Scouting for Net Sites
Schneider, Karen G., American Libraries
Internet Scout, a project staffed by librarians and dedicated to electronic reader's advisory services (located at http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/), recently received a $3-million grant from the National Science Foundation. What are we taxpayers getting for our pocket change?
The Scout Report
The Scout Report is a current-awareness tool from the Internet Scout project that has been around for over four years. That's a long time in Internet years - longer than many librarians have been online - and that very longevity is one reason why the Scout Report is such a useful tool for resource discovery.
The Scout Report, published every Friday, is available on the Web and by e-mail (see the Web site for subscription instructions). Each week Internet Scout staff, under the leadership of librarian Jack Solock, write abstracts for up to 20 new resources. Unlike the breathless "gee-whiz" quality of some commercial currency tools, the Scout Report is subdued, selective, and evenhanded. Staff writers scrutinize content, authority, and information maintenance, and each site is visited several' times to ensure it is stable.
The resources the Internet Scout team picks are designed to be useful to librarians-for example, the issue I looked at for this column, in late June, covered a key Watergate site (just in time for the 25th anniversary of the break-in), a source for news about Africa, and an astrophysics site. The "Where are they now" feature takes a look at an old report citation and updates the information.
The Scout Report will become even more useful to librarians later this year with the debut of three new specialized reports on science and engineering, social science, and business and economics.
Putting the Scout Report to work
If you maintain Web resources, including subject guides, the Scout Report is invaluable. Lisa Shackleford, manager of the Village Library (part of the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City), uses information from the Scout Report to help "update the list of System Book Marks on our public Internet access terminals," and also distributes tidbits from the report to colleagues. Nancy Wildin, from the Seattle Public Library's Web Office, says she "makes a point of zipping through Internet Scout right after receiving it on Friday" and adds that she "wouldn't be without the Scout!"
The e-mail version of the Scout Report is particularly useful for those of us who always mean to stay up to date, but who get too busy. E-mail is an in-your-face "push" technology that's hard to ignore.
Net Happenings: Not just kid stuff
Net Happenings is another long-lived current-awareness tool from Internet Scout. Available by e-mail, ftp, and Usenet and on the Web, and with a searchable Web archive, Net Happenings is produced by Gleason Sackman, one of the earliest (and most mysterious) Net personalities.
While Net Happerungs is, in theory, a general awareness tool, in practice it has always had a strong "K-12" orientation, with many posts about resources related to, or of interest to, school and youth librarians. The blurbs are usually written by the source of the information, but overall - and this must be Gleason's sotto voce guidance - the information is balanced and useful.
The K. …