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Zotero, RefWorks or End Note? All of the Above

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Someone asked me which bibliographic tool I would recommend and I commented that each had different features, so as long as you could port data, you could use whatever combination you wanted.

Then I wondered what our Penn State Zotero whiz Ellysa Cahoy would think, and it turned out I was on the right track. Zotero has the ease of use and the ability to grab metadata off the Web, Ref Works some collaboration features and EndNote every citation style you could ever need. Glad to see that I was on the right track.

Update - Ellysa's post was for the 2008 Symposium. Zotero has just realeased a beta for a Web version.

What Ellysa's post reminded me was how much data porting is involved in our professional lives. Researchers port citations, graphic artists use multiple programs ranging from Photoshop to Flash, and writers need to know both Word and CMS Management sytems (at Penn State, 3-4 at least).

I think this situation is a good example of why porting data is a good strategy - it's really hard to imagine on piece of software with the capability of all 3 that would still be usable.

Electronic Reserves: An "Unglamourous" But Successful Service

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Electronic Reserves - a University Libraries Service in which instructors request library content for their courses to be digitized and made available online to students. A few of these documents may be streamed music or online images, but truthfully most are PDF files.

Around 2003, I worked with the Libraries and the Penn State ANGEL Programmers to conceptualize and implement a nifty ANGEL utility - an ANGEL Reserves tool which lets students jump straight from their ANGEL course to the correct course Reserves without a second login and course search.

This tool may not sound as exciting up front as some other technology options, but I am proud to say that this is one service that has stood that the test of time. Despite minimal marketing (at least from ITS), the tool is still being used in over 600 360+ courses in Spring 2008 (or 700+ courses/year) across 19 campuses. Electronic Reserves is also one of the tools I can guarantee that I will use in just about every course I teach.

Connecting Electronic Reserves to ANGEL solves a lot of problems for instructors. Not only can students go to just one location, but copies will be legal 99% of the time (for instance, I may be able to link to a pre-existing image from the CAMIO image database which Penn State has purchased access to). On the other hand, because ANGEL is password protected, there is potential for TEACH Act leeway for at least a semester. And Electronic Reserves saves file space on the ANGEL because files are really hosted at the Libraries. It's almost a .... mashup?

So although the ANGEL Electronic Reserves is a fairly small scale utility, it's one of the projects I am very proud to have been associated with. It looks like just another way to link to a PDF file, but really it introduced me to the world of the mashup, service integration and the single signon portal.

I just wonder what Electronic Reserves will be connecting to in another five years.