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Updating the Programs page

[updated 2013.7.31]

This is not about “programming” (either computer or events) but the “programs” we have for degrees, and I’m using the term loosely.


Shortly after I arrived at the University, I was asked to list all the mathematics materials for an accreditation team study.  Simple enough, right?

Not really.  For one thing, a bibliographic record about a mathematical subject such as “algebra” may not have the word “mathematics” anywhere in it.  That meant that I had to think of every possible variation on that subject and hunt them down in order to make up the list: algebra, calculus, trignometry, arithmetic….  and that obviously wasn’t going to be the last time I had this kind of request for this and other subject areas.

And some records fit in multiple places, which was part of the problem, since I needed to be able to pull up something regardless of other connections, or where it was in the regular call number classification (for those who wondered why I didn’t just use call number ranges).  Example: some psychology books are also in literature, some mythology books are in literature and anthropology, materials can be about politics and history, and so on … the call number may be one place but the materials are not so limited.

I needed a way to tie all the possible bibliographic records together for a given subject under some kind of searchable heading, and be able to assign multiple headings for any bibliographic record.

I started out with the organization of what was then Westark Community College and grouped everything by Department and Division.   That meant I could search Division: Humanities and even Dept.: Art and get what was needed.  It had to do it very exactly and rigidly, but it worked with what I had at the time.

And the Fates smiled, and whispered, Oh no you don’t.

We entered a period of successive reorganizations that carried all the way up to the name of the institution, and continues to the present day.

Every time things got revised, I had to redo the entire list to try to conform to the new arrangements.  Divisions and Departments evolved into Programs, and then I had to make exceptions since some subjects had specific classes but did not lead, in themselves, to a degree.

I had to split subjects down (nursing had to be split into certain specialties such as Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) and Technical Certificate Nursing (LPN for Licenced Practical Nursing — right, the letters don’t even match up but I’m asked for LPN more than TCN)).

English was split into Literature and writing, which became Rhetoric (which actually covers writing and speech, but Speech was yet another program).  Then Literature grew so large that I needed to split it down into a general category, English literature (oops, confusing, better make that British literature, but not including Welsh, Irish or Scottish), American lit, and everything else in World lit.

I arranged with our first automation vendor to use the 690 field in the bibliographic record for this purpose specifically, and to be able to index and search it alone for the exact phrases (example: PROGRAM: AUTO (TECHNOLOGY) for the Automotive programs in the Technology Division).

When we changed vendors to Innovative Interfaces, we moved the 690s over into the new catalog as well, and indexed them both in a special index (coded letter ‘e’) as well as the regular subjects index (coded letter ‘d’).

Finally, once we got web pages, I created a Programs page with live links that ran my pre-set searches in the 690s fields in the catalog.  Immediate, up-to-date listings of everything in a program area.  Perfect.

Until I realized that any search over 1,000 records stopped there, and some of our Programs had several thousand records.

And the next reorganization.

Current coding

By now, nobody was asking for materials grouped by divisions or colleges or whatever.  They just wanted specific programs/subjects.  So, I could eliminate the larger groupings except on the page itself (just in case I or anyone else needed a reference point for them).

At this time (December of ought-eight) the catalog and the web site disagree – the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is on the web site but not in the catalog (which went to press months ago for spring 2008 publication).  I had to be sure to resolve things like that.

I found that keeping words separate in the 690s meant that they were treated as regular words, so “history” might turn up every form of history and “art history” in the same search.  I needed to find a way to keep the headings unique so they would only be searchable if the user meant to search just for that.  Since I had the Programs page now in the more visible yellow Quick Links menu in the catalog, I felt that most people — including staff — would tend to just go to the Programs page and click on the pre-set search links there rather than try to remember how to construct a Programs search anyway.

Now, I needed to create a keywords search (since those don’t have the 1,000 record limit) since those would also give a result that users could limit using the Modify Search function to just, say, ebooks or DVDs, or by date range to the materials in the last 5 years, or whatever was needed.

That meant I needed unique words that would not turn up in a routine keywords search.  Readability would be sacrified to some extent.

I combined all the PROGRAM words with the following term.  PROGRAM: AUTO (TECHNOLOGY) became just PROGRAMAUTO, which the computer treats as a unique word of 11 characters.  That’s not something that is normally going to be searched and turn up by accident.  It’s harder to read and predict, but I had everything listed on the Programs page and by the more readable phrases.

Naturally, it still isn’t perfect.  I have compromises such as Art, which gets:

Well, I didn’t want to have to type PROGRAMARTARCHITECTURALANDDECOR all the time, so it’s abbreviated, as are some of the others.

The same thing happens for our programs for teachers:

and so on.  The ED after PROGRAM stands for EDucation, followed by a specific type of teaching such as teaching Chemistry.

Literature is a general heading but also a regionally specific one, as mentioned above, and gets abbreviated:

History was the same, but I stayed with US instead of American, since that same distinction is made in LC subject headings: PROGRAMHISTUS (from Program HISTory United States).

We don’t have a Geology program specifically, but we do have classes in Geology and a course code for them, so I have a listing for that.

I cheated a little on a few items.  For example, I didn’t want a PROGRAMCRIME in any form (we don’t need any jokes about that!), so I used the second words: Justice, Investigation, and so on.  This was also more exact as we expanded the courses.

In a few cases, we needed to divide out specifics: specific diseases and conditions for HEalth (PROGRAMHESPECIFIC), and specific businesses and industries for BUsiness (PROGRAMBUSPECIFIC).  Also, HEalth has materials which are not really for professionals, so those became PROGRAMHEPOPULAR.

We have some odd items, such as the career/employment/testing/scholarships stuff, which go into PROGRAMCAREER.

The two ROTC programs are Air Force PROGRAMAIRFORCE (which also gets anything on flight and flying) and Army, and since some general military works tend show up, Army became PROGRAMMILITARY instead and handles the Army plus catch-all.

Everything that covers multiple disciplines across colleges (general search engines, for example) is interdisciplinary and PROGRAMINTER (well, you type “Interdisciplinary” umpteen times and see how many times you need to retype it…).

Anything left is PROGRAMOTHERS, which covers nonfiction not specifically related to our programs.

GRANTS is not a program, so the prefix is omitted but the 690 tracing is present to group those.

Fiction, juvenile fiction and juvenile nonfiction are not given 690s at this time.  We have the juvenile material for teachers in training to read, but I didn’t want to mix that with the adult nonfiction for their area.

Next, I need to redo the staff wiki a bit to cover the revisions in doing Create Lists.

Now, if nobody reorganizes anything before January 2009, I should be set.

And the Fates smiled….

[update 2013.7.31]

I’ll add an example: Learning disabilities and mental health : a nursing perspective

Now, does that go in the Special Education classification, the Psychology classification, or the Nursing area?  No matter where I put it, 2 out of 3 faculty members will be unhappy.

But the PROGRAMs method lets me add 690s for all of those areas to the same record.  And, I can count it on 3 different lists for accreditation teams, for the same amount of money spent, so the Administration is happy too.



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