By Tom McNulty
November 24, 2009
Over the years, the Library's collection of general (multi-subject) and more specialized, subject-specific databases has grown exponentially. Now numbering in the hundreds, the databases that comprise this ever-expanding universe of searchable material can seem daunting to even the most seasoned researcher. In an effort to more effectively categorize subject-specific databases, the Library has introduced a new and improved databases page. Powered by Xerxes (a PHP MySQL application, for the technically inclined), the new databases page offers a number of options that promise to make the search for appropriate resources more systematic and less time-consuming.
Consider, for example, the economist who is beginning an investigation of the quirky contemporary art market, or conversely, the contemporary art historian who is trying to comprehend the economic aspects of her subject. Each must identify the research tools of the other's profession. With the new databases page, this task becomes much simpler. The link to art databases yields a selection of "recommended" resources that were selected by the art librarian, and the link to economics databases reveals the equivalent for that field of inquiry. The items included among the "recommended" sources are those that are known to be the most frequently recommended by that subject's specialist librarian. Other, more highly specialized resources are listed as such.
Each subject page offers a selection of resources that are "selectable," alongside those which are not. After "selecting" multiple databases, the researcher can search all of those tools simultaneously; because they are subject-specific, the databases will, in most cases, contain some overlap. The items retrieved by these multiple-database (or "federated") searches are "de-duped," saving the researcher the considerable task of manually identifying repeat citations.
In addition to federated searching, the new page offers a number of other handy features, including the ability to "save" databases to personal files, and even create "widgets" for inclusion in Blackboard pages and other e-content delivery systems. So, our art historian can select her newly discovered databases and add them quickly and easily to her course page, and our economist can do the same!
For more information on this and other subject-specific resources and services, remember that you have a subject librarian available; the list of subject librarians, with their contact information, can be found at library.nyu.edu/research/lib_arc.html.
In an effort to assist the researcher working off-site, the Library has introduced a new series of "self-help" tools, or Research Guides, created by subject specialist librarians. While we've had similar guides in the past, the new resources are actually created and maintained by librarians. This degree of control affords us, the librarians, the ability to add, modify, and delete content quickly and easily, which, in turn, promises the most up-to-date content for researchers.
In addition to our many general (e.g., "Fine and Decorative Arts") and more specific (e.g., "Evidence-Based Health Care") subject guides, numerous informational pages, including the ever-popular "Graduate Student Services" (nyu.libguides.com/grads) can be found on the Library's website (library.nyu.edu).
For a complete list of subject Research Guides, visit us at library.nyu.edu/research/subjects.
One of the latest enhancements to the Library's online catalog, BobCat, is the ability to assign words or phrases to individual items, a practice referred to as "tagging." Over many years, libraries' holdings were analyzed by subject, and a rigid vocabulary of terms was used to ensure that like items received identical subject terms. "Tagging," by contrast, allows individuals to enhance bibliographic records by adding their own personalized "tags." For example, a "rockumentary" is a documentary about rock stars. At some point, someone (individuals' identities are never disclosed) assigned the tag "rockumentary" to This is Spinal Tap and a few other noteworthy examples of this film genre. Now, when someone searches BobCat for "rockumentary," the results include these movies.
NYU students, faculty and staff simply log in to "My Library Account" to begin assigning tags to individual
Tom McNulty is Librarian for Fine Arts at Bobst Library.
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