or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




EBSCO Launches Free GreenFILE Database

   April 8th, 2008 Brian Herzog

EBSCOhost logoLast month, EBSCO announced they are making their GreenFILE database freely available at http://www.greeninfoonline.com.

According to the announcement message, GreenFILE indexes scholarly and general interest titles, government documents and reports, concerning the ways humans affect the environment in the areas of agriculture, education, law, health and technology. The database contains nearly 300,000 records, including some full text for selected titles.

I added this database to my library's online resources webpage, but also wanted some more information. I wrote to EBSCO to ask why they are making this available free, and if they have any plans to change this to a subscription database. Here's the response I received:

GreenFILE is a free database we provide in an effort to facilitate research and understanding on matters concerning human impact on the environment. We also offer a free database called Library Information Science & Technology Abstracts which features content that is free on the web but for your convenience we've created a database for it.

Since no login or IP-authentication is required, this is an easy resource on a timely subject to add to a library's website. More information from EBSCO and The Ipswich Chronicle.

Also, for those who don't otherwise use EBSCOhost, this database allows a look at EBSCO's visual search interface.



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Online Movie and TV Resources

   March 27th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Tele-puterSomething I've been seeing a lot of lately are websites with free television shows and movies. I mentioned hulu.com on a previous post, and it's also been talked about elsewhere.

(I tried it out this weekend, and watched quite a few shows and a couple feature movies - all for free, with no problems, and very minimal commercial interruptions. This is the first time I've watched television or movies online, so I guess this is something for my Tech-YES list. But it did occur to me that, come Feb 17th, 2009, instead of buying a new set or digital cable box, I might just get rid of my television entirely and rely on the internet for shows and movies [then I could add "no television set" to my Tech-NO list])

Another free source, reported on Boing Boing, is the South Park Studios website. They just announced they are making all South Park episodes available free (but I noticed a few are not, due to contractual issues). According to creator Matt Stone, they're doing this because "we just got really sick of having to download our own show illegally all the time. So we gave ourselves a legal alternative."

A slightly different approach is AnyTV, discussed by LibrarianInBlack. I haven't tried this, but it looks like you download and install their AnyTVplayer on your computer, and then can stream a large number television channels, radio stations and video clips - free. Sarah also bring up the idea of installing this software on public library computers, to allow people to use their internet time to watch television. Hmm.

Finally, LifeHacker offers a long list of free online resources for online videos. I checked out a couple, but none seemed as easy to use as Hulu.com. http://tv-video.net did seem to have more episodes of certain shows, but that might just be because Hulu.com is still new.

Of course, this is all in addition to what the networks themselves off on their websites: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS. These, like the South Park guys, have the edge because they are the source. If all information is free and legal, the only reason to go to the middlemen aggregators (like Hulu.com, et. al.) is ease of use of the interface.



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Information Wants To Be Free

   March 18th, 2008 Brian Herzog

free informationIn the wake of the recent announcements of companies ditching DRM* as a mechanism to control access to audio files, the New York Times is reporting that Sports Illustrated is opening up access to its entire archive.

The Times did this itself not too long ago, as did Atlantic Monthly, but SI's project is supposed to go a step further - not just text, but they're making available their photographs and video and everything. They're also including a handy search interface that lets people search by athlete, team, coach, year, etc.

Hopefully, more and more periodicals will start making their archives available, too (after all, Information Wants To Be Free). This of course would dramatically change the relationships libraries have with long-time vendors like EBSCO, NewsBank and Proquest, but information is information. If all the information is free, then the real value-added piece becomes the interface.

By the way, I found about this through The Huffington Post. I've also read recently about a few more free online resources:

*update: OverDrive just announced (at PLA, anyway) that they, too, are finally moving in the right direction. In June they'll start offering mp3 files - which, best of all, will be iPod-compatible. And they'll finally come out with a Mac interface, too. Read the entire announcement [pdf, 70kb].



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