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Archive for October, 2007

So WHAT if you know all the answers? A cautionary tale in information seeking behavior among older teens:

Interview with high-school junior Jane Doe about general and specific “information seeking behavior” at an urban public library. Place: Quincy, Massacusetts.

Demographics: Like 80% of Quincy residents, Jane Doe is white. At $50,000 dollars a year, her family is median income. Like 49% of the City population, the Does own their own home. Jane is a (self-described) representative of Quincy students who use the public library for recreational reading and for research assignments. Jane has a part time job as food server.

General Library use:
Jane Doe uses the Thomas Crane library or one of its branches about once every two weeks. The last time she used the library was last week, when she logged onto the library databases from her home to see if she could find a newspaper article about the Quincy Tide Mill. That database query was unusual.

“Mostly,” she said, “I go to the Library just for pleasure. I like to check out the new books-detective and romance fiction. Sometimes the poetry section. I like the magazines.” Jane will also browse through the collections of CDs and DVDs, “but,” she said, “I would never go into the Library to seek out a CD or DVD. They don’t have what you’d call a sprawling collection of the kind of music I like.” (rock and alternative).

When it comes to books or research, it’s a different story. The public library is the first stop if Jane wants or needs a specific book, or information from books on a specific topic. “I can almost always find what I am looking for. The computers [OPACS] are easy to use. I usually know the title or author or a keyword. Once I find a call number I generally browse in that area [of the stacks].”

Did she find the newspaper article she was looking for in the databases? No. “I don’t really like databases,” Jane said. “They seem like they’d be more helpful than they really are.” Keyword searches “are like a shot in the dark. If I search on the Internet, I get something specific, but the databases are full of essays and articles that seem really tangential. I have a lot of homework. I don’t have time to like, read fifteen articles just so I can find maybe 15 sentences I could even use.”

The one library service Jane doesn’t use is the Reference Department. In fact, this high-schooler did not make a distinction between the staff at the Library circulation desk and the reference librarians in the department one floor above circulation. To her-everyone on the staff is a “Librarian”.

“Sometimes librarians can be kind of bitchy,” she said. “Like that horrible woman at [branch library] who told us we couldn’t sit at a table because the table was for adults and there weren’t even any adults in the Library.” Jane does not seem to take this personally. Overall, she wouldn’t say librarians are particularly friendly-or unfriendly. Patrons her age, she said, ‘get looked at as a nuisance or something right off the bat. No matter WHAT you’re doing, it’s like you could be told not to do something at any moment.”

Jane is also certain that her own information seeking skills are at least as good as those of the staff. “I know how to look up books,” she says. “Any question I could possibly ask a librarian I can do myself.” She does not generally use the library website because “if you’re using that, you’re probably looking at databases-and I’d rather just use the Internet.”

Library programs don’t appeal to Jane. “I feel like I’d be taking another class and I already take enough classes.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, Jane rates her overall satisfaction with the Library a 10. “I’m perfectly satisfied,” she said. “It usually has the book I’m looking for. If I can’t find it, I can get it from another library.” She rates her satisfaction with Library staff at 7-8. “I don’t need much help,” she says. As for the databases—they get a 4. Jane says she never uses her school library: “Not even to hang out.”

Jane’s Specific search: School assignment: Write a paper about the interaction between northeastern Indian tribes and the early settlers.
Jane didn’t like this topic. “It just seemed stupid. Like didn’t we do that in elementary school?” She came to the Library and spent about two hours researching the question. First, she used the OPACs to find print material. “I looked up books about Indian culture,” she said. “Most of them were obnoxiously outdated. Maybe not in the information, but the way they were written.”

Did you go to the reference department? I asked. And look for or ask for any bibliographies on your topic? Jane did not ask any reference librarians for help; nor did she use the reference collection. “I was pretty sure there was nothing librarians could do that I couldn’t. And I’d rather do it at my own pace. Sometimes when you ask a question, they act annoyed or like you’re really stupid.”

Jane did try to use the databases. “I found some abstracts,” she said. “But there was too much stuff.” When she used Google, she said she had better luck: “You type in a series of words-like Indians and settlers and culture, and you get something that relates to what you’re looking for. Then you can narrow it down. It’s more specific.”

Jane said she felt frustrated both with the assignment (“which wasn’t the Library’s fault”), and the variety of sources she found at the Library. “I knew I needed book stuff,” she said, “but mostly I got my information off the Internet.” According to Jane, she read a “couple sets of facts” then “sort of made up some conclusion.”

But the library trip was worth it: “I had plenty of book titles to put in my bibliography.”

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Jessie’s Step by Step:
Finding 8-10 Journals in English Literature for academic and larger public libraries.

First, I procrastinated because I am scared of Reference Inquiries.

Second, I had to decide whether “English Literature” meant journals about works in English written by British writers, or journals about works in English-period.

Doesn’t matter if the writer falls– for example– into the American Literature subcategory. Britannica and Columbia encyclopedias say: English equals British only. Wikipedia, and the mix of articles in various literary magazines I browsed at Simmons’ Library, suggest that English Literature is something of a mash-up–with emphasis on British and American writers.

But I had that cheat sheet from class—about how to look up titles of English Literature journals in Balay and Walford. I figured if I could just FIND Balay and Walford, my presentation would spring fully formed out of those pages.

The best laid plans and all that.

Walford (the big red book) and Balay (the dog-eared blue book) have plenty of listings for print resources on English Literature. Everything from language to quotations and criticism and collections, all broken down by geographical area. But neither has much on periodicals.

Cited in WalfordBritish Literary Magazine by A Sullivan turned out to be a multi volume reference work profiling the most influential British magazines from the Edwardian period through the Modern Age. American Literary Magazines by Chielens is a history of American Literary Magazines.

Fascinating-I’m sure, but neither was what I was looking for: a recommended acquisition list, with descriptive critiques, of English literature journals for an academic or public library.

Enter The Oxford Guide to Library Research by Thomas Mann: “To find out which periodicals are considered the best or most important in their subject fields, use [Bowker’s] Magazines for Libraries, [compiled by Cheryl LaGuardia].” ($240)

Before leaving Walford and Balay— let me say I did not take Allen’s Reference course. If I had, I probably would have been able to find the information I was looking for in those two sources. Or I would have been able to use them more effectively as a starting point. If at the end of this, anyone can tell me where I went wrong, or how I might have used those books differently–I’d appreciate it.

That said–Simmons has the latest copy of Magazines for Libraries. My list of more like 14 publications is taken directly from the 2007 15th edition.

Magazines seems like a good reference tool. It provides you a list of basic periodicals and basic indexes and abstracts for academic libraries. These core recommendations are followed by short reviews and descriptions of those and other titles, along with notes on which journals are available in the Big Three full text online services: Jstor, Project Muse, or Literature online.

As for what constitutes “English Literature”: “Most journals listed here cover literature in the English language and world literatures in translation, with literature from the US and Great Britain most generously represented.”

Magazines offers you subject alternative headings like Africa: African American; Fiction: Europe, if you want to look up magazines with a different focus. Each of the journals in this Literature section focus on criticism, interpretation, and analysis of literary works.

Not included: Journals devoted to individual writers, Like Shakespeare and Chaucer. According to Magazines, narrow focus journals are best selected based on the needs and audience of a particular library.

Magazines also lists several electronic-only journals. I’ve included a few of these with links to the websites. Since they are available online and more likely than some of these other print titles to come up in an Internet search, I am not going to describe them in any detail. Check them out if you want.

Note: I felt handicapped by the fact I could only see a few of any of these journals in the flesh so to speak. Simmons subscribes to all the “basic periodicals”, as well as many of the others included in Best Magazines. But browsing piecemeal online, even reading snippets of articles or looking at tables of contents-it’s like the blind men trying to describe an elephant. You just don’t get the whole picture.

Top Picks: Basic Periodicals for academic libraries

“American Literature”
Quarterly Academic Journal
Duke University Press
Description: Features articles dealing with American literature, writers and poets, book reviews and lists of recently published books dealing with literary criticism.
Publisher URL: http://dukeupress.edu/journals/index.shtml
Review: “Major journal in its field. Scope is broad, covering all time periods and genres. A valuable and respected Journal for larger academic and public libraries.”

“Comparative Literature”
Urbana, University of Illinois Press
Available at Simmons in periodical format only; in library use
Review: “CL is the official journal of the the American Comparative Literature Association, and is the oldest US journal in the area of comparative literature. Addresses important issues of literary history, the history of ideas, critical theory, and literary links between authors within and beyond the western tradition.”

“Contemporary Literature”
Periodicals as well as eJournal.
From Project Muse:
“…published the first articles on Thomas Pynchon and Susan Howe, and the first interviews with Margaret Drabble and Don DeLillo. Where will the field go next? Contemporary Literature leads the way with in-depth interviews with significant writers, broad-ranging articles written by leaders in the field and book reviews of important critical studies.
Review: “Articles tend to emphasize the relationships of texts to historical, cultural, or theoretical contexts...An important journal for larger academic and public libraries.”

“Essays in Criticism”
EJournal
Publisher: Oxford University Press
From Project Muse:
“…Founded in 1951, by F. W. Bateson, Essays in Criticism soon achieved world-wide circulation, and is today regarded as one of Britain’s most distinguished journals of literary criticism. Essays in Criticism covers the whole field of English Literature from the time of Chaucer to the present day. The journal maintains that originality in interpretation must be allied to the best scholarly standards. Moreover, whilst always pursuing new directions and responding to new developments, Essays in Criticism has kept a balance between the constructive and the sceptical, giving the journal particular value at a time when criticism has become so diversified. In addition to the articles, Essays in Criticism has lengthy and searching book reviews, and the ‘Critical Opinion’ section offers topical discussion on a wide range of literary issues.
Review: “An essential journal for academic libraries; and excellent choice for larger public libraries.”

“Modern Fiction Studies”
Ejournal
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
From Project Muse:
“..Modern Fiction Studies publishes engaging articles on prominent works of modern and contemporary fiction. Emphasizing historical, theoretical, and interdisciplinary approaches, the journal encourages a dialogue between fiction and theory, publishing work that offers new theoretical insights, clarity of style, and completeness of argument. Modern Fiction Studies alternates general issues dealing with a wide range of texts with special issues focused on single topics or individual writers. Recent special issues have included “Working-Class Fiction” (Spring 2001), “Gothic and Modernism” (Fall 2000), and “South African Fiction after Apartheid” (Spring 2000)
Review: “This well respected journal focuses on analysis of prominent works of modern and contemporary fiction. This is a major journal in the field, and it is recommended for all academic and larger public libraries.”

“Nineteenth Century Literature”
EJournal
Publisher University of California Press
From JStor:
“…Scholars of literary history and theory turn to Nineteenth-Century Literature for the newest research and thought on all English-language writers of the nineteenth century. First published in 1945 as “The Trollopian”, and later as “Nineteenth-Century Fiction”, the journal has earned a legendary reputation for innovative scholarship, scrupulous editing, and distinguished book reviews. Articles focus on a broad spectrum of significant figures in fiction, philosophy, and criticism such as Austen, Carlyle, Dickens, Thackeray, the Brontes, Tennyson, Browning, Arnold, Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Whitman, Twain, and Henry James. Every issue offers 150 pages of important articles, a convenient section of article abstracts, review essays, and an annotated bibliography of recent books published in the field of nineteenth-century literature.
Review: “Each issue contains four or five articles of approximately 20 pages. A solid journal, NCL is recommended for medium and large academic libraries as well as public libraries with strong literature collections.”

Publication of the Modern Language Association or “PMLA

Periodical and EJournal
Publisher MLA
Published 6 times a year.

Sample table of contents:
449 From Work to Conversation: Writing and Citizenship in a Global Age
Reinaldo Laddaga
464 “Your Alabaster in This Porcelain”: Judith Gautier’s Le livre de jade
Pauline Yu
483 “Have You Ever Seen a Shrunken Head?”: The Early Modern Roots of Ecstatic Truth in Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo
Richard John Ascárate
502 The Ethics and Practice of Lemony Snicket: Adolescence and Generation X
Laurie Langbauer
522 Allusion
Gregory Machacek–the changing profession
537 The Entangled Self: Genre Bondage in the Age of the Memoir
Nancy K. Miller
549 On the Horizontal: Women Writing on Writing Women
Mary Ann Caws
558 What Is New Formalism?
Marjorie Levinson

Review: “An important journal that strives to publish articles of interest to scholars and teachers of literature and language. PMLA is known for its rigorous editorial standards, and it is one of the most frequently cited journals in its field. Core journal. Recommended for all libraries.”

“The Review of Contemporary Fiction”
Publisher Illinois State University
Periodicals
E-resource
From LION:
“…The Review of Contemporary Fiction publishes overview essays on the careers and work of innovative contemporary fiction writers, especially those who have received little scholarly attention.
Review: “Each issue focuses on an author or group of authors and includes interviews, excerpts from works in progress, critical essays, and bibliographies. This is a rich and multi-textured journal that should reach a wide audience in both academic and public libraries.

“Speculum”
Publisher: Medieval Academy of America
EJournal
From JStor:
“…Speculum is the oldest U.S. journal devoted exclusively to the Middle Ages. The chronological boundaries of the medieval period are defined as approximately A.D. 500-1500. The primary geographic focus of the journal is on Western Europe, but Byzantine, Hebrew, Arabic, and Slavic studies are also included. There are no restrictions as to subject matter: the journal publishes articles and book reviews on any and all aspects of the Middle Ages, including art, history, literature, philosophy and theology, music, science, law, and economics. All scholarly methodologies and approaches are welcome.
Review: “Approximately four 20-30 page essays appear in every issue, but the bulk of each issue is the many succinct but rigorous book reviews. Well known for the quality of its articles, this journal is important for academic and public libraries that support the study of medieval literature and culture.”

“Studies in English Literature 1500-1900”
Publisher: John Hopkins University Press
EJournal
From Project Muse:
“…SEL focuses on four fields of British literature in rotating, quarterly issues: English Renaissance, Tudor and Stuart Drama, Restoration and Eighteenth Century, and Nineteenth Century. The editors select learned, readable papers that contribute significantly to the understanding of British literature from 1500 to 1900. SEL is well known for the commissioned omnibus review of recent studies in the field that is included in each issue. In a single volume, readers might find an argument for attributing a previously unknown work to Shakespeare or de-attributing a famous work from Milton, a study of the connections between class and genre in the Restoration Theater, an interdisciplinary exploration of the art of the miniature and Fielding’ s novels, or a theoretical exposition of the “material sublime” in Romantic poetry written by women.
Review: “Each issue has a focus: articles in the winter issue look at the English Renaissance, articles in the spring issue look at Tudor and Stuart Drama, articles in the summer issue are about the Restoration and the 18th century, and articles in the autumn issue cover the 19th century. The journal is known for publishing engaging, accessible articles by both seasoned scholars and younger faculty and graduate students.

“Victorian Studies”
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Periodicals
EJournal
From Project Muse:
“…Victorian Studies, which began publication in 1956, is devoted to the study of English culture of the Victorian period. It includes interdisciplinary articles on comparative literature, social and political history, and the histories of education, philosophy, fine arts, economics, law, and science.
Review: A ” first rate quarterly journal. Most issues will contain three or four major essays (25-35 pages), a “Comments and Queries” section, and notes on contributors. The Journal is particularly strong on book reviews, and genrally includes reviews of 20-30 titles. An indispensable journal, recommended for all academic and larger public libraries.”

“World Literature Today”
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Quarterly
Periodicals
EJournal
From LION:
“…The journal is now in its seventy-seventh year of uninterrupted publication, the second-oldest such literary periodical in the United States, with every intention of continuing its proven mission to serve students, writers, and general readers. World Literature Today brings you the whole world in each issue. It has interviews and original poetry and fiction from around the globe, lively essays on writers and regional trends, authors on books that changed their lives, travel writing, a column on children’s literature, and coverage of controversies and conferences.
Review: “..continues to be the best in the field in covering literature and criticism of contemporary writing around the globe. Issues have a bout a dozen articles, including critical essays on adult and children’s literature, fiction, poetry, travel essays, interviews with writers, and reviews. The full coverage print version is a must for academic and large public libraries.”

Sample Cover and Table of Contents July/August 2007:

In addition to these titles, I’ve listed a few other journals that did not make this first cut, but are recommended for larger public libraries.

ARIEL: Formerly Review of English Literature
Publisher: University of Calgary
Refereed and indexed
Audience Academic, but recommended as “important publication for academic libraries and larger public libraries with strong literature collections.”
Review:ARIEL focuses not on traditional criticism of a single literary text, but instead has a broader outlook, exploring for example “configurations of colonial power and discourses.”

Calyx: a journal of art and literature by women
Audience: general and academic
Indexed
Review: “This long established literary review is known for publishing high quality work and for nurturing and developing writers (eg Barbara Kingsolver, and Julia Alvarez.) Received 1998 Pushcart Prize.”

ELH (English Literary History)
Johns Hopkins University Press
Available online
Indexed
Review: “A long time standard in the field, ELH focuses primarily on major works of English and American Literature with an emphasis on the Renaissance through the 19th century. An indispensable, if traditional, journal for academic and larger public libraries.”

English Literary Renaissance
Tri quarterly
Review and Claim to Fame: “Produced at the University of Massachusetts and is well respected for its articles on Tudor and early Stuart literature. Suitable for medium-sized and larger academic libraries.”

Journal of Modern Literature
Project Muse: “More than 20 years after its founding, it remains the most important scholarly journal in its field. In recent years, its coverage has expanded to include contemporary writing as well as literature other than English and American, and it now addresses all literature written in the 20th century.”
Review: “The journal of record for modern literature, JML is essential for all academic and public libraries.”

Modern Language Review
At Simmons as periodical and online resource
From IngentaConnect:
“All contributions are in English, and each section is edited by a noted scholar in the field, under the overall supervision of the General Editor. Articles are chosen not only for their scholarly worth and originality but also, as far as possible, for their potential interest to a wider readership in other disciplines.”
Review: “This flagship journal of the Modern Humanities Research Association, the British equivalent of the MLA, MLR focuses on medieval and modern European literature, language, culture, and cinema with occasional coverage of contemporary authors. This is one of the oldest and most respected journals in the field and is recommended for all academic libraries and larger public libraries.”

Electronic Journals:
CLC Web: a WWWeb Journal.

Review: CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, published by the Perdue University ress and the Perdue University Libraries, is a refereed quarterly that takes a broad view of comparative cultural studies. The website provides useful links to bibliographies and research materials, a directory of scholars in the field, and related web pages.

Early Modern Literary Studies: a journal of sixteenth and seventeenth century English Literature.
Review: MLS is a rich online resource for scholars of early modern English literature. A solid free online journal.

Renaissance Forum: an electronic journal of of early-modern literary and historical studies.
Review: an interdisciplinary journal that specializes in early-modern English literary and historical studies. Site offers links to resources of further interest. A respectable free journal.”

Romanticism on the Net:
Review: “Published by the university of Montreal, Romanticism on the Net is a quarterly journal devoted to Romantic studies. RoN website also includes information about and from conferences, links to associations of interest to Romanticists, and a select list of other electronic journals in the field.

___________________________

Coda: So WHAT if you know all the answers? A cautionary tale in information seeking behavior among older teens:

Interview with high-school junior Jane Doe about general and specific “information seeking behavior” at an urban public library. Place: Quincy, Massacusetts.

Disclaimer: what you are about to read is a true story.
Demographics: Like 80% of Quincy residents, Jane Doe is white. At $50,000 dollars a year, her family is median income. Like 49% of the City population, the Does own their own home. Jane is a (self-described) representative of Quincy students who use the public library for recreational reading and for research assignments. Jane has a part time job as food server.

General Library use:
Jane Doe uses the Thomas Crane library or one of its branches about once every two weeks. The last time she used the library was last week, when she logged onto the library databases from her home to see if she could find a newspaper article about the Quincy Tide Mill. That database query was unusual.

“Mostly,” she said, “I go to the Library just for pleasure. I like to check out the new books-detective and romance fiction. Sometimes the poetry section. I like the magazines.” Jane will also browse through the collections of CDs and DVDs, “but,” she said, “I would never go into the Library to seek out a CD or DVD. They don’t have what you’d call a sprawling collection of the kind of music I like.” (rock and alternative).

When it comes to books or research, it’s a different story. The public library is the first stop if Jane wants or needs a specific book, or information from books on a specific topic. “I can almost always find what I am looking for. The computers [OPACS] are easy to use. I usually know the title or author or a keyword. Once I find a call number I generally browse in that area [of the stacks].”

Did she find the newspaper article she was looking for in the databases? No. “I don’t really like databases,” Jane said. “They seem like they’d be more helpful than they really are.” Keyword searches “are like a shot in the dark. If I search on the Internet, I get something specific, but the databases are full of essays and articles that seem really tangential. I have a lot of homework. I don’t have time to like, read fifteen articles just so I can find maybe 15 sentences I could even use.”

The one library service Jane doesn’t use is the Reference Department. In fact, this high-schooler did not make a distinction between the staff at the Library circulation desk and the reference librarians in the department one floor above circulation. To her-everyone on the staff is a “Librarian”.

“Sometimes librarians can be kind of bitchy,” she said. “Like that horrible woman at [branch library] who told us we couldn’t sit at a table because the table was for adults and there weren’t even any adults in the Library.” Jane does not seem to take this personally. Overall, she wouldn’t say librarians are particularly friendly-or unfriendly. Patrons her age, she said, ‘get looked at as a nuisance or something right off the bat. No matter WHAT you’re doing, it’s like you could be told not to do something at any moment.”

Jane is also certain that her own information seeking skills are at least as good as those of the staff. “I know how to look up books,” she says. “Any question I could possibly ask a librarian I can do myself.” She does not generally use the library website because “if you’re using that, you’re probably looking at databases-and I’d rather just use the Internet.”

Library programs don’t appeal to Jane. “I feel like I’d be taking another class and I already take enough classes.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, Jane rates her overall satisfaction with the Library a 10. “I’m perfectly satisfied,” she said. “It usually has the book I’m looking for. If I can’t find it, I can get it from another library.” She rates her satisfaction with Library staff at 7-8. “I don’t need much help,” she says. As for the databases—they get a 4. Jane says she never uses her school library: “Not even to hang out.”

Jane’s Specific search: School assignment: Write a paper about the interaction between northeastern Indian tribes and the early settlers.
Jane didn’t like this topic. “It just seemed stupid. Like didn’t we do that in elementary school?” She came to the Library and spent about two hours researching the question. First, she used the OPACs to find print material. “I looked up books about Indian culture,” she said. “Most of them were obnoxiously outdated. Maybe not in the information, but the way they were written.”

Did you go to the reference department? I asked. And look for or ask for any bibliographies on your topic? Jane did not ask any reference librarians for help; nor did she use the reference collection. “I was pretty sure there was nothing librarians could do that I couldn’t. And I’d rather do it at my own pace. Sometimes when you ask a question, they act annoyed or like you’re really stupid.”

Jane did try to use the databases. “I found some abstracts,” she said. “But there was too much stuff.” When she used Google, she said she had better luck: “You type in a series of words-like Indians and settlers and culture, and you get something that relates to what you’re looking for. Then you can narrow it down. It’s more specific.”

Jane said she felt frustrated both with the assignment (“which wasn’t the Library’s fault”), and the variety of sources she found at the Library. “I knew I needed book stuff,” she said, “but mostly I got my information off the Internet.” According to Jane, she read a “couple sets of facts” then “sort of made up some conclusion.”

But the library trip was worth it: “I had plenty of book titles to put in my bibliography.”

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