Archive for November, 2008

I have a guilty pleasure. I love children’s literature; the older, the better. There are some wonderful digital collections online and you will find treasures there. The New York Public Library has an excellent collection of children’s literature links (full-text sites and sceondary literature). Of particular note in its historical children’s lit section is the full text collection at the University of Florida. The Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s literature (BLHC) is simply wonderful. I found books there that my mother had read as a child and, because she had saved many of them, I also read them as a child. One of the reasons I like these older works is that I so love the illustrations in them. Here are some examples from books held in UF’s Special Collections and digitized by them:Beauty and the Beast, ca. 1880




These two are from one of several different versions of Beauty and the Beast that are available.





Here is an illustration from a book that may sound familiar: Sara Crewe, or, What happened at Miss Minchin’s :


This book was also published under the title: The Little Princess. Indeed, a movie (more than once) has been made of it. Can you recall which famous child star played Sara? 

Of course, I found many more titles I had never heard of. One such that caught my attention is called Strangers from the South and Other Stories (ca 1877).  kiddy-lit3-strangers-from-the-south-and-other-stories

It illustrates nicely one problem that we do need to keep in mind– these books reflect the attitudes and beliefs of their era which are not always acceptable to us anymore. This one is a good example of that.

There are other sites that contain classic children’s literature and many of these are found listed at the New York Public Library site. Nineteenth-Century Children and What They Read has a small collection (scroll down to get to the list of texts) of mostly pre 1850 titles. children’sbooksonline.org is another wonderful site

Aesop’s Fables are available and some have audio.

American Folklore, despite its name, has everything; and some of it has audio. There are holiday stories, tall tales, nursery rhymes, and much more.

Finally, the Fairrosa Cyber Library of Children’s literature has a very nice collection of classics, fairy and folk tales and more. Some are plain text; others are HTML. Unfortunately, the site does not appear to be as well maintained as one would like. I noted several broken links, which is always annoying. 


I would be very interested to hear, if any of you find an old forgotten favorite.


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In this installment of interesting library sites, I thought we might look at what other libraries are doing internationally.

The Online Gallery of the British Library has to be seen to be believed. In the category Sacred, for example, there are the objects and pictures themselves, but also 78 texts that can be read and searched. The Library uses a Shockwave plugin called Turning the Pages™, to allow viewers to leaf through some of the featured texts. There are searchable maps, video, audio and interactive features that make exploring just this section of their web site an all day affair.
Lambeth Palace Library is, according to its website, “the historic library of the Archbishops of Canterbury and the principal library and record office for the history of the Church of England. The Library focuses on ecclesiastical history, but its rich collections are important for an immense variety of topics from the history of art and architecture to colonial and Commonwealth history, and for innumerable aspects of English social, political and economic history. It is also a significant resource for local history and genealogy”.


Mary, Queen of Scots

What will you find at the Lambeth Palace Library? Well, it recently acquired a contemporary copy of the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots (the original went missing, apparently, not long after her execution). The library also recently obtained 26 sermons by Robert Pullen. Well, ok. What is so special about that? Lots of our libraries have sermon collections. However, not very many have manuscripts of sermons dating to the 12th century. According to the Library’s website Pullen died in 1146 and is noted for being one of the first recorded lecturers at Oxford and for being the first English Cardinal.

Next stop, Sweden. I have seen maps of the university on web pages before but Uppsala Universitet has an unusually interesting map of its departmental libraries. If you put your cursor over one of the numbers on the map, a picture of the library appears (and the buildings are rather impressive).

 If you then click on the name of the branch in the sidebar, full information about the library appears (URL, contact information, address) as well as a map which one can zoom in on or zoom out of to more precisely locate the library. Like many international libraries, the home page does have an option for the user to choose English, although one may not find that every page available in English.

American University at Bulgaria

American University at Bulgaria

The American University in Bulgaria has an interesting selection of links on its top page. One of them takes theuser to a list of the three most popular daily newspapers online (Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times) and indicates which database to find them in. 

Another link takes the user to a list of the 5 most read books from Ebrary. There is a link to eBrary in the list of databases in the sidebar on the right.  


The Universität St. Gallen (Switzerland) includes the holdings of twenty five other libraries in its catalog. For that reason, it gives location information for any item that a search retrieves. Next to the call number (labelled “Library”), you will find an information icon. When you click on it, a window opens with full information about the library.

Another feature that I find quite amazing is something called Media Scout. On some items, an icon indicates that Media Scout is available. If one clicks on it, up pops a floor plan which allows the user to precisely determine where the desired item is. This is what turned up when I clicked on the location of a book by Friedrich Schiller. Unfortunately, the navigational aids could not be captured.

Floor plan showing the location of the German literature collection

Floor plan showing the location of the German literature collection

It is possible to click on a “3D” view of the plan. In both cases, if you place your cursor anywhere on the map, you will get a description of exactly what is shelved in that particular place, eg. “newspapers 10 years old or older”.

If you would like to try this out, you might do the same search I did. I looked for “Schiller, Friedrich von”.  I then chose Philosophische Schriften / hrsg. von Benno von Wiese. Click on the first of the three locations listed. 

I used Libweb, of course, to locate libraries to visit. You might enjoy visiting libraries in countries of particular interest to you!

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Well, OK. That’s a bit hyperbolic. But a piece in the Globe over the weekend, Group Think, got around to noticing a phenomenon I wrote about a while back. Essentially, the ease of doing research online is actually limiting the scope of scholarly research to that which can be found only in the targeted search and it misses older research that may very well be relevant:

This study adds weight to concerns, shared by other Internet analysts, that the rise of online research has costs as well as benefits. Internet search tools are not neutral: they tend to privilege the new and the popular. And for all the frustrations of older research methods, their very inefficiency may have yielded rewards. Leafing through print journals or browsing the stacks can expose researchers to a context that is missing in the highly targeted searches of PubMed or PsychInfo. The old-fashioned style of browsing, some say, can provide academics with more background knowledge, and lead to serendipitous insights when they stumble upon articles or books they weren’t necessarily looking for.  

This article and the Science Magazine article on the subject to which I linked in an earlier post are well-worth reading.

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Our current economic situation is taking its toll on cities and business everywhere. The Philadelphia News reports that the city is closing 11 branch libraries, even though the citizens are protesting the move. One older man interviewed for the story broke down in tears talking about the closure of the library he grew up with (Holmesberg Library).

The Holmesberg Library is one of eleven being closed by the city of Philadelphia

The Holmesberg Library is one of eleven being closed by the city of Philadelphia

There is film of his interview but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. I fear we will see much more of this in the coming months as cities struggle to cope with economic reality.

A story in the Philadelphia Inquirer is very sympathetic to the protesters and notes that these neighborhood libraries are not just repositories for books but “community hubs” that serve children and the poor. The author reviews the role Andrew Carnegie played in giving Philadelphia 25 libraries and notes that 4 of the original 25 are among those being closed.

Libraries are important. I think we sometimes don’t realize that the community knows how valuable they are. The citizens of Philadelphia certainly know it and are making their views known.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education has a great article on the role librarians are playing to help researchers find their way through the maze of copyright law:

 Where can researchers find a guide to lead them through this 21st-century obstacle course?

The library, of course.

More institutions are creating or beefing up offices and programs in scholarly communication or hiring librarians with expertise in copyright and intellectual property. 

The variety of roles librarians are playing is quite remarkable. At Brown, that includes making sure that authors are aware of their various publication options and the associated costs:

Before he has that conversation [the cost of various publication options] with authors, Mr. Stern does the math. “We recommend that they select the highest-quality journal with the largest distribution, which is what they want,” he says. But some journals charge higher authors’ fees or have pricier subscription models than the university feels it can pay for. For instance, Mr. Stern ran the numbers and concluded that the library should not subsidize the Public Library of Science, an open-access science-publishing project that sustains its journals by charging authors (or their employers) $1,300 per article; it offers institutional memberships that reduce those fees. “We strongly support the idea of open access,” Mr. Stern says. “We just have a problem with that particular business model.”

Recommended reading!

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I found a lovely essay, Of Bibliophilia and Biblioclasm, by Theodore Dalrymple (whom I always enjoy reading) in the New English Review. It is a meditation on the pleasures of used books, the joy of discovering unknown treasures in used bookshops and much more.  Of one of his finds, he writes: 

One of my treasured books is a little classic of which I should never even have heard had I not browsed in so many bookshops. It is William Blades’ The Enemies of Books, first published in 1880. The frontispiece is an engraving of John Bagford, described as ‘shoemaker and biblioclast,’ and another of the delightful pictures is of a furtive charwoman feeding pages of a Caxton Bible to feed a fire. The enemies of books are ranged in chapters in a great chain of being: first come inanimate forces such as fire and water, rising to the lower animals such as bookworms and other vermin, and finally rising to the pinnacle of biblioclasm, that is to say the conscious book-destroyers, the bookbinders and book collectors. … Now William Blades was a civilised man who loved books and knew that one never really owned books: one was their trustee.

I have loved used books and bookstores since childhood. In fact, my mother and I used to haunt Haslam’s Bookstore (St. Petersburg, Fla.)  which was enormous, or so I believed as a child. I googled it just now, expecting to learn that it no longer existed. Not only does it still exist, it has thrived (it has grown to 30,000 square feet with over 300,000 (new and used) books, according to its website). As if that weren’t cool enough, there is also a history page upon which I found a picture of the store.

This is the store that nourished my love of books

This is the store that nourished my love of books

Thanks to Google, I have learned that all the second hand bookstores that I have loved over the years are still going strong.

So while Dalrymple mourns the passing of such shops in England, my experience suggests that they are not in any obvious danger here. Or so I hope!

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We’ve Been Discovered!

Shortly after posting the Mr. Bean video, I happened to check the stats for this blog and was dumbfounded to see that Mr. Bean had been “hit” 16 times (we are now up to 24) and from the same referrer– alphainventions.com

What is alphainventions.com?  Well, even its inventor has some trouble describing it.  His site captures blogs as they are updated in real time, giving readers (primarily other bloggers) not only the ability to see the latest post in real time but to click and go to the blog itself. The designer (inventor? Mad genius?) is a 20 something year-old who seems like a nice young man with a fair bit of time on his hands, apparently. In any case, if we are now on display to the world, I suppose I am going to have to watch my grammar and spelling…

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