Midwinter Conference, January 30, 1999

Minutes of the MLA International Bibliography
in Academic Libraries Discussion Group
Midwinter Meeting, January 30, 1999, 9:30-12:30

1. Welcome and introductions
Faye Christenberry, University of Kansas, Chair of the DG, welcomed the 25 attendees to the spacious meeting room.

2. Appointment of a temporary recorder
Michaelyn Burnette, University of California, Berkeley, volunteered to record the minutes.

3. News and updates from MLA (Terry Ford, Director of the Center for Bibliographic Services and Editor, MLAIB)
Handout: MLA International Bibliography Record Counts by Year

Ford discussed the chart recording the growth in the number of records contained in the MLAIB.  As the result of changing computer systems, the printed version of the 1997 MLAIB went to the printer late, but the electronic updates are on time.  In August 1998, the current year’s data and updates were sent together for the first time.  The 1997 edition is the largest yet (30,000 journal articles, 13,000 book articles, 3300 books and 4400 dissertations in 48 languages); the new system is more efficient and
the MLAIB was fully-staffed for the entire year.  Ford noted that the update in January 1999 was very large and anticipates another large bibliography in 1999.

His office is always reviewing coverage and recently sent letters to MLA members in the areas of Latin America about coverage.  The response rate was 21%, half of whom said the coverage was fine.  Respondents suggested 205 titles for coverage, and the staff wrote to the editors of all these titles to ask for subscriptions.  HAPI is the only other index covering Latin America.  The next project will be Asian journals.

The 9th edition of the Directory of Periodicals will be printed this summer and will be the last one printed.  MLA will offer without charge to current vendors for electronic distribution, and they can decide whether and how to distribute.   Current figures for the Directory are 200 or so periodicals added and 150 dropped.

The MLAIB has added another section, children’s literature, with six bibliographers covering twenty-three journals.  The staff is engaged in in-house retrospective coverage.  Since Susanna Pathak, member of the MLA Advisory Board, could not attend this meeting, she asked Ford to give a report of the most recent meeting. The committee helped define guidelines for the inclusion of electronic material in the MLAIB; coverage of electronic materials will not include web sites or self-published works and will concentrate on serials. Electronic materials must be archived, have clearly stated authorship and publisher information, have a clear editorial policy and be peer-reviewed. If a title appears in print and electronic editions, bibliographers are to cite the print in full and give the URL to the main web site.  When the journal exists only in electronic form, the bibliographer is to include ISSN and the URL and include a note that the title is available only in an electronic version.  When URLs change, the file will be updated.  This policy will be examined every year.

Ford responded to questions:
a. scholarly editions.  The MLA covers, but staff must see before including, so this limits coverage because such editions are expensive and presses often refuse to send free copies.
b. Directory in electronic format will carry all the information about submitting articles to the journals.  The master list of periodicals will appear on the MLA web, but not the Directory.
c. MLA is no longer offering the tape option to new library customers to avoid competing with current vendors.
d. In answer to a query about putting a list of all scholarly editions on the MLA web, Ford responded that the MLA has a committee which approves scholarly editions, not all of which are published by the MLA.  Ford will suggest a link on the web site.
e. Ford is looking for bibliographers in any field, especially for vol. 4, literary theory, criticism and film.  He also needs bibliographers with Asian languages and Italian.  Please express interest by contacting him at ford@mla.org.

4. Discussion

A. Comparative Analysis of the MLAIB on Three Software Platforms:

1. FirstSearch (web)–Scott Stebelman, George Washington University
Handout: Tips for Searching the MLA International Bibliography on First
The web version is slower than the telnet version.  Most literary research consists of a fairly simple author or work search.  The default is the subject field and automatically assumes “and” between terms.  Those used to the telnet version can still use the same commands without using the drop down menus; entering the search field labels in one command saves time. Browse is one way to mitigate the lack of the thesaurus; one can browse descriptors. Can use “History” button to manipulate sets.  FirstSearch
offers no true truncation, only + for regular plurals.  To indicate adjacency, use w (with) or n (near and numbers) operators.  The help screens are good and written specifically for the MLAIB.  This platform is
satisfactory for basic searches, but does not support the more powerful subject searches by exploding terms.

2. SilverPlatter (Christenberry)
Demonstration of WebSPIRS for Windows.  It’s possible to search several SP databases at once.  This version presents three boxes for search strategy and also drop down menus.  Has thesaurus and index.  Searchers can limit to update codes or publication years.  Can change display options.  Can combine sets from previous searches by using search history.  The default display is very short, so the user must click to see more information.  Can email citations.  Not all descriptors are hyperlinked nor are authors; only thesaurus terms seem to be hyperlinked.  Use hyphens for free text searches.  Can limit by language
or publication type.  The help screens are specific to MLAIB.

3. OVID (Susan Peters, Emory University)
Handout: sample search and display of results
Offers basic and advanced modes.  Can access thesaurus or permuted index, but no direct link on search page to get to these features. Broad and related terms–can choose all or none.  Offers truncation and use of wildcard.  Permuted index=keyword in context and can use only one term.  In the thesaurus, can use more than one term.

B. Comparative Analysis of the MLAIB and ABELL  (Peters)
Handouts: Examples of searches in ABELL and MLAIB as done by an in-expert
searcher, About ABELL (from Chadwyck-Healey web), sample search on Maugham
Time and equipment constraints limited what Peters could say, so this demonstration will be continued at Annual.

5. New Business

A. At the Annual conference in New Orleans, the DG will meet on Sunday, June 27, from 2-4 p.m. instead of Saturday morning, the usual time slot.

B. Christenberry asked for possible discussion topics.  These include more on ABELL, a comparison of linguistics coverage in MLAIB and LLBA, a comparison of performing arts coverage.
Submitted by Michaelyn Burnette
University of California–Berkeley


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