Monday, August 19, 2013

Meet Summon, our new catalog: The basics

Hello, there! I’ve come out of my long summer hibernation because there’s a big New Thing you need to know about.

This New Thing has been a long time in coming for a lot of reasons, including, well, it’s just been a complicated process getting all the parts working together.

If you go to, you’ll see it right away. No, not the new look -- I like it, myself, but as far as you’re concerned, it’s mostly cosmetic. I’m talking about Summon. It’s our new catalog, sort of.  You’ll see it named above the search box.  Below the search box, you’ll see a few options for focusing your searches, and a link to our good ol’ Classic Catalog too.

Here’s the thing about Summon: It’s big. It includes not only the usual books, DVDs, e-books, and streaming videos that we and other libraries in the Consortium offer, but also journal articles that you’d usually have to go to a database (like ProQuest, EBSCO Academic Search Complete, and PsycARTICLES) to find.

Summon is a unified search interface for most of our e-resources in addition to our usual stuff. So naturally, it runs a little differently. I thought it’d be a good idea to do a quick run-through of the basics. We’ll start with how results for books appear in Summon, then talk a little bit about journal articles.

Suppose we need to find resources on bilingual families, leaving all the default options as they are -- those are the checkboxes you see underneath the search box on our home page, some of which are already checked, and others that are blank. Here’s what comes up:

I hope you noticed that the search brought up over 60,000 results! But fear not. On the left-hand side, you can see the usual options for narrowing your search: more-specific choices for what you want to appear on the list, which institution you’re interested in (I decided not to limit it to Gallaudet’s stuff), the types of content, and so on. There are a few more options below where I cut off the screenshot, like subject terms and publication dates, but you get the idea.

The really important part is that you can see right away exactly where to find specific items: not just which institution owns each item, but also whether it’s available, what the call number is, and which library -- or part of a library -- has it. Here’s a more complete example: 

So right away, you can see that our copy is available, the call number is 404.2 G76b, 2010, and you can find it in the General Stacks, downstairs. Pretty sweet! There’s also an e-book in the list, complete with a link -- in light-blue text above -- that I clicked so you can see that it’s working. We’ll cover e-books in more detail in a later post.

In some ways, Summon’s not as complicated as it looks, because it uses a neat trick: the Classic Catalog! Yep, the old bare-bones workhorse, which you may have thought died years ago, is still around, and both the title link above and the links to all the locations below it will take you to Classic Catalog records.

Journal articles
Journal articles work a little differently. Limiting the ‘bilingual families’ search to “ … articles from scholarly publications, including peer-review’ by clicking the relevant checkbox on the left side of the following picture yields this: 


You can see the full article citation for “Learning from bilingual family literacies” -- journal name (Language Arts), publication date (09/2012), volume and issue information (Volume 90, Issue 1), and even page numbers. Before we get to the “Full Text Online” link at the bottom, which I’m sure you’re slavering over, here’s a neat feature: 


Hovering your mouse pointer over the title link will bring up a preview! This will often include an abstract, so, in this case, there’s no need to get over to the article itself to find out what it’s about.

But suppose the abstract reveals that the article is probably something you want to look at in more depth. Clicking on the “Full Text Online” link for this particular article gets this: 


In the immortal words of Emeril LaGasse: BAM. If you’ve never heard of him, look him up in Summon!

It should be noted that if you already have the full citation of the article you want to find, our article finder will probably be a better bet. Summon and the article finder (known officially as 360 Link) are sibling products from the same company. The key difference is that, as far as finding specific articles are concerned, Summon is a searchlight, while 360 Link is a laser.

Concluding thoughts
This is the part of the post where I offer the customary caution. First, Summon doesn’t provide access to all of our e-resources. Also, the Summon catalog is still very much in beta, which means we’re still working out all the bugs -- for instance, it’s not always very clear whether or not you have access to a given full-text article or e-book -- so search with patience and care. One strategy you could use is start off with Summon, gather a few titles, then switch to Classic -- -- for a clearer picture of what’s available. This works best with finding books, e-books, and films.

Another strategy, of course, is using the big, giant, red Chat With Us! button at the top of the Summon search page during regular business hours. It’ll pop up a window that looks like this: 

Which, I hope, is self-explanatory.

Above all, always remember to:
  • Be patient
  • Get in touch with us before throwing your computer out the window

Good luck, and happy searching!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Guest vlog: The First Twenty Minutes

With a pant and a wheeze, here's a vlog reviewing The First Twenty Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds! Our guest reviewer is Dr. Gwen Francavillo, a professor in our Physical Education & Recreation program!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A few new books

A number of weird software issues have held my most recent vlog back from completion, which is a shame, because it's a review of one of my sleeper favorites: Childhood's End.

Instead, I've placed it on the back-burner until those issues resolve themselves -- how 'bout an update, Apple? -- and decided to do a bunch of quickie reviews of new books. Here goes ...

Afrika Reich by Guy Saville
An alternate-universe novel in which the Second World War ended in truce rather than victory, this book explores Africa in the 1950s. Divided between British and German colonies, the continent harbors a new German threat that promises to end British supremacy. Our intrepid British hero participates in an assassination with disastrous consequences that strand him in the middle of enemy territory. It's a fairly high-concept work that delivers on tension and excitement!

Aya: Love in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie
Aya returns in the third and final installment of a graphic-novel series about her life. This series is pretty popular, probably because it's light-hearted and is an interesting look at life in 1970s Ivory Coast. Aya's grown up and is working on becoming a doctor, until a scorned professor ruins her plans. She gets to take her revenge, though, with the help of her hometown!

Bomb: The race to build and steal the world's most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin
The development of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos is one of the most fascinating stories of military technological advancement -- even more than the history of the Internet -- largely because the stakes -- and risks -- were so high and the people involved were ... well, it's tough to describe them. Put it this way: my favorite scientist of all, Richard Feynman, had an exceptionally puckish sense of humor. For example, his favorite hobby was safecracking ... in the middle of the most top-secret government facility in the world.

Extra virginity: The sublime and scandalous world of olive oil by Tom Mueller
Like dog shows and kiddie entertainers, the most innocent-seeming parts of life often conceal a seething cauldron of corruption, fraud, and deceit. This is true even of olive oil, everyone's favorite addition to toasted bread, mozzarella, tomato, and basil. It's not just knowing the difference between virgin and extra-virgin -- what about the difference between olives and canola? These are the things that matter, people!

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
One of my personal favorite recent reads, House of the Scorpion is a young-adult science-fiction novel, which is increasingly becoming a genre not to be reckoned with. Our main character lives in Opium, a new country that exists between Mexico and the United States, ruled and fueled by drug lords' agricultural pursuits. Weird enough, except he's an illegal -- and widely-hated -- clone of the richest lord of them all. That's weird enough, except his original dies, and ... well, read it. Tense, suspenseful, and jam-packed wall-to-wall with issues in bioethics, House of the Scorpion is fantastic all around.

Subliminal: How your unconscious mind rules your behavior by Leonard Mlodinow
Full disclosure: This book is on my kitchen table right now. Sorry. But I highlight it for two reasons: It's from the author of The drunkard's walk, which I briefly review here, and it's just interesting in general to see how your brain seems to have a mind of its own. Mlodinow focuses on how people make decisions, and the factors that affect those decisions without their knowledge. Drunkard's walk was about probability and how some things are considerably less -- and more -- likely than you usually think they are, and Subliminal is about all the tiny little signals that go into shaping your view of the world and how those signals can be manipulated. He's a fun guy!

That about covers it this time. Have fun browsing the stacks!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Update ... for real.

I hope everyone enjoyed that April Fool’s post, because now it’s time to bring the pain.

Just kidding! Actually, we’re long overdue for new stuff on this thing, which I admit is my fault.

First and most immediate, we’d like to announce a trial subscription to EasyBib; it’s an online citation tool similar to RefWorks.

And by “citation tool,” we really mean, “thing that does all the work for you when you have a bunch of references to cope with for your paper, project, or other academic product.” This trial expires April 25, so if you’re curious, you’ll need to hop to the following:
  • Go to while on campus.
  • Register for a free personal account. You can tell you’ve done it right if you see the Gallaudet logo.
  • Once that’s done, you can get in from off-campus with your login information.
  • Play around a little bit. Maybe take a stab at it with an actual assignment.
  • Let us know what you think. We’ve got a survey up and running.
A lot of other things that we’ve been working on are taking place behind the scenes. For instance, we’re in the process of getting some new inter-library loan software on its feet.

That doesn’t sound terribly interesting, but the immediate advantage for students, staff, and faculty is that the turnaround time required to get your requests out and the loaned items in should go down somewhat. Ideally, you wouldn’t notice much of a change from the way we already do it, but the truth is, a lot of work had to happen in order to get your requests out there and taken care of as quickly as possible. It saves you time and us a lot of work!

Speaking of lengthy implementations, you can expect to see one version of our catalog, ALADIN Discovery (the search box on our web site), change considerably at some point in the near future, mostly in terms of what it looks like and the results that will show up when you search. I’m careful to say “at some point,” because I’ve been teasing this announcement for the past year. But the light at the end of the tunnel is finally visible.

Basically, we’re replacing Discovery with a newer product from the same company, one that will -- wait for it -- also search quite a few of our databases in addition to our print and electronic books. It’ll be more of a one-stop shop than ever!

It’s taken so long because, as it turns out, figuring out how several universities and their library collections, database subscriptions, and generally-weird resources, some of which are publicly-available and some of which aren’t, all slot together so that the right people take the right pathways to the right resources ... is a bit of a challenge.

Each university library also has its own individual preferences for how to present things -- do we want to make sure Gallaudet items are at the top of the list (well ... yes)? Do we display books only first, or let the articles come through full blast, or tweak the relevancy algorithm, or set up a tabbed search box for each type of resource? That kind of thing -- so that’s also taken some time.

I’m sure that the folks directly involved with this process would roll their eyes and say “a bit of a challenge” is a bit of an understatement, and they’re right about that.

Either way, we’re looking forward to the final implementation at some point before the next Fall semester, and getting prepared for the inevitable flood of confused and delighted e-mails from the campus community.

And our old-school users don’t need to worry: the Classic Catalog isn’t going anywhere. Truth is, it’ll be years before that one goes away; it actually grows directly from the backbone system that most of WRLC uses to handle, well, everything. That backbone has to be replaced before Classic goes anywhere. We’ve begun the process of figuring out what we want from the new system, but are looking at, possibly, several years before a final decision is reached.

What can I say? We’re picky.

Anyway, those are the big things, as well as all the smaller things we all do every day, that keep the Library moving along.

Next week, you can anticipate a vlog of some kind. Stay tuned ...

Monday, April 1, 2013

New announcements

We’re a month or so away from the end of the Spring semester, but we have some big news, and I just had to share.

First, we’ve decided to transition away from the Dewey Decimal System. Most other universities are using the Library of Congress (LOC) classification system, which uses an alphanumeric code that offers more fine-grained categorization. It’s pretty neat.

However, we’re not going to do anything silly like that. Instead, in order to better aid students, we’ll start shelving according to when each item was published, then organizing by color. We plan to use the classical ROY G. BIV spectrum, bookended by black and white covers. Gray-colored books are a little difficult to place, so we’re discarding those.

The result will be so much simpler than Dewey or LOC that we’re getting rid of all numbers altogether. Instead, when searching in the catalog, you’ll find information like “Recently published in gamboge.” Then all you have to do is go to the last half of the shelves, then move to where red transitions to orange, zero in on the gamboge-colored books, then find the individual title you want!

We think it’ll be a lot easier on the eyes, too. As an added benefit to our students, it’ll also provide an interesting visual representation of publishing trends through the choice of color in book covers, which we’re sure will be extremely useful to our students.

Additionally, we’ve noticed that demand for our public computers is very high, resulting in frustrated students either waiting in line or seeking an open computer elsewhere. We want our students to be happy, so we’ve removed the computers altogether!

Printing costs have skyrocketed -- paper is very expensive -- so we’ve also removed the printers and are offering scrolls made from vellum for student use. Super environmentally-friendly; all you have to do to reuse your scroll is take some sand from our public litter box, scrape the surface of the scroll with it until all the ink is gone, then check out one of our quills and inkpots and start filling the scroll up again!

In order to trim costs, we’ve also started raising calves that will eventually be converted into the vellum we need for our scrolls; this is a huge win for the Library, as the leftover veal will be cooked and sold to our students for further funds! We’ve begun to consult with a local restaurant group on tips for making great burgers, and will be collaborating with campus fraternities to staff the griddles.

Now, because we’ve decided to diversify into livestock, we also foresee the need for pastureland, so have begun consultations with another group for ways we can knock down the Library and replace it with some lovely grass! It’s already paying off, as they’ve suggested that over the summer, we take the remaining books, compost them, and use them to fertilize the new pasture. Because the books will be organized by color, the pasture will be a lovely rainbow of hues. Now that’s aesthetic sustainability!

Unfortunately, since librarians do not very often make good cowboys, all Library staff has been scheduled for retraining over the summer. We’ll be spending two months at a ranch in Colorado learning how to rope steers. Additionally, in order to beef up our leadership in this new era of librarianship, we’ll be getting a new administrator to oversee the Library. Over Labor Day weekend, you can expect a blog post from Chet “Desperado” Carney, Gallaudet University’s newest Chief Cattle-Herdin’ Officer, on further exciting new developments!

Since we have removed all computers and the electricity will be shut off, Dr. Carney will be painting his news on a large piece of cardboard; he, and the board, will be found in his new office on the Green. Just keep an eye out for the lawn chair and fella in the cowboy hat!

An actual update will be forthcoming later this week.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Vlog review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

This blog is back! You can see it's been a while ... things have been busy! Luckily, other staff here at Gallaudet University have volunteered to help out with vlogs! Our first review comes from Sheri Youens-Un, an e-Learning Specialist with Gallaudet Technology Services.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer.

Friday, September 28, 2012

New movies and books

As of October 1st, the 2012 fiscal year is over.

Why mention that? Because it means that new orders are essentially on pause for a short time -- except for urgent items for faculty -- until we shake out what our plans are for 2013. I thought I’d offer a bit of an update.

All told, we ordered over 1,600 books, e-books, and films. It’s a respectable addition to the collection, I think! So I thought I’d quickly review some of the highlights of our recent film and book purchases. I’m focusing on my own purchases for this one; it’s just easier that way. I’ll do some legwork for the next one.

All Joss Whedon, all the time
Admittedly, I’m a big fan of Joss Whedon on general principle (even that one film with Sigourney Weaver) -- Buffy and Firefly are two of my top ten favorite shows of all time, while Dollhouse continues to intrigue, years after its cancellation. He’s moved back into movies, and I have to say you don’t need to be a fan of the man to know what he’s been doing. We just bought Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers (which is being processed as we speak).

Cabin in the Woods is pretty interesting! It starts off as a stereotypical coed horror flick, with a bunch of unrealistically attractive college students (and the requisite stoner in tow) heading off to … you guessed it, a cabin in the woods. But the story takes a strange turn early on, and just keeps getting stranger. Summing it up requires that you look at the old complaints about ridiculously-premised horror films in new ways; what if it’s all deliberate for reasons other than Hollywood’s love of proven tropes? It’s both an homage to, and a tweak on, the horror-movie formula, with an ending that breaks the mold in its boldness.

The Avengers, of course, is widely considered the best comic-book film of the year, if not the last few years, and a big part of that is the way Whedon wrote it. Suffice it to say that there’s a lot of his trademark wit and unusual turns of phrases in the script, plus the fight scenes are brilliantly-choreographed. The actors are terrific, too -- Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner still makes me uneasy whenever I think of him, while I get goosebumps when the Hulk emerges.

Lovers, not fighters
We also got The Artist, another award-winner -- and for good reason. People looking for dialogue-heavy films probably should avoid this one. For all but the last five minutes, it’s actually a silent film, the subtitles registering only the type of music being played on the soundtrack. Once in a while you’ll see an intertitle with a summed-up version of the dialogue being mouthed on-screen, but if you’re a good lipreader, you’ll be amused at just how much they vary from what the actors are actually saying. It’s a lovely love story, covering a famous silent-film star at the end of his era and his very slowly-growing romance with an up-and-coming star of the new ‘talkies.’ It’s also worth it for the dog, which is ridiculously cute and extraordinarily well-trained. The entire film is shot in a very appealing black-and-white format that actually makes John Goodman look good.

Last (for this post; we actually purchased 64 films this year) is The Vow. I kept it last because it’s not my kind of film, but I know heartstring-tugging stuff tends to be popular. In this case, it’s the story of Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum (both veterans of Nicholas Sparks flicks) as they rebuild their lives and marriage after a car accident and subsequent coma robs her of her memory. It’s actually based on the true story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter.

Drop everything and read
First, I have to admit to being intrigued by Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim books, and it appears I’m not alone. We got the most recent installments -- Aloha from Hell and Devil Said Bang -- and they continue in much the same vein as the first two in the series. James Stark, our resurrected antihero, exists in a Los Angeles where the supernatural abounds and the world is constantly under threat from a race of creatures that favor total destruction of both good and evil. Sort of like the Constantine comic books, except the protagonist of this series doesn’t bother with pretending to help people.

Then there’s Crackpot Palace, a collection of surreal short stories that explore a few different classical tropes ranging from army-as-well-oiled-machine to Dr. Moreau’s Island and the real story of what happened there. It’s hard to describe the way it’s written; the best I can think of is a combination of Harper Lee and Stephen King, with a little of Flannery O’Connor’s highly-calibrated sense of irony.

The fourth and last title I’d like to highlight is The Medieval Python. It’s a collection of essays about the work of Terry Jones, a member of the British comedy troupe Monty Python; it turns out he’s actually been a prolific historian and critic of medieval literature, especially the work of Geoffrey Chaucer and his contemporaries. Jones turned 70 this year, so a bunch of historians and literary critics wrote up essays about the work he’s done and presented the published version to him as sort of a birthday present. A comedian gets a history book as a birthday present; sounds like a joke, right?

I could go on (really, I could; see me in the Library if you don’t think this post was sufficient), but space and time are immutable constraints. Suffice it to say that we’ve all been making interesting -- and useful -- additions to the collection over the past year!

Next week, you can expect a vlog. See you then.