Tuesday, November 30, 2004

We're in the last week of our term, here, so the reference desk is getting quiet. So far it's mainly:
  • Where is this call number?
  • Can I borrow a voice recorder anywhere in the library?
  • Where is this call number?
  • How do I print?
  • Where is this call number?
  • Do you have this book?
  • Where is this call number?
  • Can I use your stapler?
  • Where is this call number?

I just talked with our music librarian, who showed me a cool, geeky feature in the online version of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians: 3D, rotate-able illustrations of musical instruments. Not all instruments have had the 3D treatment, but so far we've found a trumpet, a saxophone, and a violin. The diagrams are amazing, and fun to play with; the trumpet illustration, for instance, lets you see inside the valve, and even inside the embouchure of the player.

And, on the night table at the moment: The Midnight Disease : The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain. Written by a neuroscientist, it's sucked me into a discussion of how brain anatomy and chemistry affects writing performance. There's something fascinating about seeing highly productive writers (Henry James, for instance) diagnosed as "hypergraphic," and about seeing their constellation of symptoms examined in a medical/scientific way. Same with seeing Lewis Carroll diagnosed as a probable epileptic with frontal lobe issues. To which I say: huh.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Post-Thanksgiving reference shift, early morning version. It's cold, it's 8 am, no one in their right mind is asking reference questions. Well, that's not quite true. There are a few diligent souls wandering around...
  • How can I find a copy of the article titled "Paleontology: Dinosaurs take to the air," published in Nature in 2003?

Out of curiosity, I typed the title into Google Scholar after I helped the student find it via our online subscription to Nature. No go, of course. I haven't had much of a chance to look into GS yet, but a quick search on, say, "mercury fish" brings up lots of stuff that would sure look good to the average undergraduate--abstracts in The New England Journal of Medicine, Science, JAMA, and tons of other medical journals (via Pubmed), a whack of references in scholarly works, more abstracts via Taylor and Francis / ingenta, government reports, etc. So far there's not a lot of free content there, but as an indexing service it looks pretty good. I can imagine students using this as a finding aid, rather than the library's databases--it's easier to find, to use, and to understand. Of course, you don't get as much, and once you've found your abstracts, you're still only halfway up the tree, but most researchers don't realize that.

Searching Google Scholar for "Zadie Smith" brings back only about 54 hits, the topmost of which are WorldCat holdings records. Then ingenta abstracts, including one titled "Challenging Shakespeare: Strategies of Writing Back in Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Caryl Phillips' The Nature of Blood," published in Postmodern Studies in August 2004. Interestingly, this doesn't show up in OCLC's version of MLA yet. I presume it hasn't been indexed or uploaded yet, and that once it has been, it'll appear. In the meantime, Google Scholar may offer a shortcut to the most recently published research, as soon as it's available on the provider's platform.

Out of curiosity, I did another search on "Nora Okja Keller," another author on whom I've had trouble finding critical studies when working with students. GS brings up an ingenta abstract for an article titled "Princess Pari in Nora Okja Keller's Comfort Woman," published in positions in July 2004. This isn't indexed in MLA yet either. (Although positions is indexed by MLA.) So maybe Google Scholar is worth showing to some students as an alternate search strategy for new or sparsely-covered research topics.

In other news, today marks the advent of my wearing glasses on the desk. Lo, I am a true librarian. With a mild headache.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Pre-Thanksgiving reference questions:
  • How can I find an essay about The Taming of the Shrew written by Lynda Boose?
  • Where can I find information about Jews shaping or recovering their identity? [After further questioning...] How can I find information about the phenomenon of people who didn't know they had Jewish ancestry, discovering and recovering it? I.e., the concept of crypto-Judaism?
  • Where can I find out what ancient Greek social structures were like?
  • Do you have any issues of Synergy, a small, locally-produced journal made by a UO graduate student on the Eugene music scene?
  • Can you find an article that my professor told me to look at, written by a woman named Miriam Silverberg and about something to do with Japan and modernity?
  • Where can I find articles about rape or sexual assault on university campuses?
  • Which one of the consortium libraries will send a copy of a book I need fastest?

And a quick word about why we're here. I'm now intentionally recording reference questions for a few different purposes:

1. For my own interest and sense of accomplishment, because otherwise this aspect of my work evaporates as soon as I've done it.

2. For my fellow literature librarians, although most of what I record here isn't specific to literature research. We've been talking about the role of blogs on the LES list lately, and now I'm more conscious of the fact that some of those folks are actually reading this thing. So I try to keep track of the more interesting literature reference questions I get, for the sake of comparison across the profession. And because I like reading their blogs too. :)

3. For administration in my own library, who may want a better idea of what we do on the desk, both the arcane and the banal. Because, see 1.) above: this kind of work evaporates once it's done, unless you keep track of it. Reference stats are in decline all over the country, but I think we provide an irreplaceable service to our students and faculty. Who else sees 2,000 faces a week, and tells them how to find statistics on cell phone use in Thailand?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Short shift on the desk...

  • Where can I find out about the status of the media in Senegal?
  • What number do I need to take down to find this journal in the library--the ISSN or the call number?
  • How do I spell the name of the prison in Baghdad that's had all the problems recently?
  • Do we carry books on CD or tape?
  • Where can I find the journal Economic Development Quarterly? And how do I know if it's peer-reviewed?

Embroiled in class planning, I spam myself (and you!) with sites of possible interest. (Feel free to skip.)

Friday, November 19, 2004

In rapid succession, in reference-land:

  • Where can I find books about the effects of mental retardation on deafness?
  • Where can I find out what companies like, for instance, Nike and Gap pay to their overseas workers, and where can I find out what a living wage is in countries like China and Mexico?
  • Where can I find books on the reproductive behaviors of mysid shrimp (copepods)?
  • How can I find a study that was done on how oncologists choose to treat their own children who are diagnosed with cancer?
  • How can I get to the full text of an article from Current Anthropology from 1995?
  • Where can I find a copy of Angels in America?
  • Where can I advertise a job that would be of interest to librarians in the Pacific Northwest region?
  • How do I find the full text of an article that was published this week in Nature magazine about human evolution and running? (Frightening serendipity: my partner emailed me the short version of this article a few days ago.)
  • Where can I find books or articles about the effects of colonization in Kenya on domestic violence?


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Reference questions of the day (the ERIC edition):
  • How do I find lesson plans in ERIC designed to teach elementary students about women writers?
  • How do I find research articles in ERIC about astronauts?
  • How can I find articles in MLA about women writers, since I can't find any research articles about women writers in ERIC that I want to use for my assignment?
  • How can I find the full citation for an article on tone changes published in Maitre phonetique in the 1930s?
  • How can I find a review of Marxist theories that was published in 1913 in The New York Call?
  • Where can I get an audio cassette or CD of vocabulary-building exercises so that I can study for the GRE while I drive to Idaho for Thanksgiving?
  • Can you re-attach this reference book's mangled cover?
  • How do I find Ph.D theses written by University of Oregon linguistics students on Japanese or Korean topics?
  • Where can I find an English translation of a Mariano Larra short story titled "Vuelva usted manana"?
  • Where can I find information about how the revolution in Iran affected Iranian women's educational opportunities?
  • Where can I find trade information about AOL-Time Warner?

Clearly, the education students' assignments are due tonight.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Reference questions of the day:
  • How do I find books about mainstreaming students with disabilities and special needs?
  • How can I find a full citation for an article on Cambodian men published last month in Oprah's magazine?
  • Where can I get a Spanish/English dictionary?
  • How can I limit my search in ERIC to only retrieve dissertations on my topic?
  • Where can I find information about the influence of Babylon in African-American religions?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Just a couple of notes-to-self, keeping track of resources I've come across recently...

Thanks to Kristine Anderson's subject resource page at Purdue for a lot of these.

Interesting reference question of the day: "If you're going to add 'Doctor' before a surname in something you write, how would you abbreviate that?" (Asked apologetically and with good humour by an ESL speaker, who had actually already figured it out.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Consolidated from the last two days:

  • Is there a standard bibliography of nineteenth-century works, where I can find publication details for the UK edition of the Edinburgh Encyclopedia?
  • How do I forward an email?
  • I don't live in Oregon anymore; should I mail my library books back to the university, or what?
  • Where can I find articles about treatment therapies for children with communication disorders, using phonological cycles?
  • Where can I get hold of a copy of a dissertation titled "Sexual Abuse Recognition and Non-Disclosure Inventory of Young Adolescents"?
  • Where can I find book reviews of The Coming of the Third Reich?
  • Where can I find book reviews of Twentieth Century's Fox : Darryl F. Zanuck and the Culture of Hollywood?
  • Where can I find a copy of Novum Testamentum Graece by Constantin von Tischendorf, published in 1869?

The best was the patron who dropped off a free copy of the NY Times for us to read. He did this yesterday, too. He's a regular, but the paper thing is new. "For your coffee break," he said, handing it over. I don't know whether it's an effort to increase awareness of public events, or the results of his having broken into a vending box, but it's sweet.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Notable reference questions of the day:
  • Where can I find critical evaluations of different versions of Chaucer's General Prologue?
  • Where can I find information about rates of higher education enrollment in Mexico, and statistics about employment subsequent to higher education in Mexico?
  • Where can I find a copy of the play Barefoot in the Park?
  • Where can I find a video of Bob Fosse's dances?
  • Where can I find articles that discuss Rasch's Poisson counts model [sic]?
  • Can I export records from the library catalog to Refworks?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Notable reference questions of the last few days, in no particular order:
  • What is the phone number for the government of India?
  • Where can we find duets for violin and viola? (Not notable except for the askers, who were two teenaged girls, one with a bleached mohawk, the other in trendtastic jeans and shirt.)
  • How can I find works of fiction that approach heterosexual friendship in non-traditional ways, and without turning friendship into romance?
  • What are the most prominent scholarly journals for literary criticism?
  • How can we find sample financial statements from companies that design and make swimsuits to order?
  • Where can we find some information about Yahoo! Messenger's marketing plan?
  • Why is my computer frozen?

Post-election letdown has noticeably dampened spirits in my little leftist town, as it has in a lot of other places. It's been a hard, dispiriting week, and I think we're all pretty happy that it's Friday and we get some time to retreat and lick our wounds.