Archivy etc.

opinions, occasional rants, and sometimes things that have nothing to do with archives at all. Nothing here should be assumed to be reflective of my employer's opinion(s) nor should it be assumed that at anytime afterward, this is what I still think.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ADR-4a: Live homework help

Oops, make that 4b as well.

1. Using Student Center, get real time help from a tutor with one question from one of these articles...

Mostly this made me curious about and how they deal with pretty basic factual questions--do they walk you through finding the answer? Or how do they approach this? I'm procrastinating working on this project because I really don't want to download the software to my laptop (does this bug anybody else?--this isn't specific to this particular project, just anything web-based that makes me download something I don't immediately recognize or know who wrote it...) So this will wait for the Anchorage gathering on Saturday.

2. Using the Job Center, upload your resume or a recent cover letter for review and feedback. Remember to remove personal info from your document. (You should not share any personal information with your tutors, including your email address, full name, phone number, or anything else that could be used to identify you.) Or: Using the Proof Point Writing Center upload a recent report or essay for proofreading and feedback. Remember to remove personal info from your document. (You should not share any personal information with your tutors, including your email address, full name, phone number, or anything else that could be used to identify you.)

I'm waiting on this one, too. My current curriculum vitae is about 13 pages and since I haven't applied for any jobs that request resumes of late, I don't have a shorter version of it. Plus to remove info that would identify me would be an extended process. Same too for anything I've written over the past few years--it would impossible to redact identifying information out of it. So I'm hoping for Saturday on this one, too. I have to admit, I was tempted--for all of a half-second--to upload a cover letter submitted to a recent search committee on which I served, but ethics preclude.

So on to 4b, instead.
1. Conduct an advanced search in the Teacher Reference Center to find articles about “Technology Education” and “Alaska”. How many results were returned? From the results limit your search to full text and published after 2008. Look the list (it should be less than 10 articles).Select and article from the results, using the EBSCO citation feature, copy and paste the APA citation from the article you chose into your blog post for this lesson.

46 returned. 7 results for full text and 2009-2011. (it wouldn't give me 2012 as an option.)
Manzo, K. (2009). Former Apple Executive to Lead U.S. Ed-Tech Office. Education Week, 29(11), 15-20. [by the way, I didn't copy/paste that because of the 200 lines of html coding it brought with. I retyped it because I forgot that I could copy the text into the html view of Blogger and it wouldn't carry all that code with. Also, I'm too lazy to look, but is the 29 for the volume of the journal really supposed to be italicized in APA?)

TRC looked really fun, especially after I discovered I could have articles read to me in an American accent, a Brit accent, or an Aussie accent. Turns out the Aussie accent was a woman's voice so maybe not quite as fun as I'd hoped. And apparently the reading is a computer generated amalgam of individual words and letters so all three accents sounded a bit not-too-bright, readers who were reading via phonics and no comprehension. I'd been having some vision issues today so listening to the article appeared to be a great option, but I soon tired of the lack of vocal inflection and got to wondering how desperate I'd have to be to listen to this. I'd much rather pay Sadie with her New Zealand accent to read it to me. (You reading this Sadie? You up for it? I'll buy you a pastry on Saturday in exchange.)

2. Next search ERIC for “Technology Education” and “Alaska”, how many results were returned? Refine your results to full text and published after 2008. How many results are returned? Look for a title in the results list that does not have a PDF or HTML full text link.

297 returned. 10 for 2009-2011. Clicked on the title to one that didn't have the PDF/HTML full text links. Perused on down the record til I found the link to the ERIC-hosted instance. Waited about 2 minutes for that pdf to fully load.

Since I was in a meeting today where we were talking a lot about full text and citation matchers and discovery tools and databases and such, I had to wonder. Why didn't the item have a pdf link if, in fact, it had a pdf link? Very bizarre. Sometimes I wonder about the unnecessary persistence we (global we, or possibly not we at all, but the smart guys who program these databases) expect of our users...

3. Now search Professional Development to find articles about “Technology Education” and “Alaska”. How many results were returned? From the results limit your search to full text and published after 2008. Looking at the results list are some of the titles familiar? Was there overlap from your earlier searches?

57 results, 8 for 2009-2011. I'll have to confess to not reading most of the titles in the ERIC list, but the TRC and PD database results had a lot of the same results.

4. From the EBSCO interface, click New Search (in the upper left corner) and click on choose databases, check ERIC, Professional Development and Teacher Reference Center. Conduct one last search for “Technology Education” and “Alaska”, how many results were returned? Refine your results to full text and published after 2008. How many results are returned? On your blog post for this lesson, share your thoughts about the value of searching an individual educational resource compared to searching all three databases simultaneously.

384, refined to 18. What I found fascinating was that of the 18 results, EBSCO listed them as being either from ERIC or PD. Not a one was listed as sourcing from TRC--though obviously many of the PD ones were available through that source, as well. I think for the advanced user, who knows a lot about what they want in their answers, drilling down to one database as a starting point might be helpful. It certainly reduces the number of hits you have to navigate. But for more generalized researchers, ones who might not even be sure of the search terms they're using, I'd tend to advise going with the more generalized searches. If nothing else, the volume of results may serve as a teaching moment to discover the importance of well-chosen search terms.

Oh, and by the way, I continue to have to log into all the EBSCO databases from my home connect (despite, yes, having an AK IP.) And I had to log into both TRC and ERIC and PD with the library-provided credentials despite there being a lag time of exactly 5 seconds between using TRC and going back out to the Digital Pipeline and clicking on the ERIC link and same for ERIC and PD. Why?

I wondered if it might have to do with cookies and my browser, so I conducted the same test on the Consortium Library site. I went through databases A-Z, pulled up TRC, logged in using my UAA credentials, then closed the window. Opened a new window, went back in and pulled up ERIC, and got taken right in to the EBSCO host database. So I'm beginning to think it's not entirely me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

ADR-3: Reader's advisory

This week it's NoveList and NoveList k-8.

I've been using NoveList regularly for a few years: mostly to find that title of the book where I remember the plot and a couple of the characters, but am blanking on author and title. The other significant use I've made of it is in relation to an ongoing research project: I did my MA thesis on archives and archivists and how they're portrayed in fiction. Unfortunately last time I checked they're not using that as a controlled vocabulary term (what's wrong with LCSH that they don't cater to me?) so I often have to use broader terms or just archiv* and that messes me up when the review is written by an archivist...

But I haven't used it--at all--to get suggestions for others I might like. So this use was new.

1: Use the Read-Alike features in NoveList or NoveList K-8 to find several new authors or titles that you might like to read based on your favorite books. How accurate do you think these recommendations are? How about the Series recommendations?

I started with Terry Pratchett, one of the finest writers today. And the first three read-alikes were Paul Di Filippo, Patricia Wrede, and Neil Gaiman. I've not read the first two, will admit, but I was taken aback by the Gaiman suggestion. He and Pratchett co-wrote one of the best fantasy novels I've ever read (my original introduction to Pratchett, in fact) but I wouldn't at all call him comparable. Much darker, a good writer, and I have tons of friends who love his work, but it really doesn't speak to me. I wouldn't consider them similar authors at all. Of the 9 authors suggested, I'd read Gaiman, Spider Robinson, Douglas Adams, Piers Anthony, and T. H. White. A few of whom I liked, a few I disliked, a few I went back and forth on, but none would be that comparable for me except in the broad category (for a few of them) as "humorous sf/f writer." I probably shouldn't have chosen an author that was so sui generis for me. 

So I switched over to a much more mainstream author: J. D. Robb (better known as Nora Roberts.) And mostly got a smattering of romance authors (including Julie Garwood? Really?) with Tami Hoag thrown into the mix who started as a romance author but quickly segued into the darker suspense novels. Weirdly enough, I like the Robb novels, not so much her Roberts novels (I can't explain but I'm convinced it's a different author) but that may be because I also like mystery novels and enjoy the touch of police procedurals and the more character-driven plots of the Robb books. I guess there's no more character-driven plot than a romance novel, but I was surprised not to find any of the lighter mystery authors not included. I also noted that the first book listed under Robb was listed as forthcoming though it's been out well over a month, so whatever is flipping that switch in the database is a little behind. 

I couldn't find anything that looked like a series recommendation, so I clicked off to the help screen, typed in series recommendations and a few clicks and new windows later, I found the EBSCO help instructions for finding series recommendations. In a Word doc though? Why wasn't this a webpage instead of a download? So back to the main screen with J D Robb, click the series button, and looked at what I got. First was Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series which I would decidedly NOT consider comparable. Very different genre and significantly more NSFW status, that one. However some of the others in the remaining 9 leaned more toward the romantic suspense end of things, so might be considered somewhat comparable. 

2: Save several of those selections to your folder.
Did. Did so by clicking on the folder icon since I wasn't sure what the save icon would do. (I'm curious: the save icon is traditionally a 3.5 floppy. Anybody else wondering if that will change since hardly any of the youngsters know what a 3.5 floppy is anymore?)

3: Often librarians are asked about books in series order. Use NoveList or NoveList K-8 to find a series in series order. (hint: search on the author and use the Series tab at the top of the results list)
I switched over to Nalini Singh on this one, because I was curious as to how the results list would get ordered with the novellas published in anthologies, to see if they'd be in initial date publishing order. (Robb has those too, but with as many as there were in that series, it would take me forever to find them). As it turned out, 2 of the three were in the list in story-line-based chronological order. The third was listed at the end, decidedly in no order at all: neither story-based nor publication-based. So that confused me a little. But it wouldn't necessarily have affected the reader that much--there were only a few clues in one of the regular novels to indicate that this particular novella immediately preceded it. 

4: Check out the Resources section – Readers Advisory Toolbox – on NoveList or the How To Use NoveList support center. What parts of the NoveList website do you thing will be most useful to your patrons?
I'd already briefly looked at the How To Use in my attempt to figure out instructions for the series recommendations. I don't work with patrons in this realm, so it's a little hard to assess the rest of that question. What I'd say is that the suggested authors would probably prove useful as well as the general searching for a book when you can't remember the exact details. The other benefit over other book searches is the ability to sort in order without getting every single reprint and new cover messing up the list--one of Amazon's greatest failures/lacks, IMO, where they rely on users to provide those lists and only give searchers the sort by publication date option. 

Because I have to...

I worked at Waldenbooks many years ago while I was in college and for a few years after. One day this girl in her late teens/early 20s walks in and comes up to the desk. She says something to the effect of "I can't remember what the book is called but for some reason I think of rabbits." I said (with nary a pause): "The Necromonicon?" She says: "YES!" We walk back to the appropriate shelf, I pull it for her, I ring it up, she pays, she walks out, very happy. I look over at my boss who had watched this whole exchange and who is sitting there sputtering "what the, what the, what the... How did you DO that?" To which, even now, I still have no answer. Had never read the book in question, the girl was dressed preppy, and I have no idea how rabbits enter into the question. Now THAT'S reader's advisory. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Just realized: ADR

Those of you here to read my stuff for the Alaska's Digital Resources class probably don't want to wade through the off-topic postings since this is still my regular blog too and I don't want that to go on hiatus for 3 months. So if you look to the right-hand column part-way down you'll see the calendar of postings and can click on whichever ADR one you want. And you're welcome to read my other stuff, but you certainly don't have to do that.

The Strumpet Manifesto

A friend used the word strumpet the other day in reference to a "tea and strumpets" party which she usually attends. And it got me to thinking.

There's a lot being said right now about the word slut, which, no matter how you try to ennoble it, just doesn't seem to get there. I originally thought I'd like to do a call to arms: Strumpets Unite! I think, though, that part of the problem here is when people start thinking about other people as groups, instead of individuals, it becomes easier to place labels and stereotype and not to think about them as individuals. Words like slut become easier to throw around without thinking. Just like the classic and much more ubiquitous and insidious: What do women want? What do women want? Who knows? Who cares? The only reason to ask such a question would be in hopes that the answer will allow you to stop thinking about the woman in front of you as a individual with her own wishes, desires, interests. It's a shortcut. Is that such a good idea? (Hear the resounding and echoing NO! in the distance?)

I looked up strumpet in the Oxford Dictionary of English. Among other things, it defined strumpet as "a promiscuous woman." (1)  So I looked up promiscuous and the etymology of that word said it was based on miscere, which is the Latin for "to mix." I quote: "The early sense was 'consisting of elements mixed together'" (2) which for me, pretty much confirms it. Except the woman part. I think guys can and should be strumpets too.

So this is my Strumpet Manifesto. If it works for you? Great. If not? Write your own. Nobody said we had to be in lockstep. In fact, maybe we'll be doing the world an educational favor if we each--no matter our gender or whatever label is being applied--insist on being treated as a sole person, not to be stereotyped, not to have assumptions made about us. There may be strength in numbers, but sometimes, just sometimes, there's strength in one.

But hey, I'm an archivist. Unique is my raison d'ĂȘtre. I might borrow, adapt, refine, alter, and frequently do. The end result, though, is me.  And if this strumpet stands alone? So be it. As long as I'm recognized as an individual, that works for me. And this list is in progress. I just wanted to get what I could down while I was thinking about it. I may add to it at times. Twelve seemed a good starting point.
  • I will respect the knowledge and experience of people who have knowledge and experience I don't.
  • There's always something to learn.
  • I want to remain open to differing perspectives. That doesn't mean I have to approve of all of them.
  • I don't need to tell people absolutely everything I know.
  • I respect people's choices to be called what they wish to be called and to be defined by what they wish to be defined.
  • I do not respect those names and definitions when applied by anyone else without the consent of those who are being labeled.
  • Damage to people around me may be inevitable, but I can try and limit the amount of damage I do and apologize when I find out I've done it. 
  • Conversations and discussions are better than lectures, but occasionally lectures have their uses.
  • I have many friends who I cherish and no two of them are alike.
  • It's FUN to have diversity in my life.
  • My life is a work in progress.
  • The price of admission into my life? Is respect.
And now that I've been thinking about it? Please write your own. Share the link to it below. Steal from mine if you want, if it applies. Or don't. Whatever works for you.

1."strumpet;" noun. Oxford Dictionary of English. Edited by Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2010.Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Alaska Anchorage - State Wide. 14 March 2012;>

2."promiscuous;" adjective. Oxford Dictionary of English. Edited by Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Alaska Anchorage - State Wide. 14 March 2012;>

Sunday, March 11, 2012

ADR-2: Genealogical Resources.

Question 1: [summarized] using the various resources in HeritageQuest, search for a grandparent.
Okay, I did it, knowing darn well I wasn't going to get anywhere with my family. My mom's folks emigrated to the US in the early-mid 1920s and wound up in Detroit by 1930 but since that census year isn't indexed for MI yet, no such luck and I'm not about to read all of the Detroit returns to see if I can find them. My dad emigrated to the States in the 1950s, and so nothing in the US census for them, either. I did search on my dad's last name and found 2 people listed with it: Gottleib Schmuland in WI in the 1900 and 1920 (listed as 30 in 1900 and 55 in 1920 and not found in the 1910) and a Julia Schmuland in Spokane WA (curiously enough where my folks have retired to now) in 1910.

I spent 2 years of my undergrad working on encoding the 1900 ID census for computer processing for the Idaho Population Project (IPOP) back in the day when computers didn't crunch words so well, so I know for myself what a challenge it can be to read handwritten censuses and transcribe them well. I use the census--occasionally--to try and track down snippets of information on Alaskans in villages (usually easier to read through those short schedules) so this is one of the online resources I consider myself familiar with. So I skipped the second exercise, since I've done it a bunch of times in past, and even played with printouts a little.

Zero hits on my mother's or father's surnames on the rest of the resources, as anticipated. With the exception of the US Serials Set on which I got this response:
Which since you probably can't read that small, tells me that due to licensing restrictions, academic institutions do not have access to this area of HeritageQuest Online. So much for speeding things up by using my work connect.

As the ADR-Anchorage group was talking on Saturday, somebody, I don't recall who, mentioned that as an archivist I probably dealt with genealogists all the time. It surprised more than one of them when I said "not so much." Our archives has a lot of organizational records and materials created/collected by Alaskan individuals and families, but unless we have the papers of your family or friends of your family, chances are we won't have a lot of material of interest to most genealogists or family historians. Or maybe not that we don't have it, what we do have is scattered, our materials for the most part aren't item-level named indexed, and so somebody doing more general research is unlikely to find the time/result ratio in their favor--best chance is that they'll find scattered and occasional items after having had to go through box after box after box of material, even assuming they were to find collections in our holdings with some sort of connect to the individual for whom they were searching and get it narrowed that far, at least.  A lot of the types of documents of broad genealogical value: birth/death/marriage records are either governmental or church documented, and the governmental stuff is in governmental archives and church documents in church hands or similar. The Russian Orthodox Alaska Diocese vital records index is held by the Library of Congress and is available on microfilm in many large libraries in Alaska.

But when I worked for the Utah State Archives and taught sessions on the types of records that people interested in doing Utah-related genealogy might find at the state archives there, even then I didn't see a lot of genealogists. This was due to two things: the huge presence just down the street of the LDS main Family History Library which held microfilm copies of many of the records we had plus international ones as well, and that a lot of Utah genealogists were doing the research not so much for finding the stories of ancestors, but tracking the family trees. And a lot of the marriage/death/cemetery/birth/probate records we had were indexed with dates and names so that was about as far as many of the genealogists we saw got into our records: just confirming dates and names.

What I found interesting in the Alaska-specific documents shared in this week's material was the mention of how few court records were included. Or vital stats. A few years back I called up the state's Vital Records office and attempted to inquire as to when the state/territory started keeping birth/death certificates. And was basically told it was none of my business unless I was looking up an ancestor. Which shocked me! I still think maybe the receptionist I got didn't know the answer and didn't entirely understand why I was asking the question if I wasn't looking up a family member, but I'll admit to not having pursued it further. Does anybody know the answer to this? When did Alaska's government start tracking births & deaths?

Because in other states/territories, governmental tracking of births/deaths mostly started round about 1895-1905. I read a really fascinating book a few years back (title/author escapes me now) and one of the small side points to it was the explanation that it was really the Populist movement of that time frame that got governments to start doing birth/death certificates/registers. Because at the heart of it was public health. If you're interested in infant mortality rates (for example), you need to document the deaths of infants. And in order to document the deaths of infants, you kind of have to document the birth of infants. I realize this is a gross overgeneralization of the causal relationship here, but this is exactly why birth and death certificates--in most places--were handled by the state or local departments of health, and still are in many places. That's why the quantity of genealogical information in these documents may vary in quantity from place to place: the department of health wasn't necessarily thinking that someday these records would be useful to genealogists, but they were thinking in terms of immediate statistical and epidemiological needs. That they've ended up being so useful to genealogists is just serendipity.

Related to that (since I'm on my birth/death certificate soapbox now) I used to have to point out to researchers that you couldn't entirely trust the genealogical information appearing on death certificates, especially. Because generally it was filled out by a grieving family member who may or may not have been emotionally capable of dealing with the questions at the time. Or if it was filled out by a more distant relative or friend, would they necessarily know the accurate ancestry details? Speaking of family without a clue, my mom just found out in the last couple of years that her mother, Helen Ulm Milchner, who has been gone since the 1980s, wasn't named Helen (and that's probably one of the reasons I've never found her in the Ellis Island database) her birth name was Magdalena. We believe it was switched to Helena when she immigrated to the US and then eventually shortened to Helen which is what she went by most of her adult life. You can imagine the family confusion after my grandfather's death in 2005 when one of my aunts found an insurance policy made out to Magdalena Milchner. Everybody wondered who was this woman my grandfather had named a beneficiary in the 1930s! I'll note I haven't found her under Magdalena either in the Ellis Island database, but I did find my dad's dad & siblings who apparently on their way from Russia via Liverpool to Saskatchewan crossed Ellis Island and show up in one of the ship manifests there.

But back to court records, naturalization records are phenomenal for genealogical information, especially for those of us who are first, second, or third generation Americans!  You can often find the where/when in census and from there find the courts that would have handled the process. This is a guide we used when I worked at the Utah State Archives regarding the how-tos and whys of using naturalization records for genealogical purposes. It's Utah-based, of course, but since naturalizations were largely handled the same way nation-wide, there's a ton of excellent information in there on how these records were kept, when they were kept, and how you might go about finding them (Utah or otherwise) AND what types of information you might expect to see in them.

Toward the end of our ADR-Anchorage meeting on Saturday, we got to talking and foreseeing things about week 2's lesson. We all had a lot of fun comparing not so much our genealogies as all the stories of genealogy gone wrong. Like when somebody was interviewing my paternal grandfather and he somehow managed to add an extra son to his list of children including a date of birth, which is now in a print book somewhere. My grandmother, who knew darn well there was no extra John in the family on any date, just sat and didn't correct him while my grandfather misinformed the nice man doing all the hard interview work. One of the other librarians shared that in her family, all the women were named some variant of Sarah but never went by the variant by which they were named and used a different one, which could probably get a genealogist trying to track this down years later to tear out his or her hair! Or the fact that the banks all use our mother's maiden names and places of birth as their security questions except that whoever had the bright idea to use that apparently never thought about genealogists and the fact that they tend to share that information widely: does this make us more likely to get our accounts hacked?

But that's [more than] enough from me, once again. I'm going to go read the articles and call it done for this week. Elapsed time? A LOT less than last week! I'm really sorry I'm going to miss next Saturday's meet-up since I'll be out of town: I suspect the conversation will be really lively again! By the way, if you're going to be in Anchorage one of these Saturdays and want to join us, it's open to all. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for the group. We're not currently planning to move the date or time, but just in case.

ADR-1: Business resources, question 5 follow-up.

In reading some of the other participants' blogs, I realized I'd gone WAY astray on question 5 about how many women were in the workforce in Anchorage. When I'd done my search and got 150K or so, I basically thought, yeah, that's half the population of Anchorage, and didn't really think it through. Like maybe a goodly portion of the female population in Anchorage might be underage and not technically part of the workforce. So Saturday at the ADR-Anchorage meetup, I brought the question to the group. And showed them my search which wound up basically the same way. This is on ALARI: the Alaska Dept of Labor & Workforce Development's Research and Analysis website.

To show you what went wrong for me, I grabbed a series of screenshots.
So I went to the site, clicked the first dropdown, spotted Anchorage/MatSu but decided that wasn't what I wanted, and made the assumption that I should click the second drop down.
There was Anchorage! So I clicked on it.

And then I dropped to the bottom of the page, cleared out all the selected datasets, and just chose Worker characteristics. And hit Next.
 And this is what I got. Note the circled items at the top: I did not notice that apparently my earlier chosen delimiters had not taken. This is the search I recreated for my colleagues on Saturday. And as we were viewing the initial webpage, I finally clicked on the Go button next to the Anchorage choice and got the following:

And behold, the Alaska heading changes to Anchorage, Municipality of. And I redid the rest of the search, clicked next, and got the correct answers. Or at least the answers everybody else got.

The conversation went for a while and kept getting more and more raucous as we tried to compare notes and show each other what we were doing on 4 different wireless devices scattered amongst the six of us. At least 2 of the others who got the answer right didn't recall having clicked on the Go button to save the delimiter. And one of them swore she'd never even noticed all three of the Go buttons (so you know she's not lying when she said she didn't recall clicking on it.) And as we played on the site, we also realized we didn't have to move L-R on the geographic choices: if you chose the appropriate locale in the 2nd or 3rd box, it automatically carried through to the larger geographic areas in the boxes to its left.

We all decided that DLWD needs to do some user testing on this site. Or at the very least, read this and put some directional info in like: "To narrow your search geographically, choose a location and click the Go ."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

ADR-1: Business resources, question 3-8.

I am determined to get more than one question in this blog entry. Just FYI.

3) Staying with the Small Business Reference Center, find at least one item using the browse by category. What did you find? Use the browse by popular resource to look at one or two books. What did you find and did they look helpful to you and your patrons? 

I chose by industry type. The page was an alpha listing by industry type, as you might expect. Still thinking of my friend, I went paging down to find make-up and half the way down the page realized I should have been searching cosmetics (the database is only as creative as the person searching it) but then realized they didn't have either, so no such luck there. But there was a Crafts link! I clicked on that and in perusing the screen realized that there was the start-up by state link that I'd vaguely remembered from the tutorial (three days ago now) but couldn't find when I was doing question 2. I moved around a bit in this area, clicking on the boxes to the left to take me to other major categories, and at no time did I spot anything labeled "browse by popular resource" within though upon going back out to the main screen I did finally see "browse popular sources" and realized that I'd read the question as a series of instructions instead of individual instructions that weren't step-by-step. [Daniel: forgive me. This is the way my brain works--I hyperfocus when confused or tired. It makes for some fascinating research results, albeit not very helpful ones.]

I'm mostly going to skip the rest of this question on the books: I can't answer for our researchers since that's not within our purview as an archives. I read a few pages from the one on non-profits meetings and minutes because records-keeping of non-profits is something we deal with--even if only from the endpoint of when the created records end up as a permanent record in our holdings, and I can say I liked the writing style, the conversational voice, and next time one of the organizations who give us their records ask me about records keeping, I'll try and remember to go back and read a bit more.

4) Visit the Alaska Department of Law Consumer Protection Unit. What are the landlord's responsibility for a rental property? What are two examples of frauds and scams? Where can you file a consumer report?

If it's all right, I'll just copy out the bit from the table of contents from the The Alaska Landlord & Tenant Act: what it means to you - PDF(787K) on the CPU subpage for Landlord Tenant rights. Which I found on the right hand listing of resources on the main CPU page. I need to save some time here.

Living in a rental property
The landlord’s responsibilities ..............................................................................................................................................8

Here's the list of frauds and scams from that subpage linked from the same right hand listing.

 And as for a consumer report, I took that to mean a complaint because I really doubt anybody would bother with telling this agency that a business was doing good... So from the same right hand column of resources, I came to the Consumer Complaints page that has all the relevant data.

Can I just say? The AK Dept of Law's website is WAY easier to navigate than the EBSCO databases. Good job! Somebody appears to have done some user testing.

5) Visit Alaska Regional Information. Pick your community from the places menu. How many female workers are there in your community? Who is your top employer? 

I pulled up the resources page on Sled, clicked on the "Alaska Regional Information" and got this: 

Just FYI. Picked Anchorage Municipality as the location, chose the "workers characteristics" dataset only. Female workers in 2010: 149,571. Went back out, changed the dataset to employers, and got: State of AK (excludes U of A).

6) Visit the Alaska Small Business Development Center. What are the stages of the small business cycle? Where can you find a checklist for starting a small business?

Based on the Lifecycle page, the stages are:
I went back out to the main page, clicked on the Tools link at the top of the page, and on the right hand side of the Tools page, spotted the "Checklist for Starting a Business."

Just as a matter of practicality here, though, this is where the EBSCO SBRC won out for me. It looks like a lot of really good information on the ASBDC site but the language I found a little cutesy throughout. (think, launch, grow, reinvent, exit?) It's, I'm certain, meant to be friendly to people who are probably not accustomed to business-speak and may achieve that quite well, but if I were looking to start a small business, I think I would prefer the slightly more formal tone of the subject guides in the SBRC. Of course, an Alaska-specific focus is also the point of the ASBDC site, which the SBRC would not accomplish so well.

7) Visit the Institute of Social and Economic Research. What are two publications done about broadband in Alaska in 2011? Has Small Scale Modular Nuclear Power been considered as an option for Alaska? Do any of the Institute's research areas seem relevant to you?

Went to the ISER site, clicked on the Publications link to the left, sorted by date, and found the following two documents.
ID: 1477
Broadband Policies for the North: A Comparative Analysis
Heather E. Hudson
November 2011
35 pp.
ID: 1447
Rural Broadband: Opportunities for Alaska
Heather E. Hudson
November 2011
35 pp.
presentation to the AFCEA ( Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association)

ADR-1: Business resources, question 2.

2) Visit the Small Business Reference Center. Do a search for handicrafts. Where could a person sell their work online? In person? Are there any books or book chapters on starting a crafts business? Search using words from a small business owner you've worked with recently. Anything of value in the results?

This time I'm going to mix the answers in with the process. I'll put my answer bits in a different color so you can see them at a glance.

Oh, and by the way, I had to log in a second time when I went to do the second question from the Small Business Reference Center at home. Despite being an EBSCO product, despite having been logged into the BSP interface less than five minutes before. Was this happening to anybody else?

I started this the same night I did question one (or messed up question one, which is probably more accurate.) And upon searching "handicrafts" in the search box in the SBRC and then reading the rest of the question and realizing none of the initial page of results looked likely the meet the details in the question about where to sell online or in person, I added the word "sales" to my search query. Which took me from 498 results to zero.  Took it back out to the full results list, stared at the first few delimiters on the left, decided none of those were going to get me any closer to anything on where to sell work specifically. Can't imagine that it being a book or an article would matter, dates might, but not enough to make my date delimiters anything but arbitrary. Which isn't necessarily a wrong approach, but I was suspecting I was going off on the wrong track about as badly as any human being could.  Enough for one night.

Back at it the next day from my work computer. Time to try again. Went back, pulled up the 498 item hits list. Looked again at the delimiters on the left, thought, hmm... subject, and clicked the down arrow. None of those related well. Went back up one, clicked on "Subject: Thesaurus term" stared at the first set of results and thought well, maybe "Calendars" would tell me where and when sales were. That would at least get me the part about where I might sell in-person. The second hit in the list: "Shows to See." American Craft, Dec2011/Jan2012, Vol. 71 Issue 6, p15-21 was a winner. An A-Z listing of some craft shows by state. (I'd like to point out right now that the first one in the article was the "Earth, Fire & Fibre" show at our very own Anchorage Museum!) I went back out to my main original search and realized that this particular article was the 4th one in the original list, but for some reason--probably just sheer frustration level last night and the fact that I was focusing on sales and online sales for the first part of the question--I hadn't translated that article title into something that could answer the in-person part of the question.

Resolved to this time actually look at the results in the hits list--because hey, maybe the database folks were actually providing answers even if I didn't recognize them as such--I typed "handicrafts online" into the search box and got one hit. Which was: "Small Things For a Prettier Life." Full Text Available By: SCOTT, GREGORY J.. American Craft, Feb/Mar2011, Vol. 71 Issue 1, p16-16, Well, that didn't look overly promising, but I'd resolved, and I looked at it. The first few paragraphs were all about a brick & mortar craft shop, but towards the top of the second column I spotted the magic word: Etsy. It took a while for them to get there, but they did describe it about halfway through the article as being an online craft sales site with some basic information that would make it clear that this might be a direction somebody willing to sell online might go.

Here's the thing though: I can't imagine there's too many crafters left out there who haven't heard of Etsy. But again, I went to Google and tested it out and typed 'where to sell crafts online.' The first hit was from a blogger who had a list of online sites (Etsy was first on that) and the second hit was Etsy itself. Google is kicking EBSCO's butt on this, I'm afraid...  There certainly wasn't any better information in the article I pulled up in the SBRC on Etsy than I found through Google. Mainly because it wasn't the focus of the article.

To make it fair, I went back to SBDC and searched Etsy and came up with 18 results. I looked at the first seven. All of them at least mentioned Etsy in the article. (I'm not clear on how the results list is being sorted...) I'd presumed anybody asking this question might be looking for a tutorial on how to sell on whatever the online site might be--none of these were it. Reviews, one piece on what can happen to server speed with high demand, how Etsy is funded, so forth. Interesting information for somebody doing a, say, Datamonitor report on Etsy, but not the type of stuff I'd expect a member of the public to be after if they came in the door with this question. Add to that the significant load time of these graphics-heavy articles--even on my high speed university connect--and I really can't see that this is the direction I'd go with a relatively pop topic like this that should be easier to find through the non-hidden web. That first blog entry I'd gotten on Google was pretty limited, but did at least provide a little hint as to what to expect with the different online sites when getting started.

Part 3 of the question: book or book chapters on starting a crafts business? Side note here: what I was finding was that to truly clear all my delimiters and search terms out, I had to go back out to basic search on the main interface page. For some reason, my results list were affecting the date delimiters so if I just went back to the top of the page and hit "clear search" and typed in a new term, the date span wouldn't clear out. Weird. So I did handicrafts again, got the 498 results, limited the results list to books, which gave me 1 result. Chapter 17: Crafts." Full Text Available By: Cohen, Sharon L.. 199 Internet-Based Businesses You Can Start with Less Than One Thousand Dollars: Secrets, Techniques & Strategies Ordinary People Use Every Day to Make Millions, 2009, p223-229. I will admit, I didn't want to go read it to make sure it met my criteria (how much time was this process supposed to take us, anyhow?) so since my search term was handicrafts and the title mentions starting a business, I decided it was good enough. I can't imagine why I'd care if it was a book or an article on starting a business anyhow, except maybe as an arbitrary choice to narrow down the results somewhat. Besides, it was probably sheer luck that the one book in the list of 498 items was on a start-up, so if I'd been searching this as a topic, I probably would have refined my search terms or gone back out to the main page and taken my chances with the "Browse by category: start-up kits and business plans" link rather than looking by media type.

Part 4: search words from a small business owner with whom you've worked lately. A friend of mine in Seattle makes mineral makeup and is thinking about selling online AND is moving to LA from Seattle this month, so I figured that might be a good one. How to start up a business in Cali. The question was specific to using search terms so I tried that approach. I used "mineral makeup online" as my terms and my results said: "Note: Your initial search query did not yield any results. However, using SmartText Searching, results were found based on your keywords." 36 results, and it didn't tell me what SmartText Searching was (did it use variants of the words? How can I learn from the process and do it right next time if it doesn't tell me what it fixed?) but the second hit looked promising."5 ways to cash in on mineral cosmetics." Full Text Available By: Uhland, Vicky. Natural Foods Merchandiser, Nov2011, Vol. 32 Issue 11, p22-23. I should have clued in from the journal name that this was for merchandisers carrying other people's products, not for the makeup seller herself. I skimmed through the remaining results, 4 pages despite knowing most people give up after 2 (and again, how are the results sorted? I don't know) and nothing looked great. So forget the instructions for how to answer the question. Back out to the main page, click on Start-Up Kit and Business Plans, click on Small Business Start-Up Kit, and item 6 has stuff on federal, state, and local guidelines. This would be useful. A few other sections in the kit also looked useful for start-up level things, so this is probably where I'd direct somebody asking me about starting a business.

Phew. Question 2 down. And I was hoping to fit more than 1 question per entry but since this is already longer than the Customs House intro to The Scarlet Letter (and not half as interesting), I'll leave the next question for the next blog entry. Fingers crossed this gets easier for me soon. And I'll leave you with an image from a friend's daily desk calendar (she sends me random pages, and this is one that came today).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ADR-1: Business resources, question 1.

Okay, so this week was business resources. I'm not at my finest here, so bear with me. I was going to do the whole thing in one blog entry but the reality is that I got so incredibly lost in this assignment that I had a choice. I could give you just the answers, or I could tell you the experience, or both. (Shades of my math major days when if you showed your work, you could still occasionally save your grade despite having the wrong answer.) So here's the thing. Each of the questions will have a separate blog entry. Since they were all taking me forever to do, I needed to break up the assignments anyhow. Who was it that said this would take maybe an hour a week? I don't think they were thinking about me... Since it took me approximately 2 hours to answer question number one--note, that's just the question, not elapsed time for reading the curriculum which I had done prior--and write up the "how I did it piece," I'm doing it in chunks. If I can get more than one answer in one blog entry, I will, but after question 1, this isn't looking so promising and I think I need to quit for tonight.

1) Go to the Business Search Interface. Find the Microsoft Corporation company report. Open the Datamonitor Report. Who is the Chief Financial Officer? What did he do before coming to Microsoft?

Answer: Peter Klein, 13 years in "corporate finance" in Seattle. (I could copy/paste the rest, but at this point you know I found it as I should have, on page 17-18 of the report.)

I'd like to tell you a little bit about this week's exercise for me. I was having a real problem completing it from work. I had a lot of work to do, and I just couldn't dedicate the time to it there easily. So about Wednesday evening I figured, what the heck? I was sitting at home just doing my nails, why not haul the laptop (a two month old MacBook Pro) over and open Safari on up and try to do it? No such luck. I clicked on Daniel's link right into Business Search Interface. Ebsco wanted a login. I don't have a login. It never occurred to me that I'd need one because I wasn't asked for a login from my UAA computer (well, yeah, we probably subscribe to it there and my IP address at work is in a recognized range.)  Hmm, I thought, maybe I have to go in through SLED. So I pulled up and clicked on a few links ("Business and commercial" and the "Hot Topics" tab) and nothing looked like the very colorful blocked page we'd gone in through in the lesson. After a few more seconds of staring at the URL provided in the class information, I realized that was because I was supposed to click on the Digital Pipeline from the main SLED page, not go in through Business and Commercial. (Well, I thought it was obvious that you could get to there from here...) That all sussed out, I found the appropriate page and clicked on the BSI link and again, login requested. So much for my theory that going through SLED would get me there.

How do I get that login? It's not in the course stuff that I could find--I checked the Week zero instructions, re-read over the week's curriculum, looked for a FAQ, no luck. Looking at the Digital Pipeline site, I finally spotted the large "Need a password? Call 1-800" hint on the left. But look, I'm cheap. I used to work for places that had 1-800 numbers, and I knew darn well the agencies took it in the financial teeth back then every time somebody dialed their 800 number--it all rang through as a business hours long distance call, no matter when it was or even if it was a local call. So none of that, I don't need to be running up ALN's phone bill for a research attempt that isn't even real, I decided. [update from 2 hours later: I went back to the course site and finally spotted the FAQs tab that had the login info. Um, web designers of the world? I don't care what anybody says, tabs are NOT visible. They're a clever organizational design concept that doesn't work. Please stop using them.]

So what does any puzzled library employee do? Call up her own ref desk. I got a rather bemused ref librarian who said "what are you doing? Are you at HOME?" and then went and checked to see if he had the appropriate info. He did, and gave it to me. While he was looking, he pondered aloud that it was weird that my IP address hadn't been recognized, which made the lightbulb go off for me: see, I'm working through Clearwire at home. And they pretty much moved out of Alaska a few months back. They're still providing service (probably through somebody else) but made it clear that if I ever canceled my hookup, I'd never be able to re-establish it through them here. So probably--like way back yonder when we used to read our web stats and half our users seemed to come from VA because that's where AOL was located--Clearwire's IP range isn't registered in AK. My curiosity got the better of me (see why it takes me SO long to do these sorts of assignments?) I went and found an ip address lookup site and whaddya know, it's listing me as being in Anchorage AK. Why I couldn't just go in the database, I don't know. So much for that assumption. And of course, since I couldn't leave that alone and the IP address lookup thing also had a Google map with a pointer, I zoomed in til I found the location on the map which was nowhere near my place, or anything really, but in the vicinity of a street named Honey Bear Lane up in the hills between Bear Valley & Glen Alps and of course that made me think of Honey Badger which just gave me the giggles...

I'd like to point out that when I'm working a real reference desk, I stick to topic and not go off on these weird tangents. At least not where the researchers can see me do it, anyhow. I'm not that insane.

At that point I was able to log in, but I'd so totally lost the thread of everything that I'd been doing that I had to go back and look at the BSP documentation to figure out how to do the search... Nothing like watching a tutorial twice! Except here's the thing: the interface that I'd logged into? Didn't look like the one I had seen in the tutorial. Under the search box there, it had buttons for Keyword, Company, Industry... and so forth. That wasn't the interface I was looking at. Well, no wonder. I hadn't lost the thread of what I'd watched: it wasn't the same search interface! Sigh. At the top of the page I had, there was a tab/link for "Company profiles" so I figured, what the heck? Following directions clearly was not working, it was time to get creative. I clicked on that, got the alpha list, typed Microsoft in the search box so it would bump me to the appropriate section of the alpha list, and there was the Datamonitor report. (Thank heavens. If it had been something else, I think I would have started throwing the nail polish bottles.)

But I am kind of curious as to why I was looking at a totally different search interface for BSP in real time than was presented in the powerpoint and flash tutorials. The tutorial versions sort of made sense to me. What I was looking at looked like a much more generic search interface that wasn't oriented to the business world the way the tutorial ones were, and thus made it a lot less intuitive. What button or delimiter did I fail to click? Because I understand the point of the exercise wasn't to find this specific information, it was to get comfortable in looking for a variety of data from companies. Only I ended up frustrated and focused on the exact answer needed so I could do the assignment and move on, instead of really learning how to make use of this database. [Update from next day: I went back into BSP from my work account and the interface looked exactly like the one in the tutorial. The intuitive one, you know? So I went into Academic Search Premier from the Consortium Library site and lo and behold, the interface I'd seen from home was the standard EBSCOHost interface, not the database-specific one. See? I wasn't totally crazy. But I'm thinking a member of the public who had a librarian walk them through this process on-site and then tried it at home would be in about the same shape I was.]

So I open the report, go look at the CFO's name, bop down a few pages to the bios, and read this guy's really boring bio. Total elapsed time from start to finish? About 20 minutes. Out of curiosity, I did a comparison test. I went to Google, typed in 'Microsoft "chief financial officer"', clicked on the second link entitled "Peter Klein, Corporate Vice President and Chief Financial Officer" since it was from the MS website and appeared to be their PR department and what do you know? The exact bio as it appeared in the Datamonitor report. (How much do the research wonks at Datamonitor get paid, anyhow?) Yes, I get that this isn't the point. I get that not everything is what it appears to be in a Google results list. I get that this information may not be quite so accessible for less well-known companies. I get the the Datamonitor report probably has tons more information that isn't sitting publicly on the MS company site (or I hope not, I wasn't likely at that point to go do a side-by-side comparison for the whole thing). And I get that the likelihood of any researcher walking in the door and asking how to find MS's CFO's name and business bio is next to nil, this was just the chosen data item for the exercise and arbitrary tasks often result in outlier results. But elapsed time? Less than 30 seconds. I'm thinking Google wins over EBSCO on this round, even if you take my "how do I log in" time out of it.

And now it may become suddenly more clear why I'm often a sought-after person for usability testing. If it can be broken, I'll break it. And in some really creative ways. But since that's far too depressing, I'll leave you with a picture of my cats blithely ignoring my intense research efforts tonight.

And yes, that's an interlibrary loan wrap you see on the book behind them. Since it's due in about a week, I think I'll go back to reading it instead.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's a long road ahead (Alaska Digital Resources part 0)

First a heads-up, to let regular readers of my blog (all 3 of you) know what's going on here. I'm participating in an online course to learn about the various information resources available through SLED. It's a way cool site that makes tons of information available to Alaska residents for free online! And I'm not just saying that because I'm nearly a founding member of the Alaska's Digital Archives project which is a part of SLED.  At any rate, in my attempts to remain a lifelong learner, I'm taking a course sponsored by the Alaska Association of School Librarians and the Juneau chapter of the Alaska Library Association. For more information about the course, you should check out the course website.

At any rate, in order for the teaching gurus to track the progress of the participants, we've been asked to do blog entries tracking each week's progress. So over the next 9 or so weeks, I'll have weekly entries detailing my alleged progress toward the class goals. To give you some idea of how much work I have to do, I'll tell you about the results of my pre-test. I can't show them to you because I made the mistake of submitting them before I grabbed a screen shot, but they were dismal. It was basically a list of a bunch of the resources provided via SLED and we were asked to explain how much we knew about them. Well, most of my answers fell in the categories of "I've heard of that" or "What was that again?" Except, of course, for the question about the Alaska's Digital Archives for which I proudly clicked the "I teach classes to Experts!" button.

The blog entries for the class will all have the Alaska Digital Resources name and the week in the post title, so if you don't want to follow my progress like a concerned mother hen watching over her clumsy and accident-prone chick, you can see at a glance which entries to avoid.

So here we go, all. It could be a very rocky road.