Internet Resources: October 2016 Edition

Selected reviews of digital reference resources from the October issue.

Arab World Research Source. EBSCO. Pricing: Contact publisher for pricing

[Visited Jul’16] This database offers access to full-text content of nearly 400 publications and other sources, including more than 230 scholarly journals and over 125 Arab-language publications, along with a number of industry profiles and country reports. Only one scholarly source, Muslim World, dates back to 1972 (with full text from 2004 on), and a few dozen additional titles are indexed only (e.g., Middle East Policy) or available in full text since the 1990s (e.g., Journal of Arabic Literature, Islamic Law and Society); the majority of titles date from the 2000s on. In terms of functionality, this is a standard EBSCOhost database, with both basic and advanced search options, the ability to search by publication, and a wide variety of options for limiting and filtering search results, including by date, publication type, subject term, peer-reviewed status, or full-text availability. The best single feature of the familiar interface is its numerous citation retrieval options, which can be obtained preformatted in all major publication styles (APA, MLA, Chicago).

While the full-text Arabic-language materials that are included will be helpful for specialists, they seem to constitute only a small percentage of the overall content; just a fraction of results reveal Arabic titles and/or abstracts for searches on a variety of political, security, religious, and economic topics. The overwhelming bulk of full-text articles are in English (or other languages, including French, German, Indonesian, Malaysian, Spanish, Turkish, or Urdu, which can also be filtered to discover their extent of coverage). Much of the content, especially the scholarly journals, is also available in other full-text databases or specialized multilanguage bibliographic resources such as Index Islamicus (CH, Feb’04, 41-3136). Libraries supporting advanced research in Arab and Middle Eastern studies will want to subscribe to this helpful and usable database, while those owning the alternatives and facing tight fiscal constraints will likely find it redundant. Those engaged in business or professional practice in the region may also benefit from having access to the resources focused on particular nations.

Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty; professionals/practitioners. —D. Durant, East Carolina University

The Aztecs at Mexicolore, from Graciela Sánchez and Ian Mursell.

[Visited Jul’16] Mexicolore the organization—as reflected in its original website developed in 2004 at—embarked on its teaching mission in 1980 as a means to introduce Mexican history and culture into primary schools in England. The national curriculum for history in British primary schools mandates the study of non-European society to provide a global perspective. Graciela Sánchez, a dancer with the Ballet Folklórico de Mexico, and educational specialist Ian Mursell assembled teaching resources, artifact loan boxes, and cultural programs for classrooms. They continue to offer face-to-face school visits (even catering services) and videoconferencing workshops. In recent years the website has grown to include separate components dealing with the Aztecs in depth, and recently, the Maya as well. The Aztecs at Mexicolore offers detailed information on many intriguing aspects of Aztec culture, for example, pre-Hispanic jewelry casting, poetry and mythology, and Aztec super glue. The resource also explores broader issues like artifact forgeries and modern-day Nahua pilgrimages.

Truly impressive is the ever-growing panel of experts (now numbering nearly 90) gathered to contribute articles and answer a wide range of student questions, surprisingly astute considering they come from UK middle-schoolers and occasionally students abroad. Contributors include recognizable authorities on Mesoamerican history, archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, and art history. Yet, despite the many strengths of this resource, it is difficult to imagine advanced undergraduates using the site. Its overall design has an outdated look that uses animated .gifs requiring Adobe Flash, an impediment for those with Apple iPhone or Android technology. There is a small search box powered by Google Custom Search that works reasonably well, but its placement and size is emblematic of the site’s focus on browsing or direct guidance. A fascinating resource that teachers will appreciate for help in developing lesson plans, but optional for academic library guides recommending scholarly websites.

Summing Up: Recommended. Middle- through high-school students; general readers; professionals/practitioners. —J. H. Pollitz, University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire

Civil Rights in America : From Reconstruction to the Great Society. Readex. Pricing: Available via a range of purchase models. Pricing is based on multiple factors. Perpetual licensing fees begin at approximately $5,800.00.

[Visited Jul’16Civil Rights in America is a full-text, searchable database consisting of US Congressional documents and reports from the Senate and House produced by committees engaged in investigations or proposing legislation. The collection presents nearly 7,000 such documents from The U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994 (CH, Jul’10, 47-6030) database, a licensed resource separately sold by Readex. The subtitle From Reconstruction to the Great Society suggests coverage from about 1865 to 1969 (marking the end of the Johnson administration), but inadequately clarifies the extent of content or the gaps in this otherwise well-curated resource.

Also problematic is Readex’s new search platform, which offers a minimalist presentation in which the default launch page contains little more than the collection title, a banner photo showing participants in the 1963 March on Washington, and a single search box. There is no obvious link to background information on the subject matter or the document collection, nor a clear indication of the database’s date ranges. One must use a search engine outside the platform to find Readex’s undated press release providing more detailed descriptive information, which might helpfully be incorporated within the platform to give users a better sense of the scope of the collection and selection criteria. In fact, using the advanced search function, one discovers that contents range from 1817 to 1994, with most documents published between 1860 and 1959, and just over 400 from the turbulent decade of the 1960s, compared to more than 1,800 dating from the 1930s and 1940s.

Advanced search also allows one to search by date range, words in title or subject, serial set number, and other limiters. The expected Help section is entirely absent, however, leaving a user to experiment (perhaps unsuccessfully) with search techniques such as word truncation or limiting to a precise phrase. Restricting results by time period requires the advanced search pull-down windows to find the desired specific year or range of years. Documents cover topics such as freedmen’s rights during Reconstruction, racial discrimination, Ku Klux Klan, child labor, women’s suffrage, property rights, integration, housing, immigration, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The visual quality of the documents is very good, and pages containing search words are marked (although it is not intuitive without paging through results that one can select these relevant pages marked with a tiny chevron, or that search terms are highlighted in the text as long as one does not use truncation or word stems). Documents can be downloaded as PDF files, although this format is not automatically OCR searchable. Libraries that license Readex’s database or ProQuest Congressional (CH, Sep’13, 51-0057) already have access to all of the documents contained here, although some may prefer to promote this restricted subcollection instead.

Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty. —D. A. Lincove, Ohio State University

Data USA, from developers Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd., Macro Connections, and Datawheel.

[Visited Jul’16] This free web resource describes itself as “the most comprehensive visualization of U.S. public data.” The many colorful graphs and visual displays instantaneously illuminate data often available from other sources in plain lists and tables. The visualizations can be shared, embedded, and downloaded. Alternatively, open-source coding is available for users to create customized applications. The home page has a sleek design with a single search box similar to Google, which is easily accessible from every page. A left-hand menu enables users to jump easily to separate sections and begin searching for Profiles, Stories, Maps, and Data. Profiles yields information categorized as Locations, Industries, Occupations, and Education. The Stories section provides nearly a dozen recent articles on interesting statistical analyses and discoveries of national importance, and, alternatively, it offers several articles about new statistical methods.

Although the data derive from authoritative sources, only selective, not comprehensive, datasets are used. Five of six datasets are federal government sources, including the American Community Survey (CH, Mar’11, 48-3614), Bureau of Economic Analysis (CH, Aug’05, 42Sup-0464), Bureau of Labor Statistics (CH, Aug’97, 34Sup-102), Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, and the O Net Skills occupational database. An additional dataset comes from the University of Wisconsin’s County Health Rankings (CH, Jul’10, 47-6280). Based on cited sources, most data are less than two years old. Moreover, because these data are defined and collected using different organizational parameters, the reuse, organization, and integration of such data must be approached carefully. This resource will be appealing, however, to individuals who prefer visual and narrative interpretations, and who want quick access to key federal demographic and economic data. To ensure that users take full advantage of all the site’s features and acknowledge its caveats, Data USA could be helpfully enhanced with interactive tutorials and videos.

Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers; professionals/practitioners. —C. E. Geck, independent scholar

Kanopy. Pricing: Annual academic subscription begins at $150.00 per video via the vendor’s PDA model.

[Visited Jul’16] In the short time since it entered the market in 2013 as a PDA (patron driven acquisition) streaming-video hosting service, Kanopy has grown at a rate of 250–400 films per month, now offering in the US more than 26,000 films from over 800 film producers and distributors. The number of vendors involved significantly expands the academic subjects and levels covered, which are extensive. In addition to documentaries, the collection features practical training films and a broad range of entertainment films. Participants include Media Education Foundation, California Newsreel, Documentary Education Resources, PBS, Criterion Collection, plus many more. Licensing is typically $150.00 per film for a 12-month license (a few titles are less expensive, while multi-episode films are usually priced individually). New releases from partners are added promptly and immediately available.

The site’s appealing, easy-to-use interface and help documentation allow users to do keyword searches or browse by parameters such as broad subjects or curated playlists (e.g., anthropological studies, international cinema), director, distributor, or language. Professors can direct students to Kanopy via a stable URL or embed a particular video into a course-management system. Playlists and film clips are easily created and shared. Captions are available on many films with the option clearly marked; if not, users may request prioritization for captioning. Licensing can be arranged through participating film distributors by title, as a package, or on demand. For an annual hosting fee, the Kanopy platform can host titles for which institutions hold perpetual rights. The PDA model is a significant change from subscription-based licenses. Libraries do not pay up front but are invoiced quarterly when a film title is triggered—the trigger being four views lasting longer than 30 seconds. Licenses extend 12 months from the invoice—not trigger—date and a maximum budget can be set. Libraries may choose to activate only particular subject packages, but allowing full access to the collection enables users to discover previously unexplored titles and subject interests.

This reviewer’s experience with the PDA model has been very positive. While most of the institution’s Top 10 Most Viewed titles were familiar (e.g., the PBS series Race: The Power of Illusion), some were previously unavailable in the library’s collections. Initial worries that users would trigger numerous licenses for feature films proved to be unfounded: for every film triggered, four to five others had been glimpsed but not triggered; the recommended annual budget based on FTE students turned out to be very close to the final number of titles invoiced. Administrative dashboards provide up-to-date data on films watched, for how long, on what platform, from what distributor, when licenses will expire, and how many titles will be invoiced. Truly, Kanopy is a streaming-video game changer for libraries large and small.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. All levels. —Reviewer: B. J. Bergman, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Moving image archive, from Internet Archive.

[Visited Jul’16] Many websites offer fee-based streaming-video content; the Moving Image Archive—a subsection of the broader Internet Archive (CH, Jun’13, 50-5327)—hosts unique materials freely accessible in the public domain. Spanning a gamut of subjects, the site’s value lies more in the unusual diversity and sheer quantity of its content (with 2.5-plus million items) than in its absolute quality. Collections of particular note include a library of short, silent, and feature films; the Democracy Now! independent news programs; and the well-known Prelinger Archives, a vast assortment of ephemeral recordings assembled and deposited by filmmaker-archivist Rick Prelinger.

The site employs a minimalist design scheme, and collections and individual items appear as streams of flat, graphic boxes. As noted in a previous review (CH, Mar’09, 46-3591), browsing is the most effective means of exploration. Simple keyword searching is possible, but advanced searching is not. Items and collections have a simple hierarchy, though it can be initially confusing; collections, sub-collections, and their individual contents can appear in the same results list. Individual productions can be streamed from within the site or downloaded in a variety of video formats (MPEG-4, Ogg, Torrent, etc.). Metadata quality varies because uploaders are responsible for providing item information, and some records possess only titles consisting of unhelpful alphanumeric strings. Reviews can be added by members who have registered for the site’s free virtual library card.

In spite of inherent weaknesses, the resource fills an important role as both community repository and supporter of the public domain and Creative Commons. By indexing and centrally storing the large quantity of ephemera contributed by the public and collected by curators, it shares professional and amateur creations with viewers worldwide, free of charge. Without the Moving Image Archive platform and people driven by the archival imperative, many of these artifacts would likely remain unfindable and inaccessible.

Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. —E. Jeitner, Stockton University

Museum of the City of New York Collections.

[Visited Jul’16] By bringing high-quality images and didactic information to a global audience with online digital galleries, museums and libraries have exponentially expanded their reach and impact. With over 180,000 images, the Museum of the City of New York has entered this arena. Its collections portal features highlights, themes, boroughs, and exhibitions; format categories (e.g., paintings, photographs, maps, badges, etc.) presumably represent the strengths of the collection. Two exhibitions—the photographic work of Reginald Marsh and the apparel designs of Charles Frederick Worth and Mainbocher—offer the only discoverable essays. Highlighted collections include Berenice Abbott’s immaculate images of New York City, remarkable graphic material from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and photographic documentation of Yiddish theater.

Viewers are invited to register to save images to light boxes, and the commercial side of the site is evident in its order and cart functions. Metadata fields appear on each results page along with the object date; a short, free-text description; and the medium. The search function, both basic and advanced, is available from every page and is especially strong. In both types of search, a list of suggested terms appears. But as perhaps expected in an undertaking of this magnitude and with materials that may never have been exhibited, the metadata standards vary. For example, a photograph of the Park Avenue Synagogue is searchable only by its street address, 50 East 87th Street, rather than by the term synagogue or its corporate name. There is little information on the scope of the portal, and links leading to educator resources on the museum’s main site are either broken or hard to find. Although the portal lacks the arresting visual design, extensive essays, and high image resolution (reserved for paying customers) of other museum digital collections, its user-friendly search and exceptionally fine print function make it a commendable resource for students of urban history.

Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. —P. Glassman, Yeshiva University