff sight-unseen, and I don’t yet have a feel for the reference “gaps” for my liaison areas to go out and look for stuff (except that I know I want more encyclopedias and dictionaries for Asian literature, and specialized dictionaries in a couple of languages, but they’re pretty hard to come by).
To make a long ramble shorter, it turns out that we all need to concentrate on this task and spend our budget before next Tuesday afternoon or else the money disappears, so we’re all sitting in front of Amazon and sorting through catalogs and review cards and looking distinctly annoyed. I’m not sure if unsuspecting patrons would get better reference help today because we all want to do anything other than what we have to do, or if they’d get worse service because we’re all in such disgruntled moods. (On the up-side, I found a 272-page monograph on the history and development of the ellipsis… who knew?)
Anyway, I thought that this Greasemonkey script would really help me as I sorted through specialized dictionaries. I needed some clue, any clue, about how comprehensive and scholarly the works were. So I installed the Greasemonkey Firefox extension, installed the Amazon script, and restarted Firefox. All anticipation, I clicked over to Amazon, salivating over the wonderful new descriptive information on what types of libraries collect each book, opened a book record, and… nothing. What did I do wrong? None of the records have the promised “Audience Level” indicator. I’m so disappointed. [Update: Jeremy from OCLC research pointed out that the OCLC test server was down that day. Now everything works PERFECTLY. Yippee!!!]
Does anyone have any idea what I have to do other than have the extension and script installed?