August 2010


The recent  article from 8/31/2010 issue of CHE takes up a new wrinkle in the Google Books project.  The article “Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars” recounts the issues surrounding the big-buzz question “what will Google do with the books once scanned” and goes on to another practical question: “Can Google possibly live up to the professed goals of the ‘Google Books Library’ project?”  If Google scanned all the scholarly-library-donated-books in order to facilitate  discoverability of  lost treasures, the metadata needed to facilitate a scholarly search needs to be reliable and standardized enough (think library cataloging by subject specialists) to help the researcher find the relevant material across the database objects.

But to pose those [research-based] questions, you need reliable metadata about dates and categories, which is why it’s so disappointing that the book search’s metadata are a train wreck: a mishmash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess.

Jon Orwant, the person responsible for metadata in the GoogleBooks project has posted his own thoughtful responses in the comments area of Nunberg’s  “illustrated” version of the article (and in keeping with web-2.0 publication vagaries, the illustrated version and comments are dated 8/29!)

Of course, while library catalogues and databases try to be slaves to consistent metadata, we often work with whatever we can get in order to make sure that our researchers have access to their needed information in as many venues as possible.  Thus, we note with some pleasure that the earlier Google Scholar project — which deals primarily with scholarly articles and citations from scholarly bibliographies — does not suffer as much on the metadata end, but this is because the basic-but-standard bibliographic metadata is generated by the authors themselves, and therefore tend to be more reliable (as reliable as scholars are careful!) .

Libraries have also worked with Google Scholar to facilitate Check for full text linking to a patron’s “home” university library for full-text access to cited articles (in the preferences options).  St. John’s Libraries and WorldCat are automatically added to  GoogleScholar results if you are using computers in the labs, but if you would like to add this “Check  for Full Text” feature to your work or home computer, and find a way to add GS citations to your RefWorks folder, use this tutorial.

Here’s hoping that the GoogleBooks efforts are fruitful and that we can look forward to Google’s transparency and co-operation with libraries and librarians — who have been their precursors and constant companions in the effort to  promote wider-access-to and reliable-metadata-for the information people seek to improve their research or their lives.

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  With this in mind, we have asked some faculty members at St. John’s what they are reading this summer.

Dr. Steve Mentz, an Associate Professor in the English Department, writes:

I’ve read it before, but since I’ve become more & more convinced that Thomas Pynchon‘s Mason & Dixon (1997) is the greatest American novel of the 90s, I’m going to take advantage of the summer to go back through it.  It’s a historical novel about the two British surveyors who a few decades before the American Revolution measured out the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania (and North and South) now called the Mason-Dixon Line.  But since it’s a Pynchon novel, it’s also a wild, paranoid fantasy about what it means to draw a straight Line through a wilderness, how Enlightenment Science and the early stirrings of United States political culture were themselves entangled with global capitalism and other insidious forces, and how apparently insignificant acts of resistance and irrationality mark human lives.  Familiar figures like Ben Franklin and George Washington share space with a talking English dog, a mechanical duck, a Chinese feng sui master, and a host of other entertaining types.

“Newcomers to the Lay-borne Life are advis’d not to look up, lest, seiz’d by its proper Vertigo, they fall into the Sky. — For ‘t has happen’d more than once, — drovers and Army officers swear to it, — as if Gravity, along the Visto, is become locally less important than Rapture.”  (p651)

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  With this in mind, we have asked some faculty members at St. John’s what they are reading this summer.

Dr. Flora Keshishian, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Rhetoric, Communication and Theatre, writes:

Like most faculty members, I often read books and articles that are directly related to my teaching and research. They all contribute to improving my understanding of the world. But, sometimes, not as frequently as I would like to, I also like to read books that have the potential to transform my life.

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert (Penguin Books, 2006), is a book I’m planning to read this summer as I travel to Armenia (for teaching, research, and family visit). It’s light reading that I hope will paint an imaginary journey, which will guide me to a more balanced life for myself– something that Gilbert claims she achieved through her actual journey to Italy, India, and Indonesia. I look forward to reading the book and then watching the movie (due in summer, 2010) and see how they match my imagination.

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  With this in mind, we have asked some faculty members at St. John’s what they are reading this summer.

Dr. Paul Gyllenhammer, an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department, writes:

This summer I will be reading two texts by Pierre Hadot, who specializes in ancient Hellenistic and Roman philosophy and history. The texts are: What is Ancient Philosophy and Philosophy as a Way of Life.

I am using Hadot’s work as part of my on going research on the intersection between critical theory (by way of Michel Foucault, whose writings in the 80′s are deeply influenced by Hadot), phenomenology, and virtue ethics

Welcome to those who are new to St. John’s…classes start soon, and we look  forward to meeting you and helping you acclimate to your new research environment! 

Welcome back to our student friends who are looking forward to new academic adventures.  If you need a little jumpstart on library resources and workshops, check out the new Queens Library Workshops schedule for Fall, or request a workshop  for your  cohort,  club,  graduate class or thesis support group.

Welcome  back to our faculty colleagues, in addition to working with you on your research, and helping incorporate Library resources into your courses, we pass along this link to the August “Special Issue” from the Center for Teaching and Learning regarding the new schedule and working around no “exam week.”  Look for more information about CTL on their CampusGuides page.    Interested in using CampusGuides for your class?  Contact campusguides@stjohns.edu  for more information.

We are also  working on a few book discussion groups  (including Graphic Novels, “Even Deadlier Sins” from the Great Books series, “Reading Memoirs” and “Read It, See It” (movie/book discussion group). Keep on eye out for more blog entries on these programs, or contact Outreach Librarian, Caroline Fuchs for more information.

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  With this in mind, we have asked some faculty members at St. John’s what they are reading this summer.

Dr. John Lowney, a Professor in the English Department, writes:

This summer I am looking forward to reading the long awaited biography of Thelonious Monk by Robin D.G. Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original.  Monk is not only one of the most innovative pianists and composers in jazz history; he was also a legendarily controversial performing artist.  Kelley’s biography is the most thoroughly researched account of Monk’s life.  It is also nothing less than a cultural history of jazz as it evolved in the middle decades of the twentieth century, particularly in New York City. 

 This book appeals to me because of my current research interests in jazz literature, and I am especially interested to see how Kelley relates his extensive knowledge of African American history and radical activism to the development of mid-century jazz.    

 

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  With this in mind, we have asked some faculty members at St. John’s what they are reading this summer.

Dr. Jay Nathan, Professor in the Management Department, writes:

Recently, I have been interested in understanding the present financial crisis through the lens of financial history.   Often times, money is trivialized, and many well intentioned books fail to sort out “myths” from “realities.” The Ascent of Money, published by the Penguin Press, got my attention.

 I saw this book reviewed in the Time magazine, several weeks ago.  After a cursory glance at the book review section, I got interested in The Ascent of Money.  Don’t be fooled by the title—the book is not about greed, or about unrestrained CapitalismNiall Ferguson follows the money through historical times, from ancient Mesopotamia to the current global financial crisis.  What’s interesting about the book is its narrative, particularly through the lens of historical landmarks: how the civilization of the Renaissance, the boom in the market for art and architecture, the rise of Dutch republic (through the world’s first modern bond market), the fall of Habsburg absolutism, and the origins of the French Revolution.   The author lucidly provides responses to commonly asked questions on finance: What is money? What do banks do? What does a hedge fund do?  Apart from this, the book documents how a new financial revolution is assisting China, India, Brazil, and others, from poverty to wealth in a span of one generation, which is unprecedented in human history.  The Ascent of Money is a useful read, especially to learn from the financial history, and to understand why financial bubbles happen.

 

 

Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  With this in mind, we have asked some faculty members at St. John’s what they are reading this summer.

Prof. Louis DiGena,  Associate Professor & Chair of the Fine Arts Department, writes:

This summer I’m planning on reading How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer.  I first was introduced to Jonah Lehrer through WNYC’s Radio Lab show on “Musical Language.” Jonah was one of the contributors to the section on how our brains respond to sound.  They mentioned his forthcoming book Proust Was a Neuroscientist. I was interested in the subject of neuroscience, and here was a book on neuroscience and art.  I got it as soon as it was available, and since then, I’ve read it three times.

 How We Decide touches upon observations similar to those Malcolm Gladwell made in his best-seller Blink. It explores the parts of the brain responsible for the decisions we make.  The emotional and rational brain is in constant flux and plays a key roll in how we decide.  I feel How We Decide will shed some light on the subject and help me make better decisions.

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