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Recursos Nuevos en Espaol de Britannica
Article Type: Eye on the net: new and notable From: Reference Reviews, Volume 22, Issue 3.
Any reference librarian worth her salt is familiar with the Britannica family of reference products, all of which spring from the venerable, ubiquitous Encyclopædia Britannica. Though more than notable, the Encyclopædia Britannica is certainly not new. A child of the eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment, the Encyclopædia was not the first of its kind, but it distinguished itself by one unique virtue described in a single word by the Encyclopædia’s first editor, this was its “utility”. Though its very name proudly identifies it as a bastion of British reference, the Encyclopædia has long been headquartered in the USA. By the 1990s, Britannica was producing encyclopedias and other educational materials for use in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Italy, France, Spain, Latin America, Turkey, Hungary, Poland and other parts of the globe.
It was also in the 1990s that Britannica expanded into the online medium with Britannica Online. This venture made the entire text of the Encyclopædia available on the web, and it was the first encyclopedia to do so. Since then, Britannica has continued to expand its line of internet reference tools, in the early 2000s adding reference sets aimed at students and younger children. With the explosion of the Hispanic population in the USA and other parts of the globe, it comes as no surprise that one of Britannica’s most recent initiatives has been to develop reference sets in Spanish.
Enter the Enciclopedia Universal en Español (see http://spanish.eb.com) and Enciclopedia Juvenil (see http://spanish.eb.com/juvenil), two new online products from Britannica. Their basic layout and functionality will be familiar to users of Encyclopædia Britannica Online and its spinoffs for the younger set, Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition, which can be further broken down into iterations specifically for use by elementary and younger age students (Britannica Elementary) and middle school students (Compton’s by Britannica). The basic navigation, look, and feel of the two Spanish-language versions mirror that of their English counterparts.
Enciclopedia Universal en Español, the adult product, is a watered-down Spanish-language version of the original Britannica Online. This does not mean that it lacks depth, simply breadth some of the features of the English version, most notably some of the research tools and the entire “Britannica daily” section, do not exist in the Enciclopedia Universal. This mostly impacts on browsing, as there are no browse features for notable quotations or country comparisons as there are in Britannica Online; it also lacks the sheer number of articles to be found in the English version. The Enciclopedia Universal does, however, include the familiar A-Z browsing, timelines, and the World Atlas. And, like the English version, one can search not only the encyclopedia, but also a dictionary as an added feature, the Merriam-Webster’s Spanish-English dictionary. This makes it easier for less than fluent speakers to translate search terms from English to Spanish, and it illustrates one of the objectives of these new Spanish resources, which is not only to provide reference tools for native Spanish speakers, but also to be effective in a multicultural environment to be useful for those who are bilingual or are in the process of learning Spanish.
Though it lacks most of the multimedia to be found in the English version, Enciclopedia Universal does offer a Virtual Gallery of clickable shockwave animations on themed topics, such as Mayan culture or human anatomy. The searching is on a par with Britannica Online, with the helpful addition of clickable diacritics. The searching has also been intuitively indexed to work without diacritics, but diacritic characters added in the wrong place will throw off search results in the same way a misspelled word.
The Enciclopedia Juvenil functions in the same way as the adult version, but the articles have been geared towards the school-age audience in both tone and grammar, and the look of the interface is decidedly child-friendly. Words that youngsters might find difficult are provided as clickable hyperlinks that lead to simple definitions. There are special sections for videos and animals, as well as a section on Learning Materials which is focused on the school curriculum and, as such, is broken down into the four major subject areas:
social studies; and
These provide exercises, games, and activities which teachers can use to further their learning goals within the prescribed curriculum.
Britannica is still expanding the content and features of the Enciclopedia Universal en Español and Enciclopedia Juvenil, and though they are by no means comprehensive, look for them to gain in breadth and features as they continue to develop.
Bethany LathamInternet Editor, Reference Reviews, and Assistant Professor and Electronic Resources/Documents Librarian, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama, USA