Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#44, February 18, 2000. Published every Friday. Permanent URL: http://marylaine.com/exlibris/xlib44.html


Subject Index to Previous Issues

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February 4: science gadgets, news for techies, dietary supplements, kid-safe images, and 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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My Favorite Sites on___:

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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 until queried by human intelligence

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Guru Interviews

  1. Tara Calishain
  2. Jenny Levine, part I
  3. Jenny Levine, Part II
  4. Reva Basch
  5. Sue Feldman
  6. Jessamyn West
  7. Debbie Abilock
  8. Kathy Schrock
  9. Greg Notess
  10. William Hann
  11. Chris Sherman

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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, 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 like Favorite Sites on _____. I'll pay you the same rate I pay me: nothing.

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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.

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Talk Back

Where I will post any comments you want to make public. E-mail me and use the words "talk back" in your subject line.

Visit My Other Sites

My Word's Worth

a weekly column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.
Subject Index to My Word's Worth

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My page on all things book-related. NEW STUFF ADDED in January

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Best Information on the Net

Still my favorite pit stop on the information Highway. http://vweb.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.


I don't know whether you've read the uncharacteristically funny February issue of American Libraries. If not, I recommend it to you, especially the delightful little article on sorting the library's junk mail, a chore I handled for many years. (Not because it was in my job description, mind you, unless you figure it fell under the heading "Other duties as assigned.") In fact, my first assigned task when I started my job was going through a pile of mail about 3 feet high that had accumulated while they were waiting to hire someone. I can well remember going through it and transferring each piece to my "I have no idea what to do with this" pile, the net result being that the original pile in entirety simply moved about 3 feet. After I'd been on the job for a month, of course, I went through it again, spending no more than half a second per item, and tossed 95% of it into the wastebasket. And here are some of the things I encountered:

Magazines I asked for,
and magazines I didn't--
American Atheist!--someone thought
we'd like it. (They must be kidding.)

Voice of the Martyrs is at least
a little more our speed,
though we don't need that either,
nor do we want a guaranteed

memento from the cold war
which the Russians are now selling:
and other tools for quelling

unrest in sundry captive states,
dissent among the masses.
The ACS wants us to buy
their books on inert gases.

There are catalogs for everything:
gold leaf and kozo paper,
bath chairs for the disabled,
easels and electric erasers,

busy boxes, music puzzles
pretty green golf-putting carpets,
videos on Napoleon and
the old LaBrea tarpits.

The Tailhook Association
thinks we'd like to give them money--
so they can have another party and
hire a Playboy bunny?

Into the circular file it goes,
with ads for books of jests
and order forms for handcuffs,
yellow tape, bulletproof vests.

There's a spanking new edition
of every Harvard classic.
There are books galore on dinosaurs
and other things Jurassic.

Would I please fill out a survey
(it will only take a few
short minutes) telling publishers
what subjects they should do?

We could subscribe to Sources and Trends
for Today's Senior Markets.

We could also buy a dog sled, or
at the very least a parka

(blessings on thee, L.L. Bean,
I think I'm going to pass).
There's a video course on calculus,
or I could take a class

on how to write HTML
or operate a LAN.
Nutritionists are not convinced
I'm getting enough bran.

Popular Science wants to know
if we're going to renew.
Another firm reminds us gently
a balance is past due.

I'm invited to a seminar on how
to manage multiple projects!
(I think I know already, thanks.)
Another teaches Object-

oriented Program Language.
And do I want to order
Digestive Diseases and Science?
Give to Doctors without Borders?

There are videos of interviews
with Mick Jagger or Anne Tyler
I could also buy a seesaw or an
automatic dialer.

The Register's on CD-ROM,
also encyclopedias.
By this point, things are starting to get
seriously tedious.

There IS some gold among this dross,
which it's my job to find,
because it's one of many "other
duties as assigned."
Reprinted, with my own permission, from a My Word's Worth column from June 13, 1997.



Randolph Hock. The Extreme Searcher's Guide to Web Search Engines: a Handbook for the Serious Searcher. Information Today, 2000. Update web page http://www.onstrat.com/engines/

This is a book I wish I'd reviewed before my last presentation on search engines instead of after. While it was written before Google and FastSearch became much-loved and heavily used search engines, this book gives detailed attention to the specific features, coverage, good points and drawbacks of AltaVista, Excite, HotBot, InfoSeek, Lycos, Northern Light, Yahoo, and Webcrawler. Even more usefully, it talks about general search strategies and tricks that work across most search engines -- quote marks surrounding a phrase are generally understood by most search engines to be exact phrase queries, boolean AND, OR, NOT in caps will be understood as operators by most search engines, and most search engines will treat an asterisk as a truncation sign. There is also a general chapter on tricks for using meta-search engines and things to be wary of in so doing, along with summaries of special features of Dogpile, Inference Find, Internet Sleuth, MetaCrawler, ProFusion and Savvy Search.

Hock points out that web search engines are inherently frustrating for professional searchers, accustomed to full field searchability of records as in Dialog, and accustomed to knowing exactly what the database consists of. Web search engines are not designed for US, but to increase the chances that naive users will find at least SOMETHING on their subject no matter how poorly they structure their queries. However, increasingly search engine builders are creating additional functionality for us, often reflected in the ways engines allow us to refine the original search after we look at the first set of results.

Since search engines don't remain constant, Hock also provides a web site at which he updates URLs and changes in search engine capabilities and profiles newer Search Engines including Google and FastSearch. A matching web site like this is already becoming an essential feature for almost any book talking about the eternally shape-shifting internet. All in all, this is a very helpful book for everyone from novice searchers to frustrated Dialog searchers who want the net to behave as neatly and predictably as their databases do.



Wasn't the last staff meeting you attended a boring, nonproductive waste of time? Of course it was; but things would have been much different if everybody at the meeting had been required to communicate with finger puppets. The discussion would have been characterized by more fun and openness and less tedium and posturing. If you don't believe me, just try it. I'm serious.

Will Manley, quoted in American Libraries, February 2000, p.39


You are welcome to copy and distribute or e-mail any of my own articles (but not those by my guest writers) as long as you retain this copyright statement:

Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
Copyright, Marylaine Block, 2000.