Monday, October 25, 2004

Slow loading ERIC documents

There are two types of materials available in the education database ERIC. One type is journal articles and the other is what are called documents. Documents can be reports, conference papers, theses or dissertations, websites, even books. Most of these documents (not the books) are available in microfiche, and some are available electronically.

On Oct. 1, 2004, the U.S. Department of Education, which produces ERIC, switched from a pay subscription service for ERIC documents to a free service. The new ERIC website, has the full ERIC database, the ERIC thesaurus and 107,000 documents from 1993-2004. Buley Library gets the ERIC database via the Ebsco company, as part of a package. The new access to the ERIC documents via Ebsco looks like this:

Note the ED number in parentheses after the 2002 date, and the "Full Text from ERIC" link. (While the Notes also say that we don't have this locally, actually we do have most ERIC documents on microfiche. The database just doesn't recognize them. They are also not searchable via CONSULS.)

One problem with this switch is that there is heavier traffic to the new free site than there was to the previous paid subscription site. This may cause your connection to time out when you click on the "Full Text from ERIC" link. I timed one at over 2 minutes in the Library, which should have taken just a few seconds on the institutional high speed connection.

The good news: if this is happening to you, it's nothing you did. The bad news: there is not much you (or we) can do about it. Just as with any high traffic site (think of news sites on 9/11/2001 or weather sites during each hurricane this year), sometimes you just have to try back later. If possible, try early in the morning when overall Internet traffic is lower. You may also want to try going someplace with a faster connection, such as a library or Internet cafe. Sometimes it's just a matter of sitting there and waiting (and waiting, and waiting).

Keep trying.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Google Print

Google is digitizing books and articles and providing excerpts in their search results. The project is called Google Print. While the entire book or article is digitized, only a few pages per search are available, and printing and copying are disabled. So this is essentially just a way of browsing through the book to see if you want to buy it. Details of the project are available at the Google Print website,

Search expert Tara Calishain has written a neat little search for the pilot program, available at her ResearchBuzz site at She also has written about the continuation of the project, and the problems from a searcher's point of view at She reports that searching for "books about X" with X being your subject will reliably bring a few books to the top of the search results (under News). So a search for books about "distance education" on Google brings up:

Distance Education Evolution - edited by Dominique Monolescu, Catherine Schifter, ... - 326 pages

Clicking on the title brings me to a page seemingly chosen for the number of times my search words are used: in this case, a page of references. I can view a couple pages forward and back from the resulting page. I can also view the table of contents, index, and a synopsis (About this book) which includes a search link for reviews (most of which go to booksellers like Amazon.) At this point I can also do a search for another term, such as library, in the "Search within this book" box, and get a list of pages on which my term is used. There is a limit on the number of pages you can view, so this would be good for checking a citation, or getting an idea of how often a subject is covered within the book, but not for actually reading. Which is, of course, the idea.

At this point, I might click on the Amazon link, then on one of the Library Lookup Bookmarklets I have installed and see if we have this book. Southern does have this book, so I can now stroll down to LC5803.C65 D545 2004 and get it off the shelf.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

More on Library Lookup, Google, Yahoo, and OCLC

The Library Lookup ISBN Bookmarklet, which I posted about on September 24, 2004, is based on a pilot program from OCLC. OCLC opened a portion of its huge database of library records for Google and Yahoo to index and include in their search engines. (The Library Lookup ISBN Bookmarklet also uses another OCLC project, xISBN, which associates the ISBN's (sort of social security numbers for books) of related editions or versions. ) The pilot project includes 2 million records, covering about 12,000 libraries.

Now OCLC is opening its full database of 53 million records (15,000 libraries). Between November, 2004 and January, 2005, OCLC will let Google and Yahoo index the rest of the database. This will make the Bookmarklet even more useful for distance students. More information is available in the news article by Barbara Quint in Information Today, All of OCLC’s WorldCat Heading Toward the Open Web

However, not all libraries, especially local public libraries and private libraries, have their holdings in OCLC. Libraries can also choose to exclude their holdings from the OpenWorldCat project. In July, 2005, libraries who do not subscribe to certain services from OCLC will have their holdings withdrawn from the project. Again, this is most likely to affect smaller public and private libraries.

What does this mean to distance students and educators? Don't rely on technology to do your research for you. Get to know your local libraries, and check to see if they are appearing (and continue to appear) in the results for the Bookmarklet. If not, be sure to check them separately for your desired books. Educate yourself on what resources are available to you, including your Distance Education Librarian.

Some more questions and potential problems, plus links to more information, are available in a posting by Gary Price and Steven M. Cohen on ResourceShelf, OCLC Opens Up the Complete WorldCat Database to Web Engines and Other Partners.

Monday, October 04, 2004

PINAKES: A Subject Lauchpad

PINAKES ( is a collection of links to subject related gateways (collections of links related to a particular subject--so this site is a collection of collections). This site is hosted by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, so the emphasis is on UK and European resources, but most of the gateways are international in scope. The list is alphabetical by title of the resource, not by subject; be sure to browse the whole list, since there may be more than one resource for a particular subject, such as Education.

Their About page gives the history of the name:
In ancient times, the Library of Alexandria was seen as a universal store of human knowledge. As the Library grew in size, however, it became increasingly difficult to locate relevant material. The poet Callimachus solved the problem by compiling a catalogue called The Pinakes. On a far smaller scale, these Web pages hope to provide a similar function for Internet resources, by linking to the major subject gateways.

Friday, October 01, 2004

ARBA Trial

The trial of ARBA is causing some trouble for off campus students. While the on campus IP's are registered with the trial, the links are not feeding through the proxy server. So off campus students are not being authenticated, and therefore have no access. The proxy people have been informed (the proxy server is at Central), and the proper links should be available soon.

This should be the proxy link once it is authenticated:
You will be asked for your User ID and password, just like getting into other online databases from off campus.

The trial continues through Oct 21, 2004.

Update (10/13/04): There is a username and password available for off campus use. Contact your professor. The proxy link above is not working.