Archive for April, 2010


Resource Reviews: Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome

April 30, 2010

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome is a new (2010) work, which we received in Main Reference at UGA in March.   Published by OUP, it is edited by Michael Gagarin of UT Austin and the contributors are well-known scholars.  Its 7 volumes, comprising 3400 pages, aim to be a comprehensive introduction, in English, to classical antiquity.

I was eager to see this set arrive at UGA.  While it has fewer entries than the Oxford Classical Dictionary (OCD), I think it will be of more use to the entry-level undergraduate, who I suspect finds the OCD somewhat terse and tending to assume one already has a solid base of knowledge in the classics.  These multiple-page essays, with bibliography, are  paced to better serve as an introduction to a topic.  The other major competition in the up-to-date general classics encyclopedia is  Brill’s Neue Pauly/Brill’s New Pauly, which unfortunately the UGA library only owns in German (read by precious few undergraduates, and even feared by many graduate students!).  At under $1000, the OEAGR is a steal compared to the New Pauly, which is ca. $400 a volume (and there are 15).

This is a perfect place for undergraduates beginning research projects who need an overview of a new topic and a starting bibliography, and a great alternative to that frenemy of the undergrad, Wikipedia.  It is available in an online version, as part of the Oxford Digital Reference Shelf (to which UGA does not subscribe).

Online reviews of this new work are just beginning to be published, and include:

  • Colin McCaffrey at Philobiblion
  • (I hope to add others as I find them – if you know of any, link in comments!)

Resource Reviews: List-servs

April 28, 2010

List-servs, or email discussion lists, date back to the early days of the WWW as a means of communication professional information.  Despite being more than 15 years old in many cases, many list-servs remain vital and active.

There are a few that hit the (small) niche where Classics and librarianship coexist:

I subscribe to all of these, and none are very high traffic.  In the case of WESS-CMR, I think there have been maybe two posts in the last year!  They have proven their use in coordinating communication about the Library of Congress’ rules about Greek transliteration in the past few months (especially CoHSL) and there are sporadic requests for research assistance on CoHSL and WESS, and collection development opportunities on WESS.

There are many more for librarians of all stripes and interests; a starting point for seeking them out is available at the Library of Congress.

For Classicists, Jenkins reviews 16 list-servs (nos. 175-190).  The most active and generalist seem to be:

  • Classics-L Hosted at Kentucky; there is searchable archive, organized by week.  Jenkins warns that it “has a decided tendency to get sidetracked” (as I have also found) but is the most active of the lists he reviews, and best for news.  I get this in a daily digest, since the volume of postings would annoy me if I received each one.
  • Arch-L has moved to Buffalo since Jenkins’ description of it.  It is a general (i.e. not specific to the Classical world) archaeology list with information about excavation opportunities.  It seems to be running 1-2 posts a day since I have subscribed.
  • Aegeanet merits a special mention from me, since I subscribed to it in the later 1990s.  It is for students of Aegean prehistory.  It is hosted by John Younger at Kansas.  It is currently fairly active, right now discussing the KOSMOS conference.
  • The rest are mostly more specialized, including list-servs for numismatics, teachers of high school latin, with a UK focus, etc.

Anything important in the list-serv arena I’ve missed?  Let me know in comments!


Resource Reviews: Thesaurus Linguae Latinae

April 23, 2010

This week I’m starting a regular series of  reviews of useful reference works – in print and online – in classics.  My main guides for what I review will be resources we own at UGA, and the recent (2006) handbook by Fred W. Jenkins, Classical Studies: A Guide to the Reference Literature.  (I bought my own copy, since my office is in a branch building, and it’s a steep hike to the copy on the shelf in the Main Library!)  My goal is to have a post a week, probably usually on Fridays, and work my way through the topics.  Jenkins covers areas of Classics I know very well indeed (art and archaeology) and areas where I might as well be an undergraduate (ancient philosophy, latin literature).

So I’ll start with one of the basic resources for latin language: the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae.  This is item 520 in Jenkins, described by him as “the best and fullest source available for the study of Latin lexicography.”  It is an exhaustive dictionary of latin, with definitions and attestations of each word.  It was begun in 1894, and has, as of 2009, completed the letter “P”, and covers all words in Latin from the earliest attestations down to about 600CE.  More details about the ongoing work (conducted by about 20 scholars based at the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften) are available at the project’s web site.

UGA has the print volumes in the Main Library Reference Area.  I don’t believe the library ever purchased the CD-Rom version; there was an extensive review of it by Peter Heslin in BMCR in 2006. TLL is now available for purchase in an online interface from De Gruyter (also available in a package with the Bibliotheca Teubneriana Latina (BTL)); the cost is  not within UGA’s straitened budget at the moment.  I evaluated a trial version and found that the content was identical to the print volumes, and it is both browseable by volume and fascicle and searchable.  Cross-references are hotlinked, and if one purchases the TLL and the BTL together they mesh well. The interface is not especially attractive or clean-looking but it is fairly straightforward to use. Help documentation is available as a downloadable .pdf file, and the site suggests installing a special TLL font (although it seemed to work just fine without it).

The TLL is not for most undergraduates – it uses specialized vocabulary, is entirely in Latin (well, there is some Greek in the etymologies!), and would be more perplexing than useful for students simply looking for translations or definitions of words.  For the scholar interested in usage, whether honors thesis writer, graduate student, or faculty member, it is essential.  I had a phone call last fall from a graduate student at the Main library, in distress that TLL ended at P, and asking what he should do, since the word he wanted to look up started with S!  Short of waiting some 30 years until TLL gets to S, Jenkins suggests the Oxford Latin Dictionary.


Aegean Prehistorians Make Lemonade

April 21, 2010

The 13th International Aegean Conference (on Aegean prehistory), titled Kosmos: Jewelry, Adornment, and Textiles in the Aegean Bronze Age, was scheduled to take place in Copenhagen this week, from April 19-23.  Unfortunately, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland had other ideas; its eruption prevented most of the participants, who were to come to Copenhagen from the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Turkey, and elsewhere, from traveling by air.

The Aegeaum conference hosts were undaunted, and developed a plan for a largely virtual conference.  A live stream of the papers – being read aloud by those present, over powerpoint slides sent by the paper authors – is available at the conference web site, and a chat window allows simultaneous discussion and questions and answers after each paper.  Papers started at 8am EST today and will continue on Thursday and Friday; the schedule is still evolving, as some air travel has resumed in Europe today.  Those who were able to attend in person looked as though they were having a good time:

I had trouble getting the live stream to stream from home this morning, when I was on my ca. 2001 Mac PowerPC (which also makes Youtube videos herky-jerky).  It’s coming in beautifully right now, though, as I sit at a netbook using the campus wireless.

Many kudos to Marie-Louise Nosch and Robert Laffineur, and their supporting staff in Copenhagen, for pulling this off, organizationally, technically, and with the same collegial spirit that the International Aegean Conference has long been known for.  For those of us who wouldn’t have been there in person anyway, it’s a great bonus!

Hat tip to Charles Ellwood Jones’ Ancient World Online blog, to which you should subscribe!


LibraryThing for a Departmental Collection

April 20, 2010

Last October, the UGA Libraries and the Department of Classics worked together on a fun and useful project: getting a searchable online listing of the books kept in the Alexander Room (Park 222).  This collection, managed by a graduate student  (currently Stephen Dowell) and overseen by a faculty committee, is composed of donations to and a few purchases by the department over the years.  Many items are duplicates of those available in the UGA Library – it being useful to have a spare copy of a volume on the same hallway as the departmental offices – and a few are unique.

The collection had been put in order some time before, with a simple classification scheme by subject (designed by Susan Curtis, the now retired head of Reference at UGA and spouse of Bob Curtis of the Classics Department).  There was also a database of the collection, using EndNote bibliographic management software, but this was not accessible to students other than the library manager, or to the public at large.  So between Naomi Norman, Stephen, and me, we developed a plan to harness the talents of the department and the  library and create an online ‘catalog.’

We chose the web service LibraryThing for our purposes, as it provided the best combination of ease of use, bibliographic rigor, and low cost.  Organizational accounts are available at a one-time cost of $25, and 5,000 books may be entered.  LibraryThing allows users to add books by searching nearly 700 existing library catalogs (including UGA, Yale, UNC, and many other academic libraries around the world), finding a match to the volume in one’s hand, and pulling the metadata associated with the book (author, title, edition, Library of Congress Subject Headings and call numbers) into one’s own collection database.  We ended up not using the non-Roman language features, but LibraryThing is available in multiple languages and scripts (German, Albanian, Greek, Pirate…) and supports Unicode for the display of non-Roman alphabets.


On October 24, 2009 we marshaled our forces and descended on Park Hall as a Flash Mob, with the goal of getting the whole collection into LibraryThing in one day.  The UGA Classics Newsletter (v. 23, 2009) chronicled our efforts, noting that about 20 members of the departmental community, including faculty, graduate students and undergraduates, were joined by 4 librarians for the day.  Many brought laptops, and some faculty and grad students worked in their offices or in the Gantz computer lab, while the core crew was in Park 222 and the adjoining classroom.


We got the majority of the books into LibraryThing that day, and Stephen and I did a little followup over the course of the fall, dealing with some “problem” materials (maps, confusion over multiple editions, Tunisian guidebooks not owned by any library we could find, etc.) There are nearly 2000 entries in the UGAClassics catalog at LibraryThing now (reflecting rather more actual books: we did encyclopedias and other multi-volume sets as one entry each).  As we entered books, we tagged them with shelf numbers (we gave each bookcase a letter and each shelf a number, so C6 means bookcase C, shelf 6, corresponding to a label on the physical shelf), subject abbreviations (AA for ‘art & archaeology’, LG for ‘Loeb, Greek’, etc.) and several notes about content (i.e. ‘latin text,’ ‘drama,’ ‘Plautus,’ ‘Miles Gloriosus.’)  These allow users to more easily search for, for example, all editions of The Bacchae in the Alexander Room.  Have a go at the catalog and see what we’ve got!  And if you find mistakes, please let me know.  (Click image below to enlarge.)


Whoa! New L’Annee Interface

April 13, 2010

Forgive me for channeling Keanu Reeves in the header, but that was, verbatim, my response when I clicked into L’Annee Philologique (link for UGA users only) on Friday for the first time in a couple of weeks, and found they had implemented a new user interface. (The Classics bibliographer at UGA was also unaware a change was coming, and I haven’t seen discussion of the change on my Classics librarian list-servs, but even so I was left feeling a bit “why didn’t I know? I should know these things!”)

When I regained my powers of speech, I explored a bit and found it is a greatly improved new user interface; hurrah!  The intro page features a Quick Search box, with a drop-down menu offering the choices of Modern Author, Full Text (still equaling ‘full text of the citation’), Ancient Authors and Texts, Subjects and Disciplines Prior to Volume 67, and Subjects and Disciplines After Volume 67.  As the options show, the fundamental searchable categories are unchanged.  New is the option to change the sort order of results – by Author, Title, Date (both ways), and Relevance (not clearly defined.) The main page also invites the user to create a free login, which allows some limited customization of search preferences, and the ability to save both searches and records. (Click image to enlarge.)

l'annee philologique main page

The Advanced Search page is even better, with multiple search boxes allowing the easy creation of a complex search using Boolean (AND/OR/NOT) language, a process that took multiple, painful steps in the old interface.  Also streamlined is the ability to filter the search by language and date, a boon for undergraduates daunted by languages other than English.  A minor quibble: it is a bit annoying that entering a keyword in one of the boxes, and then realizing the field name needs to be changed from the default to “Full Text” makes the keyword entered disappear. (Click image to enlarge.)

l'annee philologique advanced search

There are still hurdles for novices seeking to learn how to use L’Annee, such as the complex structure of the Subjects and Disciplines fields, and the hidden button (labeled, inscrutably to most users, “SFX”) to search the UGA e-journals for full text of an article online.  But the learning curve is substantially lessened with this step forward.  I only wish the changeover had occurred at a slightly different time; at UGA we are in the final rush to the end of the spring semester, and many students are deeply into term papers, and I showed them all how to use  the old L’Annee interface when I visited classes earlier in the semester! (Click image to enlarge).

l'annee philologique results


How to do Outreach Right

April 7, 2010

I’ve been working with the Classics Department at UGA, doing outreach from the libraries, for about a year now.  I feel it’s gone fairly well, and I think in a large part this is due to the department’s own interest in community-building activity, which has made them so welcoming to me.  I’ve done my best, but I’ve been lucky too!

The weekend is UGA Classics’ Athenaze event, an annual departmental open house in its 7th year as of 2010.  I’m going to try and attend at least some part of it, although domestic pressures will probably keep me from spending the entire day.

The event is free and open to the public, and has something for almost anyone with an interest in Classics – a book sale, discussion for teachers of latin at the secondary level, meeting with high school students interested in UGA and Classics at the college level, panel discussion with departmental alumni/ae in academia, and a keynote speech on an accessible topic, mythology and art.  (Plus pastries AND lunch!)

The lesson I take away from UGA Classics’ success with this event is: make the effort to reach out and welcome people, know your target audience and be aware of their needs and interests, and they will respond.  In pursuit of knowing my audience, today I’m noting down the summer and  fall 2010 class schedule in Classics while at my weekly office hour in the department.