Magazine article Online

Metacritic, New York Times Book Review Archive, and Booklist Archive of ALA

Magazine article Online

Metacritic, New York Times Book Review Archive, and Booklist Archive of ALA

Article excerpt

Summer is here again, so I've dedicated my column to databases that can be helpful not only in your reference or collection development work but also in your private life--reviews written by professional critics. My picks include Metacritic, an exquisite gem of movie and music reviews with a twist. It analyzes film and album reviews published in the best newspapers and magazines; converts the star, thumbs and other gizmo ratings of professional critiques; calculates a metascore; and includes the juiciest paragraph from the reviews in the masterfully designed results list. Plus, it links to the free full text of most of the reviews. This is a superb reference and collection development tool you can use to find a variety of high-quality reviews--a single query produces a mightily efficient scorecard for making educated choices. Metacritic service offers recreation in and by itself and serves as a brilliant example for fighting the mental health hazards of "infobesity."

It would be wonderful to have a similar service for book reviews, but lacking that, my second pick is the New York Times Book Review Archive, which offers its much revered, substantial reviews from 1996 onward free of charge. That the full text is searchable is not always a blessing since the software does not allow you to limit the search to the reviewed author, resulting in noisy, sometimes irrelevant results.

The pan is once again the ALA Web site for having made Booklist, the excellent review collection of books, a disappearing act. Its treasured collection of more than 6,200 book reviews published between 1997 and 2002 and posted on the Booklist Web site is not searchable anymore, let alone viewable. The directions given by the gatekeepers of the ALA Web site for finding the reviews are on a par with what some Parisians do when asked by tourists for directions. It tells you something about the attitude, competence, and care of the Web paramechanics at the ALA Web site and its managers that the official centralized ALA search engine cannot even find information about many of the Booklist reviews, let alone bring them in full text to your screen. The freeware software used before the reckless disorganization project in 2003 could do this; the Amazon software still does, smartly and efficiently. Booklist (and the librarian community) deserves better treatment on its 100th anniversary.

the picks

METACRITIC

Most general-interest newspapers and magazines have sections for book reviews, film reviews, and music reviews. The best ones have full-time critics on their payroll. Reviews (at least for currently released titles) are freely available on the Web on many magazine and newspaper sites, but it is not a swift enough procedure to look up several of them and mentally consolidate their conclusions and different ratings. Metacritic [www.metacritic.com] is light years ahead of the traditional method of looking up reviews in various sources. Its volunteer, but obviously competent, staff members read the reviews of 60-70 of the best newspapers and magazines, assign a score to each of them on a scale from 1 to 100, then calculate the Metascore of the reviews. This is the weighted average of the individual scores.

The weight reflects the clout of the reviewers and/or the primary sources, se that Ebert's reviews, or reviews from The Los Angles Times count more than those published in newspapers of lesser clout. (There is a short and long explanation of the process on the Metacritic Web site).

The results are presented in a visually very attractive, content-rich, and highly informative score card format that provides at-a-glance, quantitative information about the opinion of a number of critics, along with basic production, cast and crew information, and perfectly chosen sentences from the reviews. There are links to the full text of most of the reviews.

The number of reviews varies, depending on the importance of the movie or the album. …

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