Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians

#88, February 23, 2001


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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
  12. Gary Price
  13. Barbara Quint

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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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E-Mail Subscription?

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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

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When and How To Search the Net

Visit My Other Sites

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

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Best Information on the Net
The directory I built for O'Keefe Library, St. Ambrose University, still my favorite pit stop on the information highway.

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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 at

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My personal page

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SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week
February 23: professional tennis, mapping cyberspace, new magazines for librarians, life in the Jurassic, and more.

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My resume
Or why you might want to hire me for speaking engagements or workshops.

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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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Highlights from Previous Issues:

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

Note: Thanks for the kind wishes and prayers so many of you sent. My former husband (and still best friend) remains in serious condition in the intensive care unit, but that's lots better than he was two weeks ago.


Wells, Amy Trace, Susan Calcari, Travis Koplow. The Amazing Internet Challenge: How Leading Projects Use Library Skills To Organize the Web. American Library Association, 1999. 0-8389-0766-0. $45 or $40.50 to ALA members. If you wish to order direct, go to

We have all looked with awe at projects like the Internet Public Library, the Scout Report, and the Librarians' Index to the Internet. If you have ever asked yourself, "How did they do that?", this is the book for you. It examines these and nine other major internet projects and asks the questions that we would ask if we could talk to their founders:

  • Who's responsible?
  • What's its purpose?
  • Where'd the money come from?
  • Who's the audience?
  • What kind of collections have you built and why?
  • What were the selection criteria and evaluation process?
  • How do you do it? Hardware, software, mechanical processes?
  • How did you classify stuff and how has that changed over time?
  • What are the project's strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your future goals for it?

    Since this is a 1999 publication, some things have changed at each site since the book was published, but the book's permanent value is showing us the thought processes through which major projects evolve. The fact is, whatever a web site sets out to be, it changes as users respond to it. And it's also true that most of us who began major projects in the early days of the net had no idea that it would be a lifetime commitment -- the spectacular growth of the net surprised us.

    One interesting case study is the Internet Public Library, which was not at first intended to be a set of links -- "We were going to provide reference services, youth services, educational services, and services to library professionals, but we didn't need stuff. The Internet itself would be our collection, the search engine and spiders our catalog." It didn't take them long to realize that without a well-chosen reference collection to search through, "answering questions would be like going to a different room and looking through every book for an answer each time a new question was asked," so they built a reference collection of 200 quality ready reference resources. Since then, the staff of the IPL -- University of Michigan librarians, library school students, and volunteers -- has created numerous additional collections to meet particular audiences (teens, librarians) to collect particular formats (texts, newspapers, serials). As certain questions kept being asked over and over (literary criticism, Native-American authors, associations, etc.), they built special collections to meet those reference needs.

    Like all of the other projects described here, maintaining the integrity of the links as the collection grew became a major project in and of itself. Classification and interrelationships between different parts of the site became ever more complex. And of course new technologies allowed them to improve the searchability and usability of their sites, and to keep up with ever-increasing demands for storage and access by thousands of simultaneous users. Database management became a primary issue.

    Taken together, the growth and learning curves for these twelve projects are valuable for any librarian planning to develop an Internet resource. And the stories will only increase your admiration for these pioneer Internet librarians.

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    David Isenberg () writes:

    I run an email list covering the arms trade around the world (see To that end I find the following sites very useful, though not all of them are available to the general public

  • DoD Early Bird
  • Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS)
  • Defence Systems Daily
  • NewsIndex

    Of course there are many, many more. To see some of them see my links section at

    David Bigwood, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute () offers his favorite astronomy links:

  • The NASA Technical Report Server -- an experimental service that allows users to search the many different abstract and technical report servers maintained by various NASA centers and programs.
  • U of Toronto Department of Astronomy Library: Astronomy Book and Software Reviews
  • The NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) -- a NASA-funded project whose main resource is an Abstract Service, which includes four sets of abstracts: 1) astronomy and astrophysics, containing 632,219 abstracts; 2) instrumentation, containing 593,378 abstracts; 3) physics and geophysics, containing 936,261 abstracts; and 4) Los Alamos preprint server, containing 4,117 abstracts. Each dataset can be searched by author, object name (astronomy only), title, or abstract text words.
  • The NASA Image eXchange (NIX) -- a web-based search engine for simultaneously searching one or more of NASA's online image and photo collections. Searching is performed using keywords (boolean operators can be employed to refine the search). NIX returns thumbnail sized images, textual descriptions, image numbers, links to higher resolution images, links to more information, and links to the NASA Center that stores each image.

    David also offers his primary cataloging resources:

  • The Cataloging Calculator
  • Oregon State University: Terry Reese: Map Cataloging Tools
  • Persistent URL Homepage A PURL is a Persistent Uniform Resource Locator. Functionally, a PURL is a URL. However, instead of pointing directly to the location of an Internet resource, a PURL points to an intermediate resolution service. The PURL resolution service associates the PURL with the actual URL and returns that URL to the client. The client can then complete the URL transaction in the normal fashion. For links in the catalog.
  • Mind-it -- will watch a page for you and email when you when relevant changes occur. Used for links in catalog.

    More next week. And remember, I'd still be happy to hear from more of you about the primary web resources for your specialty.

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    For my money reference librarians are one of the most overlooked sources of expert information. Reference librarians are professional information hunters. I deserve a swift kick in the shorts for all the times I've stubbornly wound my way through the library stacks, my mule head leading the way, searching fruitlessly for information a librarian could put in my hands in a matter of minutes. Librarians not only know what's in the library and where to find it, they know what's NOT in the library and where to find it. Librarians are also an excellent source of pertinent tangents. I've been sent down many an unanticipated but productive path by a librarian who said, "Maybe you should consider looking under . . . " Finally, not only is it a librarian's job to assist you in your search, most of them enjoy it thoroughly. The best are tenacious informational gumshoes, happiest when they are on the case.

    Michael Perry. Handbook for Freelance Writing, NTC Business Books, 1995.

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    You are welcome to copy and distribute or e-mail any of my own articles for noncommercial purposes (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.

    Publishers may license the content for a reasonable fee.