Web of Science!

There’s been some good “viral marketing” going on on campus already, but I thought it was also worth mentioning here — the NU Libraries now offer Web of Science! We’re super-excited to finally have this powerful resource available. For those who may not be familiar with this database, it’s actually a suite of citation indexes from ISI Web of Knowledge. It includes Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index — so it’s not just science, despite the name. The main reason it’s so great is how easy it makes citation searching. Say you’ve found a good article from 1994 and you want to see how many articles after that date list the first article as a reference. Web of Science makes this extremely easy. Just enter the info about the 1994 article — usually author’s name and the journal title will be sufficient — and voila, you’ll get a list of subsequent articles that cite it. Then you can see what publications cite those articles, and so on, tracking a trail of citations up to the present day. Why is this useful? Well, generally speaking, the more a source is cited, the more important it is within its field. Maybe it’s important because it first introduced some major new discovery, or maybe it’s important because it makes a controversial claim that many other people want to debate. Either way, citation searching allows you to quickly see who the major players are in a given field, and how the dialog is continuing. It can be more targeted than regular keyword searching, too, since you can use the citation trail to follow the discussion of a particular topic. I urge all you researchers out there to head on over to the Library website and check out this terrific resource. Enjoy, and let us know what you think, or what tips you have for using it!

The Complete Jane Austen

I heartily enjoy Jane Austen’s six novels (though I find Persuasion divine, and Sense and Sensibility merely good) and I also usually enjoy the manifold film and television representations of her stories. So I was quite excited for PBS’s new Masterpiece Theater season opening with The Complete Jane Austen—broadcasting adaptations of her six novels, along with a Jane Austen biopic. So far new ITV (a British channel) productions of Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park have aired. I’m not quite sure what to think.

If I love a book, I usually enjoy seeing an adaptation, even if I think it fails to fully capture the original. And one thing that I am frustrated by is how other ‘fans’ can often become a critical mob, eager to find faults, and unwilling to appreciate the unexpected or something that deviates slightly from their own vision. With these recent Austen adaptations I am a bit perplexed. I’ve read that they’ve trimmed down these versions to fit into a 90 minute running time. I know all the stories well, but I feel like if I didn’t I’d be quite confused. These seem less like complete stories than illustrated Cliffsnotes.

However, I don’t want to become too wacky of a fan. I studied English in college, and the late 18th century/early 19th century in particular, so I always felt a bit self-conscious about the zaniness of Austen-maniacs. In addition to film and television, there’s a whole cottage industry of spin-off books.

What do you think about Austen adaptations? How about the PBS series? And do you ever feel chagrin when you see your fellow fans (whatever your topic of interest might be)?

And another thing about “Little House”

So how did Pa manage to avoid the draft during the Civil War? Apparently two of his brothers served in the Union army. I promise that’s all I will blog on this topic here!!

Non-library hobbies

[This is mainly just a test post using my individual login…] Most of us affiliated with libraries would list “reading” as a primary hobby, but I’m curious what else people are involved in, what non-library activities we enjoy. I play clarinet in a community band, for instance, and I also just got an acoustic guitar for Christmas and can’t WAIT to learn to play. (Anyone want to offer me free instruction? I’ll trade proofreading/copyediting services for guitar lessons… 🙂 )

Laura Ingalls Wilder, anyone?

I was talking with Hillary Corbett a couple of weeks ago about the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which I am rereading with my 10-year old. I mentioned how well they are holding up over time, and Hillary observed that you see different things in them when you read them as adults. Little incongruities raise new questions, some of the events have a different cast once you’ve taken a few history classes. For me, what I notice is what a real character Pa is. Clearly Ingalls wanted to honor him, and I can understand that. For example, he is an incredible carpenter with skills ranging from being able to build a log cabin to being able to carve a delicate wall bracket. Second, he’s a musician with hundreds of songs in his repertoire. Third, he obviously has a sixth sense about how to communicate without words, with animals and with Native Americans. But there’s a little dark side, too, he’s really restless and can’t seem to stay in one place more than a couple of years, even at the expense of his family’s comfort and prosperity he seems very impulsive about moving around. Ma clearly doesn’t like it but she always just goes along, which really bugs me, too. Hillary said she’s curious about Dr. Tan in Little House on the Prairie. He’s the first black man Laura sees, and he is said to be “a doctor with the Indians.” What’s up with that? Were the Osage in the practice of hiring African Americans to provide them with healthcare? Was it a government program? And has anyone researched him as a person? Here’s my burning question: why did Pa go to Osage territory? Who is “a man in Washington” who told him it would be OK to settle there, which it clearly wasn’t. Did he feel guilty when he realized that the government was going to honor its Indian treaty, is that why he was so anxious to leave even before the soldiers came to resettle them? There are a LOT of web sites about the little house books, here are two I found in which the authors appear to know what they’re talking about: http://www.pioneergirl.com (click on “my blog” at the bottom) http://extras.denverpost.com/books/chap141.htm (an excerpt from Miller’s “Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder” ) About Dr. Tan–turns out he’s really Dr. George Tann and is buried in the Mt. Hope Cemetary in Independence. http://blogs.bootsnall.com/Seafarer/travel-in-the-usa/stepping-inside-the-little-house-on-the-prairie.html