Internet Resources: September 2016 Edition

The latest selection of Choice-reviewed collections and resources found on the web.

The following reviews also appear in the September issue of Choice Reviews and on Every issue, Choice publishes more than 500 reviews with new ones appearing daily online at Choice Reviews. Click here for subscription information.
[Visited Jun’16] In late 2014 left its beta version (CH, Feb’13, 50-3021) behind, and THOMAS CH, Jan’07, 44-2483 began to redirect visitors to this new site. Remaining content from the old legislative information system is expected to be fully incorporated by mid 2016, according to the Help section’s FAQ. The Coverage Dates for Legislative Information section (under the about link) provides details about full-text access to particular series (committee reports and the Congressional Record begin their coverage with the 104th Congress; member profiles are available from the 93rd Congress to present, etc.).

A few less obvious ways to explore this vast site are the small links at the top right of each screen. The Search Tools section provides overviews of searching techniques (e.g., by bill or resolution number, search operators, field searching, refining searches, using facets, and navigating search results). The glossary section is a clickable alphabetical list with brief explanations of legislative terms (e.g., adjournment sine die). The Resources link offers a handy A–Z directory of help pages, research guides, lists, and popular saved searches, along with a page linking to the legislative websites of the 50 states, US territories, and the District of Columbia. The Browse tab offers a directory of frequently requested lists and prepared searches. Basic and advanced search options are best used by those who already know precisely what they are looking for. One can easily create a free account to set up alerts tracking particular bills, congressional members, or any aspect of the business of government reported in the Congressional Record. The site provides not only information on what Congress has done and is currently doing but also a fine assembly of resources for all who want to understand and get involved in the legislative process.

Summing Up: Recommended. All libraries. All levels.

Naxos Music Library World
Pricing: Annual academic subscription ranges from $925.00 (five users) to $4,800.00 (unlimited access)
[Visited Jun’16] This world music collection is the second component added to Naxos’s streaming music service (CH, Jul’06, 43-6434) since its inception in 2004—the first being the Naxos Music Library Jazz collection CH, Jul’10, 47-6162. Naxos Music Library World (NLM World) offers approximately 60,000 tracks from nearly 6,500 albums, with new tracks continuously added. At the time of this review, the database represented more than 30 world music labels, the most prized perhaps being Smithsonian Folkways CH, Dec’09, 47-1762, which has its own robust website where one can purchase tracks but stream only short samples. It should be noted that Naxos’s direct streaming-music competitor, Alexander Street Press’s Music Online resource, has been providing access to Smithsonian Folkways collections since 2005.

NLM World is hosted on the publisher’s standard interface, featuring playlist-building abilities, PDFs of available liner notes, an Adobe Flash Player that opens in a separate window, the option to buy or download audio files, and (as of 2016) a mobile app. Subscriber-only permalinks are available for tracks and playlists (although this reviewer was unable to get these to work properly). Citation generation, a now-standard database feature, is lacking. The interface will appear antiquated to users accustomed to the latest in web design, but Naxos’s features are functional and straightforward. Every page provides the option to navigate to hyperlinked lists of recording labels, artists, composers, cultural groups, and geographical areas (including an interactive world map), all of which greatly facilitate subject browsing. Advanced Search provides limiting options, but the addition of these refinement controls within search results would dramatically improve usability. While NML World returns results for nearly every cultural group, geographical region, or world instrument of interest, the numbers are disappointing when compared to results in Alexander Street’s Music Online—counting only, to be fair, items retrieved from its Contemporary World Music CH, Oct’08, 46-0792 and Smithsonian Global Sound CH, Jan’06, 43-2554 components. Compare 7 results for “balafon” in NML World to the 65 in Music Online; 5 results for “Basque” as a keyword search in NML World (but only a single hit if limited to the Cultural Group field), compared to 173 in Music Online; or the single result in NML World for “Shankar, Ravi” (accurately retrieved under the Artists tab’s listing) compared to at least 25 for the sitar player in Music Online.

For ethnomusicologists seeking valuable examples of indigenous musicians and sounds, the omission of well-known musicians will be less important, and for this reason Naxos offers excellent world-music audio options for listeners at institutions already familiar with the platform. For institutions beginning their foray into streaming music, however, Alexander Street’s genre-crossing product offers far more tracks, a modern design, and extensive search-refinement options.

Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduates through researchers/faculty; professionals/practitioners.

Oral History MetaData Synchronizer
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
[Visited Jun’16] Three years ago, this reviewer conducted an oral history project focused on the libraries at Western Kentucky University. Before beginning, it was helpful to brush up on skills and learn what was new in technology by enrolling in a course taught by Doug Boyd, director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky—the impetus and head cheerleader for the system here reviewed. Oral History MetaData Synchronizer (OHMS) is a tool designed to index and time stamp digital oral history files. Intended for library, museum, archives, and oral history professionals who want to make collections available for public use, it creates, in essence, a searchable mini-database of each interview. The indexer listens to the interview and adds keywords and subject headings while marking the file into manageable sections of several minutes each. This pre-processing step allows users to jump to the spot in an interview where the searched-for phrase is mentioned. It takes a bit of training and one’s institution must register for a free account, but it adds incredible value to digital oral-history collections.

The Oral History section of the Kentucky Digital Library website CH, Sep’13, 51-0005 features more than 1,000 interviews processed using OHMS, and a freely accessible article about the initiative is available on the Oral History Journal website. The terms of this Web-based, open-source software (funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services) allows institutions and oral-history enthusiasts considering similar initiatives to mount the OHMS viewer on one’s website. Staff can then offer group training using the site’s many well-produced tutorials, guides, and support forums, and mobilize volunteers interested in digitizing and indexing all manner of materials—including those cassette tapes found moldering in many library and personal archives.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. All levels.

Oxford Classical Dictionary, digital edition
ed. by Sander Goldberg Oxford
Pricing: Annual academic subscription is $1,035.00 to $3,115.00, based on institution size/type; simultaneous users/unlimited use options available
[Visited Jun’16] Not really a static, new fifth edition but instead a new, continually updated resource, the reimagined Oxford Classical Dictionary is available by subscription on the Oxford Research Encyclopedias platform. In contrast to the fixed editions available through Oxford Reference Online CH, Mar’15, 52-3390, the works on the new encyclopedia platform are envisioned as “constantly growing and evolving.” At nearly 1,000 pages, the 2012 fourth edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary CH, Oct’12, 50-0603 was already straining the confines of its single-volume print format. The present dynamic version provides a welcome opportunity to add more illustrations, expand and update bibliographies, and develop new subject areas such as those covering material culture or reception studies.

At the time of review, the new edition offers all of the 6,000-plus entries from the previous tome, with new or revised entries being added each month. Examples of recent additions include Columbanus, the Venerable Bede, and the Atlantic Ocean. Revision and publication dates as well as the nature of the revisions (e.g., bibliography, new content) are carefully noted. However, since most articles have been posted to the site in the last few months, the prominent online publication date may be deceptively recent. For example, an article might be reprinted verbatim from the 2012 edition but have an online publication date of December 2015 in this new edition. Functionality is similar to the Oxford Reference Online platform in that one can search across the database for keywords, article contributors, or all full text. This new version also allows browsing by broad topic area. Articles can be output in PDF format, and a citation generator can format copy and paste citations in APA, MLA, or Chicago styles. The editors plan to introduce more multimedia materials, and supplementary content now includes a series of maps of the ancient world and the abbreviations list from the fourth edition. While full access requires a subscription, the general public may freely search the site and view abstracts and keywords. For most academic libraries the Oxford Classical Dictionary is an essential purchase, although there may be budgetary challenges for some institutions in converting a former onetime purchase into an annual subscription.

Summing Up: Essential. All academic levels; general readers.

Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War
Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group
Pricing: One-time purchase price is $65,000.00, with an annual platform fee of $998.00; contact the publisher for discount options and consortial pricing
[Visited Jun’16] This collection comprises British government secret intelligence and foreign policy files from the UK’s National Archives. Spanning the years 1873–53, the bulk of the material is from the 1930s and 1940s. The conflicts that occurred within the time frame include the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Korean War, and the early years of the so-called “Cold” War. One can find correspondence, directives, maps, memoranda, and intelligence reports, among other documents.

The home page is appealing and well designed, offering both a method of immediately searching (under the Advanced Search tab) and a way to browse the collection (under Explore Content) to get a feel for what types of material can be found. The design is a pleasant departure from visual collections that greet the user with only a sterile search interface. From this landing page, users can select from a list of 10 themes to focus their research (e.g., “Signals Intelligence and Code-breaking,” or “Foreign Policy and International Relations”), or select from the list “What People are Searching For,” presumably trending topics. Users can also find out everything they want to know about the collection, including help resources, tutorial videos, descriptions of the series within the collection, and—most important—the methodology for the selection or omission of materials and details about the metadata structure. A nice touch is the series of short subject essays with references written by members of the editorial board, which place the collection in historical context and discuss things such as how the British intelligence services were organized, or what events were taking place in the world at the time. Other sections highlight the key people and organizations discussed; the individuals named are hyperlinked to provide a convenient searching mechanism pinpointing mentions in the full-text documents.

Upon executing a search, results appear in list form, and a toolbar on the left allows the user to further focus the results by facet, such as by theme, geographic region, and document type. Here one can focus on organizations mentioned in a particular document. The OCR images load very quickly, are high resolution, and can be zoomed into and out of by using the mouse’s scroll wheel. Metadata, along with detailed lists of keywords and related content, are also displayed in separate panes, providing leads for further exploration. This invaluable collection of primary-source records (e.g., “Deception in the Post-War Period,” “Russia’s Strategic Interests and Intentions in the Middle East”) totals approximately 144,000 pages, and complements other collections of secret files recently released, including Cold War Intelligence Online CH, Aug’14, 51-6510 and the Central Intelligence Agency website CH, Nov’13, 51-1244.

Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty.

Smithsonian Collections Online: Evolution of Flight, 1784-1991
Gale (part of Cengage Learning)
Pricing: Contact publisher for pricing
[Visited Jun’16] Evolution of Flight, 1784-1991 is the latest digital archive available in the “Smithsonian Collections Online” series, a partnership between Gale/Cengage Learning and the Smithsonian Institution. The series offers extensive primary source materials within multidisciplinary domains that focus on technological advancement and industry, much of which was previously available only physically on request through the Smithsonian’s multiple archives and libraries. Previously released collections include Trade Literature and the Merchandizing of Industry CH, Jan’15, 52-2329, World’s Fairs and Expositions CH, Jan’15, 52-2328, and Air & Space and Smithsonian Magazine Archive CH, Dec’13, 51-1802. The interface supports subscribers who wish to search the content across these multiple collections.

There is much to recommend in this newest release. Archival collections on aeronautics are rarely holistic in scope. However, through primary source material divided into 21 content areas, Evolution of Flight presents a longitudinal overview of major technological and social advancements over two centuries of aviation. The types of materials scholars of aeronautics would expect from such an archive are well represented, including reports of the Civil Aeronautics Board, draft technical specification and documents related to early flight, and materials from both world wars. Where this collection excels lies in its coverage of underrepresented populations in aviation. Of these, both its African Americans in Aviation and Women in Aviation sections are unique in their offerings, featuring content ranging from manuscripts to photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, and diaries. Each subcollection includes a landing page noting the extent of the collection and date ranges: more than 600 items ranging from 1920 to 1990 currently make up the African American component, bringing together four separate Smithsonian special collections; the Women in Aviation component covers 1906–2000, including more than 600 manuscripts and items from newspapers and periodicals—likely the single largest digitized collection of its type on women and aeronautics.

Novice researchers can easily navigate the search interface, and users may search the entire collection or a designated content area. For deeper searching, one can make use of subject facets, term clusters that group common themes, and a term-frequency tool. A user may also create an account to annotate manuscripts and images. Photographic images are high quality, and the records often contain informative notes. Additionally, related subject information and convenient source citations are provided at the bottom of each included representation. With its breadth of material and the functional interface typical of Gale products, Evolution of Flight contains materials suitable for all levels of scholars, particularly researchers looking for resources pertaining to African American history, women’s studies, and aeronautic engineering or technology.

Summing Up: Recommended. All academic audiences; general readers.

The Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
New York University Libraries
[Visited Jun’16] New York University’s Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives is one of the most important repositories of material relating to the American Left and radical politics. The website provides not only finding aids for its collections but also a variety of online exhibits, including a few photograph collections, a New York City map highlighting important locations in labor history, and an overview of the devastating 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Though some of the finding aids for the labor archives contain enough biographical material to make them sufficient as online resources themselves, they could be helped by some cross-referencing. For example, the finding aid for the Virginia Gardner Papers lists her typescript autobiography without reference to the fact that this whole manuscript is online in another corner of the website (and, indeed, can be hard to find, unless one knows it is available at Likewise, though several online exhibits consist of images of documents from the archives uploaded to Flickr, there is no back-and-forth linking between these images and the finding aids for the collections from which they come. The NYU libraries blog, The Back Table, has, at the time of this review, not been consistently or recently updated. It is, nonetheless, profoundly moving to be able to see items such as Joe Hill’s handwritten lyrics for “To ‘Bronco Buster’ Flynn,” a song he wrote upon the birth of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s son, Fred. There is a wealth of material here, but it needs a better curatorial hand to make it all truly accessible.

Summing Up: Recommended. All libraries/levels.