Peter's Picks & Pens

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LIBRARIANS' INDEX TO THE INTERNET

The first pick is the Librarians' Index to the Internet, an excellent pathfinder to quality Web sites that shows the fingerprint of competent librarians. The second pick is an indexing/abstracting database of Internet-related source documents that are linked from informative, excellently structured records. The pan is a very poor digital implementation of a long-time classic in print format, the Guinness World Records, that has been deteriorating lately. The database version just makes it worse.

This directory of worthy Web sites, Librarian's Index to the Internet (www.lii.org) is a prime example of the quality that librarians bring to the Web--deploying their expertise in evaluating, selecting, and organizing information resources to make them easily accessible for users. Web directories are a dime a dozen on the Internet. Sooner or later, everyone will share with the world their preferred sites in some zany or pseudo-scientific arrangement. I have been panning them regularly here and in my EXTRA site (www2.hawaii.edu/[sim]jacso) to deter the readers of ONLINE from the worst of these efforts, such as Thereference.com, The Free Internet Encyclopedia, or the (not so) Awesome Library. I am delighted when I run into a directory that brings fame to librarianship, not shame. Carole Leita of the Berkeley Public Library and 60 librarians from California (who are deservedly identified on the site) have been doing an excellent job in identifying, describing, and classifying the best sites on the Web-with a s lant toward public libraries and California.

There are records for nearly 8,000 informative and praiseworthy free Web resources classified by Library of Congress Subject headings and with good, critical summaries. There are a few records when the sales pitch of a site comes through instead of the librarians' voice, but these are the exceptions, such as the record about Britannica.com that is not even true anymore because recently the publisher switched to a partially paid, partially free service, and the complete text of this classic gem is not available free of charge anymore (but even so, it is an outstanding resource, indeed).

The sites are classified into about 40 categories from Arts to Women, with a varying number of subcategories under most categories. For example, the top category Law has 42 subcategories including Affirmative Action, Bankruptcy, Capital Punishment, Censorship, Gun Control, Patents, and Tobacco Industry. As in any ontology, the choice of classes and subclasses, or their naming, can be argued. Is there really a need for the Internet to appear in two top categories (Internet and Internet Searching)? Probably not: The superb cross-referencing and splendid searchability of the directory would justify the decision to have only one entry for the Internet at the top level, and would make the otherwise smartly and beautifully designed home page less crowded. I would certainly argue for using the noun format: Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals instead of the adjectival form of the terms. These are worth mentioning, as LII paid attention and replaced some of the category terms, and removed some of the sites that earli er I found to pollute this high-quality directory.

There are still sites that I would not include, such as Atlapedia, when there are far superior sites for country profiles and atlases. To the credit of LII, the annotation is critical, and ranks the sites only as "OK," but even that is too much validation for Atlapedia. There is some unevenness in using subdivisions with certain subject headings, but not with others. Maybe the subject heading-subheading combo America--Discovery and exploration does not justify having additional geographically subdivided entries America--Discovery and exploration--French and America-Discovery and exploration--Spanish that correspond to a single Web site. On the other hand, such highly posted terms as Homework with 65 destination sites deserve a few subdivisions. …