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All of these elegies are making me nostalgic for ye olde print Encyclopedia Britannica, but let’s not forget that it lives on electronically and is available with your library card.  With admiration for its will to survive, I offer this reprint of two earlier blog posts on the E.B.:

Part 1: Britannica vs. Wikipedia

Wikipedia addicts: your options have expanded.  The Brooks Memorial Library’s website offers access to Britannica Online free to all from inside the Library.  Cardholders also have access from home.  Click on Resources > Reference, and log in with your library card number.

Why choose Britannica over Wikipedia? Because it is, according to itself, “the oldest English-language general encyclopaedia,” first appearing in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768.  It has the weight and authority of centuries behind it.  And if you’re working on a paper, chances are your teacher will accept it as a legitimate source in your bibliography.

Why choose Wikipedia over Britannica?  It’s drawing on the brilliance of many authors and has an interesting 21st-century method for establishing authority.  It’s very strong in particular subject areas;  I love it for questions on popular culture, for example. But it isn’t considered a reliable source in many academic environments.

Today, I staged a Britannica/Wikipedia death match over Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini (born January 20th, 1920), and these are my quick impressions:

Britannica:  Nice, long, detailed article about his life and works, with critical commentary.  Surprisingly, it has a wimpy bibliography, and the filmography is incorporated into the essay; there’s no handy list.  But it’s nicely illustrated with public-domain photos.

Wikipedia:  This one also has a substantial essay, but it’s more biographical than critical.  Excellent bibliography and a handy filmography and awards list – plus, you could read the article in Fellini’s native language!  Not many photos; try Google Images for that.

In other words, both sources have unique material, so why limit yourself?  It takes just minutes to search them both, and your knowledge will expand for your efforts.

Photo credits:  Fellini and Masina on the set of La Strada, still from 8 1/2, Mastroianni & Ekberg in still from La Dolce Vita. Courtesy Britannica Online.

Part 2: Using Britannica Online

On the Library’s website, click on Resources > Reference > Britannica Online.  It will prompt you for your library card number: type the whole 14-digit number with no spaces.

Once you’re in, you have various options for searching.  They always have fun features like “This Day in History,” if you just want to browse.  If you want to research a specific topic, you can type a keyword into the search box, but that’s not my favorite way; I think you get better results by clicking the link called The Index, which is near the top of the screen, below the search box, next to the word BROWSE.  On the Index screen, you can click the first letter of the word you want to search or use the Index search box.

For example, find the word ECOLOGY in the index, either by clicking on the E and working your way in through the alphabetical list or by typing the term into the Index search box.  There are two entries for the word.  If you click the first one, it produces a list of reference links to related articles in the online encyclopedia.  Even better, it displays several links on the left side of the screen called Content related to this topic.  If you click on the link for “Main Article,” you’ll get a nice 5-page overview.

To be honest, I think that the online Britannica has to work on its  design.  The way they display search results often obscures the main articles and highlights passing references.  Once you get comfortable with it, though, it’s wonderful having online access to this detailed, authoritative encyclopedia.

JMW

revised 3/27/12

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The new edition of Gale’s online reference book collection is looking spiffy.  Find it on our website under Resources > Reference > Gale Virtual Reference Library.  Have your library card handy if you’re searching from home.  There are 100 or so titles that you can search all at once or individually.

We’ve been talking so much about e-books lately that it’s easy to overlook the wonderful bound reference books that come in every month through the magic of a standing order plan with our book distributor.  I’m just putting out the 2011 editions of these useful titles:

  • Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, “Where & how to sell your illustrations, fine art, & cartoons”
  • Photographer’s Market, “Where & how to sell your photographs”
  • Physicians’ Desk Reference: PDR
  • Peterson’s Private Secondary Schools
  • Peterson’s Graduate Programs in the Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Agricultural Sciences, The Environment, and Natural Resources
  • Peterson’s Graduate Programs in Business, Education, Health, Information Studies, Law, and Social Work
  • Standard Catalog of World Coins
  • Who’s Who in America
  • Writer’s Market, “The most trusted guide to getting published”

And there are more.   Come visit us once you’re plowed out.

JMW

Reference books can be heavy in every sense of the word.   The best are written by subject experts and are the culmination of years of research and painstaking editorial revision.  They are beautifully designed and have detailed indexes.  They also weigh a lot, and are not are easily transported, even if we let you borrow them, which we usually don’t.

Online reference sources are more portable, of course, and they’re becoming more so all the time.  But not every app carries the authoritative weight of a library reference book—not to mention Google and its gazillion slightly-relevant websites.  What’s a mobile scholar to do?

This is where the Library comes in, filling its traditional role of providing access to recorded knowledge.  “Access,” in this sense, is more than just a password for a restricted website: Libraries gather and organize material to make it easy for researchers to find what they need, no matter what the subject. 

With that in mind, Brooks Memorial recently acquired a core collection of e-reference books in the areas of science, history, religion, law, economics, popular culture, and more.  They can be searched all at once, which is a nice step forward in reference service, and they are accessible either through the Library’s website (Resources > Reference > Gale Virtual Reference Library) or through the Gale app, a free download for the iPhone and the Droid.  The app is nifty because the covers are displayed on virtual shelves, giving a visual idea of the diversity of this collection.

Some of the gems on this virtual shelf:

  • International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (William A. Darity, editor in chief, Macmillan, 2008)
  • Encyclopedia of Religion, winner of the Dartmouth Medal in its original edition and revised in 2005, (Lindsay Jones, editor in chief, Macmillan)
  • Grzimek’s Animal Encyclopedia, scholarly and detailed but accessible to young students, with terrific illustrations (Gale, 20003)
  • The Gale Encyclopedia of Law, which is just hitting the print and virtual shelves in January of 2011

And there are more, so download the app or bookmark the site on your web browser for easy access to these weightless, weighty reference sources.

JMW

Janet told me that there was once a snake on the Library mezzanine; she found it while shelving.  I like snakes, but I’m glad we haven’t seen one on the mezzanine in a good long time.  Yesterday, though, a gray squirrel was hanging out in theology (211) and was heading toward the existential philosophers, especially Jean-Paul Sartre (194).   Our cataloger thought she might need some guidance.  In hopes of guiding her right out the door, we got help from a veterinarian patron who grabbed a library shopping basket and headed for the stacks.  Moments later, a gray blur was streaking across the floor downstairs and patrons were on their feet.  Happily, with a library full of readers to cheer her on, the squirrel found her way into the office, sprinted through the doughnut box, and exited out the window.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Science, accessible online through the Library’s website, tells us that “There are about 55 species of tree squirrels in the genus Sciurus that occur in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.”  Our squirrel did not “utter a loud barking chatter when alarmed,” but we did note the “long, bushy tail, used as a rudder when…airborne while leaping from branch to branch” (or shelf to shelf).  We hope that, after her anxiety-provoking adventure, she did use her tail as “a comfy wrap-around when… sleeping.”

For more information about the gray squirrel and her cousins the chipmunks, marmots, and prairie dogs, click on the Resources button at the Library’s website and choose Reference > Gale Virtual Reference Library.  If you’re searching from home, the system will prompt you for your library card number.  Or download the Gale public library app for your iPhone.  It works whenever you’re in range of a public library with Gale online reference products.

The weather outside is frightful – making it the perfect time to do some traveling, both armchair and otherwise.  It’s also a time when many students find themselves slogging away on research papers, wishing that there was a quick way to determine the name of Albania’s president or the major exports of Tunisia.  Travelers and students alike will find CultureGrams (REF 901 v.1 and v.2) to be of use.  Take a trip to the library’s reference section and see for yourself!

CultureGrams has comprehensive reports for 108 countries.  25 topics are covered, including Land and Climate, Language, Gestures, Visiting, Eating, Family, Diet, Recreation, Government, Economy, and Transportation & Communications.  At the start of Volume One there are reports on the various continents, and at the end of Volume Two, there’s an extensive Glossary of Cultural Terms.  The individual country reports provide you with the information you need to avoid making major cultural gaffes during your next trip abroad (a certain library clerk at Brooks certainly wishes she’d read the report on South Korea before journeying there!) and piques your interest about the arts, food, and culture you will experience during your visit.

This is also a great source for those who are beginning research on a social studies or history paper.  The different topics covered in each country’s report ensure that the broadest possible picture is delivered to the reader.  With the variety of information on offer, something is sure to act as a catalyst for more in-depth investigation.

If you do not fall in either the “traveler” or the “student” category, fret not!  CultureGrams can be used by anyone with an interest in the world around them.  It can be great fun to skim over the different reports, soaking up assorted interesting facts about various faraway spots.  For instance, did you know that rice is a staple dish in the United Arab Emirates?  Or that Ilobasco, El Salvador is known for its fantastic pottery?

Wikipedia addicts: your options have expanded.  The Brooks Memorial Library’s website offers access to Britannica Online free to all from inside the Library.  Cardholders also have access from home.  Click on Resources > Reference, and log in with your library card number.

Why choose Britannica over Wikipedia? Because it is, according to itself, “the oldest English-language general encyclopaedia,” first appearing in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768.  It has the weight and authority of centuries behind it.  And if you’re working on a paper, chances are your teacher will accept it as a legitimate source in your bibliography.

Why choose Wikipedia over Britannica?  It can be an easy starting point for research, and it’s strong in particular subject areas.  I love it for questions on popular culture, for example. But remember it doesn’t have the same editorial oversight as Britannica and isn’t considered a reliable source in many academic environments.

Today, I staged a Britannica/Wikipedia death match over Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini (born January 20th, 1920), and these are my quick impressions:

Britannica:  Nice, long, detailed article about his life and works, with critical commentary.  Surprisingly, it has a wimpy bibliography, and the filmography is incorporated into the essay; there’s no handy list.  But it’s nicely illustrated with public-domain photos.

Wikipedia:  This one also has a substantial essay, but it’s more biographical than critical.  Excellent bibliography and a handy filmography and awards list – plus, you could read the article in Fellini’s native language!  Not many photos; try Google Images for that.

In other words, both sources have unique material, so why limit yourself?  It takes just minutes to search them both, and your knowledge will expand for your efforts.

Photo credits:  Fellini and Masina on the set of La Strada, still from 8 1/2, Mastroianni & Ekberg in still from La Dolce Vita. Courtesy Britannica Online.

flower heart

The summer wedding season will shortly be in full swing, and many of us will be traveling near and far to attend the nuptial ceremonies of friends or family members.  While the happy couple undergoes most of the stress, wedding attendees also face worries and hassles.  Luckily, the library has several resources that should alleviate most wedding-related headaches.

Let’s say you have a friend getting married in a Hindu (Muslim, Mormon, Methodist, etc.) ceremony and you have no idea what to expect.  What attire is considered appropriate?  What is the basic structure of the service?  As someone who is not a co-religionist, are you expected to participate in any fashion?  The Reference department has a great book that answers these and a multitude of other questions you may have.  Titled How to be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook (REF 291.3 HOW), it covers religious etiquette for a wide range of practices, and offers information specific to wedding ceremonies for each of the faith included.

Questions may arise during the period leading up to a wedding, and determining responsibilities that attendees have (whether as mother of the bride, maid of honor, or guest) can be difficult at times.  If you are looking for clarification, or if you are a frazzled and overspent parent looking for perspective, take a look at Miss Manners on Painfully Perfect Weddings (395.22 MAR).  Practical information that is wittingly conveyed – what more could one want?

Should one of your wedding responsibilities include making a toast, the library can help you prepare.  Our circulating collection contains a copy of Wedding Toasts and Traditions (392 ISH), and in Reference a copy of  Toasts: Over 1,500 of the Best Toasts, Sentiments, Blessings, and Graces (REF 808.85 TOASTS) can be found.

Good luck!

oohcover parachute virtual-jobjob-loss

Tip: The Library has free resources on all aspects of career planning and job hunting.

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Brattleboro’s unemployment rate currently stands at 7.1% , and many of us have begun the unpleasant process of looking for a new job during an economic downturn. If you find yourself in this predicament, why not stop by the library? We have some fantastic resources that will make your search for the perfect job that much easier.

Interested in making a career change but don’t know where to begin? The library has several guides on hand, including Richard Nelson Bolles’ What color is your parachute? (331.1 BOL) and Laurence G. Boldt’s Zen and the art of making a living: a practical guide to creative career design (650.14 BOL). A subject search for “career development” and/or “career change” will help you locate others.

If you do have a clear sense of what careers interest you but need more concrete information about them (such as educational requirements, average wages, and current demand), you should swing by Reference and take a look at the Occupational outlook handbook (REF 371.42 OCC). The handbook, which can also be accessed online at http://www.bls.gov/OCO/, is produced by the U.S. Department of Labor and has detailed data on countless professions.

In Reference you will also find The guide to basic resume writing (REF 650.14 GUI). Other resume guides can be checked out of the library, and can be located by doing a subject search for “resumes.” If you don’t have access to a personal computer, you can use one of the library’s computers to type up your resume. Just click on the “resume” option at the start-up page, and be sure to bring a flash drive so that you can save your work!

Looking for places to send your resume? Reference USA, a database available at the library (or from home using your library card), has a searchable business database that provides business names and addresses. You can limit your search to Brattleboro businesses by doing a custom search by city.

Now it’s time to improve your interviewing skills. A subject search for “employment interviewing” will list the library’s books on this topic. There are also two DVDs that can be borrowed: Interviewing for a job (DVD 650.14 INT) and The virtual job interview (DVD 6501.14 VIR).

There will also be times during your search when you are in need of encouragement. Lynn Joseph’s The job-loss recovery guide: a proven program for getting back to work—fast! (155.9 JOS) may be just the ticket. And of course, the reference staff is more than happy to assist with questions you encounter during the job seeking process.

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Tip: Reference doesn’t begin and end with the Internet; browse the reference books for some interesting surprises.

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Whether you are interested in the workings of the human psyche, the stories of culture through time, or the books that hold these tales, the reference department has a book for you!

Three excellent information sources have been added to the reference collection:

Psychologists and Their Theories: For Students

Vol. I & II

freud Do not let the ‘for students’ note on the cover scare you off from the book Psychologists and Their Theories. These volumes provide an interesting overview of the unfolding of the field of psychology, starting with the early German writings of the 1860s to the cognitive theories of the early 21st century.

A majority of these two volumes are dedicated to profiles of the 20 most well-known psychologists, past and present. Their profiles include a personal chronology, a list of publications, and bibliographical information for readers who wish to go more in depth.

What makes the entries user-friendly is the description of the main points of a psychologist’s theory and then examples provided of how the theory might play out in a specific situation. Although this is not a good source to use for diagnosing or examining personal therapy needs, the language is very accessible and interesting for learning about the history of this science.

U.X.L. Encyclopedia of World Mythology

Vol. I-V

world-mythologyThis encyclopedia contains a global range of alphabetical entries on myths throughout history. There are five different types of entries: character (such as famous heroes), deity (gods and goddesses) , myth (specific stories), theme (symbols across cultures), and culture (myths of one culture). To further the readers learning experience, there is a timeline of world mythology; a glossary of terms; and a read/write/think/discuss section after major entries.

There are a wide variety of illustrations and the majority are in black and white. However, each volume has an inset of color plates of select images.

The cross-cultural themes are particularly interesting, such as floods or demons in mythology. These entries do an excellent job at explaining the different points of view shown through the stories of each culture and the significance of their symbols. The volumes are a good choice to peruse when you have a few extra minutes at the library or if you are wondering who Shamash is…

Book Lust and More Book Lust

by Nancy Pearl

booklust

“[Nancy Pearl] has become…the librarian version of a rock star.”

Bust magazine

The nation’s most popular librarian has written a number of books on books…Book Lust and More Book Lust provide an in-your-lap personal reading advisor, organized by themed sections and “too good to miss” authors.

Quite frankly these books make excellent reading on their own! Pearl’s sense of humor makes for some very funny categories of books like: GritLit, Elvis on My Mind, My Own Private DUI, and Gone Fishin’.

These books can also be found in the circulating collection (along with Book Crush, for kids and teens) but in case they are checked out, you can always mosey over to the reference section to get some help on what to read next…

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Brooks Memorial Library Reference Department:

Jeanne Walsh, Therese Marcy, Sharon Reidt, Jess Weitz, and sometimes Jerry