Thursday, June 30, 2005

database changes

You'll notice some changes on our Webpage. Two databases - Women Writers Online and the AMICO art database are disappearing. We will be investigating alternatives to AMICO, a museum consortium that has been merged into something called ARTSTOR that is less attractive to us.

We will also temporarily lose our handy-dandy Journal Locator list as we switch to a different product. If you need to know whether we have a journal online or in paper, give the library a call since we have a print copy. You can always find print journals cataloged in MnPALS - it's the myriad of online subscriptions that are tricky to track down.

One last change: PAIS (the venerable Public Affairs Information Service database) is moving to a new interface. We think you'll like it.


Friday, June 24, 2005

summertime snippets from the library

We're planning to join in The September Project this year. The idea is for libraries of all kinds to be places where people can get together to discuss the state of the world post-9/11 with events, displays, or whatever. Libraries are a natural place to do this since they are civic spaces open to all and open to a wide spectrum of different viewpoints. It happens to coincide with a new mandate for colleges and universities to provide programming on the US Constitution, which seems an opportunity for synergy. If you have ideas for September, let me know.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of interesting studies recently released about libraries. One reports on how many libraries have been approached for information about their patrons since the PATRIOT Act went into effect. Pollsters couldn't ask whether these requests and subpoenas were actually made under Section 215 of that law, because that could land respondents in the slammer - it's illegal to say if you've been served under this law. That provision, and the fact probable cause is not required for such searches has bothered bookstore owners and librarians since it was enacted. The House of Representatives isn't too happy about it, either.

The other study reports that Internet access is now availible through over 98% of public libraries in the US - though don't think the digital divide is closed just yet. The Seattle PI points out many libraries have to limit use because there aren't enough computers to go around.

Finally - the contract Google signed with the University of Michigan library to digitize their collections has made it onto the Internet. Though the contract does say neither party will, er, break the law, publishers remain unconvinced Google's plan constitutes fair use.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

new faces, strange places, and really big books

We're very pleased to announce that Jay Nordstrom and Sonja Timmerman have accepted positions as Circulation Manager and Collections Manager in our library. We had a terrific pool of candidates and are looking forward to having a new colleague in Sonja and new horizons for Jay, who has been managing our serials operations during years of amazing change.

People love books, but this house may be taking things a bit far. I mean, curling up with a good book is one thing, but curling up in a book? Besides, the stories on those shelves look a bit ... wooden.

As long as we're going to extremes, how about this addition to the University of Minnesota's collections? Not recommended for reading in bed - it weighs 130 pounds. Our J-term class got an advanced peek and it's .... big! Really big! The printing process alone was quite a technical feat.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

google the library

It's now possible to "google" library catalogs straight from your browser. You can either download a Yahoo or Google toolbar that will run a search of the Open WorldCat database (each works somewhat differently) or add WorldCat to your search options on the FireFox browser. This will give you a toolbar to search a database of libraries around the world, and you can narrow it down to your library. It's pretty amazing.

Meanwhile, one scholarly society is not too pleased with the National Institutes of Health plan to make more federally-funded research google-able for free. In particular they are not happy about PubChem, which the American Chemical Society thinks could erode the market for their database. Personally, given how much that sucker costs, I'm not too heartbroken ... but we aren't likely at any point to pull the plug on the pricey ACS version. It's expensive, no doubt, but it's better than anything else for the field.