Thursday, November 05, 2009

Zotero? Oh, Oh, Oh!

I am so pumped about Zotero. it is a FREE scholarly citation and information-gathering program that works in Mozilla Firefox. One of the faculty members from Government/SFS recommended it, and it blows EndNote or RefWorks away. Fantastic. I will still use RefWorks for scholarly citations when I'm in Georgetown's own online catalogue, because it is integrated with Georgetown's system. But then I'll export the data to Zotero. In fact, Zotero is so great that I made a donation online to the foundation.

What to Read When Stuck in Traffic

The Washington, DC area is notorious for its traffic. According to The Christian Science Monitor, we have the second-worst commute times in the nation, right after New York. I was born in DC and grew up in its suburbs, so I know that firsthand from years of my own commutes while working in the city and putting myself through college.

So what do Booklab authors who live outside the city do? Many listen to audiobooks -- that's not new in and of itself. But one of them discovered something that got me thinking excitedly about its implications for scholarly publishing. He listened to David Hackett Fischer's well-reviewed Washington's Crossing, and found himself making surprise connections between themes in that book and his own work writing about more recent societal issues. He developed a whole argument that grew out of something he heard in Fischer, and it now appears in his manuscript with credit to Fisher's book.

A long discussion ensued about reading more generally in the history of a nation or region one writes about. We are rarely as broadly educated as we should be, especially people with doctorates whose reading tends to the narrow and targeted. This author's experience inspired me to think about a better grounding in the history of any culture, even while writing about aspects of it that may be many generations later, and about the value of audiobooks in the drive-time commute to get there.