[MARMAM] Searchable Bibliography Launched (Sirenia & Desmostylia)

Caryn Self-Sullivan caryns at sirenian.org
Fri Apr 16 01:22:44 PDT 2010

Posted on behalf of Daryl P. Domning (ddomning at howard.edu)

Sirenian Bibliography Now Online. – The Bibliography and Index of the  
Sirenia and Desmostylia by Daryl P. Domning, first published in hard- 
copy form by the Smithsonian Institution in 1996, is finally available  
in fully interactive and searchable digital form at http://www.sirenian.org/biblio/ 

This long-sought goal has been accomplished with the help of Caryn  
Self-Sullivan and Sirenian International, who provided a home for the  
database in cyberspace and recruited Michael Bragg (Compendium  
Software Systems, LLC) to do the essential database programming and  
create the outstanding user interface. We all owe them a huge vote of  
thanks for making this research tool more readily available to the  
sirenian research and conservation community.

As you will see, the interface is very straightforward, user-friendly,  
attractive, and easy to navigate. The front material from the 1996  
edition is reproduced (with updates) under the link “Introduction”;  
separate links give access to the Appendices; and the Bibliography and  
Index are each accessed by a “Browse” function. To provide cross- 
referencing by author within the Bibliography, hot links from all  
authors’ names yield lists of all works by each author. A “Search”  
function allows searching the entire Bibliography, including titles  
and annotations of works, for any name or word. A “Detail” utility  
brings up, for any main entry, all the associated Index entries for  
that work, providing more information about the work’s content beyond  
what can be gleaned from the title and annotation.

As for content, the database now covers the literature from 1494 to  
2010. For the last several years of literature, however, I have not  
had the time to do exhaustive searches of other databases, so coverage  
of the literature since about 2003 is likely to be spotty. Users are  
encouraged to report to me (ddomning at howard.edu) any missing  
references that should be included, or errors needing correction. We  
are also working on a way for authors to input their own publications  
and make corrections on their own publications in the future.

I plan to continue administering the database for at least the time  
being, and incorporating new references as I become aware of them; but  
in the future I expect to focus mainly on paleontological literature,  
so updating of this bibliography will increasingly depend on others.  
If indeed our community considers this task worthwhile, it will  
require significant commitment by one or more dedicated and  
conscientious volunteers to whom I can eventually pass the torch. I  
respectfully request my colleagues, acting through our existing organs  
such as the IUCN/SSC Sirenia Specialist Group, Sirenian International,  
Inc., and/or the Save the Manatee Club, to undertake serious  
deliberations on whether this information-retrieval project should  
continue and, if so, who should undertake it.

If it is decided that this activity is to be continued, a further  
decision will need to be made concerning the level of detail to be  
provided in the database. I envision at least six options:
1.               Inclusion of only simple literature citations (author- 
date-title-place of publication), machine-searchable but without any  

2.              Annotations of works also. (Abstracts could be  
substituted here.)

3.              General indexing only (indexing each work under a few  
subject headings, say one to five, mostly derivable from the title  
alone or from keywords provided in the work).

4.              Detailed indexing (under each noteworthy subject  
mentioned in the text).

5.              More detailed indexing (with page references and/or  
annotations in the index entries).

6.              Linking citations to searchable full texts of works,  
accessible online.

My original concept, partly achieved in the 1996 printed edition,  
included all options through #5. During the past year or so, when I  
had to catch up on a large backlog of new literature, I could do no  
better in most cases than #3. Going forward, I think #5 (the most  
labor-intensive) will be increasingly impractical given the flood of  
new literature. #4 will be difficult as well, though very desirable.  
#3 should be the minimum acceptable level of indexing. However, given  
that the entire text of the Bibliography is searchable, including  
annotations (and abstracts if these are included), it may be felt that  
this ability makes an index superfluous – although I caution strongly  
against naïve optimism in this regard! The ultimate ideal, of course,  
would be #6; but for most sources it lies well in the future of  
technology, and even that kind of brute-force information retrieval  
will miss information provided by a really good index. The decision is  
up to you, the future users of this database. – Daryl Domning

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