Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Citation Season!


As we wind down to the end of fall semester, many of you are scrambling to get that bibliography, references list, or other citations in the bag. While there are citation generators on the web that perform tasks like this, many of them are flawed and do the job poorly (and I've even had an instructor vehemently proclaim her hatred of them in front of the class). However, they can get you in the door. An excellent and very credible online guide for APA and MLA styles is the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) which has accurate examples of styles.

Keep this in mind, the whole point of citing something is merely to make your sources as available as possible. When you make a statement in writing (like a term paper), your writing is so strong and arguments are so effective, that you want your readers to read your sources and summarily gnash their teeth when they confirm what you knew all along -that your position is unassailable and brilliant.

Most important: don't forget that your library has the authoritative sources on all writing styles that are extremely credible and we can help you use them!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Open Access Day

A haiku for Open Access Day:

Let's create a rule
Information is a tool
Everyone can use!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Maybe Bathroom Breaks Are Bad

The last time I talked about bathroom breaks, I ran into a woman with a serious case of OCD. There was also the time a woman was singing "Jesus Loves The Little Children" in the stall next to me, but we won't get into that.

This time it was about child rearing techniques. Who knew such interesting research topics could be found in the ladies room?

In any case, an older woman was talking to a younger woman about ways to prevent poor behavior in children called the "extinction technique." The older woman explained that recognized behavior is repeated behavior, so if bad behavior is ignored and good behavior is recognized and rewarded, then it is the repeated behavior. If bad behavior is ignored, then to a child's mind, it didn't happen.

I'm not certain if I agree with that entirely, but it got me thinking about how this might be researched and applied by educators and others who specialize in child development.

I decided to try the ERIC database through the Marriott Library Article Databases.



This database has what I think is the best resources for education available, so I thought it would be a good place to start. To get there, I went to the library home page, clicked on Article Databases & More, and then on the letter 'E' to get to a list of databases that start with that letter. I scrolled down until I got to the one that said ERIC (Ebsco). There are several places to get information from ERIC because it originally from the U.S. Department of Education, but I like working with the Ebsco database vendor interface best.

Once I was in the database, I searched for "extinction technique."

And there they were, articles about exactly what the women in the bathroom were talking about. They ranged from information about how to help children with potentially dangerous self-destructive behaviors to behavior management information for parents using the extinction technique.

Ah, I do love when a good search comes together and I learn something new!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bimbos and Zombies in the Library



I was wandering through the “stacks” today; that’s what we library nerds call the general collection here in the library. I usually browse the “stacks” for eye catching books, furry covers, heat reactive paper, or catchy titles. Untidy gender was my favorite until today when I came across…Bimbos and Zombies. No kidding you can really find bimbos and zombies in the library! I’m not much one for bimbos, but I am quite fond of zombies so I asked myself: “how can I come up with a tidy search to find out how many zombies we have in the library?”

I like to start by doing a general key word search in the library catalog…feel free to try this yourself. When I enter zombie the catalog produces 49 titles, if I try zombies the catalog gives me 32 titles. I can use a Boolean operator 'OR', so I search 'zombie or zombies' and that produces 77 titles. That is just not enough zombies for me, I mean I’m not one for math, but doesn’t 49+32= 81. Tricky you say, well yes it is, but I can show you how to be tricky right back…with the zombifying power of TRUNCATION!

Truncation allows you to search words that begin with similar letters, but end differently. Most catalogs and databases use an asterisk (*). Truncation allows you to identify part of a word and search for that expanding your results and reducing the length of your search statement. So I can do a general key word search for zombi* and ….POOF 81 results. So we have at least 81 zombies in the library, how many bimbos can you find?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mathematics and the Aesthetic

Back a few weeks ago I posted an interdisciplinary proposal for the union of chemistry and political science. On the BBC news site I found another great example of working outside your field of study to enhance understanding and the essential transfer of knowledge (something we're keen on in libraries as you can well imagine). Watch the video The Art of Mathematics at the BBC Link and turn on your speakers for a great commentary by the creator.

You may ask yourself (how did I get here!?) and you may also ask yourself why I'm using a resource from the free and open web. The BBC, as you may or may not have noticed, has no advertising! Their american counterparts (CNN, local newspapers, etc.) all have advertising which could be construed as an editorial influence. I'll let you make the call on that one, but speaking as a librarian, I would say the BBC News services have an excellent editorial balance and are very credible.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Open Access Awareness Day--Tuesday, October 14



Open Access Day is an international event being held to broaden awareness and understanding of Open Access

Here's a listing of U of U events to be held on Tuesday, October 14th as well as the following week. For more information, contact Allyson Mower, allyson dot mower at utah dot edu; 585-5458.

Date: Tuesday, October 14
Event: Publishing SMART


Description: Authors want their scholarly articles to be seen, cited and utilized. This class provides opportunities for researchers to increase their visibility by exploring various publishing and archiving choices. Tools for evaluating journal impact factors, online usage, local online availability, retaining copyrights, and submission to online archives are covered.

Time: 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Location: Marriott Library, Room 1735
Sign up here

Date: Tuesday, October 14
Event: Sir Richard Roberts, Ph.D., F.R.S. Broadcast

Description: Dr. Roberts will discuss how Open Access impacts research and will answer questions on this topic from participating campuses.

Time: 5:00 pm
Location: Health Sciences Education Building, Room 4100 C
26 S. 2000 E.
(801) 581-8771
Directions


Date: Tuesday, October 14
Event: Philip E. Bourne, Ph.D. Broadcast

Description: Dr. Bourne will discuss how Open Access impacts research and will answer questions on this topic from participating campuses.

Time: 8:00 pm
Location: Salt Lake City Public Library, Sweet Branch Meeting Room
455 F St
(801) 594-8651
Directions


Date: Tuesday, October 21
Event: Publishing SMART


Description: Authors want their scholarly articles to be seen, cited and utilized. This class provides opportunities for researchers to increase their visibility by exploring various publishing and archiving choices. Tools for evaluating journal impact factors, online usage, local online availability, retaining copyrights, and submission to online archives are covered.

Time: 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Location: Health Sciences Education Building, Room 3100 B
Sign up here


Date: Wednesday, October 22
Event: Clinical Research & Methods Panel Discussion


Description: Panelists will discuss the larger scholarly communication system and how funding agencies, publishers, editors, reviewers, authors and libraries impact clinical research. The panel members include Dr. Kathleen Digre (Neuro-Ophthalmology), Dr. James Scott (Obstetrics and Gynecology), Mary E. Youngkin (Eccles Library) and Dr. Pat Murphy (Nursing) with Allyson Mower (Marriott Library) moderating.

Time: 12:00 pm
Location: Health Sciences Education Building, Room 2120

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cut the CRAAP!

The blogosphere is a buzz with talk of a budding new interest in librarianship…sexy librarianship. While I may not be a card carrying member of that elite force I am still a library specialist and just happen to wear my hair in a bun and sport stylish frames. VP candidate Sarah Palin has everyone talking or should I say typing about her, is she a “sexy librarian”, dose she promote censorship in libraries, was that really her in the American flag bikini with the rifle?
Any librarian sexy or otherwise would recommend that you cut the crap and use the CRAAP test created by the sexy librarians at Chico State. Card carrying librarians and most of us folks serving in libraries enjoy seeing research that is checked for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Check it out, does this blog pass the test?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Googling Health Info

Did you know you can use Google to find quality health information? Librarians have teamed up with staff at Google to create tools that lead searchers to reliable health information. Do any search for a health-related topic, such as asthma, and you will see options for refining your search:


It's a great way to begin a search for basic health information. If you need more advanced health information, check out PubMed. It's a free database from the National Library of Medicine. You can get to full-text articles the campus libraries have paid for by using the library icon.


Or, look for the PubMed Central icon for free full-text.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Publishing SMART



The next class is Monday, September 29 and there's only TWO seats left! Sign up to attend.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Have you ever had someone state that you're more likely to be killed by lightning than in a plane crash? Well the National Safety Council wants to foster more conversations just like that (you must know that I'm kidding)! Here's the most and least likely ways to die from injury (not natural causes) in a handy chart!

Heeding this chart for your coming academic year you'll want to avoid driving/riding in a car, and lay low to avoid falling. On the other hand, streetcar riders, enthusiasts of poisonous plants and picking on completely unarmed police officers still holds a lot of promise for you risk takers out there!

Odds of Death Due to Injury, United States, 2004
(most recently published data for this comprehensive chart)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Open Science

Robin Lloyd, Senior Editor of LiveScience, recently wrote "secrecy and competition to achieve breakthroughs have been part of scientific culture for centuries, but the latest Internet advances are forcing a tortured openness throughout the halls of science and raising questions about how research will be done in the future."

Gerry McKiernan goes on to say that the phrase, open science, is "shorthand for technological tools, many of which are Web-based, that help scientists communicate about their findings. At its most radical, the ethos could be described as "no insider information." Information available to researchers, as far as possible, is made available to absolutely everyone."

For example, check out laboratree.org and labmeeting.com. Both offer scientists ways of managing their data, sharing it and collaborating with others. arXiv.org, a pre-print repository, is another example of open distribution that has been around since the 90s.

It's hard to imagine a world without paper journals, but new Internet tools will only result in new end products. The purpose remains the same--to communicate research and scholarship--but the means for doing so will have different boundaries...like text + streaming video instead of collated pages.

Younger scientists are breaking the mold, according to a story in The Boston Globe. "We're a generation who expects all information is a Google search away," [one 28-year old scientist] said. "Not only is it a Google search away, but it's also released immediately. As soon as it happens, the video is up on YouTube and on all the blogs. The old model feels kind of crazy when you're used to this instant information."

Want to participate more in open science? Attend the Open Access Awareness Day events on campus:

Broadcast of Nobel Laureate Sir Richard Roberts, PhD
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Health Sciences Education Building, Room 4100 C
5 pm

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hooked on Pandora

In high school, I was a music geek.

If it was playing on MTV (you know, back when the M stood for "music")--and even if it wasn't--I was listening to it: Rock, Pop, New Wave, R&B, Synthpop, Metal, Glam, Punk, Hiphop, Ambient, Raggae, Techno. I was in the stage band, marching band, concert choir, show choir, and high school musicals. I thought I'd be on top of what's new on the music scene for the rest of my life, unlike my parents who only listened to Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, and Elvis.

Then I went off to college and, without my noticing it, I settled into a music rut. Listening to the same ten albums that fit in my CD Walkman carrying case. Tuning in instrumental and classical radio stations (read: white noise I wouldn't be tempted to sing along with) when I studied.

Worse still, when I graduated from college and headed out into the real world, I got hooked on talk radio and eventually found myself listening exclusively to NPR and BBC news radio.

And that's the way it's been, until now!



This week, I discovered Pandora Radio. It's a perfect blend: I can be my own personal DJ, with the ease of a mindless radio broadcast, yet none of the commercials. Best of all, I don't have to risk a lawsuit by downloading all the songs I love but can't afford to pay for.

Here's how it works: you select an artist or a song that you like, and Pandora plays other music that has similar qualities. As you listen, you can give a thumbs up or down for each song, and Pandora will learn what your tastes are. Each song that you add to or ban from your "station" has a direct and immediate impact on what's played next. With the ability to create and share multiple stations, you can quickly tune in something that fits your mood.

The brains behind this tool is the Music Genome Project, where they've broken down songs to their sound essences and created a list of "hundreds of musical attributes, or 'genes'." Not unlike Library of Congress Subject Headings and the materials listed in our library catalog, Pandora labels each song with the musical attributes that comprise it. When you indicate that you like a particular song, it finds other songs with shared "genes" and puts them into the queue.

Pandora is free and my account is accessible anywhere I can find an open internet connection. I'm truly enjoying listening to a wide variety of music once again. As they say on the Pandora website:
It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Star Trek was Wrong!?

Remember when Kirk found his way out of certain doom by wooing the alien girl who, despite her utterly alien way of life, found him irresistible? And how about Carl Sagan helping us think that there were billions and billions of other places out there just like ours with so many alien boyfriends and girlfriends to meet. Alas, this may not be entirely as likely as we had hoped to experience once Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic got off the ground. It turns out that our solar system (you know, Mercury, Venus, Earth... all the way to Neptune, depending on who you ask) is rather unique and rare.

A recent publication in Science (search the Library Catalog under "journals/newspapers" for "Science") Thommes, Matsumura & Rasio; Gas Disks to Gas Giants: Simulating the Birth of Planetary Systems, (open access, thanks to arXiv!) puts some of those wishes on the backburner, for now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In the Navy?



Ok well maybe not. The closest I have come to nautical adventures was watching the Love Boat and dancing to the Village People. So it is only natural that my co-workers selected me to explore the department of Naval Science here at the University. Yes at first I thought I might write about lint, but I figured nobody enjoys the corny jokes like I do, so I have to get serious.


What is Naval Science all about?

1010 Introduction to Naval Science
A general introduction to the naval profession and to concepts of sea power. Emphasizes mission, organization, and warfare components of the Navy and Marine Corps. Included is an overview of rank structure, training and education, career patterns, naval courtesy and customs, military justice and naval terminology. The course is designed to introduce the student to the professional competencies required to become a Naval or Marine Corps officer.

I can’t say I’m surprised that the introductory class doesn’t cover storming the beaches of Fantasy Island or how naval courtesy and customs compare to cruise ship dining and dress codes, but it has peaked my interest. I am especially interested in “concepts of sea power”, that just sounds so…well powerful.

So I’m surfing the library databases for more info on Naval Science and who knows maybe next time you see me I’ll be less Love Boat and more An Officer and a Gentleman.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What's That Line From?

I was watching Lord of the Rings the other day, (I've mentioned I'm a total geek for science fiction and fantasy, right? Okay, then) and I was wondering what was the first movie I ever saw Liv Tyler in.



I think the movie came out in the mid-nineties. I know it was a bit dramatic, and I think she was a goth girl in a record store. Or there was a goth girl in a record store, but Liv was still in the movie.

And I think there was a funeral in the movie for a chick who wasn't dead yet.

Saying it out loud like that makes it sound incredibly weird and lame, but it wasn't a bad movie.

I decided I want to watch it again, just to double check on the lame vs. not-bad front.

And, you guessed it, there's a database for that. It's even freely available on the web. It's called Internet Movie Database.



So I dropped by IMDB and typed in Liv Tyler in ye olde search box.

And found out the movie was called Empire Records. Now, I just have to Netflix it, and I'm all set.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stickin' it to the Man

With many forms of media these days there seems to be a non-profit, open-source, stickin' it to the profit takin' man version on the free and open web (aka "no login required"). You can find music, photos, illustrations, tons of information, but what about the ever elusive scholarly stuff? In the past decade or so, academic journal pricing has gone all caviar and champagne, while libraries still have their punch & cookies budgets.

One way around this problem is for libraries (and students, staff & faculty) to encourage more use of open access journals. A wonderful directory of these academically credible (scholarly) journals is DOAJ.org where you can currently find over 3000 journals.

Here's a video illustration of what access to information can do for you (kinda cute)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Librarians Geek Out

You might wonder what librarians do in their spare time. One example of this is the library bookcart decoration, races, and drill team.

You know those metal or wooden wheeled things that library staff use when they're walking around putting books back on the library shelves? Well, that's what I'm talking about.

There's even a contest for best decorated bookcarts every years called "Pimp My Bookcart."



To give you a better idea of what I mean when I say bookcart drill teams, I give you some fun and entertaining footage from YouTube.com... Enjoy!



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hoover's -no, not the vacuum

Intended for the business and marketing set, Hoover's Online is actually pretty interesting to cruise through for the uninitiated too. This valuable database gives you access to information on over 25 million corporations and organizations,( according to Hoover's 'about us' site). You can see company information, but you can also search for people, or browse particular industries. Let's take a look for George Lucas and see what there is to find -if you're a UofU student and logged into My.Utah.Edu then click this link for a canned search and follow along!. -Don't forget, this and all of our databases can be accessed at www.lib.utah.edu > article databases.

The top hits have Mr. Lucas in the obvious places, LucasArts, LucasFilm, etc. Near the bottom of the list you'll also notice that Mr. Lucas as the owner of Bunk Bed World -probably not the same fella, so be aware of that when searching. Click on Lucasfilm Ltd. next. Here's a rich record of the company information including, address/phone/web address, company overview, key info (like other names, year of founding, etc.), key people (like CEO, chairman, VP's and the like), and links to more industry information and Lucasfilm's competitors. Neat!

And this all ties us beautifully into a youtube clip that I randomly found for your viewing pleasure:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Shaking Off The Vacation

I just got back from a vacation and a week-long conference. Conferences seem to be part and parcel of the professional world. It's where you find out who's doing what research, what advances are being made in a field, and also where serious networking happens.

But it got me thinking...I know which organizations represent my profession, my hobbies, my interests, but does everyone?

Knowing your local, regional, national, international organizations can tell you a lot about your field before you even join the profession. You know what the major issues and concern of that field are, websites to find more information, important people in the field.

It also tells you where and when conferences are. (Hey, it's ALL about the networking! No, really.)

So, how do you know which organizations are important to your field? You guessed it. We have a database for that. If you've been on this blog for more than five minutes, you're shocked, I know.

The database in question? Encyclopedia of Associations.

But here's how you get to that database. Head on over to the Marriott Library homepage and click on Article Databases & More. From there, you want to click on the E under Select Database by Title, and then scroll down the alphabetical list of databases that appears until you can click on Encyclopedia of Associations.

There are a lot of ways to search for associations in the database. By name, by location, by topic or subject. Each entry tells you the kind of organization it is and the contact information for the association.

Good luck with all your future networking!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Get a Job!

There are a zillion things to think about when getting an education, but foremost in many minds is -what the heck am I going to do with my degree in Applied Brewery Appreciation!? A great resource that covers a lot of the questions you may have about many careers is produced by the U.S. Department of Labor called the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Telling you details about specific careers like the training you’ll need to land the job, what you can expect to earn, how the job market is and quite a lot more.

I tried to find information on becoming a brewer but that seems to be off the popular job market so you’re on your own with that one!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Time to Think, Time to Work... All Gone!

We live in an information rich society and we are under constant bombardment of information and data. As a student or professor, being able to manage your time and effectively use it is critical to your success. As a librarian, I quickly came to the realization that there is so much that I could learn on a daily basis that I felt overwhelmed. A great resource for dealing with this (currently at my desk, sorry; I'll put it back on the shelf so you can see it) is the "Information Anxiety" series. Information Anxiety and Information Anxiety 2 by Richard Saul Wurman(link to Literature Resource Center: Biography Info). These are a bit dated, especially in their references to the print and internet industries, but the messages are still very applicable. One golden nugget is:
There is a Danish proverb that the one who is afraid of asking questions is ashamed of learning.
The books cover a variety of angles like, how we learn, how much you know and making sense of information. While there are specifics in every chapter, the primary goal is to help you with all of your information intake and output from academia to your 'real life'.

Another big part of having the ability to ingest all of this information is to have down time. I found an interesting bit on the BBC World News site, "No Time to Think?" that says,"I can say that all great creators, without exception, have taken breaks," says Buzan. "A minimum of two a day." "Leonardo Da Vinci had a bed in his studio and when patrons accused him of wasting time, he said 'If I don't do this, you don't get the work.'"

"I can say that all great creators, without exception, have taken breaks," says Buzan. "A minimum of two a day." "Leonardo Da Vinci had a bed in his studio and when patrons accused him of wasting time, he said 'If I don't do this, you don't get the work.'"

"...You have to disconnect from what stops you thinking - just stop the flow for a bit, not to a hermetic extent. You could unplug the TV or not get a daily paper for a few days."



Friday, July 25, 2008

Deep

A philosophy major? Now, what can you do with a philosophy major?
You can think deep thoughts about being unemployed.

from "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story"


Not so, according to a recent article in the New York Times, which says that undergraduate enrollment in philosophy is on the rise due to its interdisciplinary applications.

You can probably imagine what that means for you philosophy majors out there--it means that you've got some stiff competition. So, this is what you've gotta do: cheat.

I kid, I kid.
. . . Well, sort of.
What you really ought to do is dazzle your peers and professors (and future employers) with a little help from the library. So, it's like cheating, but completely legitimate.

Starting with our Philosophy Research Guide, you'll find a comprehensive, diverse list of online databases, print reference materials, and scholarly websites compiled by our subject expert and a Philosophy Department representative. It's basically a list of tried and true favorites.

Then, check out the complete list of subject-specific databases that we provide access to. There's about a dozen.

And if that leaves you wanting more (or on the verge of an existential crisis), you could also make an appointment with a librarian to show you how to use these resources--me, for example. I tell an awesome philosophy-themed knock knock joke.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chemistry and the Political

A big word on campuses these days is interdisciplinary. In seeking grant support, academic blessings from on high, or even in developing new programs of study, there's a real push to create collaboration between schools. You'd be surprised at the creative duets that have popped up in recent years (to stoke your imagination just think of "Dance" and pick your favorite science; it's probably occurred already).

My topic for today is Chemistry. At this point, I'd rather not bore you with what is really a very focused science and the admittedly really cool resources they have at the library (I tried "hostess cream filling" on a few of these with disappointing results -further research required was often cited in discussing this mysterious substance). [Please do talk with Daureen Nesdill, or any of our Science librarians for help with these resources 581-7533.] Instead I thought I'd put together an interdisciplinary project; please steal this idea.

Chemistry and Political Science: Acid rain caused by air pollution in industrialized countries is a huge problem. However, is there a bridge between how the problem is identified between the scientific and political communities? Learning to speak politic would be a priceless skill for a chemist, while having the tools to express the problems (and solutions) in chemistry would make for an almost unreal politician (who would inevitably be pulled into a corporate congressional lobby and vacation 12 weeks every year in Monaco, but lets keep our ideals intact for now).

Just a thought.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A-squared Plus B-squared Equals C-squared

I was over on CNN.com this morning and read an article about frustrated parents teaching their kids math "old school" style. You know, things like long division written out by hand. Apparently, teachers are more about the theory behind math rather than the rote application of it.

In the end...it's kind of all the same to me.



I hate math. No, I mean I really hate math. A lot.

And I don't think I'm alone.

I can't balance a checkbook without a calculator. I'm grateful every day for online banking that means I don't even need to do that now. All throughout school, though, nothing about math made sense to me. I just. Didn't. Get. It. Math did not compute. Don't even get me started on the time I walked into a calculus class to find the test I thought was the following Wednesday was, in fact, that Wednesday. As in, three minutes from when I walked into class. I almost fainted, and my ears buzzed. It was like every teenage nightmare of showing up to school in your underwear from every bad high school movie.

For a chronic honor roll student, being bad at math was seriously bad news. Math was consistently my lowest grade, right down there with my Physical Education grade. Yeah, I'm not athletic either.

The fact is, a lot of students have math anxiety. It's something teachers have to deal with all the time. So, I was wondering what, exactly, do teachers learn to cope with this phenomenon of evil (aka mathematics).

For the geekly librarian that I am, that means looking it up. Searching for online articles in education databases. What have teachers written or said about math anxiety? How do they cope with it?

To find out, I could go to the Marriott Library homepage, clicking on Article Databases under Research Tools, and then using the drop down menu for Select Database by Subject and selecting Education.

Now there are a lot of Education databases to choose from, and many of them would probably work, but I'm going to go for ERIC. Once I click on that database to access it, I can type in my search for education and mathematics anxiety.

I get all kinds of articles and conference reports about how teachers cope with math anxiety and how to help students get past it so they can grasp the topic more easily.

Interesting stuff. I'm not sure it'll ever make me like math, but it's good to know that the education field recognizes the issue and is making strides to help students overcome it. There are all kinds of articles in education databases, on everything from teaching and learning foreign language skills, arts in school, special education, and a lot more.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mathematic Bliss

Every night after work, I bike home past the Math Department's LeRoy Cowles Building, which is connected to the T. Benny Rushing Mathematics Center on the northwest side. From the outside, the Center is pleasant enough: a light-filled, red sandstone structure that complements the original building, with a contemporary University of Utah architectural style (an example, another, and another).

I rarely stop to look inside, which is a shame because within is a magnificent, multi-storied installation of math-related artwork by Utah artist Anna Campbell Bliss. It's visually engaging, intellectually stimulating, playful and whimsical, even. This got me thinking about the relationship between math and art in general.

So, I did a library catalog basic (general keyword) search for math and art. One title in the results, "Fragments of Infinity: A Kaleidoscope of Math and Art" caught my eye. In the catalog record, in the left column, I saw the subject heading mathematics in art. When I clicked on that link, the catalog brought back five more books, including "Art for a House of Mathematics", a book about Anna Bliss' installation. Jackpot!

While looking at the catalog records for those six books, I continued to click and follow lots of interesting subject headings which led to more subject headings (and so on). I never would have come up with all these concepts on my own:
  • mathematics--pictorial works
  • mathematics in architecture
  • geometry in art
  • art--mathematics
  • symbolism of numbers
  • Islamic art and symbolism
  • decoration and ornament--mathematics
  • repetitive patterns (decorative arts)
  • fractals
Really, I could go on and on. Following subject heading links is a fantastic way to find additional, related resources. It can also help to build your vocabulary about a topic.

Now I'm going to curl up with a good book I found, "Gödel, Escher, and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid".

Friday, July 11, 2008

David Bowie Likes It Scholarly.


I was on Wikipedia the other day, reading about bonobos, when it occurred to me, holy cow, I look things up all day long on Wikipedia.

(FYI, you should check out section 3.1 in the bonobo article. Prepared to be wowed.)

Like a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't remember the name of this pictorialist photographer who I like, so I hit Wikipedia. Before that, I wanted to find some quick background information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And then prior to that, it was something very academic like, "What's David Bowie's real name?"

As a librarian, I know that it's not the most reliable source, since anyone can create and edit the content. But, hey, it's online, and it's easy to use. And most of the time I just want a quick answer. The truth of the matter is that I love Wikipedia, and I will fist fight anyone who doesn't.

There I was in the midst of this major internal conflict, when I got an email about one of our new online databases--Encyclopædia Britannica Online. (Remember those sweet Encyclopædia Britannica commercials in the 80s? A: Yes and fondly.) While it doesn't offer the same democratic, social network-y style as Wikipedia, it's accurate, authoritative, current, scholarly, and it's pretty.

Ahem.

I mean, it has a "user-friendly interface."

So, the next time I want to know about the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, Bastille Day, or Epicureanism, I'm going to try Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

And so should you. Just go to the library's website, click on the "Article Databases" link under "Research Tools," and hit the "E" button.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Me Talk French One Day

Growing up in California meant I was destined to take Spanish in high school. Just about everyone did, and I took three years. I didn't learn much. I pretty much hated every moment of it. As an academic over-achiever, I found myself slumped in the back of that class with the other slackers passing notes. No, I'm not proud, but I decided when I got to college that I'd try something different. I had a language requirement to fulfill to get my degree, and with the number of native Spanish speakers in California, the Spanish classes in college were a great deal harder than I was willing to handle. I envisioned myself never graduating and still slumped in the slacker back of my Spanish class passing notes twenty years later.

I looked over my catalog options and came up with French. It made sense to a History major because a great deal of legal documents in Europe used to be written in French.

French, I found, was more engaging than Spanish. Or perhaps I was more motivated in college than in high school. I'll never know. But in my quest to learn the language, I needed to find more than my text books to read.

As a librarian now...if I wanted to find out what material University of Utah students could get from the library in French, I could look that up specifically by going to the Marriott Library homepage, clicking on Library Catalog under Research Tools, and then clicking on the box for Advanced Keyword searching. In the search box, I could type in a topic I was interested in, like politics, and then at the bottom under the Language menu, I could limit to just those item written in French.

As amazing as it was to realize I didn't have to buy a new collection of books for myself to get novels in French, I soon found myself bogged down in books that were far too complex for me to read. I had no idea what they were saying, let alone grasping the complexities of French political satire.

To feel a bit less like an insane dunce, I became addicted to the free translation sites online. Most of the students in my classes would swap urls the way kids swap baseball cards. Or at least they did when I was a kid. No idea who swaps what in elementary school now.

The two that seemed universally popular were FreeTranslation.com and BabbleFish.com, but even they, for all their free language swap beauty, could not help me with my French political satires. I just didn't have time to put every sentence into a website, and my vocabulary wasn't sophisticated enough to get past where the author wrote "Je pense que"...for a beginner like me, knowing that that meant "I think that" was a major accomplishment.

So, I found that I had the vocabulary of a toddler. And the frustration of not knowing how to communicate what you want can often make you ready to throw a terrible-twos style tantrum.

But, one of the things I learned was that I might not be able to read a novel in French, but I could read French children's books. Hey, don't mock me, it's a good way to enhance your vocabulary and has pretty pictures, which is more than I can say of the French-English dictionary I own. Or the French verb book. Or the French grammar book.



One of my favorites is Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

And lo and behold, I found we have it in the Juvenile Collection in the library. The basics of finding a specific book in the library is by going to the Marriott Library homepage, clicking on Library Catalog under Research Tools, and then clicking on the box for Author, Title, Journal, etc. From there, I type the title I want into the Title Keyword box and voila, I have a list of the closest matching titles to what I searched for. Luckily, we have the book I want, so it was right on top of the list.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Casual Friday Forever? or
Putting the Kibosh on Couture

Looking at the news today I read a brief article about Iran’s leader President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran Leader Plays Down War Talk) and I noticed he wasn’t wearing a tie. I had heard it mentioned in casual conversation that Iran wasn’t keen on ties as they were a symbol of Western decadence. Was this coffee conversation true? (-and what's up with the fella on the right; is he crazy or something!? -Quick! Take off the tie!)

First Stop: Web search for information that is primarily unverifiable, but ‘good enough’.
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necktie mentions (down the page near the bottom) that there is an “extreme anti-necktie sentiment” in the country of Iran, but there is also a ‘citation needed’ note. This means the statement is unverified.

Pros: easy and quick
Cons: who wrote this? is it realiable and fact-based?


Second Stop: General coverage database for information that may not be scholarly, but is likely to be credible.
Academic Search Premiere (my search for iran and neckties) yielded a couple of interesting notes.
Michael Theodoulou of the Christian Science Monitor (7/12/2001) notes that neckties had been drummed out in the late 1970s following the revolution, but in 2001 were making a careful comeback. However, Andrew Higgins in the Wall Street Journal (5/12/2007) reports that not only are neckties out again, you can be punished for wearing one.

Pros: Some facts and I can check up on the author and when it was written.
Cons: Is it scholarly? What are their sources of information?


Third Stop: Specific database for scholarly information and verification.
Encyclopedia of Islam: probably not the right place to look for social commentary, but I tried anyway. Zero results. -Don't give up, it is all part of the search.

JSTOR: This database has a variety of subjects and heavy on the scholarly works. There were a few misses, but I found a definitive (and brief) description on p362 of Revolutions, Samurai, and Reductions: The Parodoxes of Change and Continuity in Iran and Japan by Fathali M. Moghaddam and David S. Crystal in Political Psychology, (Jun., 1997). This article was by far the most interesting of the lot since it had a great deal of depth and commentary whereas the other searches yielded mostly matter-of-fact reports.

Pros: Really great in-depth info and scholarly too! Lots of citations, lots of credibility.
Cons: Maybe too focused for my needs to verify a casual conversation fact?


Results!

So wearing a necktie in Iran probably isn't a good idea these days, but don't throw them away -you may be able to bring them out again after a while. Your results may vary, but this is a good way to go about research. Look for the quick information first and then wend your way to the scholarly and credible.

Monday, July 7, 2008

¡Olé!


This week marks the 2008 Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain, made world-famous by Ernest Hemingway's description of the running of the bulls in his novel "The Sun Also Rises." Watching news coverage of crazy men getting trampled by stampeding other crazy men (oh, and bulls) always reminds me of my own time as a bullfighter!

[cue the Wayne's World flashback sound effect and wavy image]
At the end of my year-long student exchange in Mexico, I spent a week at a bullfighting ranch where I got to try out my matador skills with a real bull. He was only 3 months old but those little horns caused quite a bruise.
[flash forward to the present]

Anyway, this week's festivities sparked my interest to find other literature that mentions bullfighting. Since I saw my first bullfight in Mexico City, I decided to check out the Latino Literature database to see what it could offer. (If you're not on campus, you'll need to authenticate your browser session by logging into my.utah.edu on the Marriott Library homepage to see this database.) It's filled with fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plays by Latina and Latino writers working in the United States. Because it's a full-text database, I can search for even a single instance of my topic within a work of literature.

My first search for bullfighting was disappointing: only 10 results. But after looking in the Help tab menu, I saw that this database supports both Boolean and truncation searching.

Boolean searching includes using AND (to connect different concepts, such as bullfighting AND Spain), as well as OR (to connect synonyms and related concepts, such as bullfighter OR matador OR toreador).

Truncation searching means that I can search for a root term and get results based on all its variations. The most common way is to end the root term with an asterisk (such as bullfight* which will bring back all results with the words bullfight, bullfighting, bullfighter and bullfighters).

A search in Latino Literature for the truncated bullfight* brings back 69 results (yay!). But a complex search also using the Boolean operator OR -- I searched for matador OR toreador OR bullfight* -- brought back 93 results. ¡Olé! These results include a nice mix between fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The Latino Literature database has recently converted to a new interface but has not yet moved the plays over. A duplicate search in the old database found 21 plays, too.

The best part about learning these two search strategies -- Boolean and truncation -- for the Latino Literature database is they can be used in most every database the Marriott Library subscribes to. ¡Andale pues!

Friday, July 4, 2008

To Cite or Not to Cite: It's Never a Question

A lot of what I'm about to tell you may seem like review, but I get more students who miss questions about plagiarism than most people would believe. It seems easy, doesn't it? If an idea isn't yours, you cite it. If you pull a sentence from another person's work, you cite it.

The problem is that with the proliferation of information online, it becomes easier and easier to steal ideas and not get caught. It also becomes harder and harder for students doing creative writing to know when they're taking an idea and putting their own unique spin on it and when they're stealing someone else's idea. It's a thin line students tread, and there are many pitfalls along the way. I don't have a quick fix for you; I don't have any easy answers. What I can give you is a quick guide on how not to end up accused of plagiarism or unethical academic practices.

Plagiarism is theft of intellectual property. Or more specifically, to plagiarize is "to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source." I took this definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. This is how I would cite my source:

"Plagiarize." Merriam-Webster Online. 2006. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 25 Feb 2007 .

The Internet is Copyrighted

The internet may seem like a free-for-all of information and ideas, but it is not. The information on the internet belongs to website authors just like book and article authors, so you have to cite it. Here's an example that might bring this point home to you. If I write a book about how to conduct library research, I might have a personal website to promote it. On my website, I might have blurbs and excerpts for my works in progress. This lets my readers know what might be coming out and what books they might want to read of mine. That information is copyrighted. I wrote it, I own it, and if someone uses my idea or takes my writing from my excerpts and uses it in their writing, that's plagiarism.

However, there is public information that you don't have to cite, such as historical dates. You can read a book or website about the Alamo and use the historical data found there, such as when the Alamo happened and who was involved. You don't have to cite that information if you use fact as a base for your term paper. What you do have to cite is if you use the book or website author's unique political theories to fuel your work. That information is owned by the author.

I'll be the first to admit there is a lot of gray area when it comes to citation, but if you're ever in doubt: cite. You can never get into hot water if you cite a source when you don't have to. You can get into some serious trouble if you don't cite when you should.

Citation Station

There are many ways to cite your sources. These ways are called citation styles. The style I used to cite my definition of plagiarism is the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style. Any citation style will work, but you should be consistent if you cite more than one source in your college papers. Also, many of your professors might require you to use a specific style. Many different websites exist that can assist you in citing sources, so I'll give you a few of my favorites:



All of these sites can give you a basic explanation of how to cite sources. If you don't have time to learn, but know you need to cite a source, you can take the quick and easy way out. I'd suggest using a citation generating program. My favorite is available free online.



Citation Machine, and other programs like it, allows you to pick your preferred citation style, type in the information about the book, article, or web page you want to cite and it will generate a citation for you. None of these programs are perfect, so learning how to cite is well worth your time because many professors deduct points for incorrect citations. Knowing when a citation is incorrect and how to fix it can be a valuable tool during your tenure at the university.

All's Fair in Love and Literature

You can use a small percentage of another person's work as long as you cite it, and it's not a legal issue. A few sentences from a book or website aren't a problem. When it becomes a legal issue is when you use a large percentage, or even all, of someone's book or article. This violates fair use. It is not that you cannot use some or all of an author's work, but if you use more than a sentence or two, you have to contact the author and obtain their permission. Please note that I'm a librarian and not a lawyer, so consult an expert on fair use and copyright if you have any legal questions. This is a simple explanation of what can become a complicated problem. The bottom line is if you use a lot of someone else's work, just a citation isn't enough. So, either limit your use of other writers' work, or be prepared to contact the author and possibly a lawyer.

And yes, mentioning lawyers is a scare tactic on my part. Plagiarism and fair use are serious legal issues. I would hate to see any student get in trouble over what may have been a mistake made out of ignorance. Be aware of where you get your information, and know when and how to cite a source if you need to.

The Biggest Gray Area

The big gray area I'm talking about here is your brain. So, I've talked about citation and fair use of other people's work, but what about your own work? I'm certain we've all done this...you have a class that asks for a term paper, and you wrote a similar paper to what is being required for another class the previous semester. It's your work, you own it, so it's not plagiarism, right?

Right.

It's not plagiarism.

But what it is is unethical. Plagiarism is obviously unethical, but so is recycling your own work. Think about it this way, what if a student wrote an amazing paper in their freshman year. They got an A. Then, they managed to make a few tweaks to that paper and turn it in every single semester until they graduated, always getting A's. Is that fair to other students who worked hard and wrote original work for every class? No, it's not. Also, is it fair to the student who was supposed to be reflecting on what he had learned in each class for those final papers? Did he actually get the same level of college education as everyone else? Or did he cheat himself in the end?

It may sound idealistic, but codes of ethics are. They are descriptions of ideal standards of behavior. However, if your motivation needs to be a crime and punishment discussion, imagine what would happen to that same student if a professor uncovered his use of the same paper over and over again. What if every professor he'd ever turned that paper in to decided to re-evaluate the grade he'd received and give him an automatic F for cheating? What if he had to go before a board of inquiry for unethical academic behavior and was expelled from the university? Would it be worth it then to get the easy A? Probably not. But if you reuse a paper, you're not likely to get caught. The scenario I described is within the realm of possibility, but not by much. So, in the end, it's up to individual students to hold themselves to a higher ethical standard.

And just to be fair, some of what I wrote here today I pulled from an article I wrote for a monthly newsletter for a local writer's association after they had a few problems with plagiarizing from the internet (so is it ethical for me to use?). It's not just college students who run into these kinds of problems, it's an issue that everyone deals with.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My secret identity


I am a NERD. I don’t deny this, in fact I occasionally boast about it much to the chagrin of my academic colleagues. There is nothing wrong with knowing who Jessica Drew is in the Marvel Universe, but it does help if occasionally I can back up my knowledge with a little research. So today I am introducing my Marvel Universe to my libraries Reference Universe.

Reference Universe is a great place to begin research and contains links to thousands of works online and in our library. The interface allows you to do a search of authoritative reference works in specialized, subject encyclopedias. I could look into genetic engineering, spiders, or gamma radiation and find multiple resources. Better still are the links and call numbers that will take me right to the resource of my choice.

Something that gets me as excited as I am about the upcoming Avengers movie is responsible research and Reference Universe is the perfect place to start doing just that. Far too often I see Wikipedia being used as a primary source. This makes me angry and I don’t think you’d like to see me when I'm ANGRY!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How Soon is Now?


or How to determine the extent of information needed (for anything!).

In Brenda Dervin's Sense Making the concept of information need is sometimes described as finding a bridge to get over a gap, gully, canyon, etc. (oversimplified, I'm sure). For example, when you need to find a bathroom, you don't need a dissertation length explanation of architecture, plumbing and historical perspectives on politeness. You just need to know where it is. The information in a pointed finger does the trick. You have crossed the gap. When you have a term paper assigned to you, the scope of your information needs are typically spelled out for you; 5 scholarly articles, 2 book chapters, etc.

The trick comes when you don't know how long it will take to get you to the 'other side' of the bridge. Experience plays a big part, but here's a brief primer that should help you determine how much info you need to succeed in any project.

1. Find general information first
2. Then find more specific information
3. Assess what you've found and weed out the unnecessary stuff
4. Process, and cross the gap!

EXAMPLE: I NEED TO WRITE A TERM PAPER
1. Spend 10% of your time doing general information searching. Get a 'big picture' feel for the topic. [Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, the open web (google, wikipedia, etc.]

2. Now that you're an expert on the topic (generally speaking!), narrow your search and find very credible and focused information (scholarly journals, good books and even professional people to talk to (hey, like a librarian perhaps!). In this phase, you don't have to read the articles or books, just the descriptions.

2b. Once you have a pile of information, weed through them quickly. You are now able to read a page or two, but you're determining if this fits your needs or not.

3. You now have your reasonably right-sized pile of articles. Read up and write that paper.


EXAMPLE: I NEED TO BUY A CAR; WHAT SHOULD I GET?

1. Find information that describe all cars (magazines, internet sites, etc.) -from this you determine that you need a compact, fuel-efficient car that costs about $3000.

2. Find information on older compact cars (older magazines, more focused internet sites, personal interviews with people who have owned the car etc.

3. You may do step 2 and 3 at the same time for this topic, but ultimately you'll end up with a sizable set of links and articles about several viable options.

4. Read and interpret what all the information means, as opposed to your own opinions and you may quickly discover what car you should get. If you're like me, however, this last process will be painful and you'll have to cycle through steps 2 and 3 a few more times (not a problem and is part of the process).


(You just meet Standard #1 of the ACRL's Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, which is (again) pretty awesome and academic of you.)

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Play’s The Thing

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a theatre geek. I’ll go see just about anything. It’s not that I’m not discriminating in my choice of what to see, just that I’m willing to give anyone who’s “puttin’ on a show” the benefit of the doubt that it could be good. And when everything connects, it can be a life-altering experience.

But I do pay a price, having to sit through some awful productions when I know someone in the show, or I’m seated next to the director, or I’ve left my bike with the box office staff because there was no place to lock it up outside and I just don’t feel right asking for it back during the intermission for a show I got free tickets to (I wonder why they were free?).

A bad performance is one thing, but a bad audience can also sully an otherwise good show. Late-comers blocking my view, cell phones ringing (and owners answering!), candy wrappers crinkling, private conversations that everyone within 10 feet can hear. You know, people who behave as though they’re sitting in their living room watching a DVD.

“So what,” you ask, “does this have to do with the library?”

Marriott Library has just purchased access to the Theatre in Video* database. So now I (and you) can enjoy a theatre performance and not have to feel guilty if I stop watching halfway through, or worry about inconsiderate audience distractions.

Because this is an online, streaming resource, I can choose when and where I want to watch it (unlike videos from the Multimedia Center, which need to be watched in the library). In addition to plays, it has documentaries and interviews with theatre artists (such as Arthur Miller and Israel Horovitz Discuss Theater). I can create clips of my favorite parts to share with my friends (look for the clip links for Mummenschanz—the toilet paper mimes from Sesame Street, remember?!) And I can see shows from when I was just a kid (check out Meryl Streep in Alice in the Palace, a made-for-TV adaptation of a Joseph Papp-conceived/directed production for the New York Shakespeare Festival, a musical she did between Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice).

Speaking of Shakespeare, Marriott Library has paid extra to provide access to BBC productions of all 37 of the Bard’s plays. And the Theatre in Video database is not yet complete. Alexander Street Press has only uploaded half of the titles they plan to include.

You better start now, if you want to watch them all!

*If you are off campus, you will need to authenticate your browser session by logging in to my.utah.edu first. Theatre in Video is also available from Marriott Library's Article Databases list.

Friday, June 27, 2008

What is the Truth?

Here's an interesting article (from the popular magazine US News & World Report) about the FDA and alternative medicine web sites. Read the brief article, but then read the comments that follow.

Who is right and what is the truth? Which side has a more validity and why? Is the information current? Who is the intended audience? What are the author(s) authority (Does the blog commenter "Ani of NM" have the authority and credibility to claim that the FDA and AMA are "Nazi organizations"?) -psst! this is a great exercise for all of the information you use daily.

Sorry US News & World Report, we're not picking on you, I swear!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Bun in Your Man-Oven

Check it out: it's the first male pregnancy. Oh, yes--men can now experience the miracle of childbirth. Thank you, modern medicine.

CRAAP


I admit I don't get the . . . ummm . . . logistics of if it all, but, hey, I don't understand airplanes either. But whatever. If it's in print, then it must be true, right?

A: Wrong.

Today, I want to introduce you to an easy test you can use to evaluate information, whether it's in a textbook, a newspaper, or online. It's called the CRAAP Test, and it was created by a group of librarians from California State University at Chico. Nice acronym, huh? As in, if the information you've found doesn't meet these criteria, then it's crap, so don't use it. The extra "A" is for extra crappiness.

Try applying the CRAAP test to the male pregnancy site, and let me know what you determine.

(Oh, by the way, if you can do this simple test, you meet Standard #3 of the ACRL's Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, which is pretty awesome and academic of you.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What do Nancy Regan and I have in common?


SO I’m feeling just a touch empty headed at the moment, but wait I am in the library surrounded by books, connected to technology, how can it be?! It is true, everyone has their moments even those of us at the heart of information and technology can’t be experts on everything. I need a knowledge fill up, something to expand all of my current smarts or help me sharpen my Photoshop skills.
One place where I can pick up this knowledge is TACC : Technology Assisted Curriculum Center right here in the library. TACC offers free courses for students, staff, and faculty with an easy online info and registration page. Who knows you might catch me in the next Photoshop tutorial.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wasatch Mountain Club (What is/are Special Collections?)



You may have heard "primary sources" when you were on the receiving end of a term paper assignment, but other than interviewing your grandmother (again), what's available?

Hey, good question! Many academic libraries have special collections that are unpublished things like manuscripts, diaries, photographs and letters that come from an authoritative source on the topic. Note that not every Bob and his uncle can contribute their things to a special collections. They actively collect significant and important collections and are growing constantly. Also, each library will have different stuff, guaranteed; because they're all typically one-of-a-kind materials. The special collections at our University of Utah Marriott Library are open to the public. Anyone can waltz on up to the desk and ask for specific things or general questions like, "how do I find out the names of miners at Bingham Mine in 1915?".

A great example of a collection is the Wasatch Mountain Club photographs. There are two ways of seeing the photographs. In person with the real photograph albums (special collections is on the 2nd floor of the library), or online via the scanned images. You can see an index of the images in what we call a 'finding aid'. If you want to see the actual images, you'll have to call ahead to make sure the collection will be there for you. Call 585-3073 for all the info.