Thursday, November 09, 2006

Database Trial: CSH Protocols

We have a trial set up for the subscription database, CSH Protocols, or Cold Spring Harbor Protocols ( This includes the full text of the latest versions of their laboratory methods in molecular and cellular biology. If this is of interest to you, please give it a try, and let me, Naka Ishii, know if you think this is a worthwhile addition to our collection.

As with any new library resource, if we decide it is valuable, we will need to figure out how to fund it, and weigh the options against the utility of the new resource, so please be clear about how useful it is, what priority you would give it.

You can also access this trial through our Database Trials webpage on the Library's website. From the Library homepage,, click on the tab for Services, then from that list, select Research Help and Support. On the left side of that page, there is a link to the Database Trials page.

Thanks in advance for your help in evaluating CSH Protocols.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Darwin Goes Digital

Cambridge University is in the process of making the complete works of Charles Darwin available online. The collection includes images of books and manuscripts, as well as Darwin's field notebooks! So far the developers estimate that 50% of the total material is now accessible, and more is added each day. They expect to complete the project in 2009.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A new look to UMass Amherst Library Website, and the new online catalog

The Library's Website has undergone a radical redesign, and we hope that our patrons will find it easier to use, once they get over the initial shock. The content is essentially the same, except for the new catalog, which had its debut this week also.

In the months to come, we are also changing the way the contents of the Library's Website are organized, so that behind the scenes, it will be contained in a "content management system." While we hope that this change will be invisible to our patrons, we also believe that it will allow the content to be more current, since global changes will be easier to make.

The new online library catalog, mentioned above, has 'gone live' as they are saying over in Du Bois, and it is not without problems. This gigantic piece of software is really called an 'integrated library system' or ILS. An ILS not only contains the catalog of our materials and electronic resources, it also includes the circulation system and all the transactions, patrons, holds, bills, etc., and the acquisitions module - this tracks all the library materials we order and purchase. On top of that, this one system is shared by five separate institutions, the Five Colleges; so you can see that glitches are inevitable in the implementation of something so massive. We beg your patience and understanding.

That said, please do let us know when you encounter a problem. You might be the first one to notice something awry. Do also let us know if you find something that you like - though at this juncture I'm not holding my breath!

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A new library catalog!

The Five College Library System is instituting a big change. A new Five College Library Catalog will debut the week of August 28, 2006, providing improved access to the millions of resources at the UMass Amherst Libraries and those of the Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith College Libraries. After a detailed market review, the libraries chose ALEPH® by Ex Libris to replace Innopac by Innovative Interfaces, the existing library software system. The new catalog will be available through the Library home page at or directly at

The software will make searching for information easier. For example, it will permit online searching of all libraries simultaneously, foreign language searches, focusing searches on specific research areas, and limiting searches to a particular collection or format (i.e. book, CD, journal, etc.). It will now be possible for users to set up personal accounts to receive email notifications of new arrivals in designated subject areas, and to review personal searches and borrowing histories.

As part of the transition, the five-college request function and self- renewal features will be temporarily suspended from August 19 until the week of August 28, 2006 and the virtual catalog request function has been suspended through January 2007. Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery will continue to operate normally and users can continue to submit requests.

ALEPH was created by a team of librarians, systems analysts, and programmers to provide an automated library system that was efficient, user-friendly, and multilingual. Other libraries using the ALEPH software include Harvard, Duke University, MIT, State University of New York (SUNY), University of California at Santa Barbara, University of Maryland, University of Notre Dame, and many others.

Staff here at the Integrated Sciences and Engineering Library and at Du Bois will be available if you need help navigating the new features, or to speak to your classes about the new system and the libraries in general. As always, feel free to call me with any questions.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Wellcome Trust Biomedical Image Awards 2006

The Wellcome Trust has just announced its Biomedical Image Award winners for 2006. Stunning images of life from the molecular/cellular level on up. Check out the gallery...when you click on an image, you'll be given the opportunity to listen to a sound file of the scientist behind the image discussing his/her work.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Keep up on scholarly communication issues on Create Change website

You all know that dissemination of research has been changing rapidly in recent years. Publishers, funding agencies, professional societies, educational instititutions, and others are stakeholders in how best to shape the future of this process. Libraries and librarians have long been intermediaries in this process, and are active participants in the discussion. Create Change is a website advocating for using the benefits of technology for wider access to the fruits of your labor. It also gives examples of initiatives in open access scholarly publishing from many fields of study.

From the About page of the Create Change site:

"Create Change is an educational initiative that examines new opportunities in scholarly communication, advocates changes that recognize the potential of the networked digital environment, and encourages active participation by scholars and researchers to guide the course of change.

"Create Change was developed by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and is supported by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lost in a sea of science data

A free article from the Chronicle of Higher Education describes how librarians are teaming up with scientists to archive and preserve huge amounts of scientific data:
Science is experiencing revolutionary changes thanks to digital technology, with computers generating a flood of valuable data for scientists to interpret.

But that flood could drown science.

Data from experiments conducted as recently as six months ago might be suddenly deemed important, but researchers might never find those numbers — or if they did, might not know what the numbers meant. Lost in some research assistant's computer, the data are often irretrievable or an indecipherable string of digits. That's a scenario increasingly familiar to scholars, says James M. Caruthers, a professor of chemical engineering at Purdue University.

"We are starting to die from data," he says bluntly.

To vet experiments, correct errors, or find new breakthroughs, scientists desperately need better ways to store and retrieve research data, Mr. Caruthers says, or "we are going to be more and more inefficient in the science that we do in the future."

Dealing with the "data deluge," as some researchers have called it, will be among the great challenges for science in the 21st century. Many in the field say that scientists should not be left to manage the data on their own.

Instead, librarians will have to step forward to define, categorize, and archive the voluminous and detailed streams of data generated in experiments. Already, librarians on some campuses — among them Purdue, the Johns Hopkins University, and the University of California at San Diego — are beginning to take on that role.
(read entire article)

Art of Science Competition / 2006 Gallery

Check out some really striking and lovely images and video from Princeton University's 2006 Art of Science competition....I especially liked this one:

Color Patterns of an Iron Extraction Time Series, Andrew Altevogt, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

More about the Art of Science competition.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Technology in Geologic Time...

I have a copy of my Geology MS thesis on a 5" floppy disk, which I carefully copied and coddled while I wrote (and rewrote and wrote and rewrote) my masterpiece. Now I might as well use it as a coaster for my double half-caf skinny latte. The era of the 31/2 disk is also well and truly over, I'm told. Are CDs and flash drives far behind? So if every new technology is doomed from its inception, how do we preserve our data for future scholars, or even for our own future projects? This concern is raised in stlq, one of my favorite blogs. Fortunately, UMass is working on a solution-- a digital repository, tentatively named UMass Scholarly Commons. For examples of other universities' digital repositories, look here. Aside from the important issue of preservation, there are other opportunities associated with this project--open access journals, for example. If you have questions, or want to become an early adopter of this technology at UMass, contact Marilyn Billings in the Library.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The impact of impact; and, peer review reexamined

Following up on Maxine's post about impact in physics....

A couple of interesting items regarding scholarly publishing have been making their way across the wires today.

(1) ACRLog points to some recent discussions about journal impact factors, including a Wall Street Journal article that discusses impact factor inflation and a Chronicle of Higher Education article (subscription required; UMass users can follow link) on problems quantifying impact in the humanities.

(2) Nature is hosting a web focus, including an online debate, regarding peer review in the scientific publication process:
Peer review is commonly accepted as an essential part of scientific publication. But the ways peer review is put into practice vary across journals and disciplines. What is the best method of peer review? Is it truly a value-adding process? What are the ethical concerns? And how can new technology be used to improve traditional models?
(via Science Library Pad)

These are issues that are definitely on people's minds here at UMass Amherst, as the campus undergoes a research benchmarking process and begins to explore the creation of an institutional repository.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Physics is Hot!

Read the story here.
I found this on another blog, From Your Science Librarian's Desk , and thought it might interest people. What do you think of this characterization of research, and what do you think is behind it? I wonder about the effect of this kind of measurement of on the future of scientific learning.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Undergraduate writing in the sciences: three nice examples

In working with a few of the junior year writing classes in the sciences here at UMass Amherst, I've been impressed with some of the creative assignments instructors are using to engage students in the process of scholarly research and writing.

Recently, I've come across a few other examples of innovative scientific/scholarly writing projects for undergraduates, which I'd like to share here.

First, from the University of Michigan's Museum of Zoology comes Animal Diversity Web, "an online database of animal natural history, distribution, classification, and conservation biology." Many of the species articles in Animal Diversity Web are written by undergraduates, and articles go through an editing and peer review process. From their website:
An essential feature of the ADW is student authorship of species accounts. Students learn considerable detail about the biology of a species, then share their work with users worldwide by making it part of our permanent database...Instructors and ADW staff review and edit accounts before they are added to the site. Classes at a number of universities contribute to the ADW project, and the resulting growth of the database makes us even better for inquiry learning.
Secondly, I saw a great presentation at this year's NERCOMP conference that described a collaborative writing project in the sciences at Vassar College. A professor teamed with educational technologists, a science librarian, and a writing center staffer to create an assignment whereby teams of students collaboratively wrote scientific review articles on topics in protein chemistry. The presentation focused on both the pedagogical and technological aspects of the project--students used an open-source content management system called Plone as a platform for collaborative writing and bibliography assembly. The end result was a series of very impressive scholarly review articles on topics including the pharmacogenetics of HIV/AIDS, chemical biology and cell cycle control, the metabolomics of mad cow disease, and proteomics and Vioxx.

Finally, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is launching a student-run, peer-reviewed journal, the Wisconsin Undergraduate Journal of Science. The creation of the journal strives to meet the following goals (from their "About" page):

* To integrate peer-reviewed writing into the undergraduate science curriculum
* To assist students in finding research opportunities both on and off campus
* To allow students to be directly involved in the publishing process

If you or your department is involved in an innovative project to introduce undergraduates to writing in the sciences, feel free to leave a comment below!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Microsoft launches academic search engine

Today, Microsoft launched a search engine devoted to scholarly, academic publications. Dubbed "Windows Live Academic," the search engine (still in beta) so far indexes content in the areas of computer science, physics, electrical engineering, and related areas.

Comparisons are already being drawn with Google Scholar, another major initiative by a search company aimed at indexing scholarly literature. (UMass Amherst has partnered with Google Scholar to make materials that we license accessible to our users. Microsoft will be working with libraries in the weeks to come to achieve something similar.)

Microsoft is fairly explicit about which content they are indexing.

Windows Live Academic is still brand new, and it will be interested to see how it is received by the academic community in the days to come. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment on this post or contact the library.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Happy National Poetry Month, Scientists!

April is National Poetry Month, and let it never be said that science and poetry are incompatible. Here are two instances of the intersection of poetry and science:

Fibs: poetry based on the Fibonacci sequence, a famous mathematical series (via Slashdot)

The Periodic Table of Poetry: click on an element to read a poem about it. Poems contributed by readers! Feeling inspired? There are several elements that still don't have poems.

(As I write this, I notice that my colleage Stephanie Willen Brown, aka CogSci Librarian, has just posted links to some poetry podcasts.)


Sunday, April 02, 2006

UMass faculty: Your input requested

Faculty members: If you can spare a few moments, please fill out the following survey on the possible creation of a digital repository here at UMass.

The deadline for the survey is Friday, April 7.

If you have questions or comments about the proposed digital repository, please contact Marilyn Billings at or (413) 545-6891.

Thank you!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Attention, all SciFinder Scholar users.....

If you use SciFinder Scholar on your own computer, take note! As of April 1, all users must upgrade to the most recent SciFinder Scholar release (downloadable from the library's SciFinder Scholar web page). More information is available over at the Chemistry blog. Questions? Please contact

Get all your ISEL news in one feed....

As astute readers may know, in addition to this main blog (ISEL Update), we also have blogs for several of the individual departments that ISEL supports (links are in the right-hand sidebar of this blog). As of this writing, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Engineering, Math & Statistics, Microbiology, Physics, and Veterinary & Animal Science have their own ISEL blogs containing news about information sources in those disciplines.

If you'd like to get updates from ALL ISEL blogs in one feed, rather than subscribing to them individually, you can now do so by subscribing to the following feed:

This uber-feed was created using a free tool called RSS Mix. RSS Mix lets you roll any number of individual RSS feeds together into one feed, which you can then subscribe to. Very handy!

We'll be adding blogs for more departments as time goes this space!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Web of Science's Science Citation Index now goes back to 1900

Recently, the UMass Amherst Library sent out a press release to announce new electronic resources. Here is one item, particularly pertinent to researchers in the sciences:
  • Web of Science’s Century of Science makes available 850,000 older, twentieth century scientific journal items in one place for the first time from 262 journals. This comprehensive collection is fully searchable, with complete bibliographic data, cited reference data and navigation, and direct links to the full text. Century of Science provides comprehensive backfile and cited reference data from 1900 to 1944. This important tool allows researchers to discover which articles were highly cited during that time period, what journals they were published in, and trace a topic through over one hundred years of research literature.

This is actually just the extension of our Science Citation Index subscription back to 1900, a great thing, but not a separate title. So now you can find out that Albert Einstein's 1935 article in Physical Review, v. 47, no. 10, p.777-780, has been cited at least 2,698 times, and by whom!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Maxine Schmidt, new librarian at ISEL

Maxine Schmidt has joined the ranks of librarians at the Integrated Sciences and Engineering Library at UMass Amherst, and we are very happy to have her. Maxine came to librarianship later than many, having earned a BA and MS in Geology at UMass, then going on to work in the public sector in environmental health. She completed her MLIS from Simmons College in May 2005. Welcome, Maxine!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Benchmarking Workshops in March

Update 3/8/06: All workshops are now open to all departments--no more separate sessions for sciences vs. social sciences/humanities! Also, 3 dates have been added--see below.

Anyone who will be involved with gathering benchmarking data for academic departments here at UMass Amherst is invited to attend one of several workshops in March sponsored by the UMass Libraries. Workshops will be held on:

March 13 11:00 am at the Science Library, 2nd Floor, Lederle Low Rise
March 14 3:00 pm in the Du Bois Library Room 1620
March 15 Noon in the Du Bois Library Room 1620
March 16 2:00 at the Science Library, 2nd Floor, Lederle Low Rise
March 27 Noon in the Du Bois Library Room 1620

Sessions will cover: how to efficiently and effectively gather faculty publication data for your own department as well as your benchmark institutions. Different sources and strategies can be employed to make this process as quick and painless as possible! Librarians Emily Alling and Steve McGinty will demonstrate some searching techniques using databases like Thomson/ISI's Web of Science and other discipline-specific resources.

Bring your department's indicators & benchmark institutions--there will be opportunities for hands-on practice and individual consultations. Follow-up appointments are also possible.

Please contact Emily Alling (; 413-545-6740) or Steve McGinty (; 413-545-1871) for more information.

UMass Libraries' Fourth Annual Dinner with Friends

On Saturday, April 1, 2006, at 6:30 p.m., the Friends of the UMass Amherst Library will host the fourth annual "Dinner with Friends" in the new Learning Commons at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library on the UMass Amherst campus

The event features three notable authors from the area-Norton Juster, Sabina Murray, and Ilan Stavans, a champagne and hors d'oeuvre reception with Celtic harpist Sarah McKee, and a gourmet feast. Tickets are $125 per person or $200 for two (of which $90 is tax-deductible, $130 for two).

Last year, attendees and sponsors raised over $16,000 for the Library. This year, all proceeds will benefit the expansion of the Learning Commons.

View invitation flyer (PDF).

For more information, contact Emily Silverman at the UMass Amherst
Library at (413) 545-0995 or email

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Trial sub for ISI Proceedings

The UMass Amherst Libraries have a trial subscription to ISI Proceedings, a database of articles published in "more than 60,000 conferences" in two segments which can be searched simultaneously, Science & Technology (STP) Database and Social Sciences & Humanities (SSHP) Database. The date range goes back to 1990 for both segments.

ISI Proceedings is a product of the same company that brings us Web of Science, the combined citation indexes (Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index, Arts and Humanities Citation Index). But ISI Proceedings' records do not include "Times Cited" information. They do include the references cited in each paper, and where those cited articles are journal articles included in the Web of Science database, they are linked to their records in WoS.

According to their database description, ISI Proceedings includes items from the following sources:
  • Books
  • Journals
  • Reports
  • Series produced by publishers or societies
  • Sets of preprints (when preprints are the only publications from a conference)
  • International proceedings (includes papers published in English and other languages)

If you have any questions about the database or the trial, please contact one of the ISEL librarians at 545-1370, or email Naka Ishii.

Monday, February 06, 2006

"Pity the Scientist who Discovers the Discovered"

An article in today's New York Times (registration required) discusses scientists who publish research that's....already been published. By others. Sometimes more than once. The problem? Poorly constructed or lacking literature searches! Don't let this happen to you! Librarians can help!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

National Academies report on maintaining science & technology competitiveness in the 21st century

The National Academies was asked by Senators Lamar Alexander and Jeff Bingaman to respond to the following questions:
What are the top 10 actions, in priority order, that federal policy-makers could take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so that the United States can successfully compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the 21st Century? What strategy, with several concrete steps, could be used to implement each of those actions?
A diverse commission of 20 people was convened to address these questions, and the resulting report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm; Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future,has been published by The National Academies, and is available on their Website for reading online, downloading or purchase. From the description:
In a world where advanced knowledge is widespread and low-cost labor is readily available, U.S. advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology have begun to erode. A comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently needed to bolster U.S. competitiveness and pre-eminence in these areas. This congressionally requested report by a pre-eminent committee makes four recommendations along with 20 implementation actions that federal policy-makers should take to create high-quality jobs and focus new science and technology efforts on meeting the nation's needs, especially in the area of clean, affordable energy:

1) Increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education;
2) Sustain and strengthen the nation's commitment to long-term basic research;
3) Develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the U.S. and abroad; and
4) Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation.

Some actions will involve changing existing laws, while others will require financial support that would come from reallocating existing budgets or increasing them.
This report has already been incorporated into legislation entitled PACE (Protect America's Competitive Edge) and this promises to be wide-ranging in its effects. It remains to be seen whether execution will match inception.

Easier access to Chronicle at UMass Amherst

Good news for UMass Amherst readers of the Chronicle of Higher Education: You can now access the Chronicle online without needing to enter a username or password. As with most of our other ejournals, you should be able to get right in and read articles in the Chronicle from any computer with a UMass Amherst IP address (i.e., on campus or through OIT dialup).

If you'd like to read the Chronicle from off campus, be sure to go through the UMass Amherst library catalog to access it. You'll be prompted to enter your OIT username and password. (If you just type "" into your browser, you won't be recognized as coming from UMass and you won't have access to subscriber-only content.) Once you log in, you should have full access to all online Chronicle content.

Any RSS users (Bloglines, My Yahoo!, FeedDemon, etc.) out there may also be interested in subscribing to one of the Chronicle's RSS feeds. They offer a daily news feed, a "Wired Campus Blog," and career feeds for dozens of job categories.

We hope you enjoy this easier access. If you have any questions or problems, please contact the library--we'd be happy to try to help.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Send us your book requests!

The library would like to know what books you'd like us to buy in your subject areas. Now is a great time to send in those requests as we spend up the 2005-2006 book budget. Contact your library liaison (see list of liaisons by department) with any recommendations.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Online catalog downtime Friday 1/13/06, 5:00-9:00 pm

The UMass online library catalog will be unavailable on Friday, January 13 starting at 5 pm and lasting a few hours. This is to repair a server. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

UMLinks/E-journal locator down Sat. 1/7

This Saturday (Jan. 7) beginning at 7:00 am, the UMLinks article linking service and our e-journal locator will be unavailable for several hours as we switch servers.

Apologies for any inconvenience....hopefully, this changeover will result in the improved performance & reliability of these services!