Monday, 12 September 2011

Thing 21

Thing 21 - Reference management

Reference management is not a sexy subject. Not for normal people, at any rate.

But I am not a normal person; I am a Librarian.

There can be few things more satisfying than compiling a lengthy and meticulous bibliography. I spent two or three months last summer doing precisely that, as I assembled my Masters dissertation. At UCL we were alerted early on to the existence and usefulness of something called Reference Manager, but I confess I never got into the habit of using it, and in any case have always rather enjoyed assembling my bibliographies slowly and painstakingly. It gives me a sense of achievement I don't imagine I would feel if I simply bunged all the information into a reference management program and clicked 'Hey presto'.

My pride and joy

Still, in the name of research, I have decided to try out Zotero, which seems the most accessible of the three methods mentioned in Suz's Cam 23 post.

In theory it should save a lot of work assembling a bibliography if you can just click a button next to the Amazon URL. A flaw is that Zotero's system appears to import mistakes from Amazon records too. So an edition of Roald Dahl's Esio Trot, one of the author's shorter works, listed inaccurately on Amazon as having 1524 pages, says the same when I add it to my Zotero references. Like a downloaded catalogue record, it saves time to start with, but requires double-checking to eradicate errors.

The Zotero reference panel

It's nice to be able to add automatically any number of different kinds of resource. Not just books and journal and news articles, but also videos from YouTube, which it didn't occur to me to cite in the bibliography of my dissertation but which might have brightened it up a little.

The really exciting bit was exporting the list to a bibliography, and testing the different types of referencing available. My preferred system is Harvard, or at least some quirky variation on Harvard my mind has devised. It only took me a couple of seconds to export my selections to a Rich Text file, and I was impressed by how classy it looked. Not perfect, and it needs quite a bit of tweaking, but feel the speed... How much simpler life might have been if I had bothered to investigate this last year.

My exported Zotero bibliography

So, some very promising investigations. I'll be interested to try out other reference management programs to compare them to this one, but surely this is the kind of thing that every librarian can get animated about. Order out of chaos.

No comments:

Post a Comment