2008-10-03

Internet Resources I didn't know about, second in an ongoing series

So there I was, searching the Web for materials on Sewing Machine Maintenance, and lo and behold an ERIC document came up as a hit. "Huh," I went, "haven't thought about ERIC in years, wonder what this links to?"

If you followed the link, you found out, as I did, that it links to ED183837 - Military Curricula for Vocational & Technical Education. Sewing Machine Maintenance, 18-3; snappy title, what? And, get this, that had a link to the full text of said document. All 110 pages of it.

Mostly. A link to a PDF image of a microform document, which hadn't been well cared for, and it is very clear that they didn't clean the fiche and the fiche scanner properly either before or during the scan process. And the fiche wasn't COM [Computer Output Microform], it was made by photographing an already extant document, which was missing some pages [but nothing crucial, as the notes made by the folks producing the microfiche took care to note].

Think of it as a multi-generation photocopy of a training manual. With cruft. See the entry for cruft in the Jargon File, if not familiar with cruft. [If not familiar with the Jargon File, be ready to lose the next several hours as it grabs you and educates you while making you howl with laughter. The Jargon File is worthy of its own blog entry.]

But the nifty thing is that they're trying to make all the old ERIC documents available online, for free. No charges for accessing the things, none of this IEEE bait-and-switch abstract looks good but I got to pay umpteen bazillion dollars to find out if it really is what I'm looking for, no refund if it's not, same with ANSI and the other standards folks, hrmph!

Something being in ERIC doesn't make it public domain, but it does grant pre-DMCA fair use, the type beloved by librarians and researchers the world over. The idea behind ERIC was to create a repository for materials relating to science and education, with copies at all GovDoc depositories, so that the free flow of information relating to research, etc., not be impeded; just look at the name: Education Resources Information Center, ERIC. It got a real boost when various tenure assessment programs decided ERIC Documents counted towards tenure; instead of paying to be included in some specialized journal which would be printed on the cheapest paper available, and cost your University Library as much as three staff members to obtain, ERIC would accept it and distributed it to all the major universities for you, on archival microform. Another boost was that being included in ERIC established copyright in a firm and tangible fashion, so even if you planned on submitting the snazzy write-up to The Journal of ... for proper peer-review and kudos, you'd send the initial write-up to ERIC to establish it as your work, so it was then safe to give talks about it at conferences prior to it appearing in said august journal.

Ignore the past-tense, ERIC is alive and growing, and has made the switch-over to the Internet with flying colors.

Check them out. Who knows, you might decide to submit something to them, yourself.

That's a wrap.

Post this Puppy!

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