The Utility of an Online Bibliography

I just completed a blog/website about the White Rose, a German Nazi-Resistance group that existed from 1942 to 1943 led by Hans and Sophie Scholl.  They began a leaflet campaign denouncing the Nazis and the Holocaust, and calling upon Germans to rise up and fight against Hitler.  Hans and Sophie were caught distributing leaflets at the University of Munich on February 18, 1943

Hans and Sophie Scholl with Christoph Probst

Hans and Sophie Scholl with Christoph Probst

and were executed four days later along with the co-conspirator Christoph Probst.  The other three members of their group were executed shortly thereafter.  After the war, their memory was carried on by their father, and other friends and members of the White Rose distribution network that survived the war.

While I was researching this topic, I noticed two things: first, there were a lot of websites dedicated to the White Rose that were far better than what I could possibly create; and second (and more importantly), there lacked a solid bibliography of White Rose resources in English.  Knowing that the Scholl’s Gestapo interrogation interviews had been translated into English, I looked for them at the Western University library but to no avail.  I emailed the History librarian suggesting that the library purchase that item.  She responded back to me very quickly saying that she had struggled to find White Rose primary sources and would purchase them right away.  I thought that was interesting since I had had a similar experience in my senior year of my undergrad at BYU with the History librarian.

My next question was, “How do two librarians at highly reputable universities not know about these very important resources?” My first thought was that maybe the publishing company didn’t market their materials very well.  Second, it’s likely that they don’t have agreement with the two major academic book distributors–YBP and Coutts–to market their materials.

In these days where librarians don’t have time to seek out new materials, they are at the mercy of collection development tools that marketers create for them like selection software, search engines and recommendations (see “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”) that websites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble create, and flyers and catalogues.  Though these are solid tools, they do not represent a comprehensive inventory of what is available on a given topic.  As a result, students and researchers are affected because their library has bought, to a degree, an imbalanced and biased collection.  What do we do to resolve this issue?  How can librarians make available a balanced collection without straining their other responsibilities?

My proposal is to bring back  the bibliography.  Before the internet age librarians would purchase bibliographies for their libraries so that researchers would know what was available for their research topic.  The bibliography has since been replaced by library open public Access catalogues (OPACs), Google searches (including Books and Scholar), and the other tools I mentioned above.  I would propose that rather than publishing these items in print again, these bibliographies be made available online through blogging sites like Word Press or Blogger, or using Wiki tech software.  This way they can be easily added to, and users can contribute resources that they have found that the bibliography’s creator might have missed.  I am also proposing that amateurs get involved with this kind of work.  If you think you are somewhat of an expert on a topic, I would suggest you start compiling a list of sources relevant to your favourite research topic and make them available online for both librarians and researchers to use.

So this is what I have created.  I know it’s not particularly graphically appealing, but the information is there, and I think it’s alright.  If you go to the Bibliography and Webography sections, you’ll find lists of resources on The White Rose, both primary and secondary.  I’m particularly pleased with the quantity of resources that I have.  I do realize though it is still a work in progress, and the next step will be to annotate the Bibliography and Webography to make them more useful and informative to researchers.

I am tired of the commercialization of library collection development.  I am tired of publishers and distributors telling librarians what to buy and shielding librarians from what they actually need.  I am tired of library administrators pressuring librarians to adapt to their “system” and abandon the old ways of collection development.  Let’s allow librarians to take collection development back, and give them a say in what they will acquire, and ensure that the library collection will rise to be the best and balanced research collection available.

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