Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#12, May 28, 1999. Published every Friday.



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My Rules of Information

1. Go where it is
2. The answer depends on the question
3. Research is a multi-stage process
4. Ask a Librarian
5. Information is meaningless by itself

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Wanna See Your Name in Lights?

Or at least on this page, anyway? I'd like to print here your contributions as well as mine. As you've noticed, the articles are brief, somewhere between 200 and 500 words -- something to jog people's minds and get their own good ideas flowing. I'd also be happy to run other people's contributions to the regular features: RE:SEARCHING and Favorite Sites on _____. I'll pay you the same rate I pay me: nothing.

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E-Mail Subscription?

To subscribe to a combined subscription to Neat New Stuff and ExLibris, please click HERE, complete the form, and click on "subscribe." To unsubscribe, use the same form but click on "unsubscribe." To change addresses for an existing subscription, unsubscribe from that form and then return to the page to enter the new address.
PRIVACY POLICY: I don't collect or reveal information about subscribers.

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Drop me a Line

Want to comment, ask questions, submit articles, or invite me to speak or do some training? Contact me at: marylaine at netexpress.net

Visit My Other Sites

My Word's Worth

a weekly column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.

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My page on all things book-related.

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Best Information on the Net

Still my favorite pit stop on the information Highway. This is a mirror of the real site, which has moved to http://www.sau.edu/bestinfo/.

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My personal page

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My resume

or, why you might want to hire me to speak at internet or library workshops or conferences, or have me consult on building your library page.

May 28: modern day heroes, independent movies, stuff for mystery lovers, and spin the wheel for a library site. And more, much more.

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What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine -- always keeping in mind that in response to readers, I may add, subtract, and change features.

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Archive of Previous Issues

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Part 2: What's the Best Search Engine?

Part 1: Clever Government Tricks

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My Favorite Sites on___:


Making Government Work Better

Hot Paper Topics



  • I'll be in New York next Friday speaking at the NYLink conference, so the next edition of ExLibris will be June 11. See you then. Meantime, you might enjoy reading the first column I ever wrote, where I introduced myself and explained what it is to be a librarian, at http://marylaine.com/myword/debut.html

  • Best Information on the Net (BIOTN) has settled in at its new address,
    The original address will continue to work for a while, but please change your bookmarks and links. If you have linked to subpages like the Reference Desk or Hot Paper Topics, just substitute http://www.sau.edu/bestinfo/ for the original stem address, http://www.sau.edu/CWIS/Internet/Wild/ and it should continue to work. (Thus are all traces of Maurice Sendak expunged, more's the pity.)

  • The head of the San Francisco Public Library branch involved in the incident with the 11 year old would-be reading wizard I recounted in my last issue published her letter of response in the May 21 issue of Library Juice
    As expected, it sounds like the reporter already knew the plot, the hero and the villains before doing any reporting.


    If you missed part I, go to http://marylaine.com/exlibris/xlib11.html#jenny to view it.

    Marylaine: What do you read, and what web pages do you routinely visit, to keep up with web sites, technology, and policy issues?

    Jenny: Mainly the ones on my "Staying Current in Cyberspace" page (http://www.jennyscybrary.com/current.html) , but I also get way too much email and spend way too much time surfing so that my colleagues don't have to. I think there are about 8-10 sites you can check every week in order to "keep up." More and more, these sites are maintained by librarians, a fact that makes me proud of my profession.

    Marylaine: Any words of advice for librarians just starting out to develop their library's web pages?

    Jenny: Don't try to duplicate what your colleagues are already doing. If you're going to do a virtual reference desk, localize it for your users. Make your library's or community's strengths available to the world. Every library does at least one thing well, so the challenge is to do it well in a new medium. Also, plan, plan, plan. Sit down and think about everything you would ever want to do with your site, even if you're not ready for it all right now (looking at sites like Eldredge's U.S. Public Library with Websites at http://www.capecod.net/epl/public.libraries.html can give you ideas). Then build it into your navigation and structure so that it will be ready when you are.

    Marylaine: Amen to that. What do you see as the role for library systems and state libraries in the continuing development of library-based internet services?

    Jenny: In Illinois, twelve regional Library Systems help support all of the individual (multi-type) libraries within their boundaries. In my job at my Library System, I try to help fill the gaps and I think that's a big role for Library Systems... to do the bigger things that libraries don't have the resources to do on their own.

    For example, two of the most rewarding projects I work on are "NorthStarNet" (a community network organized and maintained by public libraries) and the "Virtual Illinois Catalog" (bringing together the holdings of all libraries in Illinois in one place). These are wonderful vehicles for libraries in my System that they otherwise wouldn't be able to initiate on their own.

    I think one of the best thing folks "behind-the-scenes" can do is provide awareness and guidance. I've tried to provide this on my own via the Library Site du Jour (http://www.jennyscybrary.com/sitejour.html), but there are many areas where this can be done. My System recently received a state-funded grant to pursue a series of workshops to teach our members how to make their Web pages accessible to visually impaired users. Considering recent events, this is exactly the kind of training our members will need, and now we will be in a position to provide an opportunity they probably wouldn't have easy access to in any other venue.

    Marylaine: What do you see as problems, issues, or challenges in the development of library-based internet services?

    Jenny: The biggest factor is always time and staffing. How much longer can we devote frontline reference staff to doing double duty as the "computer person" without hiring additional people? It's important to integrate technology and the Internet into every staff member's job, but how we do that still eludes us. Every profession is dealing with this, but as the keepers of information it hits us twice as hard. So in this context, who maintains the library's Internet services and how do we streamline this process? How do we hang on long enough to get to the point where we don't have to keep learning a new language every year (HTML, Javascript, XML, etc.)? I think next year will finally see the introduction of true WYSIWYG editors that generate valid code -- that alone will make presentation of content easier, so I think our profession should concentrate on what we do best (everything I named above) in preparation for that time.

    We are society's answer to the accelerated information glut and we will be central to the information economy. We've just been biding our time, you see....


    Whenever I did binding preparation during all the years when I was in charge of periodicals at my library, I physically handled every single journal we subscribed to. Combined with the fact that I am a serious magazine junkie, who couldn't resist looking through them as well, I soon realized their enormous reference value. Try it yourself: Look through a few magazines and journals and ask yourself "What questions does this answer?" Look at the ads, the special issues, the continuing features. These are some of the discoveries I made:

  • Statistics: great demographic data in American Demographics and Sales and Marketing Management, economic statistics in Federal Reserve Bulletin, Monthly Labor Review and Survey of Current Business, sports statistics in USA Today, polling data in Gallup Report, stock performance statistics in Money, Inc., Business Week, Fortune.
  • Documents: Catholic documents in The Pope Speaks and Origins, speeches in Vital Speeches.
  • Topic Starters: when students have no idea what to write about, send them to CQ Researcher or Congressional Digest for background and a balanced presentation of different views on controversial issues. If they're interested in the occult or psi phenomena, try Skeptical Inquirer; for bioethical issues, Hastings Center Report. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and Journal of Social Issues both focus each issue on just one topic and publish 8-10 scholarly articles on it.
  • Picture Sources: You can't beat National Geographic, American Heritage, Natural History and Smithsonian, and Sports Illustrated (even the non-swimsuit issues) as great picture sources, and these are indexed in Illustration Index, as are a number of other magazines. But ads are full of pictures too. Need a picture of a telescope? Look at any issue of Sky and Telescope or Astronomy.
  • Buyers' Guides: children's science books in the Nov/Dec. issue of American Scientist and the March issue of Science and Children, annual guide to colleges in US News and World Report and in Money, outstanding academic books, May issue of Choice, automobile evaluations, the April issue of Consumer Reports
  • Calendars of events: academic events and conferences in Chronicle of Higher Education, local entertainment events in New Yorker and Chicago, dance events in Dance Magazine, opera in Opera News, etc.
  • Directories: the art school directory in the March issue of American Artist, the annual guide to museums, galleries and artists in the August issue of Art in America, the committee directory in CQ Weekly, etc.
  • Salary Surveys: Chronicle of Higher Education gives faculty and administrative salaries, Forbes and Fortune give CEO salaries for the top 500 public companies
  • Special issues: the Forbes 400 richest people in America, the LJ architectural issue, the annual report from Emerge on the "dirty 50" (the colleges that graduate the fewest of their athletes), etc.

    The articles are nice, too, of course, but these, my friends, are reference sources. And that list is just a small percentage of what's in those magazines that we can exploit.

You are welcome to copy and distribute or e-mail any of these articles as long as you credit Ex Libris and give its URL.