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#30 -- Fall 1997

Biblio-Notes (ISSN 1076-8947) is published twice a year by the English and American Literature Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. Paper subscriptions are free to members of the section.

Editor: Scott Stebelman, Gelman Library, George Washington University, 2130 H Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20052; telephone 202-994-6049; SCOTTLIB@GWIS2.CIRC.GWU.EDU

Copyright © 1997 by the American Library Association.

MLA Has Web Site

The Modern Language Association has a new Web site, developed by SilverPlatter. Although still under construction, the site provides information on the following topics:

  • About the MLA
  • About Membership
  • Job Information
  • Annual Conventions
  • MLA Publications
  • Prizes and Awards
  • ADE Sites
  • ADFL Site

The URL for the site is:

The Association welcomes suggestions for improving the site.


News from the Chair

Starting this note with an apology may not be the best way to begin my year as EALS chair, but...I am sorry that a last-minute personal emergency forced me to forego attending the annual ALA meeting in June. Not only did I miss seeing most of you but I also missed the opportunity to thank Perry for his work as chair, Tim Shipe and his committee for their work drafting an officer's manual, and Steve Enniss and his committee for their work on the MLA Statement.

From what I am hearing from EALS members, especially in hurried and often harried email messages, is that the challenges technology is bringing to English and American literatures librarianship are making EALS and our activities ever more important in supporting our work in a rapidly evolving profession.

The essays for EALS' first publication as a section English and American Literature Librarianship in the Electronic Age are beginning to gather together. These essays cover all areas of our work from cataloging and bibliographic instruction through electronic text centers. Our publication schedule is not yet definite but we are moving to share the expertise represented in these essays.

The program we are planning for the 1998 annual conference in Washington, DC will also follow the book's theme"Re-Imag(in)ing the Text: The Literary Text in the Electronic Age." One of our speakers will be Jerome McGann of the University of Virginia whose work on textual studies has evolved electronically with his current project, the Rossetti Electronic Archive. The other speaker in the program will be one of our colleagues discussing the impact that these "re-imag(in)ed texts" have on our work as literature librarians.

Betty Day, Chair


"Is the MLA or MHRA Better?": A Call for a New Assessment

After a long and venerable existence as an increasingly large yearly publication, the Modern Humanities Research Association's (MHRA) Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL) has in the past few years quite literally leapt from the era of citations typed on cards and posted to editors several times a year to a chiefly computer-based operation with an increasing presence on the World Wide Web.

Begun in 1921 (a year in advance of the Modern Language Association International Bibliography (MLAIB) as a matter of fact!), the publication focuses solely on the English language and literatures in English. Included in its coverage are not only the topics which one might expect within these areas but also references to articles dealing with the computer as applied to the field of English, folklore, and related topics of study which might prove germane to the literary or linguistic scholar.

Given the much more limited scope of ABELL in comparison to MLAIB and the considerably different organizational support and editorial staff accorded each (ABELL is centered in an office in the Cambridge University Library and employs a full-time editor together with one part-time assistant supported on this side of the Atlantic by an editor and an associate editor as well as by a worldwide network of volunteer contributors), it is not surprising that ABELL has had some problems in the past in staying on its desired annual production schedule as well as in providing as much regular and comprehensive coverage as could be wished.

In recent years, however, ABELL has emerged from its former traditional ways of conducting business and positioned itself to be noticed and reconsidered as a timely and robust resource on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Though likely fated to remain (at least for a little while yet) a somewhat distant second to the MLAIB's position of prominence on the North American side, it should be noted that since the early 1990's ABELL contributors have had the use of a straightforward and user-friendly database through which they can gather and sort data to send to either the U.S. or Cambridge office via diskette, ftp, e-mail, or, most recently, over the Web (in addition to the former mainstay of typed cards). Subsequent to that, the implementation of desk top publishing linkages have greatly simplified and expedited the delivery, compilation, and composition of the annual volume.

To be sure, all of this development has detained ABELL from returning to a current production schedule just yet, but the remaining lag should be resolved and the annual appearance made timely within the next two to three years. In point of fact, ABELL has of late produced larger volumes than previously and produced them more rapidly (e.g., that for 1987 in 1991, 1988 in 1992, 1989 and 1990 in 1993, 1991 and 1992 in 1994, and so forth). The volume for 1992 matched the MHRA's longstanding wish to have a volume published by the end of the second year following the report year. The vols for 1993 and 1994 have improved on this. Of course, the pattern may well change if the emphasis on online delivery grows and the editors are publishing more recent records online more quickly.

Accompanying all of the preceding progress is a remedy to ABELL's hitherto greatest drawback: online access. MHRA and Chadwyck- Healey have entered into an agreement which has made ABELL accessible over the World Wide Web as a component of the latter's "Literature Online" service. Records for the years 1980 on are available now (early October should see this extended back to 1960), and the entire run of ABELL will be searchable by January 1998. The "Literature Online" site can be examined more closely by con- necting to Upon completion of the data conversion, the entire file will also be made available as a CD-ROM. The Web-based product will be updated regularly throughout the year.

In the past, North American reference librarians in particular may have been neglectful of routinely suggesting both sources. Indeed, upon assessment of a user's needs and level of expertise, oftentimes the best source for basic literary research proves to be a more general humanities-oriented index or database and not MLAIB or ABELL. But in those cases where breadth and depth of coverage is paramount, then James L. Harner's injunction in his Literary Research Guide, 2nd ed. (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1993), should set one in good stead: "Used together, ABELL and MLAIB will lead researchers to the bulk of scholarship since 1921 on the English language and literatures in English". This is particularly true in the instance of book reviews which ABELL covers rather fully but MLAIB does only sparingly (chiefly review essays) and in the matter of journals during the early years when the two indexed quite different lists.

Clearly, what would serve most pragmatically in this plea for a reexamination and reevaluation of ABELL would be a new and thorough study of the two bibliographies along the lines of the Vincent Tollers and Carole Stroud one conducted on the print-based products of the 1960's and very early 1970's (and which provided the title proper for this piece) ( RQ 13:2 (1973): 126-8). There has been a very recent attempt in this direction, a dissertation by Jost Hindersmann entitled "MLAIB" und "ABELL": periodische Fachbibliographien zur Anglistik mit Ausblick auf ihre elektronischen Pulikationsformen (Koln, 1996). This work has just been published by LIT (Muenster, 1997. pp. 93. ISBN: 3-8258-3358-5) under the title "MLAIB" und "ABELL": periodische Fachbibliographien, CD-ROM- und Online-Datenbanken zur Anglistik. Perhaps with this as a basis, an English-language comparison could be undertaken using the latest delivery formats and working with fuller retrospective databases.

In addition to the suggestion above that patrons be reminded of the existence and strengths of both sources, it might be best to close on a further note by Harner made in conjunction with his assessment of MLAIB but applicable as well to ABELL (not to say all reference resources of similar ilk): "Subject indexing, at its best, is an imperfect art". One hedge against that weakness is consultation of both MLAIB and ABELL and that will be a simpler matter (with a greater variety of strategies possible) as the two complementary bibliographies assume the lineaments of fully-fledged electronic files.

James R. Kelly, American Editor, ABELL
Anglo-American Studies Bibliographer
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Recent Studies of Interest to English and American Literature Librarians
by Scott Stebelman

Bottino, James R. and William Baker. "World Wide Web Resources for English Studies." Library Review 46 no. 1 (1997): 45-51.

Cole, Charles. "Information as Process: the Difference between Corroborating Evidence and Information' in Humanistic Research Domains." Information Processing & Management 33 No. 1 (1997): 55-67.

Gates, Joanne E. "Literature in Electronic Format: the Traditional English and American Canon." Choice 34 (1997): 1279-82+.

Harris, Charles B. "What We Talk about When We Talk about English." ADE Bulletin 113 (Spring 1996): 21-29. [discusses changes in English Department curriculum from 1970 to 1990s]

Hemlin, S and M. Gustafsson. "Research Production in the Arts and Humanities. A Ques- tionnaire Study of Factors Influencing Research Performance." Scientometrics 37 no. 3 (1996): 417-432.

Huber, Bettina J. "Undergraduate English Programs: Findings from an MLA Survey of the 1991-92 Academic Year." ADE Bulletin 115 (Winter 1996): 34-73.

Kruger, Peter. "Online FactsAnd Online Fiction." Electronic Library 14 (Feb. 1996): 72-73.

Langston, Diane Beasley. "A Historical Construct of English as a Discipline: 100 Years of Conflict and Compromise." DAI 56 no. 8 (1996): 3025A.

Lazinger, S.S. et al. "Internet Use by Faculty Members in Various Disciplines: a Comparative Case Study." Journal of the American Society for Information Science 48 (1997): 508-18.

Magner, Denise K. "Top English Departments No Longer Require Courses on Shakespeare, A Study Finds." Chronicle of Higher Education 43 (Jan. 10, 1997): A12.

Manoff, Marlene. "Cyberhope or Cyberhype? Computers and Scholarly Research." (; forthcoming in the Canadian Journal of Communication).

Sullivan, Patrick. "The Passions and Pathologies of an English Ph.D." Chronicle of Higher Education 42 no. 26 (Mar 8, 1996): B3.

Thurber, B.D. and J. Pope, "The Internet, Networking and the Humanities." Proceedings of JENC8. 8th Joint European Networking Conference (JENC8). Diversity and Integration: The New European Networking Landscape. Ed. H. Lubich and P. Rendek. Amsterdam: Terena, 1997: p. 358, 423/1-6.

Watt, Stephen. "Looking forward, Looking backward on English Departments and the Profession." The Centennial Review 40 no. 2 (1996): 299-306.

Widdowson, Peter. "Editing Readers: The Craft of Literary Studies in the 1990s." English: The Journal of the English Association 45 no. 182 (Summer 1996): 127-144

Willett, Perry. "The Victorian Women Writers Project: The Library as Creator and Publisher of Electronic Texts." The Public-Access Computer Systems Review 7, no. 6 (1996). (

Yitzhaki, M. "Variation in Informativity of Titles of Research Papers in Selected Humanities Journals: A Comparative Study." Scientometrics 38 no 2. (1997): 219-229.


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