Create Digitally Enhanced Bibliographies with Public Domain Databases. (Digital Librarianship)

Article excerpt

For this month's column, I chose a topic that has big potential for librarians who want to indulge in small-scale (but still very useful) digitization projects: Digitally enhancing existing individual bibliographies and bibliography collections on the Web can bring instant (OK, quasi-instant) gratification.

Try Enhancing Computer-Readable Bibliographies

Librarians and researchers have long appreciated the importance of subject bibliographies, recognizing that good bibliographies are essential resources for collection development (print or digital) and for research. There are tens of thousands of substantial bibliographies posted on the Web. Searches for them on Google and Allthe Web yield grossly inflated numbers (6 million and 8 million, respectively), because the results include zillions of tiny bibliographies at the ends of student papers. A large percentage of the hits merely discuss and try to explain how to create bibliographies according to the maddeningly nonstandard and often senseless, pseudo-academic bibliographic citation formats. (For perspective, the current version of EndNote supports more than 700 bibliographic citation formats dreamed up by publishers for manuscript submission.) Then again, many of the sources retrieved by the search engines are comprehensive, massive bibliographies of thousands of citations. Even with the above restrictions , it is fair to say that there are hundreds of thousands of good-quality bibliographies in computer-readable format on the desktops of researchers and librarians, as well as on the open Web, and they're ripe for digital enhancements.

I'm intentionally using the somewhat-archaic qualifier "computer-readable," which of course means digital, but I want to clearly distinguish these files from the digitally enhanced ones. An overwhelming majority of the bibliographies (even the subset of the worthy ones) on the Internet use only one function of the Web--its worldwide distribution ability-to post plain-text bibliographic citations that don't take advantage of linking functions. Many such bibliographies represent worthy intellectual efforts in identifying the most relevant documents of a topic, and deserve digital enhancements, which require much less effort.

No doubt, even in the simplest format (typically a traditional or HTML-ized Word file), these free bibliographies are immensely useful for the specialists who would not even be aware of most of them in a print-only world, let alone actually be able to get them, freely and immediately, as they can on the Web. For a good example of computer-readable, citations-only bibliographies, look up the excellent women's studies bibliography collection at the University of Maryland (http://www.mith2

Making Enhancements with Access, Content, or Both

There are two primary ways to enhance these computer-readable bibliographies. One is to enhance access by adding software to navigate and search the bibliographies. There are quite a number of these out there. The other primary way is to enhance content by legally incorporating or linking to abstracts and even full-text sources. Only a small proportion of the bibliographies on the Web belong to this category. Even smaller is the number of "deeply digital" bibliographies, which combine software and content enhancements by making extensive use of many Web features. These can include links to cited full-text articles, conference papers, preprints, slide shows, and/or spreadsheets, as well as to items citing these works, and even to the WorldCat catalog to see which OCLC member libraries subscribe to the journals that appear in the bibliography.

One example of a deeply digital bibliography that offers both access and content enhancements in a sophisticated way is the superbly browsable and searchable HCI Bibliography (, which has 24,000 citations related to Human-Computer Interaction. …