Monday, April 28, 2014

History of electronic resources

What is online?
Online searching is a means by which electronic databases stored on a remote computer can be accessed and searched from a computer terminal.

History of electronic resources
The application of the term “online” has changed over the past few years (pre-2004) due to the development of new products and services. The term “online” can apply to:

  • Commercial, “traditional” search services such as those offered by Dialog
  • CD ROM database searching (1980s)
  • Consumer online services, e.g. American Online, MSN
  • The Internet (Many people think that that online is the Internet)

Finding information online
  • Bibliographic citations were found manually usually printed abstracts and indexes such as Engineering Index (1884), Index Medicus, and Chemical Abstracts
  • Manual production of abstracting and indexing services was labour intensive and the delays long. It could take up to two years between the publication of an article in a journal and its listing in an abstracting and indexing journal.
The convergence of data processing, information science, the growth in public data networks and the computerisation of print publications brought the online industry into being
  • 1950s: computers developed, batch processing, number crunching, first text-based search
  • 1960s: batch searching (non-interactive) in readable form, some services developed, printed indexes produced by computers, 
  • 1969 ARPANet developed. Beginning of Internet ; American military decentralized information elsewhere
  • 1970s: commercial databases launched (Dialog, considered first, had 6 bibliographic databases in 1972); expensive, difficult to use, mainly searched by specialists. 
  • 1980s: OPACs became common in libraries, an increasing number of diverse databases and commercial services were available, business information provision grew with more full-text systems based around menu interfaces were being offered to end-users, CD ROMs were adopted towards the end of the decade
  • 1990s: propriety Windows interfaces were developed, then as the Web became popular access to commercial services over the Web became a priority for suppliers; end-user searching was now a reality and services were marketed directly to the actual consumers of the information, rather than professional intermediaries.
“In large part, the history of electronic resources for reference began with the development of computer-assisted typesetting and printing.”
Kathleen M. Kluegel, 2001. Electronic resources for reference. In Reference and information services: an introduction 3rd ed., general eds. Richard E. Bopp, Linda C. Smith

Batch processing
  • Advances in computer and telecommunication technology
    • Modem
      • A contraction of modulator-demodulator, an electronic coupler used to connect a computer terminal to a telephone communication system. A modem translates electronic signals of the computer into sounds that can be transferred over the telephone line.
  • Much faster disks stacks replaced magnetic tapes
  • Development of microcomputers, search software and telecommunications networks
  • Searcher and system communicate interactively

A computer interface designed to respond to input from a human being, usually in the form of commands and/or data. A back-and-forth dialogue between a computer program and its human user is an interactive session.
ODLIS: Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science

History of electronic resources
  • 1972 Dialog 1st commercial online service
    • Developed by Roger Summit (father of online systems) for Lockhead Missile and Space Company
  • others follow, e.g. ORBIT (SDC), CAN/OLE (Canadian Online Enquiry Service, 1972), BRS (1977)
  • Number and availability of databases available through search services increase
  • Market expands to most academic and special libraries
  • Early 1980s full text databases become available on commercial search services
  • Mediated searching era
    • Mid 1980s meditated searching peaked than began a sharp decline

Meditated search
A systematic search in which a trained intermediary, such as an online services librarian or information broker, assists the end-user in locating desired information, by helping to formulate and execute appropriate strategies for searching online catalogs and databases, and by using more traditional bibliographic finding tools.

History of electronic resources
  • 1st online databases developed for use by end-users, but most end-users unwilling to take time to learn search language required
  • Most searching done by trained searchers/librarians on behalf of others
  • Charged on a per search basis typically based on time spent online + additional charges for displaying/printing the records
  • 1982 Knowledge Index (Dialog), After Dark (BRS) introduced
    • Menu rather than command driven
    • Marketed to end-users
    • Fewer databases and features but lower pricing
  • 1980s introduction of CD-ROM databases in libraries
  • use of CD-ROM searching skyrocketed, dial-up information services steadily declined
  • 1990s development and expansion of World Wide Web
It should be noted Dialog is generally not used in libraries, whereas databases are. Dialog can be found in special libraries, where they are quick and specific, and the service keeps reinventing itself.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


From: Herron, Nancy L. The Social Sciences: A Cross Disciplinary Guide to Selected Sources, 3rd ed. Greenwood Village, Colo. : Libraries Unlimited, 2002. pp. 395-96.
Joanne M. Perry
Based upon an essay by Karl Proehl

Although the common perception of geography is that it is merely a collection of place names and lists of products or recounting of explorers’ adventures, it is important to understand what geography is all about. Geography is the study of the Earth and all that is upon it, but it focuses on the significance of location, distribution, and subsequent patterns of identifiable phenomena. The research compares and contrasts differences from place to place and associates patterns of one particular phenomenon to other patterns within the area. The essence of geography, then, lies in the importance of places and regions, and the interconnections among places and regions. 1
Gilbert Grosvenor, chairman of the board and former president of the National Geographic Society, wrote: 
Geography deals with the physical and cultural realities of the world. It helps us to understand the varied and complex environments of the Earth. It gives meaning to location and establishes a context for understanding the connections of places. 2
Grosvenor added that an understanding of the significance of location and place is important; otherwise the consequences of human activities within the physical environment is lessened. Geography provides a frame of reference. It explores, describes, analyzes, and interprets the imprint and the processes of human activities on the land. 
Novelist and former social studies teacher, the late James Michener, noted:
The more I work in the social studies field the more convinced I become that geography is the foundation of all … When I begin work on a new area … I invariably start with the best geography I can find. This takes precedence over everything else, even history, because I need to ground myself in the fundamentals which have governed and in a sense limited human development … The virtue of the geographical approach is that it forces the reader to relate to man to his environment … It gives a solid footing to speculation and it remind the reader that he is dealing with real human beings who are just as circumscribed as he. 3 
Geography, as an interdisciplinary field of study has an interest in both the physical and cultural worlds. Although geography’s physical side is not specifically covered in this chapter, most of the items cited will cover the entire discipline, not just the study of human activity of Earth […] is the focus of geography as a social science. 
During the twentieth century a number of fundamental themes evolved within geography. A traditional definition of the discipline is given in the essay “Geography” by Norton Ginsburg found in A Reader’s Guide to the Social Sciences (A-1). In the new two-volume edition, published in December 2000, the geography chapter has been radically rewritten with essays that focus on feminist geography, geographical information systems, residential segregation and urban social geography and human geography. Geographers also point to a presentation by William Pattinson entitled “The Four Traditions of Geography” as a help in defining the discipline. 4 It is also traditional for the current president of the Association of American Geographers to present a presidential address that defends the nature and state of the discipline, which is then published in the Annals of the AAG. 
Regional and systematic geography
Within the social sciences the study of geography is divided into regional geography and systematic geography. The regional approach has traditionally formed the core of geography and reform its essential character.
5 The main purpose of regional studies is to concentrate on the geography character of areas and to focus on critical distinctive features. Regional studies usually include a number of topics: location, natural environment, population, political status, type of economy, internal arrangement and organization, external connections and relationships, characteristic landscapes and their origin, world importance, potentialities, and problems. 6
Alternatively, systematic geography is focused on the phenomenon and how it is spatially distributed. Systematic geography experienced significant growth during the twentieth century, research interests splitting off from each other as geographers became increasingly specialized. For instance, the main subfield, human geography, was subdivided into cultural, economic, historical, political, population, and urban geography.

Monday, April 14, 2014


“Without geography, you’re nowhere.”

Jimmy Buffett
“Anyone who believes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach flunked geography.”
Robert Byrne (U.S. writer and billiards champion player)

“The science concerned with the description of the earth’s surface; its form and physical features, its natural and political subdivisions, and its climate, products, and population.”

Gates, Jean Key. Guide to the Use of Libraries and Information Sources. 7th ed.
  • Systematic: concerned with individual physical and cultural elements of the earth
    • Physical geography includes geomorphology, climatology, biogeography, soils geography, hydrography, oceanography, cartography
    • Cultural/human geography includes economic geography, political geography, military geography, ethnography, historical geography, urban geography, demography, linguistic geography
  • Regional: concerns the differences and similarities among the various regions of the earth; seeks explanations for the variety among places by studying the special combination of features that distinguish these places
    • The objective of the regional geography is to account for the physical and cultural landscape of certain unified areas, e.g. Manitoba’s Physical and Human Environments, Canada’s Physical and Human Environments, Regional Geography of Africa: Study of physical and future of the nations in Africa
  • General reference
    • usually a small scale map covering a large area
  • Topographic
    • portrays shape and elevation of terrain
  • Thematic (subject), e.g.,
    • aeronautical charts, census tract maps, historical maps, land-use maps, population maps, soil maps, weather maps, etc.
  • Photoimage
    • aerial photograph/satellite image with map symbols added
Online sites
Library and Archives Canada: Maps, Charts and Architectural Plans

Monday, April 7, 2014


FROM: Herron, Nancy L. The Social Sciences: A Cross disciplinary guide to selected sources, 3rd ed. Greenwood Village, Colo. : Libraries unlimited, 2002. pp. 173-75.
Daniel Mack

History has always been difficult both to define and to classify. In general, history can be said to be the study of humanity’s past. This definition is broad and unfocused, and for those very reasons is perhaps the best possible definition, as it reflects the range and scope of history as a discipline. This goes hand in hand with the difficulty in classifying history as a discipline. In this book we are classifying history as one of the social sciences, along with business, economics, and psychology. Such classification is valid but is not universal. Many texts, institutions, and scholars consider history to be one of the humanities. This viewpoint approaches history as being methodologically similar to the study of literature or philosophy. Both points of view have merit, and the researcher should keep both in mind when researching historical topics.

As an academic discipline, history is rapidly changing, for a number of reasons. Advances in technology have greatly increased both the discovery and the transmission of historical sources, while methodological paradigms continue to challenge the various interpretations of those sources. At the heart of these changes stand the very meaning of “history” as a field of inquiry. Now more than ever, librarians who deal with history need a firm understanding not only of the sources available to the historian but also of the practice of historical research and of the methodological processes by which historical materials are examined.

Historiography, or “the history of history,” deals with the way in which history has been treated as a field of inquiry in the past. Since there exist a number of good, general introductions to the development of history, we trace only some general, overall patterns in the progress of historical thought from antiquity to the present. For a more comprehensive discussion of the development of historical thought, an excellent introduction to the topic can be found in Alun Munslow’s The Routledge Companion to Historical Studies (Routledge, 2000).

History as it is generally understood in contemporary Western society is a relatively recent discipline. Most ancient civilizations did not write what we would define as history. The Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, and other peoples of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East kept such records as king lists and temple records. These documents, however, did not include the analysis that distinguishes modern historical practice. The Greeks were the first to write history as we know it. In the fifth century b.c.e., Herodotous and Thucydides wrote histories that are still read and studied today. Other Greek and Roman authors wrote historical texts as well, including such figures as Julius Caesar, Livy, and Tacitus.

For the Greek and Latin historians, history was a form of literature rather than a discipline in its own right. The tone of these authors is usually didactic; they tell a story to prove a point or to teach a lesson. The purpose might be political, as it was for Caesar; or moral, as it was for Livy. The purpose of writing history, therefore, was similar to that of writing drama, poetry, or philosophy: to use past events to learn about the human condition.

Medieval historians continued the work of their predecessors. The Catholic Church often became the guardian of historical records throughout the Western world, and members of its clergy, such as Bede and Einhard, were some of the major historians of the Middle Ages. The ancient practice of keeping annals, or yearly lists of important events, sometimes expanded to the writing of true historical chronicles, in which events were not merely listed but were examined within the context of the writer’s social and cultural order. In the Renaissance, the recovery of Greek and Latin texts, both historical and otherwise, influenced historians such as Guiccardini and Machiavelli. Renewed interest in classical antiquity also influenced the development of the auxiliary sciences of history, such as archaeology, epigraphy, and numismatics. Scholars such as Biondo and Francini recorded the material culture of the past as it was brought to light.

It was during the Enlightment and the nineteenth century that history, as we generally use the term today, developed as an academic pursuit in its own right. The humanism of the Renaissance collided with the rising nationalism of Western Europe and the naturalism of the newly developing physical sciences. Historians sought to duplicate within their discipline the sense of causality found in physics, chemistry, and other new fields of inquiry. Besides writing narrative history, scholars began to publish works analyzing specific problems in historical research. Along with this came increasing specialization, as historians focused on the history of specific peoples, geographic areas, disciplines, and groups. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially, individual schools of historical research came into prominence. For example, the annals historians of early- and mid-twentieth century France were heavily influenced by the dialectical materialism of Marx, focusing on the economic and social aspects of history. In the later twentieth century, feminist and gender studies had a great impact on historical research.

The most recent phenomenon to have an impact on historical research is postmodernism. Appearing initially in studies of art and architecture, during the second half of the twentieth century, postmodernism invaded literary theory, the humanities, and the social sciences, and can now be found in nearly every area of academic inquiry. Definitions of the term and its scope differ, and there exist many forms of postmodern thought. In general, however, the postmodern view can be characterized by several traits: a rejection of objectivity, the denial of the existence of eternal truth, and the refutation of a reality external to the individual. For some historians, such as Keith Windschuttle, postmodern theory is completely destroying history as an academic discipline. 1 For other scholars, including Alun Munslow, postmodern theory is a valid methodological tool, and a natural progression from the schools of thought of the past. 2

For students, librarians, and historians in the twenty-first century, a number of developments are important when practicing historical research. First, one must be aware of the ever-increasing interdisciplinary trend that is occurring in all of the social sciences, and the humanities as well. Second, specialization in historical research continues to evolve. Whether by time period; geographical area; ethnic, racial, or social group; or some other focus, historical writing continues its trend toward specialization. Along with this goes the history of various identity groups, such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. Third, recent developments in theory and method require the researcher to have a basic understanding of these new trends. Postmodernism, feminist theory, and other intellectual trends will continue to have an enormous impact on historical research and writing. Finally, and perhaps most important of all in the long run, are the new technologies available to the historian. Computers and the Internet provide both basic research tools and venues for the dissemination of research. The World Wide Web makes available huge collections of primary sources that were once accessible only to those who could afford to spend the time and money required to travel to the location of such sources. E-mail and discussion groups allow rapid scholarly communication. Emerging trends in digital publication offer exciting new avenues of multimedia publication that can reach worldwide audiences.