Desert Island Databases

I began wondering recently which databases and web resources I’d want to have available if I suddenly found myself marooned on a remote island resort in the Indian Ocean like San Serriffe. While we have many wonderful resources available to us through the Consortium Library (and after graduation, through SLED – ), my needs might be very different as a castaway. But since I’d be a modern castaway with modern requirements, I’ll plan on finding a wifi coconut tree with battery-charging connections in the trunk, a top quality laptop near a comfortable beach chaise overlooking the sea, and – with any luck – a nice cold kiwi fruit drink right next to an iPad-Mini Retina! But what shall I use them for? Here are a few things that come to mind; the websites are easy to find, and clicking on the ‘Databases’ link on the Library’s home page will lead you to the rest.

1a. Project Gutenberg. ( )
1b. Literature Criticism Online
     Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson would be good castaway role models that I could find in Project Gutenberg, but what if I needed to find out what other people had thought of those books? I’d probably start by searching in Literature Criticism Online.

2. National Geographic Database.
Now, how much, when puka comes to shell, do I really know about islands in the Indian Ocean? Searching the full online text of the National Geographic database can only help!

3a. Mango Languages
3b. LLBA (Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts)
What if Friday shows up and I can’t talk with him? After all, he may want a kiwi fruit drink, too, or to borrow my laptop, or – more importantly – he might know where the kiwi supply is! If I’m signed into Mango Languages, then I can practice any of 30-odd languages and see if he understands me at all. And if they’re all Greek to Friday, then searching in LLBA might come up with articles to help me understand common linguistic patterns of Indian Ocean populations.

4a. PubMed ( )
4b. Toxline
4c. Zoological Record
Well, it IS the tropics, after all, and it might not be all pineapples and coconut cream pies out there. It only makes sense to have some excellent health information resources like PubMed on hand just in case. And does anyone know if there are any poisonous snakes or insects on San Serriffe? Better check Zoological Record and Toxline — and taking another careful look in that National Geographic database won’t hurt, either!

5a. Sage Research Methods
5b. Student Resources in Context
If I were a student and had to work on a capstone project while marooned at San Serriffe, this database could help me learn how to do effective social science research. For term papers for other classes, I could find a lot of articles on many different subjects in Student Resources in Context. When I finished writing my paper, I’d cork it in a digital bottle with my professor’s address on it, and throw it as far as I could into the wine-dark electronic sea. I’m sure it’ll get to my professor eventually — after all, how many degrees of separation can there be?

6a. The Complete Manual of Typography, 2nd ed. (REF Z250.F44 2012).
6b. How To Write (eBook)
I won’t go on to a full ten listings this time, but it might be useful to know where to find a good typographic manual, such as James Felici’s The Complete Manual of Typography, 2nd ed. (REF Z250.F44 2012), and a nice ebook on general writing like Alastair Fowler’s How to Write (you can find links to ebooks in QuickSearch and the Library Catalog). After all, you never know when a copy of Microsoft Office might wash up on the beach at San Serriffe, and both of those books could be a lifesaver as I speed-write my castaway memoirs to have them ready for instant publication once I’m rescued! Ah, I can almost feel a warm tropical breeze riffling through my first draft right now… New York Times Best Seller List and Hollywood, here I come!

By the way, if you’re interested in finding out more about that wonderful island hideaway of San Serriffe, here’s all the travel information you’ll ever need to start planning that idyllic February getaway:

You can find a little more on San Serriffe in The Times [of London] Digital Archives 1785-2007, along with plenty of other articles. Have fun, slather on plenty of that no. 40 sunscreen, and don’t forget to write!

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ebrary’s New Interface

One of our most common ebook sources is ebrary (which is now owned by ProQuest).  ebrary has just come out with an updated interface after several years of ‘the same old thing,’ and two immediate advantages are, first, (to quote Etta James) At Last! we can read the content by scrolling smoothly through many pages rather than having to use the arrow icons in the menu bar to go back and forth one page at a time!  And second, the only search box in sight searches in the ebook you’re reading; there were two search boxes in the old version and the most prominent search box could get you lost very fast because it searched everything in ebrary rather than just your ebook.

For more search functions, there’s now a search menu at the top of the interface.  The content now appears on the right with the table of contents on the left, and you can still have a user account where you can select your own ‘bookshelf’ of titles and keep notes on the content.  The various functions, such as magnifying the text, seem to work more smoothly than in the older version.  All in all, using the new ebrary interface is a much more pleasant experience than the older version.  By the way, while our titles are available for online reading, they won’t download unless we’ve got a multiple-user license for them; that’s why you’ll often see a ‘Not Available for Download’ message.

I’ve been looking at the Encyclopedia of the Mexican-American War while writing this; going somewhat beyond Mexico, here’s another ebrary example that’s worth searching for in the catalog or QuickSearch:

Atlas of the Galilean Satellites

After the introductory chapters, there’s a fine moon-by-moon display of maps and photographs for Calisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io.  Enjoy!

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New Library Books Are Often a Matter of Choice

How do librarians find titles to order for the library? Requests from students, staff, faculty, and others are carefully considered. Sometimes, we purchase prepackaged collections of books; this is particularly true with ebooks. Our online ordering system provides us with lists of relevant titles to select from. Major journals in many disciplines have a regular section of book reviews that can be very helpful, as can subject-oriented review databases like PsycCritiques for Psychology. But one of the best selection resources for librarians is Choice, a monthly review journal published by the American Library Association. The reviews are short and pithy, often only a paragraph long, but they cover a broad range of academic subjects. Choice reviews not only books, but also relevant websites and databases. You can find Choice from the Library’s home page by clicking on Databases, then clicking on C, and then clicking on Choice Reviews Online. You can browse the current issue, or search many thousands of reviews going as far back as 1988.

So what good is Choice for someone who isn’t a librarian? Well, you might like to see if there’s a review for a book you’re reading. If you’re interested in a particular subject – the Cultural Revolution, for instance – you might want to find what other books on the subject have been recommended over the years, such as Andreas’ Rise of the Red Engineers.  And one thing I use it for myself is holiday and birthday shopping: for instance, I know someone very interested in submarines, and it’s a great help to be able to enter ‘submarines’ in Choice and get a nice set of reviews to choose from. (By the way, Choice Reviews Online is a database where phrases like “Cultural Revolution” really must be placed within quotation marks to avoid getting everything that happens to have either cultural or revolution in it.)

Another review resource is Library Journal, although it’s not quite as completely review-focused as Choice. But Library Journal covers some popular public library subjects that Choice doesn’t, such as romance, mysteries, cookbooks, do-it-yourself titles, audiobooks, and videos. Library Journal is not a dedicated database in itself like Choice is, but you can find it in Academic Search Premier. On the Library’s home page, click on Databases and then click on A, and then click on Academic Search Premier. When the database opens up, there will be a list of Search Options beneath the search boxes, one of which is Publication; type Library Journal in that box to limit your searches to that particular journal. Then to find reviews, enter whatever terms you like in the search boxes, such as a genre like romance, or an author like Louise Penny, or a subject like – yes – submarines!

If you’d like to browse print issues, both titles are in our Journal Collection (although our Choice subscription was stopped in 2010 in favor of the online version). Both Choice and Library Journal are worth a look, no matter which format you prefer.

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Anchorage Information

The Consortium Library offers an increasing number of wonderful databases and information sources that cover the country, the world, and beyond, but what if your interests are a little more local?  Like right down the street?  Google provides the amazing Street View, but that doesn’t help much with more in-depth knowledge.  (Unless, that is, all you’d like to do is use Google Earth to find the distance from your home to campus measured in Smoots – a Smoot being the length of one Oliver R. Smoot, Jr., an undergraduate and fraternity member who was used to measure the length of Harvard Bridge in 1958.)  No, what you really want is Anchorage Indicators, updated in 2012 and available on the Municipality of Anchorage’s website as a pdf:

There’s information on demographics, education, economics, crime, labor, government, housing, and more in a 305-page document.  And much of it can be directly compared with Anchorage Indicators reports from 2000, free downloads for which are available here in the Anchorage Indicators section:

In fact, some comparisons are provided in the appendices to Anchorage Indicators 2012.  Unfortunately, the Municipality hasn’t updated the wonderful and even more focused Anchorage Indicators: Neighborhood Sourcebook since 1997, which provided extensive and easily compared neighborhood-by-neighborhood information; there’s no current link, so if you’d like a look, ask for it at the Reference Desk (REF HC108.A46 A525 1997).

The Municipality does offer the very localized My Neighborhood online fact finder:

but while useful, it doesn’t touch the depth or ability to compare neighborhoods of Neighborhood Sourcebook by a long shot.  There is another site, Anchorage Live:

that can provide a surprising amount of detailed public information on an individual basis, but again, not on a neighborhood basis.

We have other local and historical information sources for Anchorage and Alaska, but Anchorage Indicators is always a good place to start.  And for those of you who have decided that, all things considered, it actually sounds like a good idea to start measuring things in Smoots, you can find out more both at this website:

and in Smoot’s Ear: The Measure of Humanity by Robert Tavernor.  We have that title in the General Collection at QA465.T38 2007.  To measure using Smoots in Google Earth, just click on the measurement tool, choose Smoots in the dropdown menu, and start measuring away!

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eBooks in the Reference Collection

We have been purchasing ebooks for the Reference Collection for some time now, but this past year we have been selecting ebooks over books when possible. Here are a few interesting ebook titles we’ve added in recent months; search on their titles in the Library Catalog to find the links:

Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability (in 10 vols.)
Handbook of Psychology (in 12 vols.; from Wiley)
Encyclopedia of Sports Management and Marketing (4 vols.; from Sage)
Historical Dictionary of Tibet
Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan, 4th ed.
Bloggers Boot Camp
Encyclopedia of Arthritis
Almanac of American Politics 2012
Cities, Cultural Policies, and Governance
Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought
A Green Vitruvius: Principles and Practice of Sustainable Architectural Design
Civil War Naval Encyclopedia
American Indians and Popular Culture
Substance Abuse in America: A Documentary and Reference Guide
Brazil Today: an Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic
History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008
Mexican Political Biographies, 1935-2009
Open Access