Christina's LIS Rant
Friday, September 22, 2006
  Inspec via EbscoHost: To stack or not to stack, that is the question....
(also posted to PAMnet)

For any/all who have access to Inspec via EbscoHost AND have the archive (back to 1898) --

How are you linking to the databases? My initial plan, and what I did, is to stack the databases in the link so customers/patrons/researchers would automatically search the full coverage -- in Physics, you're really tying one hand behind your back if you stop at 1969!

Here are the problems with that:
1) The name of the database does not appear on the interface, only "multiple databases"
2) most of the fields are missing in the dropdown on the guided search -- because the fields change (in EbscoHost) from 1968 to 1969

University of Maryland, I've noticed, links to the two databases separately so you'd have to search one, then the other.

I'm of two minds on this because I'd hate for someone to miss a 1967 article that's really relevant, but it doesn't make sense either to send my really smart customers to a limited interface without obvious markings of where they went.

Have any of you faced this choice? Which way did you go and why?

(yes, I know, not a problem in other interfaces, thanks for the reminder :) )

Please comment here or email me and I'll compile the answers

The stacked URL is http://search.ebscohost.com/login.asp?profile=web&defaultdb=inh&defaultdb=ieh

Where the individual URLs would just have one or the other of the defaultdb= statements.

This is part of a larger problem where decisions are made based on the architecture of the database, not the needs of the users. For example, in IEEE Xplore, there are these artificial breaks at 1988 -- not because anything special happened that year, but because at some point that's where they decided to stop. If you're an electrical engineer -- do you care if it's 1988 or 1989? They're both pretty old, but...

Update: after the listserv posting, I got a couple of e-mails the first basically glad they went with another interface and the second saying the majority of their customers probably wouldn't want the older stuff and might seek it out directly if they need it -- but agreeing with my points.
Monday, September 18, 2006
  Ebsco seems to have fixed "United States" but now how about "adult"?
I complained about how my most commonly returned cluster for Inspec was "United States" -- this has apparently been fixed (based on my experience)....

So now I'm searching in CINAHL (a database with most excellent indexing)... and ack! The recommended subjects start out (seemingly always) with male... female... adult... Ok, so this makes sense, because it's grouping all of the subjects together. But come on, is that what I need?
  Other issues with gifs and science...
Previously, in my now somewhat dead other blog, I'd spent a bit of time discussing math on the web.
Fast forward a bit... Peter Murray-Rust posts some very good examples of how gifs and other similar image files are used to represent data/graphs/structures, etc., in chemistry -- and how they are actually pretty evil. Very good post and well worth reading.

Actually, I think the html-ized articles with the tiny jpeg images of tables and graphs are absolutely the worst.

It seems like we should be farther along at this point. PDFs are really just like having paper -- shouldn't we actually be able to work with the image and search the equations?
  Sigh, my feed's broken again...
My feed is not full text, alas. I've gone through the last few entries looking for embedded codes that might be doing it, but I can't find them. Sorry for the hassle!
Friday, September 15, 2006
  RSS at Wiley... wooo-hoooo!
So there I was, browsing an article, "Are raw RSS feeds suitable for broad issue scanning? A science concern case study" by Mike Thelwall, Rudy Prabowo, Ruth Fairclough JASIST v57 n12 (October 2006)(DOI 10.1002/asi.20334), when I saw a little familiar orange box, and a "What is RSS?"

I tried the automatic feed detection, which didn't work, but you can easily right click on the RSS logo and get the feed. As S.C. would say, Subscribed!

update: and it does early view articles, too, and the title of the feed is the name of the journal (you'd think this is obvious, but SPIE uses the title "newsroom" and I always forget what it is" Top of the feed is an early view article published 9/12 on collaboration in science....
Monday, September 11, 2006
  Talis Announces the Winner!
Talis announded in their press release linked above the winner of their Mashing Up the Library Competition.

Congrats to the winner and all of the people who entered -- you all did great work!
Saturday, September 09, 2006
This is actually really cool. Via LD.

Another super patron, as far as I can tell, who's trying to help people browse and find interesting books. I'm not sure if the functionality is just right but the idea is interesting.
Monday, September 04, 2006
  Some positives in Google Books
No citations, sorry, but I've seen a couple of blog postings recently where the authors talk about how poorly google books works. The examples they seem to have tried have been from Shakespeare or other literature-like stuff.

In my world, I've found Google Books to be pretty helpful... so scientific information goes like:
mailing lists/chats/in-person/informal communication > conference papers > technical reports (these can be before or after any of the other points here) > journal articles > review articles > monographs > textbooks > reference books (like encyclopedias)....

So you go from less reliable but close to the research to nailed down but far from the cutting edge. If you need to learn about a new field or if you need to understand a domain, you don't start with conference papers, you start with reference books, textbooks, review articles, etc. We all know how to find these. If you're well versed in the field but need to be up-to-date -- you'd better not start with textbooks! But... what if you don't even know where to start with all of that? Which textbook might talk about the topic? What if you're a librarian and you need information on a new field or you're a computer scientist or mathematician who is for the first time working with a chemist or biologist?

I put a scientific name for a bacterium into Google Books and found a textbook from molecular biology that we had on the shelf. I trotted out to look at it and it gave me exactly what I needed. Furthermore... it helped me find the right entry in Bergey's which we also have on the shelf. (I usually do physical science stuff so am quite unskilled in using Bergey's).

So here are some reasons my searches were successful:
  1. I used a very specific search string in science -- a somewhat uncommon bacterium
  2. I have a very good collection of print materials when I actually need to *read* something I found
  3. I am quite aware of how to find a book in the catalog and on the shelf if I have the name from Google Books.
  Interesting discussion on CHM-INF...
When I researched informal scholarly scientific communication, I found many hopeful statements of how ICTs would help peripheral scientists; that is, how scientists at smaller institutions or in less developed countries could be as integrated into invisible colleges. For several of the fields, this didn't turn out to be the case as f2f discussion was really necessary for in-depth understanding (hence visiting professorships, conferences, etc.)

So... flash forward to this weekend's discussion on CHM-INF. P. M-R. writes:
One of the really exciting things is that you don't have to be at a big institution to make an impact. You have to have tenacity, vision, and e-charisma. The Wikipedia chemists have done a great job with very little mainstream support. Several of them have relatively little chemical experience, but lots of enthusiasm. People like Martin have done a great job adding quality and coherence.
There's also another post mentioning a chemist at a small mid-western liberal arts college who's done some neat software stuff.

Hmmm. All this posted on a Sunday morning (when we Americans were in the middle of a holiday weekend)

So, are the chemists' contributions to wikipedia and the blogosphere moving the chemistry forward (and also their careers) or only helping with public communications of science? Sounds like some of the contributions are more editorial than content. It also sounds like one of the synthetic chemistry blogs that critically reviews papers may be in the first category, but the wikipedia entries seem to be in the second. All scientific publications are not created equally -- although review papers are much more highly cited than "new science" (in general), I think scientists get more mileage out of journal articles reporting new work. There are a lot of educators and librarians on CHM-Inf so we'll be a bit biased in favor of the writing of textbooks and reference works ... after all, these make our lives easier. I should think that a chemist working in industry wouldn't get any direct professional benefit from working on Wikipedia -- of course, with anything like this it's often the prestige that's important (so maybe a blog would be better than a wiki entry?). There's more than just altruism involved in posting valuable information to a listserv.

Anyway, on to continue my holiday weekend.

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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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