Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Current Google developments

Even as Google is now taking down 250,000 links per week due to copyright infringement (more than fifty times the amount it took down in 2009 alone), it also seems eager to make its ever-popular search engine all the more appealing and useful. 

It recently released a video describing its new “Knowledge Graph”, which Alex Madrigal, writing in the Atlantic, says “makes the process of Googling something faster, easier, and better”.  Here is that video:

(see here and here if you would like more detailed analysis of the “Knowledge Graph”)

Interestingly, Google has also just re-launched a site that attempts to help instructors to teach about “information literacy”.  It is called “Google Search Education”, and at the site, one will find lesson plans about “picking the right search terms”, “narrowing a search to get the best results”, “evaluating credibility of sources” and more.  

(note that Concordia’s library has done some videos regarding these things as well.  See the tabs on our help page – here is the tab for research steps in particular – I’ll be interested in seeing how they compare!)

In addition, Google's Daniel Russell, their "Uber Tech Lead for Search Quality and User Happiness" (yes, this is his job title), recently did a talk at Princeton: "What Does It Mean To Be Literate in the Age of Google?"  It may be worth your time.   
As to how we might begin to address the notion that Google is the best source for everything, I think the following analogy may be a useful place to start: information is food.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Librarian-Conqueror @ CSP library

You would probably not think that one of the world's first librarians was also the ruler of the world's then-Superpower.  

But such is the case!

Here are some interesting clips from the Wikipedia article on this cruel (the Assyrians were known for this) yet cultured man, Ashurbanipal (685 BC – c. 627 BC), evidently known in the Bible as Asenappar:
"He established the first systematically organized library in the ancient Middle East,[3] the Library of Ashurbanipal, which survives in part today at Nineveh

....He was one of the few kings who could read the cuneiform script in Akkadian and Sumerian, and claimed that he even read texts from before the great flood.... During his reign he collected cuneiform texts from all over Mesopotamia, and especially Babylonia, in the library in Nineveh....[19]

....The Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh is perhaps the most compelling discovery in the Ancient Near East. There have been over 30,000 clay tablets uncovered in Ashurbanipal’s library,[20] providing archaeologists with an amazing wealth of Mesopotamian literary, religious and administrative work. Among the findings was the Enuma Elish, also known as the Epic of Creation,[21] which depicts a traditional Babylonian view of creation.... Also found in Nineveh, The Epic of Gilgamesh[22]

....The library also included hymns and prayers, medical, mathematical, ritual, divinatory and astrological texts, alongside all sorts of administrative documents, letters and contracts. The discovery of these tablets in the mid-nineteenth century by Hormuzd Raasam provided the modern world its first detailed glimpse of the languages and literature of ancient Mesopotamia. Ashurbanipal had a fascination with the past, and during his forty-two year reign he sponsored the collection and copying of older texts for his library at Nineveh.[23]

....Other genres found during excavations included standard lists used by scribes and scholars, word lists, bilingual vocabularies, lists of signs and synonyms, lists of medical diagnoses, astronomic/astrological texts. The scribal texts proved to be very helpful in deciphering cuneiform.[19]
Concordia has a relief of Ashurbanipal, who is on a lion-hunt, that will be mounted in the basement of the library - we hope in the near future.  It closely resembles the picture below:

Image credits: ,, and

Please note: the library does not advise citing Wikipedia in scholarly papers!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

More eBooks Available For Trial: ebrary Academic Complete

Try ebrary Academic Complete! This trial provides access to all 74, 692 eBook titles in this collection, which is comprised of a multidisciplinary array of academically focused titles from the last 10 years. Trial ends on June 3rd.

All books can be viewed in the ebrary interface using a Web browser. In addition, these titles can be downloaded for offline use. Some only allow one chapter to be downloaded (output as a PDF), while others can be downloaded in full and transferred to a peripheral eReader (excluding Kindles). To download and transfer a book to your eReader, you will need to sign up for an ebrary account and have Adobe Digital Editions installed on your computer. Offline checkouts are terminated after 14 days.

We also have a Trial to a similar collection in EBSCO: Trial the eBook Academic Collection from EBSCO

Send feedback on either or both of these Trials to

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Textbooks in the News

There is no doubt about it: textbooks are giving lots of people headaches lately.  Concordia’s student newspaper, the Sword, recently featured a thoughtful piece by Kristi Loobeek: “I Want My Money Back: Buying Books You Never Use” (more on this article below). 

I’m quite confident that students have been voicing complaints about having to purchase under-utilized textbooks for a long time.  That said, perhaps because of what we now know about the possibilities that the internet presents, these negative feelings have been exacerbated.

Interestingly, there have been a few recent stories of note in the major media about textbook issues: 
  • This article notes how paying for textbooks has become a large burden for students in these financially-strapped times, and so “the University of Minnesota is launching an online project to hunt down free textbooks to replace the pricey ink-and-paper versions… [They] will review open-source textbooks and collect the ones that pass muster in an online catalog… [and] faculty will be paid $500 to write a review of an open-source textbook.” (also note the U of MN. already has a used and rental program).  To see some free online textbooks, go here.
  • Many students buy and sell their textbooks online, using sites like and  However, note that foreign students who buy textbooks produced overseas have been sued by the publishers for then selling them in the United States!  This article talks about how Supreme Court recently took up a case in which this happened.
               (both of the above stories were found here: )
  •  Finally, Apple is getting into the game.  This article notes how some Chicago-area school districts are turning to iPads to cut textbook costs.  Textbooks through Apple, the article notes, can be purchased cheaply, and these tablets can “embed video and audio, provide interactive materials that prompt students to answer questions”.  Many districts are allowing students to take the iPads home as well.  The article about the U. of MN above also states that “Apple is expected to enter the college market soon… where publishers create multimedia textbooks for the iPad”
So there is a lot of textbook-stuff going on!

In the Sword article, Loobeek talks about being required to by books that she says “turned out to be completely excessive”, wasting hundreds of dollars.  She makes a convincing case that she really did not get a good bang for her buck.  Near the end of her article, she mentions how the library at UW-Stout rents out textbooks from the library every year.  I went to UW-La Crosse, and there they also rented out all the textbooks – but through the bookstore, not the library.

Currently, Concordia’s library accepts textbooks as donations, but has a policy of not spending book budget funds on textbooks.  The reason for this is primarily because it is not the best stewardship of our limited resources: textbooks are expensive and new editions are constantly being released.  Even if we bought just one for each class, only one person from the class would be able to use it at once.

In any case, I for one commend Loobeek on a thoughtful article that will hopefully get a larger conversation going.  Hopefully, better solutions can be found for the students at Concordia.