A host of new e-resources are available through York Libraries

It’s amazing what odd, interesting and fascinating material is available online now to tickle the academic mind – 20th century dramas, detailed three-dimensional pictures of human anatomy, British parliamentary papers back to the 18th century, and information on global consumer behaviour patterns, such as how much tea Canadians drink compared to the Japanese.

“The first electronic resources to emerge on the scene were e-journals,” says Catherine Davidson, associate University librarian, collections. Davidson runs the New Electronic Resources at York University Libraries blog where all the juiciest electronic offerings are posted for easy access.

“STM [science, technology and medical] journals were the first to be made available in electronic form about 10 years ago or so. Eventually, the social science and humanities publishers began to issue their journals electronically,” says Davidson. "And now, everyone is getting on the digital bandwagon – in addition to the ubiquitous e-journals, abstracts and indexes, we can offer York researchers access to e-books, streaming video, e-audio, digital images and data across virtually every discipline."

The challenge, says Davidson, is getting the word out about the great collection of e-resources available through York Libraries. “The goal is for people to discover these things and actually use them.” That was the impetus behind launching the New Electronic Resources at York University Libraries blog about one year ago.

"We try to promote our collections – in both print and electronic forms through many different channels, and so it made sense to tap into the popularity of blogs," says Davidson. She notes the postings to the blog are selective to highlight important new resources. The blog, however, is a good first place to start to see what new collections have been acquired.

Some of those acquisitions come with York being a member of the Ontario Council of University Libraries, which has about 20 provincial universities on board, and the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), which boasts some 67 universities as partners. Through these two consortiums, York has access to a whole range of e-materials. “The buying power of the consortia members is greatly extended compared to acquiring something as a lone institution,” says Davidson.

CRKN makes large-scale content acquisitions to build knowledge infrastructure and research capacity in universities across the country. Most recently, a $47 million Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) grant, matched by universities and most provinces, has led to a third phase of social sciences and humanitities content expansion. As a result, all 67 CRKN Canadian universities will soon be benefiting from an even richer national and international digital collection of scholarly content, including books, letters, historic documents, music scores, maps, artworks and visual materials.

The Canadian Publishers Collection is one of the more recent CRKN acquisitions containing 8,100 English and French e-books through Gibson Library Connections Inc. and includes books published by major Canadian university presses. Another e-resource acquired in June is the Periodicals Archive Online through publishers Micromedia and ProQuest, which make backfiles of periodicals in the humanities and social sciences available electronically from 1802 to 1995 in 37 key subject areas. Medieval travel writing; 18th century journals; China Trade, Politics and Culture from 1793 to 1980; slavery abolition; and defining gender are all products available through Adam Matthew Digital.

Some of the emerging favourites in e-resources include Scopus, a mostly science site; Global Market Information Database, which contains details on consumer behaviour that would appeal to the business and marketing end of things; Primal Pictures, a site featuring rotating 3D human anatomy pictures and anatomical information; Black Studies Center, offering a cross-searchable gateway to Black studies; The Birds of North America; as well as several audio streaming services – Naxos, Smithsonian Global Sound, African American Song and Classical Music Library.

York University Libraries has a collections budget of $10 million with roughly half of that spent on electronic resources. The other half is devoted to print books, journals, maps, DVDs and music.

"We keep hearing from our students and faculty that they want access to more and more electronic content. As publishers and vendors increasingly make their offerings available in digital form, we in turn do our best to meet that demand by acquiring scholarly resources that support the curriculum," says Davidson. "Once we have added something to our collection, the next step is to raise awareness about these rich resources across the York community so they will actually be used, and we hope that the blog is one way to do that."

By Sandra McLean, YFile writer