Personal lists and predatory birds

OCLC recently updated the WorldCat.org service with some new features, including a tool that automatically generates pre-formatted citations in a variety of styles.  We used to have something similar in RedLightGreen (2003-2006) — a key difference being that RedLightGreen enabled a user to save a list of citations for subsequent use.  I quite liked the “personal list” function — for me, it was less about being able to generate an MLA-style bibliography than it was about saving a list of books I was interested in reading, or re-reading.  That I could easily generate a formatted bibliography from the list was an added bonus.  Undergraduates who used RedLightGreen particularly liked this feature. 

There are a number of free services that support “personal list” creation in support of scholarship and learning — Zotero has beeng getting a lot of attention lately.  I tried saving some of the citations I’d created in WorldCat.org into my Zotero collection, but it was a pretty tedious process.  Interestingly enough, Zotero didn’t recognize that the resource I was looking at (an edition of Glenway Wescott’s The Pilgrim Hawk) is a book. Normally, Zotero does a pretty good job of “sensing” that the item of interest in a library catalog is a book, and makes it easy to export the citation.  Not so in WorldCat.org.  The new citation builder in WorldCat makes it possible to create a citation and then port it into Zotero — but it’s still not a seamless process. 

A colleague recently pointed me to CiteULike as another example of collaborative bookmarking in support of research, teaching and learning.  CiteULike is primarily focused on journal literature, which makes it a great fit for advanced researchers who want to cite and share citations to recent (or past) research published in scholarly journals.  Interestingly, Amazon is included in the list of article sources, which also includes some more obvious sources like Ingenta, JSTOR, PubMed, Wiley.  I was easily able to import a citation to the Pilgrim Hawk from within Amazon, mark it as “already read” and add a personal annotation.  I was intrigued and quite pleased to see that the abstract from Amazon was pulled over alongside the citation details.  CiteULike also makes it easy to export a saved list of citations to EndNote or BibTex. 

My overall impression is that the proliferation of tools for creating and sharing citations is a good thing — we’re edging toward an online experience that genuinely supports research, teaching and learning.  At least for now, the service environment seems woefully fragmented — I can find relevant content easily, but citing it and sharing it requires a little more time than I’m prepared to spend.  I’m curious to know how many WorldCat users are also Zotero users and CiteULike users and EndNote users.

The reference to predatory birds, if you’ve not guessed, is an allusion to the hawk in Wescott’s novel, as well as the hunting and pecking habits of researchers.  Wescott was an interesting man, with an interesting publication history.  You wouldn’t know it from the bio in Wikipedia, but he had an important impact on literary criticism — as evidenced by the fact that his collected essays on Images of Truth are more widely held by libraries than any of his works of fiction. A new tool that Thom Hickey and other OCLC colleagues have created provides an elegant snapshotof Wescott as both a creator and subject of published works, closing the loop on finding, citing, creating and sharing.

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About Constance Malpas

Constance Malpas is a Program Officer with OCLC Research. She has a special interest in the organization of knowledge and research practices in the sciences.

One Comment

  1. Are you using the latest version of Zotero? I just tried your WorldCat link to The Pilgrim Hawk, and it automatically saved as a book.

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