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Update on Google Art Project / World Wonders / Cultural Institute

November 19, 2013

I posted some time ago about Google Art Project, in which Google did a “street view”-like walk through of international museums. They have also done this at archaeological sites, in a set of locations now called Google World Wonders.  Here’s a list of museums and sites relevant to the classical world that now have detailed access through these projects, now collected under the umbrella of Google Cultural Institute:

World Wonders

I may have missed some European cities with Roman-era stuff – there are a lot of “Old City of X” (especially in Spain) and I don’t know my Roman Europe well enough to know all the cities that may have visible architecture (if I’ve missed a doozy, please say so in comments!) There are a LOT more, from multiple parts of the world; if you teach world history or art history at all, it’s well worth a scan for classroom tools. Makes me want to plan some trips!

Art Project museums:

Note that not every display or object in a given museum is included; these are generally selections from the collections. There are 290 museums in total and I haven’t looked at all of them for relevance – there are lots of large city and national museums that probably include a few items from the ancient Mediterranean.  Coverage is thoroughly international, with especially good coverage of Europe, North America, and Asia. Have a look!

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L’Annee Philologique – EBSCO Interface

November 1, 2013

Last month an embarrassingly long time ago now that it’s November, I spent a day off work at the  John Miller Burnam Classical Library at the University of Cincinnati, and among the errands I undertook was a look at their trial of the EBSCO interface to L’Annee Philologique.  Following are my notes, keeping in mind I probably only spent an hour or two total with the database, and several things occurred to me afterwards that I did not have the ability to go back and check on. I welcome comments from others who have tested, or adopted, this interface for L’Annee.

Overall they have done a surprisingly good job of translating the quirks of L’Annee into the standard EBSCO format (when I worked at UGA, we subscribed to a large number of EBSCO databases, so I have spent a lot of time with the blue-and-green logo ball).  But for those of us pretty intimately familiar with both, the mashup is kind of weird and takes some getting used to!

The Basics
The Cincinnati trial put the user by default into the “Advanced Search” interface. In my experience, academic libraries usually get to choose where the user lands, and “Advanced Search” is a pretty obvious choice for a complex index like L’Annee.  A major advantage of Advanced Search at EBSCO (and indeed at most database providers) is it nudges the user in the direction of Boolean searching by presenting 3 search boxes.  They are initially connected by “AND” but there is a drop-down menu allowing the user to change to “OR” or “NOT.”

L'Annee in Ebsco interface Advanced Search

The choices of “fields” (indexes) to search from Advanced Search are as follows, with [notes in square brackets] made by me:

  • TX (All Text Fields) [this is the default]
  • TI [title, obviously]
  • AU [author, ditto - modern author]
  • RW (Author, Reviewed by)
  • SU [appears to search all subject headings by keyword, i.e. both of below]
  • DD (Subjects and Disciplines Prior to Vol. 67)
  • DG (Subjects and Disciplines Vol. 67 & After)
  • AB (Abstract)
  • AN (Accession Number) [N.B. these are unique numbers for each citation in the database]
  • AC (Ancient Authors and Texts) [note of course searching "homer" here gets you nothing - more on this below]
  • SA (Archaeological Sites)
  • ED (Editor)
  • GE (Geographic Subject) [What is this searching? "athens" found 2 results - both Athens, GA. ]
  • IS (ISSN)
  • LA (Language)
  • PE (Name of Scholar) [looks like it searches scholar's name in subjects]
  • NT (Notes) [cannot figure out WHAT this is searching?!]
  • RS (Publication Name, Reviewed By)
  • DT (Publication Date)

Some of these are rather strange or opaque, as my notes indicate. While being able to search all the indexed fields available in a database is nice, in this case the labels on the fields can be misleading or simply perplexing. There are some that seem so obscure they might better have been left out, in my opinion.  Most entry-level searchers may do best to stick to TX, which does a keyword search of the record (equivalent to a “full text” search in the L’Annee native interface).

What is lost here from the native interface of L’Annee is the extremely useful autofill feature for searching (modern) Authors and Ancient Authors and Texts.  In the native interface, if you start typing “hom” in the box when searching Ancient Authors and Texts, you will automatically be directed to a list of possible matches, which usefully demonstrates that “homer” is not indexed but “homerus” is (in L’Annee, all ancient authors and texts are indexed under their latin names.)

The EBSCO interface does attempt to replicate these useful features by allowing the user to browse some of the indexes – accessed by  More -> Indexes.  Browsing the Ancient Authors and Texts index does not include the autofill feature, however, and there’s no “did you mean” feature here, leading to what I call the classic “Juvenal Fail” in L’Annee:

L'Annee in Ebsco interface Ancient Authors search for Juvenal Fails

Imagine how boggled an undergraduate would be by this! And there’s no help text to tell you to try the latin name.  Browsing for a modern author is less likely to result in failure:

L' Annee in Ebsco interface, Browsing the Author Index

One can also browse the Archaeological Site index, which is very useful for archaeologists, once you get over the hurdle that the site names are all exclusively in French and must be browsed by the strict format “country (site name)”.  So my test of “ath” to try to see what Athens was indexed as brought me sites in Austria:

LAnneee in Ebsco interface Browse archaeological site Site test using Ath

One can also browse the two Subjects and Disciplines indexes, and these operate exactly as in the native interface, where one can expand the broad terms by clicking to reach deeper levels of the subject classification.

Good Things
L’Annee in its native interface abbreviates the titles of journals, which only expand when hovered over with the cursor. In the EBSCO interface journal titles are expanded by default, but abbreviations are also included, and can be searched interchangeably with the full titles.  I tested a search for “aja” and found it returned the same results as a search for “american journal of archaeology.” Yay!

Things I Might Change
The EBSCO interface is in English, of course, but subject headings that appear (i.e. in the sidebar to facet a search after it’s been made, and in individual records, see image below) appear in both French and English (duplicates), which I can see as confusing and/or off-putting to undergraduates who are wary of languages they don’t know.  This seems a strange choice – why not simply include the English translations and leave out the French originals?

L'Annee in Ebsco interface - Record

Another EBSCO feature included in this version of L’Annee is the suggestion of alternative search terms when a search returns few/no results, displaying “did you mean…”.  I found this only appeared some of the time – perhaps the less common vocabulary of classics sometimes stumped EBSCO’s recommender – and when it did appear was sometimes useful and sometimes not. (This is not a problem unique to L’Annee – at one point I had a small collection of wildly irrelevant things databases would suggest to me I ‘might have meant’.) Overall, in assessing whether this feature added value or complicated matters, I might well have chosen to leave it off.

Recommendations
Who might consider purchasing L’Annee through EBSCO in addition to the native L’Annee interface, adding L’Annee at EBSCO when they do not subscribe to the native interface, or switching?  Factors will vary at different institutions.  For starters, I have no information about price.  Anecdotally, I heard from one person that the EBSCO interface was more expensive than the native, and from another person, the reverse.  (This is by no means unlikely – pricing for library subscription databases is generally not transparent, and will vary according to the size and classification of the institution as well as local and/or consortial deals involving purchase of multiple products from a given vendor.)

A second question to consider is who uses L’Annee.  In my anecdotal experience, faculty use it occasionally to rarely – they tend to conduct research by bibliographic chaining out from known items, and looking for new publications by scholars whose work they already know.  Graduate students, especially PhD students, are probably the heaviest users, given their need to move from a position of little knowledge on a subject to mastery of it, often including a full historical literature review.  Graduate students also have a minor tendency to become obsessed with bibliographic completeness (raise your hand if this is you.) In my experience, undergraduates are generally slow to be exposed to L’Annee, even those majoring in Classics at top-ranked institutions. They are unlikely to be using it at all unless a librarian or faculty member has both recommended it and taken the time to demonstrate its value. The EBSCO interface might make L’Annee an easier sell for undergraduates – since after all, you can plop “homer” into a keyword search box that looks pretty standard and get (some) results. Grad students and faculty are more likely to resist change, and in my opinion the EBSCO interface doesn’t add anything valuable enough to the native one to be a dealbreaker.

A third question is, does your institution already subscribe to a large number of EBSCO databases, and is your library promoting a unified search of the local catalog and subscription databases (like GIL-Find/Multi-Search at UGA or Summon at Cincinnati)? If you’re already heavily EBSCO, you’ll likely get a better price, and your students will already feel pretty comfortable with the look and feel of EBSCO.  More classics-themed results will be included in a catalog-and-database combined search. That might make switching worth it.

Who else has had a trial of the EBSCO version of L’Annee? What was your evaluation, and what has your institution chosen to do?

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Online Continuing Education Class Sequence in XML and RDF

October 22, 2013

If I had a) time and b) money, I would certainly be considering taking the classes for the Certificate in XML and RDF-Based Systems at Library Juice Academy.  It starts next February, and comprises 6 4-week sessions at $175 a pop. It’s taught by Robert Chavez, who has a PhD in Classical Studies and worked at Perseus for 8 years. Course descriptions for each session are available at the link, and they seem pretty hands-on – like you might actually build stuff, not just talk about it. Library Juice does continuing education classes, all online and asynchronous, for library professionals.

Note I have no personal experience with Library Juice and don’t know Robert Chavez, but boy those classes look just right for someone who’s interested in LAWDI and Linked Open Data and is not a great self-starter in terms of teaching oneself technical stuff (i.e., me). If only I had a) time and b) professional development money.

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Information Fluency Workshop: Center for Hellenic Studies

August 30, 2013

(I wanted to title this post “What I did on my summer vacation,” but I figured that would not be very helpful for the search engines out there.)

In July I had the privilege of spending 10 days teaching a workshop on information fluency in classical studies at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC.  It was an incredible luxury to explore a topic in such depth, when in the past I have had at most an hour and a half to reach a group of students! I am very grateful to Kenny Morrell, who invited me to teach this class; Lanah Koelle, our program coordinator/librarian who contributed her expertise at every stage; Allie Marby, CHS’s summer interns, and librarians Temple Wright and Erika Bainbridge, who attended sessions and supported us at CHS, especially in the library; and most especially the workshop students, who gracefully accepted their role as guinea pigs and taught me a great deal.  The students were a mixture on American undergraduates and Greek professionals in education and information fields; each brought an inquisitive spirit and their collective hard work and openness to sharing and new ideas was a major factor in the success of the workshop. Thank you!

As a group we assembled some resources that others who are interested in this topic may find useful.  The first is a Zotero group library with folders that list the session topics. Each folder’s contents include citations for assigned readings for the session (usually fairly short, web-based readings) and citations for information resources we discussed during the session.

The students were asked to complete two assignments.  The first, the development of an annotated bibliography, is available as a Google document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cXaPqTDdOUIzI6E26SZiOFjb7a7BMzczWOfh8qXVSJc/. The second, a WordPress Research Guide, is also described in a Google document (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1O3Rm8yXGlhIRPJh3PrDiMgiAgH0LiHhC44mSvq_9QNk/) and the guide itself is available via the CHS’s website.  The guide should be viewed as a work in progress; we began a project that we hope to flesh out with the participants of future workshops in years to come.

Librarians and scholars interested in libraries and archives in Greece will be delighted by Maria Konstantopoulou’s entry on this topic; Latin teachers can find many fun texts to use with beginning students in George Trapalis’ entry; Matina Goga has assembled a list of valuable links for the study of Greek society and culture; Brittany Profitt has done the same for Roman society and culture; teachers of Greek might want to think about using Tyler Verity’s entry on precisely defining words for a classroom exercise; Ashton Murphy’s entry on reading for research addresses study skills faculty may assume undergraduates possess when they arrive at college; and Vanessa Felso’s entry on latin dictionary resources is a model of clarity, useful for any undergraduate. Use them, and share them!

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Classics Lives at the Public Library

August 8, 2013

This is just a short note to mention that I started working at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County as the Grants Resource Librarian, a part of the Information and Reference Department, in mid-April.  I’ve learned all sorts of new things working in a large urban public library, but one thing that I’ve been surprised by is how regularly patrons ask for information about classical topics!  In the less than four months I’ve worked here my classics-related contacts have included:

  • a patron interested in Greek grammars; we discussed how the Dewey call number system treats ancient Greek language materials in some detail
  • a patron interested in teaching himself Aramaic
  • a patron, aged 13, looking for an ancient Greek dictionary
  • two 7th graders looking for works on specific buildings in Rome (Cincinnati’s magnet high school, Walnut Hills High School, has a very well-regarded mandatory latin program; I turned out to know their teacher)
  • a high school student looking for research on the Trojan war
  • a patron who wanted latin learning materials (apparently for self-teaching) and a text to work with (I was only passing by on this one, but I think we set him up with a Loeb of Caesar’s Gallic Wars)
  • a patron wanting text-book style overviews of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilization (who was reading for pleasure and self-education and mentioned that decades ago she had read the entirety of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall!)

Pretty impressive, right?  Despite crotchety commentary in the press and online about how public libraries are only interested in serving entertainment and pablum to the public, I can attest that we are also promoting classical studies!

 

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Places to Publish Open-Access in Classics and Related Areas

March 14, 2013

The following was begun during an informal morning coffee with a group of Hellenic Studies librarians. Special thanks go to Elli Mylonas and Colin McCaffrey, who were seated on either side of me, but others contributed, and of course I am responsible for any errors in what follows. If there are omissions, please comment or email me at phoebe.acheson at gmail.com so I can add to the lists that follow!

Need a Refresher on What Open Access Is?

Fairly Traditional Monographs

The following are publishing monographs and making digital access of some kind available for free to all; in many cases print books may also be purchased and/or printed on demand.

Journal Articles

  • Directory of Open Access Journals This site allows browsing for open-access titles that use peer review by discipline (look under Arts and Architecture, Languages and Literatures, History and Archaeology, or other headings depending on your subfield).
  • Ancient World Online: List of Open-Access Journals in Ancient Studies This list is extremely comprehensive and includes many items not in the DOAJ, above, but many are not peer-reviewed and others are titles that have put back issues online open-access but are not publishing current issues in that format. With these caveats, a journal on this list might be the right one for your publishing needs.
  • ISAW Papers I am highlighting this specific project (title? series?) because it is at the forefront of technology for publishing born-digital articles (highly linked, linked open data friendly, etc.)

Pre-Prints, Working Papers, and Self-Archiving

In many fields, pre-prints or “working” versions of papers that have not yet been formally published are routinely circulated and deposited online in open access repositories. This is not yet common in Classics, but certainly could become more so.

Self-Archiving is the process of  making ones own published work available open-access online. It can be done in a variety of ways and places:

  • An Institutional Repository (sometimes called a Digital Library or Repository; example: DukeSpace) at your institution (ask your liaison librarian!)
  • Scribd as above
  • Academia.edu (which now requires readers to have a free account to access your papers)
  • Your own personal or departmental web site or blog
  • In archaeology, Propylaeum-DOK from the University of Heidelberg Library is a subject-specific repository accepting papers from scholars all over the world.

The big issue with self-archiving is making sure you have the right to do so under the contract you signed with the original publisher of your work.  These contracts can be negotiated.  Here’s an account by librarian Micah Vandegrift detailing his recent negotiation about self-archiving. If your library has a Scholarly Communications office (example: Duke Scholarly Communications), they may also be able to give you advice on this process.

I welcome your comments with further thoughts about specific venues to publish open-access or other ways in which to freely disseminate scholarly information online.

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