Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter

VOLUME 13   NUMBER 2

SPRING 2012

Like Conversations with Scholars and Librarians

Before the advent of the World Wide Web, researchers often relied on print bibliographies for identifying important material in their research areas. These bibliographies came in all sizes: short citation lists appended to encyclopedia entries and journal articles, longer lists in monographs, and exhaustive lists such as published single volumes and multi-volume sets of books devoted entirely to bibliographies. Today, publishers of electronic reference works, journals, and books have made these bibliographies available on the web. Moreover, some types of works, for example many online reference works, are periodically revised, and consequently their bibliographies can include more current titles.

A major new online bibliographic tool has appeared recently: Oxford Bibliographies Online (OBO). Produced by Oxford University Press, it consists of a growing number of subject bibliography modules, each module with an editor and a group of scholarly contributors. Users of OBO will benefit from the expertise of scholars considered experts in the bibliography’s topic. Given the enormous increase in the amount of information being published every year, it has become more and more challenging to identify that material considered to be the most significant. This challenge means that a resource like OBO can be a welcome addition to a scholar’s repertoire of research tools. Designed to be useful for people at all levels of academic experience, each subject module with its editorial preface and annotated citations introduces undergraduates to research in the area as well as alerts more advanced researchers to significant material.

The Boston College Libraries have thus far acquired four subject modules. Each has one or more Boston College faculty members contributing to the bibliography. The modules with Boston College contributors are:

In order to enhance each bibliography’s usefulness, many of the citations have links to Quest records and in some cases to full text. The citations along with the annotations can be exported to any one of five citation management tools including EndNote, RefWorks, and Zotero. The range of topics covered within each subject module is extensive; for example, the Biblical Studies module includes bibliographies for topics you would expect to be covered (e.g., specific books of the Bible) but some you might not, for example “Rhetoric in the New Testament” and “Court Tales” (forthcoming). Reflecting the dynamic nature of research, bibliographies will be periodically updated.

Like many publishers eager to attract customers, Oxford University includes links on its OBO website to favorable comments by scholars and reviewers, for example the following excerpt of a review from The New Yorker:

One of the things I like best about O.B.O. is that, unlike Wiki or other anonymously crowdsourced outlets, the individual personalities of the authors shine through. A few weeks ago, I attended the launch party for the project, which confirmed that the whole endeavor was done with a mind toward what might be called humanness. I learned that the idea was hatched in a British pub, and that there had been, since the beginning, plenty of old-fashioned academic squabbling over what to include in the entries (which can be added to and updated, through a vetting process). At the party and, later, reading through the bibliography online, I felt like I'd enjoyed a series of conversations with trusted professors and really good librarians.

Please feel free to contact a Subject Librarian if you have any questions about this resource or would like to recommend acquisition of any of the modules.

Jonas Barciauskas
Head of Collection Development O’Neill Library