Duck Duck Book

addendum to number 34
06.29.2006, 5:13 pm
Filed under: generalities, websites

Dear readers,
I am pleased to announce that I have completed a new booklist — one made with
my Multnomah County Library hat on:

Surprising histories : how small things have changed the world.
Portland, Ore. : Multnomah County Library, 28 June 2006.

Surprising Histories recommends books about objects.  One of my coworkers, who loves this particular genre of nonfiction, calls them “biographies of nouns.”

Each book takes the case of an object (or sometimes several related objects), examines its evolution, discovery, and/or invention, and discusses why it is important to human culture.  Long-term readers of Duck Duck Book may remember my fascination with this kind of literature from number 23, when I reviewed Tammy Horn’s Bees in America (Lexington, Ky. : University Press of Kentucky, c2005).

Most of the books included in Surprising Histories are of relatively recent publication and should be available through your local library, even if you are not so lucky as to live here in the Rose City.

N.b.: Multnomah County Library has many other fabulous booklists on its webpage,
in sections devoted to books for adults, for teens, for kids, and books for babies.


32 – new georgia encyclopedia
04.24.2006, 5:32 pm
Filed under: generalities, history & geography, websites

The new Georgia encyclopedia / A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the Office of the Governor, the University of Georgia Press, and the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, 2004-2006.

Here you will find scores of articles on subjects relating to the history, culture, life, politics, geography, government, and economics of the state of Georgia, and about the South more generally.  Topics are diverse, from chenille bedspreads to the Nuclear Threat Initiative to time capsules

The New Georgia Encyclopedia's clear and richly illustrated articles are arranged (not exactly encyclopedically, but in a hierarchical fashion) on the left hand side of the page, and are easily browsable.  But the site has some other nice features as well — if you type some terms into the search box, for example, the Encyclopedia will suggest topics that might be what you want, while you type.  The Encyclopedia has are quick-reference sections detailing facts about the state of Georgia, popular destinations in the state, and features that the editors want especially to highlight.  There are also several indices.

Really, there is more in here than you might think, especially if you are looking for information about American History, folkways, or any subject that relates to the South.  I highly recommend that you spend a few minutes leafing through the Encyclopedia, if only just for amusement purposes.  

The New Georgia Encyclopedia has a selection of rss feeds to alert truly committed readers of new articles.

26 – library thing
11.22.2005, 12:01 am
Filed under: websites

Library thing / Tim Spalding.

Library Thing is an example of something that is much talked-about in the library techie world of late: social software. No doubt other people are talking about it too.

Social software is any software system that allows users to produce collaborative work or content. There are lots of different kinds, but one of the most talked-about are websites that allow users to create lists and classify the items in them, in a shared environment. This is called tagging, and here’s how it works:

I add something to my list, and I create some tags for that thing. Then if you look at my list, you can see my tags. If you look at the list of tags I’ve attached to one thing, you can see my tags and use them to look at what anyone else has tagged with each tag. Usually you can also search or browse through a list of all the tags used by all the users, or search the entire system by keyword. There are websites that will allow you to do this with your favorite websites, digital photographs, and now, with Library Thing, books.

Using Library Thing, you can get library cataloging records (yes, the real thing, MARC standard format) from a long list of libraries around the world or from Then you can add your own information to the record for each book: tags, comments, and reviews.

Tags work kind of like the Library of Congress Subject Headings in library catalogs (or, in the olden days, the “subject” file in the card catalog). The big difference is that library catalogs are put together according to a whole lot of strict rules (really!), while tagging is higgledy-piggeldy, as sloppy as the person making the tags wants it to be. So you might have the tags “vegetables,” “veggies,” “greens,” “roots and tubers,” and “veg.” Do they mean the same thing? The answer is, maybe, maybe not.

My friend Davey brought all this together for me recently when he suggested that big library catalogs might be more useful if they incorporated tags as well as Library of Congress Subject Headings or other standard subject taxonomies. Hmmm. Then people would be able to add tags to the books they had read, maybe post reviews like people do at booksellers’ websites, and thus provide a whole new avenue for people to find what they want at the library. Pretty smart. This is not something that will happen soon in big institutional libraries, but Library Thing allows us to experiment with something similar in the meantime. And, according to Library Thing’s creator Tim Spalding, someday in the near future Library Thing will include Library of Congress Subject Headings, and then you will be able use either to find books by topic.

I’ve used Library Thing to make a small library catalog with the items from the last few numbers of the booklist. If you click on the little person’s head icon on the right hand side you’ll see the “social data” for each of the books I’ve entered. You can see the tags I chose and use them to link to books that other people cataloged with the same tags. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to jump from my list to other lists that include the same books because this booklist hasn’t included many items that were superpopular among other Library Thing users. But you can with a few of the titles.

You can make your own account and catalog your own books, if you like. Library Thing has a very nice “about” page which explains how everything works.

The librarianish among you may want to see what other librarians are saying about social software. I’d recommend you start by checking out Jenny Levine’s The Shifted Librarian.

22 – sold in oregon
07.21.2005, 12:01 am
Filed under: websites

Sold in Oregon : historical Oregon trademarks.
Oregon State Archives, updated 14 July 2003.

This rich digital exhibit collects images of Oregon trademarks collected by the Secretary of State’s office between 1864 and 1965.  Flour, produce, salmon, dairy products, packaged foods, medicine, clothing, lumber, automotive products, music, liquor, and cigars are all highlighted. 

There are some truly curious items among the 174 included in the exhibit.  Some oddities I enjoyed are: Breakfast Dwarfies; a “web foot” illustration (it’s dated 1905 — perhaps this is something to do with the Lewis & Clark Exposition in the same year?); Sacajawea, an Oregon Perfume; and the delicious-looking Ice Cream Highball.

20 – word on the street
06.26.2005, 12:01 am
Filed under: literature, websites

The word on the street : how ordinary Scots in bygone days found out what was happening.
National Library of Scotland, 2004.

A delightful web-based exhibition of broadsides, a sort of poster that was one of the major media for disseminating public information in European (and also American) cities during the 18th and early 19th centuries.  Technological advances made printing fairly inexpensive by the early 1700s, literacy was on the rise, and because people like to know what’s going on, broadsides became a popular method for getting your word out.  In general, 18th century broadsides are are pretty low-brow, since they were supposed to be read by regular people who might see them on the street.  Many are satirical, and some offer some pretty pissed-off political and social commentary.  International politics, public morals, the goings-on of people in power, lurid murders, and great tragedies such as shipwrecks are examples of the subjects broadside publishers covered.

The Word on the Street has brief sections on the history of broadsides, on their illustration and distribution, and an index and search tool that allows you to browse by title and subject, and to search for words or by date.  The site also includes a nice bibliography of both paper and web-based resources on broadsides, both in Scotland and generally.

You may remember that I reviewed a book on this subject in booklist number 13.  Those of you who are fascinated by this subject might like to examine it too.

16 – staff picks
04.6.2005, 12:01 am
Filed under: literature, websites

Staff picks — best fiction reads of 2004.
Multnomah County Library, updated 1 April 2005.

Just like it sounds, recommended fiction from Multnomah County Library staff.  If you think we might know something you don’t from spending all day every day in a building full of books, examine this list carefully for the evidence.  You’ll notice that some recommendations are from me, and they’re excerpts from reviews sent out on this list.  This shows my natural laziness, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me. 

There’s a list of nonfiction books as well.

8 – been reading
01.19.2005, 12:01 am
Filed under: literature, websites

Been reading . . . / Jessamyn West.

Jessamyn West is a famous librarian.  Okay, she’s famous among librarians; probably other people have no idea who she is unless they know a librarian and like to talk to that librarian about librarian things.  Which means that you might know who she is, since you know me and many of you let me go on and on about my vocation at times.  Hrmm. 

Anyway, this is her booklist.  In many ways it was an inspiration for me in starting this booklist (the one you’re reading), and so I thought after seven months I should finally show it to you all.  Jessamyn writes brief, useful reviews of whatever she’s read recently, which is a pretty varied group of books: lots of fiction, and quite a lot of nonfiction about computers and disabled people and politics.  She’s smart and has an interesting perspective, so if you’re trolling for something to read and want to browse through what someone else thinks about some books, this is a good place to go. 

The list can be arranged by date reviewed, by author, by title, or by Jessamyn’s rating (+, 0, or -).