|As I discussed in the introductory
installment of this column back in January 2000 [p. 54], one part of
digital librarianship is digital publishing. And it is a very important
part—one that can enrich all of us as users, because some of the best digital
resources are made available by librarians, sometimes with the help of
a traditional publisher, sometimes totally on their own. When I am researching
a topic I don’t know much about, or trying to find the best ready-reference
sources related to, say, regulatory issues of dietary supplements, I almost
always start with a Web resource prepared by a librarian or group of librarians.
Of course, I am biased toward librarians, being one myself, and, having
taught more than a thousand of them, I trust their competence, and I am
only rarely disappointed.
Librarians have always been
active in the publishing field, but the Web both opened up new outlets
for them and enhanced existing ones. As you will see in the feature articles
in this issue, there are many aspects of electronic publishing that concern
librarians. I chose a topic that illustrates, very selectively, how librarians
have become creative agents in this process.
Many of the valuable articles,
reviews, and bibliographies written and compiled by librarians are now
also carried on the Web freely (so I think of them as "Web-borne," carried
like things that are "airborne"). This allows anyone to access those valuable
works. True, Web readers get only a fragment of what subscribers get, but
this initiative has been a very good start. For example, Information Today,
Inc. regularly publishes a couple of feature articles, editorials, columns,
and some news items from every issue of CIL and its other magazines
You could be reading this piece, for example, online, and you wouldn’t
even need to have a subscription to do so. You could even send an e-mail
to a friend to alert her about it. Online, Inc. (http://www.onlineinc.com)
offers similar free services, and it announced earlier this year that subscribers
to any of its journals will have free access to the back issues of all
of its periodicals. Such secondary Web-borne services introduce new readers
to existing publications; some readers may then turn into subscribers.
Thousands of book and database
reviews written by librarians are freely available from Booklist (http://www.ala.org/booklist),
which makes all of its reviews available free of charge, beginning with
the January 1996 issue. Jim Rettig’s excellent reviews, originally published
in the Wilson Library Bulletin between 1995 and 1997, are also available
and so are his Web-born reviews published by the Gale Group (as I discuss
The Association of College
& Research Libraries publishes not only the Internet Reviews Archive
of College & Research Libraries News for free on the Web going back
to 1994 (http://www.bowdoin.edu/~samato/IRA),
but also the excellently structured, annotated, and modestly titled Internet
List of Resources collection from the same serial (http://www.ala.org/acrl/resrces.html).
CHOICE offers a 3-month
free trial of its large collection of much respected reviews (http://www.ala.org/acrl/choice/home.html).
This generously long period is more than enough to catch up with reviews
about books and databases in your specialization and to persuade your administrators
to approve subscriptions to them.
School Library Journal Online
has a selective but good collection of feature articles and reviews at
its site (http://www.slj.com/articles/articles/articlesindex.asp)
that complements the printed publication. Library Journal Digital’s Hot
Picks section also has reviews of fiction and nonfiction books, months
before they are published
LJ Digital is the forum
for Roy Tennant’s monthly column discussing highly relevant topics of digital
and it has excellently chosen hotlinks to sites related to the topic of
Library Journal Digital
has the Database & Disc column on the Web, with reviews of online and
CD-ROM databases by librarians
familiar with the specialty
areas (http://www.libraryjournal.com/articles/multimedia/databasedisc/- databaseanddiscarchive.asp).
Originally, these were concise
reviews of CD-ROM products by Cheryl LaGuardia, who shared the column with
Ed Tallent. The
reviews extended to Web
databases, and they became longer and more analytic. The entire collection
of these reviews is now available on the Web free of charge.
Beyond the informative content,
the easy navigation and live referencing add considerable appeal to these
Web-borne resources. Then come the Web-born resources, both as solo acts
and team work by librarians. Most often, these Web-born publishing activities
are independent from traditional publishers. In some cases, a publisher
provides editorial support and sponsors the Web-publishing activity of
librarians in order to get more traffic to its site.
This is the category where
publishing by librarians fully blossoms. While the sources mentioned above
had or still have their roots or equivalents in print publications, there
are many sources that were born on the Web, and there are resources that
are somewhere in between. For example, I use the Web to publish a series
of annotated screenshots that make up an HTML storybook. Although these
are self-contained, they also complement some of my print reviews that
cannot accommodate that many illustrations, let alone so many in color.
One such complementary (and complimentary) digital picture book about one
of the disappointing databases I wrote about in the March 2001 installment
of Péter’s Picks and Pans in ONLINE. It offers a guided tour that
illustrates what I think is so wrong with the Restaurant Row database (http://www2hawaii.edu/~jacso/extra).
The Gale Group offers reviews
by four librarians/library educators every month about reference books
and databases, along with Jim Rettig’s archive, free for anyone (http://www.galegroup.com/reference/reference.htm).
These reviews are written for the Web and have no printed counterparts.
Some librarians have bypassed
the print world and have become famous via their Web publications. The
best example for this scenario is Gary Price, a librarian at George Washington
University, whose Web sites offer a variety of ready-reference sources,
such as lists of anything you can think of (http://gwis2.circ.gwu.edu/~gprice/listof.htm)
and a large collection of searchable free databases (http://gwis2.circ.gwu.edu/~gprice/direct.htm).
On the side, he recommends various Web software tools that you are likely
to use daily once you learn about them. Price deservedly made himself a
name in just a few years after he graduated.
Greg Notess’ name became
recognizable far beyond his home state of Montana through his columns at
ONLINE and DATABASE, but it is his own information-rich Web site, the Search
Engine Showdown (http://searchengineshowdown.com),
that made his
name WWW—World Wide Well-known.
It offers a plethora of unique searchengine statistics, charts, tables,
and narrative evaluations, spiced with frequent news.
If I say Drudge, most people
think of Matt Drudge, the guy who has become famous, or infamous depending
on your perspective, via the Drudge Report (http://www.drudgereport.com).
I am not an avid reader of his report, but I do consult the site of his
librarian father, Bob Drudge. Although I disagree with some of his choices,
his site, the RefDesk (http://www.refdesk.com),
is overall a comprehensive directory of mostly very good Web reference
I had no idea where Cortland,
New York, was until I found Margaret Vail Anderson’s site, Digital Librarian
which is a simple but rich collection of the Web’s best reference sites.
Marylaine Block’s superb solo performance—a list of links to the Best Information
on the Net (BIOTN)--has set a high standard, put the name of the O’Keefe
Library of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, on the map, and fostered
an entire chorus line of reference librarians who maintain and enhance
this excellent collection
Carole Leita’s project,
known today as the Librarian’s Index to the Internet (http://www.lii.org),
started as a collection of bookmarks used in her daily work at a library
in Berkeley. It has become the best-organized, most efficiently searchable,
highly selective, richly annotated directory of the best Web reference
resources, with contributions from 80 librarians across California.
Such sites are not only
informative, but they are also very inspirational for other librarians.
Undoubtedly, there are bad sites that are created by librarians, and that
bothers me a lot because they siphon attention from the good sites. The
one that I find the most irritating is the Davis Free Internet Encyclopedia
that boasts a librarian as one of the creators. I can’t even start to count
the ways in which it is disappointing, but I have a Web site that tries
to illustrate my reasons for discontent (http://www2.hawaii.edu/~jacso/extra).
The good sites that I’ve
listed above are not only very useful, but are also very inspirational
for students of library and information science. I bet you won’t be surprised
if, as a farewell, I link you to a collection of my students’ Web guides
to highly specific topics, which they created in my first Digital Librarianship
course 2 years ago (http://hypatia.slis.hawaii.edu/~jacso/DL/webliography).
The fact that students of other library schools have also created impressive
Web sites tells me that this creative participation aspect of digital librarianship
will grow ever stronger.
is associate professor of library and information science at the University
of Hawaii’s Department of Information and
Computer Sciences. He
is also a columnist for Information Today. His e-mail address is email@example.com.