A blog bibliography?
A comment of Gavin’s in this post prompted me to reconsider (for the umpteenth time) how best to manage bibliographic references. That we still have publishers printing giant bibliographies in hard copy is a bit obscene, given how most of our bib info now starts out/comes from digital sources in the first place, and most of it ends up digital as well. For years many of us have been using computers to manage our bibs: at the least a Word document or maybe Excel, but hopefully something a bit more sophisticated like a database or dedicated bibliographic software. I learned Endnote from my mother back in 1988 – ok, actually I had to learn it in order to teach her, which was difficult when high school senior has no idea why anyone would want to keep track of all that data in the first place. Then in grad school I migrated to a self-designed monstrosity in MS Access back in 2001 or so (see here for the reasons). When I was a postdoc at George Mason I played around with the Zotero add-in for Firefox, but had issues, e.g. constant error messages on startup, not to mention the question of how to coordinate between Access and Zotero. Plus, Zotero’s ability to download records from online catalogs is great, except when it can’t (or at least couldn’t) for several of my libraries, and it doesn’t help that most new records needing entry are single book chapters, which have (or had) no separate online records. So I’ve stuck with my Access bib database – 35,000 publications thus far (and another 40,000 records for primary sources, but that’s another matter).
More and more, though, I’m wishing I had my huge database available everywhere: accessible on my desktop/laptop/iPad, in my home office, in my den, in my work office, in the classroom, in the library, at a conference, in the archives… Plus it gets harder and harder to coordinate the various files (even when splitting the database into back and front ends), keeping the versions compatible every time you upgrade, etc. Now that the age of the cloud has clearly arrived, whether it be iCloud or Dropbox or Zotero online or what have you, it seems like it might be possible to do away with this hassle. Add to this the new blog, my ultra-portable iPad, and the fact that I’m also finally getting back into doing archive research (a month-long trip to England in May along with some shorter jaunts elsewhere), and I’m wondering whether now is the time to change, while I still have time left on my sabbatical. The key is to make sure that I’m not losing a lot of the functionality I built into my Access database, as I described on my website mentioned above.
As concerns the blog, the question is whether there would be interest in creating some kind of online group bibliography. Obviously I’ve posted all sorts of citations throughout the blog, and several commenters have kindly offered their own references. I have created and shared Google Books libraries (bookshelves) with my students, which has the advantage of allowing full-text searchability. It would be easy enough to post the link to some of those here. But perhaps we might like to create a more general group bibliography of EMEMH? If there was interest in this, I might use it as an excuse to convert my own bib at the same time.
So for Gavin specifically (or anyone else who knows), I’d appreciate thoughts on how the Skulking blog might create an online group bibliography. It looks like Zotero online might be an option, but I have a few questions about how the shared Zotero groups/libraries work:
- Can you link title records to Google Books, either as a link or actually embed the pdfs?
- Are the pdfs themselves actually viewable online? (Maybe it requires a login, since clicking on Gavin’s pdf links didn’t do anything for me.)
- Would it be possible to link to other people’s libraries, or otherwise share/duplicate records? Would each user be able to keep their own library, or just rely on the collective library?
- How easy is it to backup or protect the records from accidental/intentional deletion? Is there a way to limit notes/tags to specific users, or is everything editable by anyone? Will Erik and I get in a fight over whether to use the tag “Austria” vs. “House of Habsburg”? 😉 Any group effort could quickly descend into chaos without some vocabulary control.
(It looks like there’s probably a certain amount of storage free, and then you pay for an upgrade, so presumably the number of pdfs storable online would be limited in any case. I also don’t know if there would be any copyright issues sharing pdfs)
To everyone: Even if you don’t have any advice about how to do it, let me know if you would be interested in developing some kind of shared online bibliography, and what you would like that to look like.
[As a general principle, I still want to control my own copy on my own machine, in case the internet connection goes down, the hosting company goes out of business or decides to delete the data, etc. I’d suggest everyone do the same, particularly if your job consists of doing research.]