Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Top 10 Alkek library tools for college students? that maybe you don't know about?

I had meant to post this way back in July, but I'd come across this page on the top 10 Web Tools for College Students and although I know this list is old, and I have seen several variants on it as well, it got me thinking. What would be the top 10 Alkek library tools for college students? So I came up with this little list here--though trying very hard to shake off my naturally librarian-centric point of view. And then I wondered how many people knew about them.

1. Worldcat

Worldcat is listed on the library databases page, but it's not for searching articles. It's more of a gigantic library catalog (the name implies this too) and it's helpful for looking to see what other libraries have a certain book or journal. Unfortunately we don't have every book and journal that people need, and if you need it very badly and want to know if it's in a nearby library, Worldcat will tell you. see also #9 on this list.

2. Refworks (or technically any citation management tool)

Refworks will really make your life easier. It organizes your citations and generates bibliographies for you in different style formats. You can even export the citation information to Refworks as you collect your sources. There are other free open source citation managers out there like zotero, but Refworks has some nifty features and it's free to use if you are a Txstate University student.

3. Databases & Refworks RSS feeds feature

Our discussion on Refworks leads us into our next essential tool--database and Refworks RSS feeds. If you are unaware what RSS is or how to use a feed reader, see this wiki page. Some of the databases (EBSCO databases for sure) provide a feed link so you can cut and paste your search and your search results into your favorite feed reader. Every time a new article that matches your search comes up, you'll get it in your new items list. Sweet, no? With Refworks RSS feed reader, this is even cooler. Take the feed from your search, and it will import the citations from the feed into your Refworks account.

The catalog may seem old-school, but it's got some nice enhanced features that will save you some time. One new feature is the My Account login. You can renew your books online (you can renew online up to 3 times) and also save searches and get email alerts (similar to the RSS feeds but you'll get an email with the new items that match your search). You can also login to request checked out items to be held for you at Circulation when they are turned back in.

5. Using Google Scholar to link back to Alkek Library articles

This is another underappreciated little quirk to using the Library webpage. If you are on-campus this little trick should work any way you get to Google Scholar, but if you are off-campus you need to go to the library databases page to get to Google Scholar. When you search this way, articles that you have access to via Alkek Library subscriptions will have a link beside them saying either TxState E-Journals or Findit@Txstate. This is unlike regular searches where they try to make you pay for articles. Most of the time the library has access to them.....why pay when you have free access?

6. Setting up Google Scholar to export to Refworks

So, hopefully you have tried number 5 and now want to figure out how to get your citation from Google Scholar to your Refworks account. Go to Scholar Preferences and at the bottom next to Bibliography Manager you'll get a choice to "show links to import citations into" and then a dropdown menu. Pick Refworks on the dropdown and save preferences. Now when you get your Google Scholar results you'll see a link at the bottom of the citation that says "Import into RefWorks." Clicking on that link will import the cite into your Refworks account. If this is really confusing, see the nice video that shows you exactly how to do this.

Another underappreciated library tool. It's not for searching for articles exactly. Its for looking to see if the library has a particular journal or newspaper and showing any full text databases with links, and also with any print info. You can also browse by subject to see a list of our journals/magazines/newspapers in any given subject. You'll use this the most when you just have a citation and no full-text, and you have to search by hand for the full text somewhere else or print copies.

8. Sign-in Feature in EBSCO databases

Don't mean to be an EBSCO shill, but they have a nifty feature where you can sign in to the database and you can save all the citations you gathered in a folder, and then when you sign in again they'll still be there. Otherwise if you don't sign in if you log out the citations in your folder will get erased. You can also save searches and alerts, and export from your folder.

9. Interlibrary Loan (ILLiad) & Texshare

Sadly, we don't have every single book in the known universe. But, we can try to order it for you if you need it. That's the basis of our Interlibrary Loan Service. Use the Illiad online form to order things we don't have. Sometimes if you are in certain databases you'll see a link to Illiad in the database itself, and in some cases it will fill out the form for you. Otherwise login and fill out the form. If it's available online you will get your requested article online. If it's in print, come by Alkek 213 to pick it up, or just ask at the reference desk.

Texshare is slightly different.
Interlibrary Loan Service can take up to 2 weeks to be delivered. Sometimes you don't really have the time to wait. Texshare is a card you get at the Circulation desk that lets you check out books at libraries across Texas. In fact, you can use #1 Worldcat to see where a certain item is and then go check it out with your Texshare card.

10. E-Book collections

What if you need a book and you want it online? We have a growing collection of ebooks. You can set the catalog to display only e-books, and access them from there. We also have a webpage that has links to all the major collections of e-books.