#38 Fall 2001
- News from the Chair
- Literary E-zines
- Early English Books Summer Camp
- A Shorter but Sweeter (Virtual) Midwinter Meeting?
- Personal News
- SF Program
- LES Web Editor
- Editor's Note
- LES and Related ALA Resources
As I sit here writing this column and as the nation struggles to its feet and tries to get back to business as usual after the events of September 11, I am in a different world than I was last week at this time. Last Monday, I was still innocent of the fact that the stuff of nightmares and bad movies could really break through into everyday life. We have, of course, been repeatedly told that we are in a new environment. I don't think, however, that any of us really understood what that could mean.
The new environment of instantaneous communication means that we all have burnt into our minds the image of the twin towers hit by airplanes and their sudden collapse. How did we get this image? Cams are everywhere, making movies all the time. Whenever I choose, I can peek into the drawing room of Purdue’s Krannert building or view the highway conditions at Santiam Pass, Oregon, from my office computer in West Lafayette, Indiana. Another ambiguous gift of technology is the cellphone. These were used by the airline passengers to speak to loved ones in their last moments. By means of these very same cellphones, some passengers learned of the World Trade Center disaster, challenged the hijackers, and crashed their plane in a remote part of Pennsylvania. Thus a bit of information received just in time enabled some individuals to avert an even worse disaster.
The diabolical genius who devised the plan to commandeer passenger planes and use them as bombs was not a military genius in the traditional sense nor a technological one. The only technology he needed to understand was that a passenger jet loaded with fuel is the equivalent of a bomb. The rest was all sociology and psychology: an understanding that our nation's very strengths are also weaknesses that can be exploited. Perhaps he also understood enough of mass psychology to know the effect that turning our peaceful devices of mass transportation into weapons of mass destruction would have on already nervous airline customers. Perhaps he also had learned enough about economics to formulate a hypothesis about what such an attack on the airline industry could do to the nation's economy. Whoever has done this has given the phrase "thinking out of the box" a new and sinister meaning. Dealing with such individuals and such dangers will, in turn, require much more of us than mere technology and military intelligence.
Yet, in some of my darker moments, I wonder what relevance our specialized interests in English literature librarianship can possibly have in this new environment. In an e-mail to the ACRLEADS discussion list, ALA councilor Don Sager offers an answer to the librarianship part of the equation, proposing a new strategic plan re-emphasizing the importance of removing barriers to information access, resisting the demands to restrict First Amendment rights that are likely to come, collaborating with libraries in other countries to build an information and library infrastructure accessible to all, creating respect and understanding between the diverse cultures of the world, and reaching out to those individuals in our communities who may not be aware of our resources.
While I agree with Mr. Sager that this is a good strategy for us in our role as librarians, I would also add that our specialized subjects in the humanities and literatures in English in particular also have a crucial role to play. When I hear people demanding swift revenge for the attack on America, I am reminded of the depictions in the Norse sagas of cycles of revenge spiraling ever and ever out of control. When I contemplate the roles of national leaders and how the media have made them all actors, I am reminded of Malli in Isak Dinesen's story "Tempests." Malli becomes a heroine when she takes charge during a shipwreck that occurs in the middle of a rehearsal of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Not until her friend Ferdinand, a sailor, dies of injuries received during the shipwreck is Malli shocked into the realization that she has been acting in more than a play. While older narratives can give us a context for thinking about present situations, newer narratives also proliferate and compete. These must be collected, understood, and critiqued.
A couple of years ago, we had quite a lively discussion on the then EALS-L list about the much exaggerated death of the English research methods course. Several of the speakers at our upcoming 2002 Program, "Teaching Literary Research: Challenges in a Changing Environment," actually teach such a class. In other universities, including my own, this required course has transmuted into something completely different that includes only a very small library research component.
Our concern with the decline if not demise of this essential course of study dovetails with concerns in the larger library world with information literacy. For the past year or so, Heather Martin has headed our section’s Research Competencies Ad-Hoc Task Force. A draft document of the group's findings will be posted on the LES Web site. Please give us your feedback about this important matter through the LES-L list. The Task Force itself has decided to disband or, possibly, join with the Reference Discussion Group to form a new Reference and Instruction Discussion Group. Meanwhile, the instruction discussion also continues on a new front: Kathy Johnson is leading a Publications subcommittee devoted to planning and executing a new book centered around the issues that will be presented at our upcoming program in Atlanta.
Kristine J. Anderson
Small-scale literary magazines have long been important for library collections. Often labors of love, these magazines come in a variety of formats. Some have glossy full-color covers, while others are stapled mimeographed sheets put together at the local English Department office. These magazines are important because they provide an opportunity for new and/or experimental writers to be heard that is often unavailable from major publishing houses. However, they can also be very difficult to collect because of their small publication runs and limited availability.
Since the early 1990’s, however, a growing number of so-called e-zines have been appearing on the Web and in e-mail. The development of these e-zines is partly the result of the growth of print zine culture in the past ten-to-fifteen years. With the rise of photocopying technology and desktop publishing, growing numbers of individuals have started producing independent publications or "zines." There are zines about almost any topic, including literature and writing. In turn, many of these authors and editors have turned to the Internet to publish their zines. Although it is notoriously difficult to charge readership for Web-and-e-mail-based publications, they are also generally far less expensive to produce and distribute than their print counterparts.
Some literary e-zines are electronic versions of the original print magazines, while some were begun as purely Web publications. Their formats vary: some are text only or text with pictures, while still others actively use the Web to go beyond the limitations of print with hypertext, interactive graphics, and other innovations. Some are run by individuals who love literature; others are sponsored by universities and other organizations. What all share is the ability to reach readers all over the world. Literary e-zines provide a wonderful opportunity for literature librarians. Not only are they free, but they represent another venue for new writers. Rather than having a work published in a source that sells only a few hundred copies, a new writer’s work can be read by anyone with Web access.
While most literary e-zines still keep to semi-regular publication schedules, with distinct issues, others maintain sites undergoing continuous change and revision. Technically, such sites are literary Web sites rather than e-zines, though many refer to themselves as e-zines. E-zines may also experiment with online chapbooks published separately from regular issues. Some even produce annual print "best of" anthologies compiled from their online production.
Because of their often experimental and individual nature, e-zines may have sporadic publication schedules, just as their print cousins sometimes do. As a result, you may want to track a given e-zine for a couple of issues prior to including it in a recommended list or online library catalog. An e-zine may even change its address without warning. Library catalog records and/or recommended lists should be checked periodically to ensure that the links are still active. Archival issues should also be considered. As with Web sites generally, e-zines affiliated with a university are more likely to have long-term archival storage than those produced by individuals.
Once you find one e-zine you like, it will often include links to other good ones. Another place to look is online directories:
The Ezine Directory, a list of e-zines in a
variety of subjects;
The Zine and E-Zine Resource
Guide, a site that includes links to lists and reviews of e-zines;
SUNY Buffalo’s Electronic Poetry Center,
which includes online poetry archives and links to e-zines;
- etext, an online archive of e-zines and other electronic texts.
Following are examples of literary e-zines that may be of interest to librarians and literary scholars:
The Blue Moon Review
The Blue Moon Review continuously updates its site with poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. The Review also features audio files of writers performing their works.
Sponsored by Big Bridge Press, Big Bridge publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art.
Published in association with the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writer’s House, CrossConnect includes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art. There is also a print annual.
The Drunken Boat includes original poetry and reviews and essays on poetry.
Edited by Andrei Codrescu, Exquisite Corpse includes poetry, short stories, essays, art, and photography. Most of the previous issues are archived; copies ofits previous print incarnation are also available for sale through the site.
Based at Bucknell University, How2 features original poetry and scholarship focusing on contemporary women’s issues. Previous issues (including ones from How(ever), its previous print incarnation) are archived at Rutgers University and available through the site.
On the Web since 1991, Intertext is one of the oldest and most established e-zines. Specializing in short fiction, it is available in a variety of formats, including html, plain text, and Palm. Past issues are available through etext. Readers may also request free e-mail subscriptions.
Riding the Meridian
Riding the MeridianM focuses on poetry, much of which is in hypertext and/or multimedia forms, as well as interviews, critical essays, and reviews. Back issues are available through etext.
Humanities Reference Librarian
Washington State University
Early English Books Summer Camp
What would you need to know to do a successful keyword search through 25,000 early modern texts? How much should you have to know? These questions guided the conversation at the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP) Interface Taskforce meeting this past July 16 -17 at Northwestern University. Affectionately termed "summer camp," the two-day session blended casual conversation with intense examination of the EEBO-TCP prototype interface. By the end of the meeting, interface designers and future users had a much greater sense of the research possibilities these encoded texts could support, as well as the sorts of design modifications that would open up the collections to a wider audience.
"Sometimes it was fun just to sit back and listen," said Jeff Garrett, Western Language and Literatures Bibliographer at Northwestern University, commenting on the great variety of viewpoints circulating in the computer lab. Considering that the meeting participants hold research interests ranging from historical linguistics to political pamphlets of the English civil war to medieval medical treatises, it came as no surprise that group discussions provoked a tremendous array of questions. The Task Force chiefly consisted of five librarian-faculty member pairs from EEBO-TCP member institutions, which ensured a lively conversation that helped interface designers better understand the concerns and expectations of a diverse pool of users.
The array of discussion points itself brought the central challenge of constructing the EEBO-TCP interface into focus. How can the interface for a collection of texts like those in EEBO--which contains works that often blend together topics we now separate into categories like history, geography, poetry, politics, and science--be approachable and logical for current users accustomed to the terminology of a particular discipline? Since these disciplines evolved, in many cases, from the thoughts reflected in EEBO-TCP texts, the ability to search these works through a straightforward interface would unearth influential ideas otherwise buried in unexpected places.
Throughout the meeting, task-force members used a prototype interface constructed by the University of Michigan Digital Library Services to compare their expectations for the EEBO-TCP interface, brainstorming about the sorts of searching that will be useful in conjunction with the encoded texts. The group then devoted discussions to outlining what capabilities an interface would need to meet the expectations of students, as well as other teachers and researchers.
For almost a year, the EEBO-TCP has been producing encoded text versions of works available as page images through EEBO, an online corpus marketed by ProQuest. The early modern works collected in EEBO date from 1473 to 1700, encompassing the earliest days of printing and continuing into years when plentiful ballads and pamphlets helped shape popular culture. This broad span of time and materials makes EEBO-TCP texts potentially helpful to a variety of users. At the same time, though, the collection's scope encompasses a number of changes in printing, writing, and spelling habits that present a number of challenges for potential users who have never before encountered early modern works.
Without question, the task-force members agreed that early modern spelling remains the biggest and most persistent obstacle to easy access. The EEBO-TCP texts, after all, find their roots in a world where vv functioned as today's w, where authors commonly varied the spelling of their own names, and where printers freely abbreviated words to fit them on a line. And because the encoded texts strive to reflect what appears on the originals' pages rather than modernize it for today's users, searching can pose quite a challenge to anyone approaching these works for the first time (and often for veterans as well). The current demonstration database offers a word index that displays all spellings that appear in the encoded works, yet task-force members agree that the ideal interface should offer simpler ways to search for variant spellings. Many advocated the addition of a front-end normalizer, which would automatically look for spelling variants of submitted search terms. In the meantime, others suggested the interface could expand truncation options and allow users to create lists of alternative spellings that would always be invoked during particular searches.
Extensive, active online help features also proved a necessity in the minds of many task-force members, who suggested that interactive notations should appear from the first screen to offer hints for successful searching. In addition, task-force members felt that dividing the help menu into two levels would allow users to find the assistance they need with less frustration. One level would address navigation of the database itself, explaining how to use the interface's features while also telling users what has been tagged and therefore what can be searched. A second help menu would then provide a guide to reading and citing early modern texts, offering guidelines to different early modern fonts and instructing users on how to deal with the bibliographical challenges that early modern books present, like citing pages without numbers.
The librarian/faculty pairs that formed the Task Force were Agnes Widder and Teresa Tavormina, Michigan State University; Jeffrey Garrett and Martin Mueller, Northwestern University; Laura Fuderer and Jess Lander, University of Notre Dame; Mark Sandler and Richard W. Bailey, University of Michigan; and Barbara Walden and David Santschi, University of Wisconsin. Harriet Lightman from Northwestern and Perry Willett from Indiana University also attended, as did Matt Stoeffler and Hillary Nunn, members of the EEBO-TCP production team at Michigan, and Laura Janover and Austin McLean from ProQuest.
The prototype interface is currently available for viewing online through the EEBO-TCP Web site. If you have comments about the interface or any other questions, please feel free to e-mail email@example.com.
Early English Books Online Project Development Liaison
University of Michigan
A Shorter but Sweeter (Virtual) Midwinter Meeting?
At the last Annual Meeting, Bill Brown, the ACRL liaison to LES, reported that a group in ALA is looking into shortening midwinter. An interesting discussion ensued, both during the Executive Committee meeting and the General Membership meeting about the pros and cons. The major argument in favor of shortening (or, indeed, eliminating altogether) the Midwinter ALA meeting is the expense, especially to many ALA members who are reimbursed poorly if at all for professional meetings. Some felt that requiring two meetings a year was a major discouragement to potential participants. Others felt that a lot happens at midwinter meetings, like discussion groups and meetings with vendors that require the physical presence of the members.
It has been suggested that an alternative to meeting twice a year would be meeting virtually. A number of ALA groups have launched pilot projects in which at least some members are considered "virtual members." If anyone is interested in exploring the guidelines for virtual membership, look at these Web sites: www.ala.org/lama/committees/div/virtualguides.html and www.ala.org/lama/committees/div/virtualmem.html for LAMA; www.lita.org/committe/virtualmembership.htm for LITA; and www.ala.org/yalsa/yalsainfo/virtmemberpol.html for YALSA.
It must be admitted, however, that LES is already informally doing many of the things these groups recommend as "virtual work." LES committees already contact speakers for programs as well as candidates to run for office via e-mail. William Wortman has kindly set up an Exec-L list at his university for those of us on the Executive Committee to use. We have had the LES-L list for some time, on which the general membership discusses professional topics of interest to us and individual members contact each other for advice on thorny collection or reference problems. For an always available permanent record of our activities, we have the LES web page, now ably edited by Jen Stevens. In fact, one LES member pointed out that virtual meetings might actually create more work for the committees! The LES Membership Committee, however, has decided formally to try virtual membership for one position.
When I received the forms for scheduling our Midwinter meetings, they came accompanied with a letter that reminded me that Midwinter is supposed to be primarily for business, as approved in a 1966 recommendation:
"For Council action, we recommend that ALA Policy III-F-5 be amended to read: That the ALA midwinter meeting be primarily devoted to carrying out the business of the Association through meetings of the Council, board and committees, and that there be no programs, general business or membership meetings of the divisions, sections, or round tables, except as a limited number of program meetings, institutes, conferences or workshops may be specifically authorized by the Executive Board."
When I read this, I blithely ignored the date, and in the context of the shorter meetings dialogue, I jumped to the conclusion that this was a directive to shorten Midwinter by eliminating some meetings that were not strictly business, such as general membership and discussion sections. After consulting with our ACRL contact, Margot Sutton, I learned that ACRL considers all our meetings business meetings, so I went ahead and scheduled them. If ALA is serious about shortening midwinter, one way to do so would be to designate some meetings to take place only at annual.
How do you feel about shortening the Midwinter ALA meeting and resorting to virtual committee meetings and membership? Are there those out there who receive this newsletter and might become more active in the section if they could do so virtually only? Please feel free to post your opinions to LES-L (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kristine J. Anderson
Madeline Copp is the new Resources Services Librarian for English, Film, and Media Studies for the Humanities Center and the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. Madeline had been instructional services coordinator at the United States Naval Academy Library. She replaces John Tofanelli, a former LES chair, who became Anglo-American Bibliographer at Columbia University’s Butler Library last fall.
Vince Graziano, Literatures in English Librarian, Webster Library, Concordia University, Montreal, wrote "Humanities" for the third edition of the three-volume Manual of Online Search Strategies, edited by C. J. Armstrong and Andrew Large (London: Gower, 2001). Vince’s chapter includes sections on the nature of humanities searching as well as sections on such specific databases as Humanities Abstracts and MLA.
Perry Willett, after twelve years as humanities bibliographer at Indiana University, has been named assistant director for projects and services for the university’s digital library program. Perry is a former chair of LES.
San Francisco Program
An account of "The Beat Generation: Collaboration and Community," LES’s program at the ALA Annual Conference, appears in the September 2001 issue of College & Research Library News. The article by Martha Lawler of Louisiana State University at Shreveport and Dena Thomas of the University of New Mexico is also available online.
LES Web Editor
Jen Stevens has been selected as the new editor of the LES Web site. Jen is a humanities reference librarian at Washington State University where she specializes in English and American Literature and German. She received her MLIS from the University of Texas at Austin and her MA in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Jen also maintains a site devoted to an early 20th century juvenile series published by Altemus, a small (and now deceased) publishing company.
I encourage Biblio-Notes readers to submit items about their careers as humanities librarians, comments about their favorite reference tools, reviews of electronic databases and recent print resources, and news about their achievements, new jobs, or interesting institutional endeavors.
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