April 24, 2014

A Librarian Gives Thanks | Not Dead Yet

Cheryl LaGuardia A Librarian Gives Thanks | Not Dead YetI’m especially thankful for one very particular aspect of this Thanksgiving: not having to cook a blessed thing. I went with a cousin to Plimoth Plantation for Thanksgiving dinner, where, in addition to a traditional feast, “Pilgrim role players and Native interpreters [were] on hand to greet [us] and [we] learn[ed] about the 1621 feast that continues to inspire our modern celebration of Thanksgiving.” Having lived in the Boston area for nearly 20 years (yipes!) I figures this was a good time to go there.

When I thought about that for which I’m thankful on a daily basis, I realized that I’m grateful for:

  1. Family and friends (my cats and dog are among these),
  2. Co-workers (I’ve got some really amazing co-workers) and other colleagues I value (especially my displaced “family” from Santa Barbara—you guys know who you are),
  3. Reasonably stable health, and
  4. Being a librarian, and also a reviewer of research tools, I realize I’m thankful for a number of resources to which I turn on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
    C’mon—be honest: every librarian has “go-to” sources—don’t we? Anyway I do, and here are some of the ones for which I am thankful frequently:
  • Academic Search Premier
  • Adam Matthew Digital (any of their output I can get my hands on)
  • ALA-LC Romanization Tables
  • Alexander Street Press (their stuff is such good quality)
  • Alt-Press Watch
  • America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts
  • Ancestry.com Library Edition
  • BBC News
  • Chicago Manual of Style
  • Citation Tools at Harvard
  • Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO)
  • CountryData.com
  • CQ Researcher (do not know if I could live without this; not saying I couldn’t, just don’t know if I could)
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography (print; fell in love with this as an undergraduate and the love affair continues)
  • Dissertations and Theses Full-Text (the full-text of dissertations? With bibliographies? Incredible!)
  • Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Ethnic NewsWatch
  • GenderWatch
  • Google Scholar
  • Haaretz.com
  • HOLLIS Classic
  • HuriSearch
  • Index Islamicus
  • Index to Jewish Periodicals
  • Al-Jazeera America
  • JSTOR (the one source undergrads know if they know no other)
  • Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog (KVK)
  • Literature Online (LION)
  • Magazines for Libraries (have used it constantly since I was an undergraduate and took a research course)
  • Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies
  • New York Times website
  • The Onion (okay, so of dubious research quality but it does provide an unreality check for those moments when I need one)
  • Oxford University Press: the OED and lots of their other offerings
  • PAIS International (always find interesting things in here)
  • People: Bill Katz was my professor and adviser in library school, and he thoroughly impressed on me the importance of getting to know the people in your community—whatever that community may be—and creating your own information network. And boy was he right! People are the most important information resource there is.
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2009)
  • ProQuest Periodicals Index Online
  • ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States (thank heavens somebody continued it after the Census stopped publishing it!)
  • ProQuest Statistical Insight
  • UNData
  • Urban Dictionary
  • Web of Science
  • Widener Collection of Newspapers on Microfilm Search
  • Wikipedia (gasp! Yes, I use it—mostly for quick lookups for myself or to find relatable keywords. If the research is for others or for scholarly use, I cross check the information in one or more other sources.)
  • WorldCat
  • YouTube

Doubtless as soon as I post this list I’ll think of more, but these are pretty much my first strike, go-to items, several of which are extremely local. My areas of liaison include Freshman Seminars (hence the crucial need for CQ Researcher), the Committee on Jewish Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, which explains why I rely so heavily on a number of the items on that list. One resource I (and the researchers with whom I work) use constantly and for which we have all been devoutly thankful is World News Connection, but given that the CIA’s Open Source Center (OSC) will cease to provide its information feed to the publicly accessible World News Connection as of December 31, I’m wondering what will happen to it. I’ve read that it will continue as an archive only, and that’s a real shame because it has been such a valuable resource for getting timely global perspectives on world events.

And then there are the resources about which I grumble daily, and for which I am not very thankful, those being Factiva and LexisNexis Academic. I seldom, if ever, find anything in them for which I am looking (do others have better success with these? I’d love to know if I’m doing something wrong). The bottom line, of course, is that I’m thankful I have access to such a wealth of information and research tools, and thankful, too, that I get to look at new ones as they are published. That’s one of the best parts of being a librarian, and a reviewer. If you have favorite resources that I’ve omitted I’d be interested in hearing about them, in a comment here or an email (claguard@fas.harvard.edu).

Read eReviews, where Cheryl LaGuardia and Bonnie Swoger look under the hood of the latest library databases and often offer free database trials

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980s, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early '90s (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.

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Comments

  1. I guess you should’ve been Thankful for LexisNexis Academic, because they’re replacing its interface with a new one that’s even worse and is sure to bring back even crappier results. And they’re rolling it out on Dec 23, with no universal trial period before that. So we only have THREE WEEKS to prepare for the new LexisNexis, without even being able to get our hands on it first.

    Clearly LexisNexis messed up their released schedule and are in a huge rush to get this product out before the end of the year, and they overtly don’t want to listen to anyone while they do it.

    • Hi Karen — thanks for writing. I get the distinct impression that LexisNexis pretty much figures folks are going to continue to subscribe to Academic no matter what the content in the database may be (or may NOT be). I had a recent researcher query about the content of a particular journal that our link resolver said was covered in LexisNexis Academic — but come to find out, the content that they included was only free-lance articles. Not particularly useful in the case I was trying to resolve. Seems like nowadays we pay more to get less. What do you think?
      Thanks again for writing,
      Cheryl

  2. I was thrilled to see PAIS on your go-to list. My collection development students just finished a “database derby” evaluation assignment and none of them could see the usefulness of PAIS! A guest speaker was also in attendance–someone with a poli sci background–and he said he thought PAIS’s time was over. Well, not for me, and I’m glad not for you, either.

    • Hi Helene,
      I find stuff in PAIS I probably would not find anywhere else! (in addition to the kinds of public affairs things I expect to find). It’s a treasure trove for interdisciplinary research, especially. For my part, I’m glad you’re making your students aware of it — once they’re on the front lines in libraries, I bet they’ll see its usefulness firsthand.
      Thanks for writing,
      Cheryl

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