Monthly Archives: September 2009 gets beautiful new OCLC record

This blog posting is way overdue, as are several others, but this one’s first. I’m excited to report that has a beautiful new OCLC record! This is actually pretty neat, at least to a librarian. And, the truth is, the site has had an OCLC record for quite a while. But it was embarassingly out of date, so I want to thank Cindy Hepfer and Jen Brand at the University of Buffalo Libraries for updating the old OCLC record, and making a super-beautiful new one.

So, if you want to add a link to to your online catalog, please find and add OCLC#44563336 to your catalog. Or you may want to add a link to to your online resources pages, such as your pages for history or genealogy resources. Or do both!

Thanks again to Jen and Cindy. We’re official now!

This Day in History, 1620 – Mayflower Set Sail

On this day in 1620 (old style; September 16, in new style), Mayflower sailed from Southampton, England. She arrived in the hook of Cape Cod on November 11. The rest is, as they say, history.

Nathaniel Philbrick published his book about the ship in 2006; it’s titled Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War. My feeling was that the book should have been titled “King Philip’s War,” since it was much more about the interactions between the settlers and the Native Americans they encountered once they arrived, than it was about the voyage or the vessel, but very little is known about those subjects. Nevertheless, it made for an interesting story.

If you have other opinions about the book, please don’t hesitate to share.

This Day in History, 1939 – First British Ship Sunk by Germans

On September 3, 1939, the British passenger liner SS Athenia was sunk by the German sub U-30. This was the first British ship sunk in World War II, and because it was a passenger vessel, rather than a cargo ship, it was a violation of existing treaties between Germany and England. In fact, the Germans did not admit to sinking Athenia until well after the end of the war. Many didn’t believe that the Germans would have sunk a passenger liner, as there was much to lose, and little to gain, by doing so.

118 people lost their lives, from more than 1100 on board, and much that loss occurred during the rescue. Because the seas were calm, many vessels were able to assist Athenia, and most did so successfully. A Norwegian vessel, Knute Nelson, caused about 50 deaths when it suddenly steamed full speed ahead, sucking a full lifeboat that was aside it into its propeller.

New Search Behavior – What do you think?

This Day in History – 2009, I deployed some new search behavior.

The goal was to make the search behavior smoother when there’s an exact match on the search term you’ve put in, or if there’s only a single match. I’d like to know if this feature is helpful or confusing. Personally I think it’s pretty nifty, but then again I made it, so I’m biased.

You can see it in action by searching for “Seattle“, “Lusitania” or “fonseau“. (Those links are actually searches, they just redirect. Feel free to try a search from the side bar.)

How is that? Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Suggestions?

On a side note, I changed the destination of the search form a little bit because as it was, it was obscuring the vessel named “Search”. I apologize for the inconvenience but if you have linked to a search rather than a specific ship page, your links will need to be updated.

New functionality added: “Find in a library” links

Yesterday and today, we’ve added “Find in a library” links to every single resource currently in the database. This is useful for tracking down the specific title that mentions your vessel. Say, for instance, you’ve done a search for the ship Smart. You find two mentions of the vessel, in two books about Maine ships. When you click on either title — A Maritime History of Bath, Maine, or Fairburn’s Merchant Sail — you’ll see the linked words “Find in a library”. When you click that link, it’ll take you to WorldCat, a global directory of libraries’ holdings.

WorldCat will show its record for that book, and will even do its best to find the copy nearest  you. You can put in a location to be even more exact, if you like. (The location can be a ZIP code, a postal code, a city, or a country.)

In nearly every case for items in this database, you’re only looking for a small part of the book or resource in question. You can almost certainly use the library nearest you, even if you don’t have a borrower’s card from that library. All you really need is the book and a photocopier, or the book and a pen and paper, and you’ll get the data that’s available there.

This is a big step forward in being able to track down the resources, once you’ve identified that they mention the vessel you’re seeking.

We’ll be adding more ways to locate specific resources over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on the resources pages. If you have thoughts about features you’d like us to add, or more ways to find the specific resources, please let us know.


This Day in History, 1925 – and ships that aren’t in the water

On September 2, 1925, the USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), a rigid airship, was destroyed during a squall in Ohio. Fourteen of 53 people on board died in the crash. This was the 57th flight for the airship, so it certainly wasn’t a problem with the newness of the ship. Instead, weather was the problem.

It’s worth noting that there are a few non-maritime “ships” in the database, such as Shenandoah. Of course, looking at the link for Shenandoah, one sees a range of vessels — a Confederate cruiser/raider, a post-Civil War steamship, a schooner, a post-World War II tender, and, of course, the airship in question today. While they’re not as extensively  listed, you will find these other vessels (and even a few imaginary ones) in the database, so check it out — even if your “ship” doesn’t float.