E-Text Resources for Scholars in the Humanities: History Resources, FEB, etc. (Hands-On Session)

Kevin S. Hawkins

Notes from a presentation given at the Pre-Conference Digital Resources Workshop at the 37th Annual Annual AAASS National Convention (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, November 3–6, 2005).

E-text resources can mean different things to different people. I'll talk about full-text ("digital") resources based on digitized materials rather than electronic resources such as bibliographies, citation indexes, and abstracts available in databases. I also am not including archives of back issues of journals offered by publishers.

It is these digitized materials which are so difficult to find today. If you are the custodian of such resources and are interested in learning more about how to make them easier to find, come to my presentation tomorrow ["What Slavic Librarians Need to Know about Revealing Hidden Gems: OAI-PMH versus Open WorldCat"].

First I'll talk about how to find resources, and then I'll highlight a few projects.

How to find e-text resources

If you have a title, author, or even subject in mind, you might try these:

  1. Search engines. For tips on how to use search engines, see a presentation I did recently called "Searching the English-Language Internet". If you search for this phrase in quotation marks (exactly as it appears) in Google [like this], mine comes to the top of the search results. Using quotation marks to match exact phrases is a remarkably effective technique.
  2. OAIster contains metadata of electronic resources from around the world, almost entirely from memory institutions. Its data is included in Yahoo! and Google.
  3. Wikipedia articles often contain links to external sites at the end.
  4. Specialized libraries (like the Slavic & East European Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or Dumbarton Oaks) often digitize parts of their holdings or provide links to such resources.
  5. OCLC WorldCat (through FirstSearch) and RLIN include catalog records for bibliographic items with online surrogates and even those that only exist online, assuming a cataloger has added the URL to the record (or created a record for this resource if it's born-digital).
  6. Google Print [now "Google Book Search"] today released its first batch of books (all in the public domain) digitized through its library partnership. More will be added over the coming decade.
  7. The Inventory of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Digital Projects, a project of the Subcommittee on Digital Projects of the Bibliography & Documentation Committee of AAASS, has records for an increasing number of e-text resources.
  8. The European Library is a new project (still in beta) providing a portal to national libraries of Europe (not just those of EU members), allowing metasearching of not only catalogs but also digital resources not included in catalogs.
  9. Websites of professional associations, area studies centers (like REESWeb), and hobbyists (like Slavophilia).

Searching in foreign languages

  1. Many search engines will allow you to avoid needing to enter characters with diacritics by typing in the "plain" version of that character. For example, you can search for ceska republika in Google.
  2. For non-Roman scripts, do keep in mind that various transliteration systems are in use. Non-Anglo-American libraries use different transliterations for Cyrillic, and there are ГОСТ standards that are still different. Plus users often make up their own. Resources created with academic libraries in mind (such as Voprosy istorii from EastView and Letopis' Zhurnal'nykh Statei [Летопись журнальных статей] from Indiana) and ФЭБ uses LC transliteration without diacritics in their news postings but uses common spellings for authors.
  3. Be aware that major Western search engines sometimes automatically substitute other word forms in English (go, going, goes, went, gone) but are unlikely to have this capability for other languages. So, when searching in an inflected language (like Russian), you should use a local search engine (like Yandex or Rambler) to find this word in all cases or verb tenses. However, if you expect the word or phrase to appear in a certain form (for example, when searching for an organization's website, where the name of the organization will almost certainly be in nominative), Western search engines are more likely to find the real website of this organization when searching on the name in this form.

Selected projects

Digitized bibliographic items

  1. Magyar Nemzeti Bibliográfia - Könyvek Bibliográfiája – The most recent issues of the Hungarian National Bibliography are online. Who knew?
  2. Letopis' Zhurnal'nykh Statei [Летопись журнальных статей] — A large portion of the run of this bibliography has been digitized by Indiana University and made freely available. You must search in Cyrillic, but a virtual keyboard is provided.
  3. Voprosy istorii from EastView is available for searching. You can search in Cyrillic (virtual keyboard provided) or in transliteration. EastView has also digitized the previous titles for this serial.

Large-scale archives

  1. Библиотека Максима Мошкова is the most well-known of the Project Gutenberg-like projects in Russia. Note that the Федеральное агенство по печати и массовым коммуникациям recently announced it will give 1 million rubles to this project (reported on Дискуссионный лист рассылки «Электронные библиотеки»).
  2. Open Russian Electronic Library = Открытая Русская Электронная Библиотека gathers electronic texts in various formats and catalogs them. A virtual keyboard is provided. This includes the Электронная библиотека диссертаций, which aims to include all dissertations defended in Russia going forward.

Large scholarly projects

  1. Фундаментальная электронная библиотека «Русская литература и фольклор» (ФЭБ) = Fundamental Digital Library of Russian Literature and Folklore (FEB-web) – This collaboration between literature scholars and librarians is making primary, secondary, and tertiary sources on Russian literature and folklore available for free. Many resources are already online, yet there are full bibliographic citations of the resources they plan to include in the future. There are even some image and sound files included in digital scholarly editions. The search function is quite powerful. The site also includes a catalog of links to other Internet resources on Russian literature and folklore. The English site is less developed than the Russian one at this point.
  2. Национальный корпус русского языка is a freely available corpus of contemporary Russian, plus parallel Russian-English and English-Russian corpora. The search function is powerful. One way a non-linguist could use this site is to check contemporary usage for doubts about language.