New databases for March

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the Resource Gateway from March 1 – 30 (and some for which the vendor has changed). You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject pages. If you have questions about a particular resource, please consult its “About” file to find contact information for the resource advocate. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month.

History Vault: Vietnam War and American Foreign Policy, 1960-1975

Literary Research Guide

Mergent WebReports

Zambia Maps

Create surreal passphrases that are more secure and easier to remember

 If you would like to create a secure and memorable passphrase, create a nonsense phrase that creates a surreal scene.

A recent study by Joseph Bonneau and Ekaterina Shutova found that passphrases may not be as secure as you think. The study found that because people use common phrases instead of random multiple words in, they are more susceptible to being able to a dictionary attack (or automated attack on a system using common words, phrases, or passwords to break into user’s accounts). The study recommends that you should use random multi-word phrases rather than common language phrases.

For a few years now I have been creating my own surreal passphrases. I create passphrases that evoke a vivid, memorable, yet surreal scene. For me, these passphrases are fairly easy to remember, and as the research suggest, more secure. This is illustrated in a cartoon I came across from while doing research for this post. The cartoon illustrates both the passable memorability and the increased security of a nonsense passphrase.

Joseph Bonneau has written that, “a really strong password is one that nobody else has ever used.”  A surreal passphrase has a low likelihood that it has ever been used before and a low likelihood that it will be guessed by someone trying to break into your accounts. Furthermore, if it is poperly and creatively constructed, it will probably be easier to remember.

Library Innovations

College and university libraries are finding a decline of traditional material usage and student visits. Not only students prefer dorms rooms or apartments for reading and studying, but older people find more pleasant nearby bookstores or coffee shops such as Starbucks rather than public libraries. As technology rapidly expands people are able to find quick answers online and prefer to make an online research instead of skimming books in libraries. Finding information online “made more sense” for 93% students in 2001 study and most of them said that they were not able to find needed information or didn’t have time to go to the library. Even today students come to library to study, socialize or work on something, however they don’t use library resources or services much. To solve the problem libraries try to change the way they approach not only students but public in general by making it innovative and pleasant and rethink the way they provide content to them.

One of the good examples is National Library in Astana, Kazakhstan that has an incredible architecture developed by BIG architects. The design combines universal archetypes and traditions. Its spiral shape transforms from a horizontal organization to a vertical organization. The architecture combines rotunda shape, form of Great Library Alexandria and Arc de Triomphe with the soft silhouette of yurt (Wikipedia: Yurt – dwelling structure traditionally used by Turkic nomads in the steppes of Central Asia).

Innovation used in the library construction and design might reshape people’s opinion and improve library visits.


  Some libraries such as University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin have contracts with Google that scans their material and digitizes it. It helps people to find needed content online and moreover damaged books can be recovered and combined. Lost pages can be found in another library and combined into one single source. Digitizing library materials and innovation of electronic readers makes book easier to find and access. Therefore, library web sites play a crucial role in providing needed services and materials to users. As technology expands alternatives to the libraries increase in their popularity such as Google scholar and Bing. It moves libraries forward to innovate and reshape the way people think about libraries. Nowadays, library architectures change and books are becoming digital.We might be witnesses of hi tech style libraries with e-books on the shelves in next couple decades.

read more about National Library in Astana

Games and Libraries – Bridging the Gap

Games have been a part of libraries for years now.  Whether it is analog board games (chess, checkers) or modern video games such as Playstation or Wii, libraries have been using games to attract attention — and potential users.

During my stint as a Young Adult librarian at a small public library, setting up video games was always a way to draw a crowd.  Whether it was a Wii, Rockband, or DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) gaming days at the library were always sure to bring in the teens.

Blogs and websites such as and the Gaming Wiki for Libraries provide up-to-date details and instructions on how to integrate gaming at libraries.  Many libraries, particularly college campus libraries, circulate video games and even gaming consoles like they would any other materials.  Games have proven themselves as both a way to attract users as well as serve as meaningful items worth circulating in their own right.

But here’s the problem.

Up until this point, games have been used largely to “bait and switch.”  “Hey kids, come to the library, play some games, and now check out these books.”  “Did you know you can check out games at the library?  Well you can also check out books while you’re here!”  While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, there is a definite lack of integration.  Even when games are incorporated into circulation, they largely serve to attract users to other materials available.

With the explosion of mobile app use, of course mobile app gaming has come part and parcel along with it.  The question has been, how do libraries get involved in mobile apps.  I think there is a big opportunity for libraries to marry their friendship with gaming and their need to become more mobile.

And more importantly this could provide a medium to really bridge the gap between library resources and games.  There is definite potential for mobile apps that incorporate library resources in game form.  The most successful libraries will be those that can use gaming to have users actually use their other resources in integrated and meaningful ways.


Discovery services in a Google world

Pete Coco’s recent post on the ACRLog discusses the ups and downs of discovery projects like EBSCO Discovery Service, a tool recently implemented at the IU Libraries as OneSearch@IU.  Coco writes that these tools may look like Google, with their sleek white single search bars and straightforward interfaces.  They may even act a little like Google, crawling through thousands upon thousands of resources to bring you only the most relevant, most perfect source you could possibly imagine.  Right?  Well, not quite.   According to Coco, who is a humanities liaison and library instructor at Wheaton College, although his students are usually able to find something using these discovery tools, they are not always able to find the thing.  One reason for that could, of course, be unreasonable student expectations.  Students often suppose that their sources must iterate their perspective verbatim, or cover the exact parameters of their research question.  Of course they’re not going to find a source comparing the ironic symbolism in Franz Kafka’s Before the Law with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Some things just don’t exist.  That said, student misconceptions about scholarship might not be the only issue at play.  While discovery services, acting as a sort of hybrid between Google and academic databases, are good for getting students into the research pool, often it leaves them in the shallow end.  Once students understand the scope of what’s available, more specialized databases might be just the ticket to finding the thing and giving students that tough-love push into the deep end of scholarship.

That is precisely why quality information literacy instruction is still a necessity in academic libraries – to help students find their scholarly legs in a strange new land of information.  In order to achieve that end most effectively, perhaps we should be emphasizing the differences between popular and scholarly modes of information gathering, rather than the similarities.  Despite OneSearch@IU’s outward resemblance to Google, the fact is that it is not Google, and we are not doing students any favors by marketing it as such.  Coco writes:

To find the scholarly articles that will meet the paper requirement, the student will need navigate a host of alien concepts, vocabularies and controversies that will, at least at first, drive his experience with peer-reviewed scholarship. And while some degree of anxiety is probably useful to his learning experience, there can be little doubt that the process would be easier and of more lasting value to the student who has support—human support—as he goes through it.

Advances in technology require more, not less, pedagogical attention to ensure that students comprehend the underlying structures of scholarly communication.  We often expect this generation of tech-savvy undergraduates to see a blank search bar and know what to do with it.  But the reality is, not all search bars are equal.  Effective library instruction serves to illuminate the unique function of academic databases and discovery services as compared to popular search engines.  After all, if what you want is Google, you can always go to Google.

Aside: Read this post by Margaux DelGuidice from In the Library with the Lead Pipe to see why librarians are oh-so-glad that discovery services are not Google.

Photo credit: Opening of Lincoln Park swimming pool 1925, courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives from

Notre Dame & responsive design

I’m back again to bang my responsive design drum  … this time to share a really interesting blog post about the University of Notre Dame site:

Delivering an Amazing Site on Every Device: Notre Dame Edition

There’s lots to mull over in the article, but I specifically want to highlight that in the last two years, they’ve seen a 900% increase in traffic to their mobile site … and, over the same time period, a 500% increase in mobile traffic to their main site. Even with that increase, mobile traffic constitutes only 5% of visits to their main site overall – it seems like a no-brainer to me that we are only going to see the proportion of mobile traffic grow and grow, what with all the tablets and smartphones flooding the market.

Notre Dame: mobile trafficWhile the Libraries’ mobile site has yet to see that kind of increase, the statistics on mobile visits to the Libraries’ main site show an increase of about the same proportion as ND saw – since February 2010, mobile traffic to has increased by approximately 550% … and mobile traffic makes up about a percent and a half of our overall site visits. Plenty of room for growth!

Watch this space for some news relating to the Libraries’ mobile site in the near future. In the meantime, we’re always interested to hear your thoughts and comments on responsive design, ideas for our mobile site, or would love it if you have other examples of responsive sites you’d like to share with us.

APIs are changing the business environment and hold the promise of changing the education environment

 In his article, API: Three Letters That Change Life, the Universe and Even Detroit, Cade Metz writes about how APIs (or Application Programming Interfaces) are changing the world of business. “They’ve already transformed websites like Google and Facebook and Twitter into services that talk to a world of other applications, across PCs as well as mobile phones. But that’s small potatoes. They’re also breathing new life into old-world operations, including mobile carriers like AT&T and even auto makers like General Motors.”

So, what are APIs? APIs are the background technology that allows communication between the Facebook application on your smartphone and the Facebook website. A good example of an API is the Google Maps API. The Google Maps API allows people to place interactive Google maps on their own websites with all the functionality of a map on Google Maps. The API allows communication back and forth between the two applications, adding value to both applications with the partnership (mapping capability is added to the individual’s website while Google gains further exposure to the Google Maps “Brand”).

A couple more examples of commonly used APIs:

  • Facebook API: allows users to log into other websites using their Facebook login and allows users “Like” a blog post on one website and have it appear on their Facebook wall
  • Flicker: A website can pull in photos from Flicker on a certain subject of from a specific user’s profile is a website that catalogs and categorizes APIs. As of this writing, it has over 5000 APIs listed.

APIs are now also appearing the Education environment. has 91 APIs categorized with the tag “Education”. This opens up new possibilities for the educational environment to build new applications with the available information and services provided by the APIs.

There are many APIs listed on that can be used in applications in education:

  • NatureServe and World Register of Marine Species API allow access to species data (including images) and name registry information
  • The Mendeley API allows access to the Mendeley academic social network, collaboration tool, and application, which includes a reference manager. In fact Mendeley recently held a competition to see who could build the best application with their API (Mendeley API Battle: open genetics-sharing tool declared victorious by Jonathan M. Gitlin)
  • The Arxiv API allows access to the Arxiv academic research repository of e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics
  • In the world of libraries, the QuestionPoint API allows access to the QuestionPoint knowledgebase containing questions and answers from contributed by nearly 500 libraries worldwide
  • Finally, the Quizlet API allows application developers to integrate Quizlet’s database of over 200 million flashcards into their applications.

Mark O’Neill writes that if you “Free Your Data [by creating APIs]… the Apps Will Follow.” The increase in APIs holds the promise of soon changing the academic environment as it has changed the business environment.