September 29, 2009

During our system down time

It’s still possible to use Alloway Library resources while technicians continue to restore our system after a major hardware failure. Librarians are able to assist all patrons to find the resources they need and material can be checked out as always. To renew material contact the circulation staff. Visit our contacts page if you need further assistance.

University Librarian Ted Goshulak states "I know that this whole experience is taxing on all of us." As TWU Information Technology staff work to bring the library's database back online Library staff are evaluating the ongoing situation in order to make recommendations to key decision makers about the very real and widespread impact that loss of library services can have on key stakeholders including students, faculty, library staff, and other library users on and off campus.

As to the big question of when will we be back online, the best guess is still "days."

Before computers, we relied on the card catalogue. Photo from TWU Archives

Alloway Library staff appreciate our patrons’ patience and cooperation during this challenging time.

September 25, 2009

A mishmash wrapped in a muddle?

Geoffrey Nunberg thinks Google's book search could be a disaster for scholars. In a recent article in The Chronicle for Higher Education he cites serious problems with the way Google extracts a book's metadata which diminish the utility of Google's great book project.
What if you may be interested in books simply as records of the language as it was used in various periods or genres. With the vast collection of published books at hand, you can track the way “happiness” replaced “felicity” in the 17th century, quantify the rise and fall of propaganda or industrial democracy over the course of the 20th century, or pluck out all the Victorian novels that contain the phrase "gentle reader." But to pose those questions, you need reliable metadata about dates and categories, which is why it's so disappointing that Google book search's metadata are a train wreck: a mishmash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess.
Nunberg gives numerous examples of metadata errors such as wrong publication dates (for example, a Bob Dylan biography published in 1899 and 29 references to Barack Obama in books published before he was ever born.) He also points out serious classification errors such as "an edition of Moby Dick is labeled Computers; The Cat Lover's Book of Fascinating Facts falls under Technology & Engineering."

While Google blames the errors on libraries and publishers who supply the books for the scanning project Nunberg points out that it's not libraries supplying bad information and probably not the publishers either. Google is using book seller classifications instead of more rigorous library classifications. No librarian or bookseller would classify a Mae West biography under Religion, even if the biography's subtitle is "An icon in black and white" he notes

The real problem writes Nunberg is that "Google has taken a group of the world's great research collections and returned them in the form of a suburban-mall bookstore."

And some of the metadata is just plain sloppy. Two examples Nunberg found are:
  • Moby Dick: or the White Wall
  • The Mosaic Navigator: The Essential Guide to the Internet Interface, dated 1939 and attributed to Sigmund Freud and Katherine Jones
Google has responded and pledged to fix errors as they are reported. Nunberg clearly states why Google needs to "get it right."
No competitor will be able to come after it on the same scale. Nor is technology going to lower the cost of entry. Scanning will always be an expensive, labor-intensive project. Of course, 50 or 100 years from now control of the collection may pass from Google to somebody else—Elsevier, Unesco, Wal-Mart. But it's safe to assume that the digitized books that scholars will be working with then will be the very same ones that are sitting on Google's servers today, augmented by the millions of titles published in the interim.
The scope of the project means that Google has "the responsibility of making its collections an adequate resource for scholarly research. That means, at a minimum, licensing the catalogs of the Library of Congress and OCLC Online Computer Library Center and incorporating them into the search engine so that users can get accurate results when they search on various combinations of dates, keywords, subject headings, and the like."

Next, we'll summarize Nunberg's conclusions and his reasons for being optimistic about Google Book Search

September 15, 2009

Who are Alloway Library's Man Bookers?

Here's a complete list of titles that form Alloway Library's Man Booker display:
Some may be already checked out, but you can find the item in our catalogue and request it. Or check out material from the display.

1969 Shortlist Muriel Spark The Public Image
1970 Winner Bernice Rubens The Elected Member
1971 Winner V S Naipaul In a Free State
1971 Shortlist Elizabeth Taylor Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
1971 Shortlist Mordecai Richler St Urbain’s Horseman
1972 Winner John Berger G.
1973 Winner J G Farrell The Siege of Krishnapur
1974 Shortlist Stanley Middleton Holiday
1974 Winner Nadine Gordimer The Conservationist
1975 Winner Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Heat and Dust
1976 Winner David Storey Saville
1977 Winner Paul Scott Staying On
1978 Winner Iris Murdoch The Sea, the Sea
1979 Shortlist V S Naipaul A Bend in the River
1979 Winner Penelope Fitzgerald Offshore
1980 Winner William Golding Rites of Passage
1981 Winner Salman Rushdie Midnight’s Children
1982 Winner Thomas Keneally Schindler’s Ark
1983 Winner J M Coetzee Life & Times of Michael K
1984 Shortlist J G Ballard Empire of the Sun
1984 Winner Anita Brookner Hotel du Lac
1985 Winner Keri Hulme The Bone People
1986 Shortlist Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale
1986 Shortlist Robertson Davies What’s Bred in the Bone
1987 Winner Penelope Lively Moon Tiger
1988 Winner Peter Carey Oscar and Lucinda
1988 Shortlist Salman Rushdie The Satanic Verses
1988 Shortlist Bruce Chatwin Utz
1989 Shortlist Margaret Atwood Cat’s Eye
1989 Winner Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains of the Day
1990 Winner A S Byatt Possession
1990 Shortlist Mordecai Richler Solomon Gursky Was Here
1991 Shortlist Rohinton Mistry Such a Long Journey
1991 Winner Ben Okri The Famished Road
1992 Shortlist Barry Unsworth Sacred Hunger
1992 Winner Michael Ondaatje The English Patient
1993 Winner Roddy Doyle Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
1993 Shortlist Carol Shields The Stone Diaries
1994 Winner James Kelman How Late It Was, How Late
1995 Winner Pat Barker The Ghost Road
1996 Shortlist Rohinton Mistry A Fine Balance
1996 Shortlist Margaret Atwood Alias Grace
1996 Winner Graham Swift Last Orders
1997 Winner Arundhati Roy The God of Small Things
1998 Winner Ian McEwan Amsterdam
1999 Winner J M Coetzee Disgrace
2000 Winner Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin
2001 Shortlist Ian McEwan Atonement
2001 Winner Peter Carey True History of the Kelly Gang
2002 Shortlist Rohinton Mistry Family Matters
2002 Winner Yann Martel Life of Pi
2002 Shortlist Carol Shields Unless
2003 Shortlist Margaret Atwood Oryx and Crake
2003 Winner DBC Pierre Vernon God Little
2004 Winner Alan Hollinghurst The Line of Beauty
2005 Winner John Banville The Sea
2006 Winner Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss
2007 Winner Anne Enright The Gathering
2008 Winner Aravind Adiga The White Tiger

September 14, 2009

The Man Bookers at Alloway Library

No "The Man Bookers" is not the name of a TV reality show. This month at Alloway Library we have mounted a special display of nearly sixty titles from our collection of Man Booker Prize winners. And so, we invite you to visit Alloway Library and check out a Man Booker!

For 40 years, the Man Booker Prize has been promoting the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best novel of the year written by a citizen of the English Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.

Alloway Library has a near-complete collection of Booker winners dating back to 1970. Our collection also includes many titles from the Booker shortlists for various years and even some movie versions of winning and shortlisted works

The winner of the Man Booker Prize receives £50,000 and both the winner and the shortlisted authors are guaranteed a worldwide readership plus a dramatic increase in book sales. Many winning works have been adapted for film and television.

Any full-length novel, written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland and published this year, is eligible for the prize. The novel must be an original work in English (not a translation) and must not be self-published.

To maintain the consistent excellence of the prize, the Man Booker judges are selected from the finest critics, writers and academics

Man Group plc has sponsored the Man Booker prize since 2002.Man is a world-leading alternative investment management business. The Booker Prize Foundation (BPF) is a registered charity reponsible for its organisation and operation.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009 will be announced on 6 October 2009.

September 10, 2009

"We complete each other..."

We are pretty busy gearing up for the new academic year so we'll just borrow one more strip from the folks at Unshelved... and then we'll start posting some news about our own Alloway Library. (Click on the image to see the full strip)

September 02, 2009

The net, the web and the grapevine...

Merv and Dewey, those delightful scamps from Unshelved remind us once again that just because it's on the net doesn't mean it's true. Alloway Library has authoritative sources, both on our academic databases and in those papery things we call books. (Click on the image to see the full strip)

Talk to an Alloway Librarian about using authoritative sources for your next paper.