ACLS Humanities e-Book collection

New-ish to the Library is the fascinating ACLS Humanities e-Book collection, from the American Council of Learned Societies.  This impressive collection has almost 4000 full-text scholarly books across the wide gamut of the traditional humanities (history; art & architecture; film & media studies; literature & literary criticism; linguistics; music, dance, performance; philosophy; political science, religion, and even sociology, to name a few).  There is a strong focus on “historical studies” focused on “African, American, Asian, Comparative/World, Eastern European/Russian, Economic, European, Latin American, Legal, Medicine, Methods/Theory, Middle East, and Science/Technology.”   You can download an Excel spreadsheet of the specific book titles included if you want to take a look.

Okay, we know it’s huge.  Even the title is a mouthful – so much so that you’ll see even the authors refer to it as ACLS HEB, or even just HEB.  So what can you do with HEB?  Happily, the collection boasts both an easy to use browse feature (that allows you to browse by title, author, or subject) and a very robust search engine that lets you quickly find titles / subjects / authors of interest.  Within a few clicks, you have the full-text of the book right in front of you.

acls ebook1   Once you find a book of interest, you can enter the book from its ACLS title record page.  You can go to the first page of the book and page your way through, or enter specific chapters / page ranges by using the linked Table of contents.  There are book reviews for my title linked on the page, plus the full citation and full cataloging record.  You can even get a larger version of the book jacket by clicking on your book’s image.

I found the book, Buñuel and Mexico: The crisis of national cinema, by Ernesto R. Acevedo-Muñoz and published by the Univ of California Press in 2003.  So you can see what I mean, here’s a graphic of the ACLS title page for the Buñuel cinema book I found.

Once you enter the full-text of your book, you can even choose the best display – page image, text,  or pdf – for your own reading comfort or downloading / printing needs.  You can also easily adjust the size of the page if you need a larger font or need to see an illustration in greater detail.

Speaking of illustrations, the few illustrations from book contents that I have seen have not been of the greatest quality.  This is probably the only drawback I can see during my own quick review of this collection.  Let me show you what I mean.

acls heb2

Hmmmm……  in a fantastic collection like HEB, it’s disappointing to see such blurry and grainy images.  This one comes from a book called Gay L.A. by Lillian Faderman.  There are lots of illustrations in this interesting book and none of them seems to be scanned clearly, which is really too bad.  It’s just not the same high quality images you will find in the original hardback book.  I haven’t found illustrations in other HEB books yet to compare but my guess is that this may be a current weakness throughout this collection.  You’ll need to see what you think.

So, do use this collection to find a surprising breadth of full-text eBooks in the humanities.  Don’t expect to find high quality book illustration images you can use (copyright permitting) in other projects.  You will though find nice quality reproductions of book covers.  And yes, you can find these books through Quick Search too.  Overall, a big positive addition to the Library’s collections.  Give ACLS HEB a test drive and let me know what you think!

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Reflections of a bibliographer

Research libraries and the world of information have changed rapidly in the past decade, and we can expect ever accelerating changes to continue.  One of the core facets of the job responsibilities of a bibliographer is to collect, for use of others, relevant – interesting – important – books and materials.

I arrived at ISU the summer of 1995, recruited to serve as the library’s first-ever bibliographer in the newly created subject areas of race and ethnic studies.  I discovered barely-there collections in African American studies; an American Indian studies collection focused primarily on anthropological non-native perspectives, and close to total absence of US Latino and Asian American materials.  I insisted on the creation of separate fund lines to support acquisitions in each of these areas, along with an area I called “general diversity” – which I used to support acquisitions of materials related to other US ethnic and cultural groups (e.g., Arab American; European-descent ethnic groups; Jewish American cultural studies) and materials related to broad multicultural issues.

Sometimes, first acquisitions stick with you.  I remember my first orders for ISU were the video Black Athena and the Centro Journal from the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños.  (My first order at my previous institution was also the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños journal.  I was a Latin American bibliographer at that institution – but curious how some gaps remain the same!)  Since that time, I’ve acquired thousands of books, media (videos; dvds; cds; online indexes & databases, ebooks), journals, encyclopedias, atlases, microfilm, newspapers, and much more to support ISU’s research and learning & teaching needs in race & ethnic studies areas.

My job responsibilities have changed quite a bit as my career trajectory moved into the areas of learning and teaching.  I am the library’s head of instruction now, but remain a bibliographer as well – still collecting in all the race & ethnic studies areas except Asian American studies, which is now handled by a colleague.  In these days, much of the personal art of collecting has become a highly automated process.  Books of pre-defined interest arrive automatically and no longer require individual yay-nay decisions from me.  (I defined the parameters of the types of books desired, so in theory that one macro-decision should suffice in this new age of automated collection building, right?)  The weekly ritual of personally handling and inspecting (browsing – reading – sniffing – admiring – getting to know) each new title is long gone.  Collection development is largely done online now, browsing online slips of book titles, prices, and abbreviated subject lines.  A click of my mouse initiates the chain of acquisition and signifies my digital affirmation.  Impersonal.  Non-tactile.  Far removed from the actual object.  I love the immediacy but do miss the days of the personal art of collecting.

The collections I build are for use.  This blog is meant to help acquaint you with new titles, trends, issues.