Midwinter Conference, February 15, 1997

Minutes of the MLAIB International Bibliography
in Academic Libraries Discussion Group
Midwinter Meeting, ALA Conference, February 15, 1997

Washinton, D.C.



Topic 1 Welcome and Introductions: Cathy Palmer, Chair

Topic 2. Progress report on our projected publication: Scott Stebelman, Immediate Past Chair
The first draft of the book on the MLAIB is anticipated to be complete by June 1997. Scott provided the following draft of the Table of Contents:


  • Michael Marcuse and Betty Day, “The Role of the MLAIB in Scholarly Research”
  • Harrison Meserole, “The History of the MLAIB and Changes in Its Format/Structure”
  • Scott Stebelman, “The Strengths and Weaknesses of the MLAIB As An Information Retrieval Tool”
  • Catherine Palmer, “The Impact of the MLAIB On Collection Development”
  • Elaine Franco, “Vocabulary Control and the MLAIB Thesaurus”
  • Judy Reynolds, “Teaching the MLAIB to Students and Faculty”
  • Robert Melton, “Overlap of the MLAIB with Other Humanities Bibliographies/Databases”
  • Greg Armento, “Overlap of the MLAIB with Other Social Sciences Bibliographies/Databases”
  • Reed Dasenbrock, “Analysis of the MLAIB’s Responsiveness to Changes in Literary Research”
  • James Harner, “Suggestions for Improving the MLAIB”


Topic 3. Reports from MLA Staff on Association Activities and News: Terence Ford, Director of the Center for Bibliographical Services and Editor, MLA International Bibliography

A. The MLA added 10 new field bibliographers and lost 8. Due to a request by the Modern Language Associaton Graduate Caucus, the MLA added 18 assistant bibliographers who are graduate students.

B. The MLA IB increased the coverage of books. In 1996, the bibliography included 3000 books, including collections, an increase of 1500. The MLA is looking at options to provide the list of titles electronically.

C. There were 2 sessions at the Modern Language Association Convention devoted to the issue of providing recognition for bibliographic work for academics as a legitimate activity counting towards tenure. The emphasis was on “value to the profession.” Due to the emphasis on original research for most faculty, the value of bibliographic work brings up different issues for faculty than for librarians.

D. The MLA IB is moving to a new production system for producing the bibligraphy. The goal is that the new system will be in place for the production of the 1997 bibliography.

Danielle Uchitelle: Director of the Center for Information Services, Modern Language Association

A. There were no major new technological advances in the electronic versions of the MLAIB. There are currently four versions of the electronic MLA IB. They are 1)Ovid, 2) SilverPlatter, 3) OCLC/FirstSearch, and 4) direct tape lease. Most usage is through SilverPlatter or FirstSearch.

B. There have been shifts in the use patterns of the electronic MLA. SilverPlatter is the largest supplier of the electronic version. 50% of their new sales are non-US.

C. There is an MLA Web-Site under construction by SilverPlatter. The first priority is making the MLA job list available.

D. Report problems with MLA indexing to bibliography@mla.org

E. The MLA does not have plans at this time to provide the bibliography prior to 1963 electronically due to expense.

F. The MLA Advisory Committee had a discussion focused on the possibility of foreign field bibliographers, particularly in Latin American and Sout/Southeast Asian literature.

Topic 4. Final report on the MLAIB Scope and Overlap Studies: Elaine Franco


A. The MLAIB Scope and Overlap Studies Report (which is really a series of separate reports) is considered an official document of ACRL. Elaine is adding an Introduction and Table of Contents prior to submitting the report to ERIC.

Terence Ford
A. The Scope and Overlap reports were circulated to all 12 in-house indexers. Of 300 new titles added to the Master List and Directory of Periodicals, 150 were identified and included based on recommendations from the report. The reports were particularly useful in identifying gaps in the journal coverage of Women’s Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, Film Studies and Linguistics.

5.Primary Discussion Group Topic: “Interdisciplinary Searches in the MLAIB”

Faye Christenberry, University of Kansas:

A. Faye provided a comparison of journal coverage between Women Studies Abstracts and the MLA IB. Faye provided a handout listing Women’s Studies Titles Currently Indexed in the MLAIB.

Rob Melton, University of Kansas

A. Theater: Rob Melton discussed the focus of the MLAIB in relation to drama, the emphasis being on drama as a literary text. The MLAIB does not intend to provide coverage of technical, biographical, or production issues. The areas of strength are Theater History and Performance Theory. About 1 % of the journals on the Master List of Periodicals are related to theater. The MLAIB provides better coverage of monographs than the International Bibliography of Theater. It does not cover review of individual producations.
B. Film Studies: Rob used a case study approach to evaluate the coverage of film studies in the MLA. He found a book which was interdisciplinary in focus and checked the bibliography against the MLAIB and the two film studies indexes. MLA was stronger in areas that focused on the content issues of film studies.
c. Rob provided a handout summarizing his presentation.

Natalia Sucre Fombona, Assistant Thesaurus Editor, Modern Language Association

A. Natalia presented information about the treatment of Women’s Studies from the indexing point of view. Challenges she identifies were 1) the tension between general and specific terms, 2) multi-word subject terms “women”=real people and “female”=abstract concepts. She indicated that the Folklore section of the Bibliography is useful for finding information about Women’s Studies.
B. Natalia provided two very useful handouts, Indexing and Seraching Considerations for Interdisciplinary Studies: The Example of Women Studies in the MLA IB and Aid for Searching for Terms Related to Disabilities in the MLAIB.

Topic 6. New Business

A. The group identified possible discussion topics for upcoming meetings. The 1997 ALA Annual Discussion Group Topic is: “MLAIB User Education Issues”

Future Discussion Topics:
“Theory and Practice of Subject Indexing”
“MLAIB in Print: To Cancel or Not To Cancel?” Invite faculty to participate in discussion.
“Graduate Student Use of the MLA IB”
“Searching Habits of Humanities Scholars”

Cathy Palmer, Chair


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