Joomla v. Drupal Survey

If your library is using Drupal or Joomla you might want to help another librarian by answering these 5 questions about why you chose the system you chose.

I was going to answer the survey, but it assumes that I’m talking about my experience in a library – and I never used either in a library, but have used both. My preference (if I can only pick between those two) is Joomla – but neither is really perfect.

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Genealogy Research Tip

I have been doing genealogy research for my family for about a year now and I often get frustrated because it’s hard to figure out what name my Italian ancestors used before coming to America. Today I got a great tip from Ancestry.com:

My grandmother whose first name was Bertha was enumerated in 1910 as Brony, which was short for Bronislawa, the Polish version of her name. Ironically, she was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and her father, who had been born in Poland gave the English version of his name–John. When Elizabeth Szucs arrived in the Port of New York in 1906, her name is listed on the manifest as Erszebet Szucs.

Fortunately determining the ethnic equivalent of your ancestor’s name typically isn’t too difficult. BehindtheName.com is a great resource. Type your ancestor’s name in the search box and then from the box on the right, select “Related Names” and you’ll be rewarded with a list of related names from various ethnic backgrounds. The site lists well over a hundred variations of Elizabeth alone from countries around the world.

This is a great tip to share with the reference librarians at your library – so that they can help community members find their ancestors with a bit more ease than I’ve had to far :)

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Why can’t it all be this easy?

Okay – it’s time to use my mother as the focus of a post again.

First, some background. My mother is taking a paralegal course online. Once she got the hang of the online tools used in the class she was very excited and was learning all kinds of new things. Her newest course however hasn’t been as exciting for her. She is constantly calling me to pick my law librarian brain to try and help her out. Apparently, her instructor isn’t taking the time to teach search strategies and the school isn’t offering the students access to the database they need to do their research.

Tomorrow, Mom and I are going to Jenkins Law Library to do some legal research and learn some tips – things she should be learning in class but isn’t. Until then we have temporary access to Lexis to search for some of the answers to her homework, but unfortunately we also need WestLaw.

Given that background, it makes perfect sense why my mother asked me today, “what can’t it all be this easy?” while searching Google for the difference between two legal reference guides.

While I’m supposed to be annoyed that she asked that – I’m not! Why can’t it all be that easy? Why can’t she do her research on a platform that makes sense to her? Why does she need special training (which she’s not getting) in order to find the answers to her homework – and in order to do her job after school? Maybe I’m just sensitive because it’s my mother.

I do understand that every job needs special skills, so why should research be any different – but from a technology stand point – I know that the technology is there for us to provide better search tools to our patrons and to researchers – so why don’t we?

I don’t have an answer, just a little rant using the experiences of an average Internet user and beginner researcher.

Information wants to be expensive

One of the common concerns I heard earlier this week at the NFAIS conference was costs. The digital natives want free information – but the publishers have to worry about their bottom line. Of course, being who I am, I’m all about reworking your business model to make open source, open content, and open access work! But someone pointed out this article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Information Wants to Expensive.

With newspapers in cities across the country on the brink, an old idea is being resurrected in the hope of saving them: They should charge for access to their journalism on the Internet. This is a great idea, but about 10 years late.

Time magazine published a cover story earlier this month headlined “How to Save Your Newspaper.” In it, former Time Managing Editor Walter Isaacson noted how odd it is to charge for subscriptions in print but not online. “Even an old print junkie like me has quit subscribing to the New York Times, because if it doesn’t see fit to charge me for its content, I’d feel like a fool paying for it. This is not a business model that makes sense.”

I agree – and that’s why I don’t buy newspapers or magazines anymore – but I do see the main point of the article – which is newspapers are losing money because no one is paying for content anymore. So, how do we solve it? I don’t know – I would probably pay for an online newspaper subscription if that was the only way to read the news … but how do you make it so that’s the only way?

I don’t really have answers – only more questions. I do know that I understand where publishers are coming from – but if they were to publish online only then maybe it wouldn’t cost them as much and maybe they could charge us less for content online. One audience member argued that if we have our universities paying for subscriptions to online journals then what are we complaining about – while that is the case for the speaker they were asking, it’s not the case for me. I often find that I can’t find articles I want to read online because my public library doesn’t subscribe to as many research journals as a university would.

Anyway, just wanted to point you to the article and see if anyone out there had any great insights or ideas to make both the publishers and the researchers happy.

LibraryThing: Libraries of Early America

As someone who worked as a cataloger for special collections – and cataloged the entire library of an important figure in the college’s history – this new project from LibraryThing sounds pretty darn awesome!!

Have you ever wondered what books Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had in their personal libraries? How about 18th-century Virginia musician Cuthbert Ogle, or four generations of Mather family members? Or the most active female book collector in Virginia during the colonial/early national period, Lady Jean Skipwith?

A new project will make it possible to search, compare and study these and other Libraries of Early America. Using the book-cataloging website LibraryThing.com, scholars from institutions around the country (including Monticello, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Boston Athenaeum, the Boston Public Library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society and others) have begun the process of creating digital catalogs of early American book collections – the project covers anyone who lived in America and collected primarily before 1825.

Make sure to share this announcement with your special collections catalogers! This sounds like an awesome project and I wish I was still cataloging so I could participate ;) (well … only a little)

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Library Automation Perceptions 2008

It’s that time of year again. Marshall Breeding has posted information on how to participate in his Perceptions 2008 International Library Automation Survey:

We live in interesting times when it comes to automation strategies in libraries. Competition intensifies between traditional companies licensing their products and a new wave of open source challengers. I think that it is important to pursue research that gauges the effectiveness of the various approaches to help other libraries make decisions regarding their automation strategy.

Last year, I conducted the inaugural version of this survey, which resulted in the report titled “Perceptions 2007: an international survey of Library Automation.” The 2007 survey included responses from 1,779 libraries.

This survey is well known and highly regarded – so make sure your opinion is heard!! Read Marshall’s instructions and participate ASAP.

Newspaper Research

I spent my weekend researching family history using newspaper databases from my local library. I wanted to go into the library to play with Ancestry.com (which is available onsite for free), but my pup decided he was going to catch a stomach bug :( Anyway, I was very disappointed in the tools I used. They weren’t able to follow simple search syntax like phrases and booleans. That’s why I’m happy to see this news from Google & ProQuest.

Hoping to do for newspapers what Google Book Search has done for monographs, ProQuest and search giant Google have reached an agreement to digitize millions of pages of content from ProQuest’s vast newspaper microfilm archives. While ProQuest has vowed to continue improving and expanding its Historical Newspapers collection independently, the Google deal aims to create searchable electronic versions of smaller newspapers otherwise unlikely to be digitized, making them available on the open web via Google’s News archive search. “The problem is that, until now, finding a workable economic model for libraries and publishers has been challenging,” said Rod Gauvin, ProQuest senior VP of publishing. “This model overcomes that hurdle, unlocking a wealth of content for libraries and Internet users with unique research needs.”

I’m not sure that this search will be any better – but I at least know that Google can handle my phrase searches.

Learn more about this new partnership.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Goes — Gasp! — Wiki

After the back and forth in the Wikipedia/Britannica debate, Britannica caves:

Long a standard reference source for scholarship, largely because of its tightly controlled editing, the Encyclopaedia Britannica announced this week it was throwing open its elegantly-bound covers to the masses. It will allow the “user community” (in the words of the encyclopedia’s blog) to contribute their own articles, which will be clearly marked and run alongside the edited reference pieces.

This seems to be a response to the runaway success of the user-edited online reference tool Wikipedia. (See for yourself. Do a Web search on a topic and note whether Wikipedia or Britannica shows up first.) Scholars have been adamantly opposed to Wikipedia citations in academic papers because the authors and sources are always changing. Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s co-founder, agrees with this, but in next week’s issue of The Chronicle (click back to our home page on Monday for more) he also points to some changes in the reference tool that may make it more palatable to scholars.

It will be interested to see what happens with this new tool. Read more from The Chronicle.

More reliable?

Judith Seiss points us to Veropedia.

Veropedia "is a collaborative effort by a group of Wikipedians to collect the best of Wikipedia's content, clean it up, vet it, and save it for all time. These articles are stable and cannot be edited." It is not competing with Wikipedia"”they "prefer to think of [themselves] as a meta-layer, highlighting the best that Wikipedia has to offer." There are two types of links, green (already verified) and blue (not verified, directing you back to Wikipedia). It contains over 4500 articles there now. Very interesting.

Would you use this over Wikipedia? I know that a lot of librarians are skeptical about articles on Wikipedia and that author David Weinberger thinks it’s an amazing example of how the third order of order has been successful – does this mean that Veropedia is something that could keep both audiences happy?

My guess – probably not. Why? Because Veropedia are still not “experts” in the traditional sense. For me? I think it’s great and shows that the people out there creating and editing content care about what they’re doing and that’s awesome!

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