In Other Words
Buy the Farm, Pick the Pol, and Hold
By Lauree Padgett
It's January. And you know what that means: It's prediction
time. As I write this, New Jersey has had its first major
snowfall of the season. The weather forecasters started
saying the "s" word early in the week. As usual, predicted
amounts changed daily. And then on Thursday, the night
the snow was to start, it seemed that every half-hour
the live Doppler radar was showing some different weather
My dad, who probably missed his calling as a meteorologist,
phoned from Florida to see how I was liking the "blizzard,"
as his local weather channel called it. He was amazed
when I told him that it was only snowing lightly and
total accumulations for the day were expected to be
1 to 3 inches. The way I see it, predictions for 2004
are about as reliable as snow forecasts. Consequently,
I'm not making any of my ownexcept to say that
you're going to really like the articles I've picked
out this month.
Most libraries have two separate holdings catalogs:
one for the local holdings, the other for full text.
This means that patrons who are searching for a specific
title have to scour two different lists. Karen Coombs,
information technology and instruction librarian at
the State University of New YorkCortland, decided
to tackle this problem. She chronicles her story in
"Reaching the Crossroads of Two Lists for Periodicals
Holdings" (Computers in Libraries, January 2004,
Coombs' goal was to create a single interface that
would allow users to search all holdingselectronic,
print, or microformat once. Since XML lists for
both sets of holdings were available, she decided to
use XML as her mode of operation. XML also gave Coombs
the flexibility to easily tweak the look of a given
page. And she knew that learning XML would be of great
use for future library applications. Coombs writes:
"After reading, researching, and experimenting, I discovered
that there are several components needed to display
XML on the Web": the XML file; the XSL (eXtensible Stylesheet
Language) file; and the parser, which reads and displays
the file. The last component is a Web programming language.
After selecting and testing the parser and code, Coombs
was ready to develop her XSL file. A big challenge here
was designing an interface that would accommodate a
variety of search options. The final task proved to
be the hardest: combining the electronic and print/microform
Coombs' key to victory was making the two lists "appear"
to be one on the Web by linking two pieces of data:
the ISSN number and title. This link enables library
patrons to move seamlessly from one list to the other
without even knowing it. The searchable list went live
in October 2003, 6 months after the project began. The
favorable responses from faculty and students have convinced
Coombs that her time was well-spent.
Founded in 1862, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
is the third-largest civilian department of the government,
with 100,000 employees spread over all 50 states and
60 countries. In "Harvesting USDA's Agricultural Information"
(ONLINE, January/February 2004, p. 16), Matthew
McBride focuses on two of the USDA's executive offices
as well as its seven primary mission areas.
The USDA Office of Communications publishes a variety
of informative titles. One of the most useful is its
annual USDA Agricultural Fact Book, which chronicles
the current and historical state of agriculture and
the USDA. The Office of the Chief Economist advises
the Secretary of Agriculture on programs and policies
that affect U.S. agriculture. It also produces the department's
commodity and farm-sector forecasts. You can find the
data used in these analyses at the USDA Economics and
Statistics System Web site
McBride summarizes the types of information available
from the seven primary mission areas. Farm and Foreign
Agricultural Services aims to keep American farmers
"growing" through uncertain weather and economic times.
The Office of Food Safety oversees the Food Safety and
Inspection Service, which ensures the quality of meat,
poultry, and eggs. Natural Resources and Environment,
which is concerned with sustainable land management,
includes the Forest Service and the Natural Resources
The mission of the Rural Development area is to improve
the economy and quality of life for residents in rural
America. Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services offers
programs that deal with food nutrition and assistance.
Marketing and Regulation Programs facilitate the marketing
of U.S. agricultural products and ensure the health
of U.S. animals and plants. Research, Education, and
Economics provides research, analysis, and data for
consumers and promotes agricultural productivity and
Overall, McBride gives the USDA and its related sites
two green thumbs up. Reading his article will give you
more specific areas to dig into for all kinds of agricultural
Another lost causealthough way too many pundits
will attempt itis predicting the outcome of November's
presidential election. However, if you just want sites
to help you get a handle on the different candidates,
be they Republican (yes, George W. has party competition),
Democrat, or third-party, Irene McDermott's Internet
Express column (Searcher, January 2004, p. 18),
"One Little, Two Little, Three Little Candidates," is
a good place to start. While McDermott confesses she's
still suffering from "post-traumatic election syndrome"
flare-ups from the results of the 2000 presidential
race, she tries her best to give all sides equal coverage.
To start, McDermott recommends a number of good overview
sites, such as CNN's American Votes 2004: Presidential
Primary Preview; C-SPAN.org's "Road to the White House"
weekly series; and Democracy in Action: P2004, which
she calls "a great site with lots of detailed information
on all of the leading 2004 presidential candidates."
If you're a primary watcher, you'll want to go to
the NHPrimary.com site. Haven't been able to wade through
all the Democratic presidential wannabes to find out
who agrees most with your ideology? McDermott suggests
a visit to SelectSmart.com. There, you can answer a
list of 20 questions, press a button, and find out which
candidate you agree with most on major issues. Finally,
McDermott provides the official Web sites for 10 of
the top candidates and even throws in a conservative
site for good measure.
OK, Maybe One ...
Well, I'm done. And with so much time to spare, maybe
I can make one prediction: My editor will faint when
I turn in my column 2 days early. Think I'd better bring
along some smelling salts.
Lauree Padgett is Information
Today, Inc.'s manager of editorial services. Her e-mail
address is email@example.com.