Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
One of the perks and, occasionally, penalties of editing a journal such as this, is that it tends to attract a considerable number of press releases and similar promotional matter. On the whole we tend to avoid too frequent mention of these in this column, taking the view that readers will not benefit from regurgitated material that they most probably will already have seen. From time to time however, press releases are encountered that seem to hold particular promise for the reference community. One such that recently caught the eye was the announcement by the British Library of a £2 million project to create a digital archive of British newspapers 1800-1900 (www.bl.uk/cgi-bin/press.cgi?story=1431). Part of a UK Higher Education Funding Council initiative, newspapers included will be selected in consultation with a wide range of potential users and cover both national and regional titles. Those who have trekked out to the further reaches of north London to consult nineteenth century newspapers at BL’s Colindale outpost will particularly welcome this announcement. It will also be interesting to see how the developing project stands alongside successful newspaper digitisation projects undertaken by commercial publishers, notably Gale Groups Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 (RR 2003/46) winner of our Best Electronic Reference Title Reviewed 2003.
National libraries have played a prominent role in digitisation projects. One of the most active has been the National Library of Canada. In this issue of Reference Reviews we take a detailed look at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (RR 2004/403), a joint venture with the National Archives of Canada to make freely available the 14 volumes of the original printed edition. A retrospective digitisation project of a slightly different nature, and one that requires a fee, is H.W. Wilson’s Humanities and Social Sciences Index Retrospective 1907-1984 (RR 2004/358). This product can be seen as further evidence of the “second wave” of digital availability where publishers, having soaked up the market for ongoing reference tools, are attempting to develop the smaller and more difficult “niche” market for older and often under-exploited reference sources. Another electronic review in this issue, but this time for a current database, is Design and Applied Arts Index (DAAI) (RR 2004/395). Originally developed in the UK as a printed tool and then available on CD-ROM, this has recently been acquired by Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA). One of the few art-related reference tools to measure up to Wilson’s Art Index, at least in the design sphere, DAAI has long deserved a wider audience, one it is likely to receive now it is on the bigger stage of the CSA platform.
One of the most important print titles reviewed in this issue is Fiztroy Dearborn’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Architecture (RR 2004/397). Comprising three volumes this is a major landmark publication in its field, as is the Gale Group’s four volume Encyclopedia of Russian History (RR 2004/407). Another important and welcome work is the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages (RR 2004/380). As Stuart James notes in his review, this is a title that will stand the test of time, perhaps well into the next century. For years the most substantial reference work in the field of library and information science was Allen Kent’s Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science and its numerous and apparently unending supplements. Now we have a new second edition (RR 2004/356), available both in four print volumes and electronically, the latter version including supplementary material as it is produced. In rounding off this quick tour of reviews, we should not neglect to welcome back two stalwart and highly distinguished reviewers. Ken Harrison has contributed two reviews. One of these D-Day, By Those Who Where There (RR 2004/402), is written with particularly feeling and perspective as Ken was one of the thousands of allied servicemen who landed on the beaches of Normandy 60 years ago. Alan Day is a respected bibliographer on matters geographical and exploratory with a string of respected titles to his name. We are therefore privileged to carry his detailed assessment of ABC-Clio’s Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia (RR 2004/408).
Mention of contributors leads me to signal that change is afoot in the editorial direction of Reference Reviews.Sarah Johnson, North American Regional Editor and previously editor of Electronic Resources Reviews, will be stepping down at the end of this volume. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Sarah for all the assistance she gave when I took up the editorial reins two years ago. Sarah will be joining the Editorial Board of Reference Reviews and contributing occasional reviews. She will also be writing this column in the next issue. From volume 19 the new North American Regional Editor is David Oberhelman. David has been a regular reviewer for a number of years and is an instruction, reference and collection development librarian at the Oklahoma State University Library. He has a PhD in English Literature and was previously faculty at Texas Tech University where he specialized in Victorian and twentieth-century British fiction. David currently coordinates and teaches an information literacy programme as part of his role as an English and music specialist. He is also active in ACRL and various local and regional professional associations. Welcome to David – we hope with his help Reference Reviews can build on its coverage of electronic materials and North American publications.
Anthony Chalcraft Editor Reference Reviews and College Librarian, York St John College, York, UK