I have finished searching–at last. I searched 500 names of literary authors writing in English and I searched them in Biography Reference Bank, Literature Resource Center, Wikipedia, and the OpenWeb (other than Wikipedia). This has taken me almost my entire sabbatical. Having completed the searching (and made notes along the way), I’m now in a position to speak authoritatively about the benefits and liabilities of commercial databases, Wikipedia, and the Open Web.
While there are variations from author to author, there are some repetitive points. The Open Web is a giant advertising medium. The bios on authors’ official sites are their sales pitches. Much of that is also used on publisher and other sites. Open Web sites (if they cite their sources, which they do on some occasions and not others), may use the authors’ information, too, but they also cite Wikipedia frequently and use information from the commercial databases as well. Wikipedia exhibits the same citation traits, so there’s a real “blend” out there–bio promotion, Wikipedia (which may also emanate from the author or his/her representative), and commercial database information. Within the commercial databases, however, the data is guaranteed to be vetted–and that hasn’t changed and is the key to the question of whether you need to spend library dollars or library time to have that data in front of you.
Now that I’ve finished the searching, I am writing the paper that I want to submit before the end of summer. After that, it’s back to writing, this time in a new direction–a novel. I’ll post on my process here, once I get going on it in earnest later this summer. Meanwhile, I have a poetry chapbook and a prose poetry full-length book ready for market, if anyone’s interested!