Here I am, having just finished my list of literary authors writing in English so that I can engage in an extensive search for their biographical material. I have reduced the number of planned authors on the list from 1,000 to 500. This list contains old and new, men and women, writers in every genre–as many characteristics as I can cram into one list of writers. My only criterion in addition to the fact that they must be literary and writing in English is that they are being studied at the university. For my pilot project, I used 50 names from graduate theses at my own university (California State University, East Bay), but to assemble this list, I consulted members of the Literatures in English Section (LES) of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Is this list complete? No. Is it representative? I hope so. My choice to reduce the number of names to 500 was based on the amount of feedback I received from my colleagues in LES. There just weren’t going to be 1,000 and, in looking at the list of 500, I decided that it was sufficiently representative for my study.
I plan to search every name on this list in four places:
- Biography Reference Bank (H. W. Wilson proprietary database–searched through a combination of a login/password provided by the company and the Martin Luther King Library, San Jose State University’s databases)
- Literature Resource Center (Cengage proprietary database–searched through San Francisco Public Library)
- Wikipedia (accessed through http://www.google.com search engine)
- Open Web (accessed through http://www.google.com search engine)
- to identify the similarities and differences provided by each of these sources
- to identify issues related to evaluation (authority, relevance, currency, etc.)
- to see if a conclusion can be drawn regarding the need for commercial databases for biographical information on literary authors writing in English
- to see if a conclusion can be drawn regarding the need for retaining retrospective print volumes of proprietary databases if the electronic version are either not available or no longer under subscription
Significance of this project:
- for authors: what do you need to do to ensure that you are “out there” and how will your information be tracked and made available to readers and those studying you and your work?
- for librarians: what subscriptions do you need? what information do you need to retain? how does this study help your information and budgetary decision-making?
- complete the study and write an academic paper by June 15
- potentially write another academic paper on the shifting Web
- potentially write a popular article for authors on how author information is made available to readers, students, and others investigating authors’ biographical information