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Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts and Carol A. Drost, editors

Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project. Access: www.citizenaccess.org.

In the post-September 11 environment, state laws dealing with freedom of information and public access to government information have become an issue of concern to many people. The Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project is an ambitious undertaking with the goals of compiling a comprehensive list of public access laws in all 50 states and using a ratings system to determine the availability of public records in each state. The project uses legal research to examine statutory, case, and constitutional law in each state and then calculates a rating from “completely open” to “completely closed,” based on open meeting and open record laws. Also included is a most recent statement of law rating to indicate recent developments and trends in each state.

There are two basic entry points for navigating the site. In the “Resources” section, the site reviews the primary law of each state, compiles information about the law (books, journal articles, guidebooks, etc.), lists relevant organizations in each state related to open access and/or freedom of information, and links to any independent audits of the laws of the state.

The “Search” section offers four ways to query the searchable database being compiled. These include the options of seeing ratings for access law categories in a single state; examining summaries or “capsules” of individual provisions of access laws for each state; comparing ratings and capsules of individual provisions of access laws of two states; or seeing comparative ratings for one access law category across all 50 states.

“Tips” is an important section of the site, especially for users less familiar with the law and legal terminology. It includes a synonyms list, an FAQ, a glossary of terms used, and a list of available topics. Most importantly, it supplies important information about the advisory board and an extensive description of the methodology used in producing the ratings, a key element of the project.

The difficulties associated with a project like this include the sheer volume of data, the time-consuming review process the board undertakes, and the constantly changing status of the law. It is still a work in progress and currently has incomplete information in a number of areas. There are also ongoing problems that limit the functionality of Netscape browsers on some of the pages. The nature of the information on the site will require continuous updating. The developers acknowledge that keeping up with legal developments in all 50 states is a tall order, but they are committed to the expansion and maintenance of the site.

Some knowledge of the law or legal issues would be helpful in using the site, but the unique nature of the project makes it useful to anyone researching public record laws. It is recommended for all college or university levels.— Patrick Reakes, University of Florida, pjr@mail.uflib.ufl.edu

Webopedia. Access: www.webopedia.com.

Webopedia is a free online dictionary that defines words, phrases, and acronyms related to computers and the Internet. The definitions are explained accurately and with limited use of technical language. Some words used within the definition are linked to their own definition for further study. There is often a list of related terms and additional resources included with the definition. The dictionary terms can alternatively be browsed by category. According to the Webopedia Web site, new terms are added on a daily basis, and resource links are added periodically.

Another useful feature incorporates a “Quick Reference” section, which is useful for finding common Internet and computer facts. There is also a “Did You Know?” section that addresses popular questions like “Are Deleted Files Completely Erased?” and “Flow Web Servers Work.” Perhaps the most innovative feature this site offers is the “Search Tool” (free software must be initially downloaded). One can search the Webopedia dictionary from any Web page by highlighting the word or phrase and clicking a special bookmark on the Web browser. The definition is displayed in a new window if it is covered in the dictionary.

Joni R. Roberts is associate university librarian for public services and collection development at Willamette University, e-mail: jroberts@willamette.edu, and Carol A. Drost is associate university librarian for technical services at Willamette University, e-mail: cdrost@willamette.edu

This resource, sponsored by Jupitermedia Corporation, is fairly easy to use and navigate in comparison to similar services. Although the amount of advertising tends to clutter the site, it is well-organized and reliable. The Webopedia site states that full-time editors obtain the information from multiple sources (e.g., universities and technical publications) and that “definitions are never based on just one source.” This resource is geared towards the general public, but those involved in computer science may benefit from it the most. This is recommended for all users.—John Repplinger, Willamette University, jrepplin@willamette.edu

The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Access:www.indiana.edu/~kinsey/index.html. The Kinsey Institute, a private, nonprofit organization affiliated with the University of Indiana, serves as a leader in international scholarship for sexuality, gender, and reproduction. Although founded in 1947, the origins of the institute reach back to 1938 when the “Association of Women Students petitioned Indiana University for a course for students who were married or contemplating marriage.” Alfred C. Kinsey, a zoology professor, heeded the call and soon became a preeminent figure in the field of human sexual behavior research. Today, the Kinsey Institute’s primary mission is to promote interdisciplinary research by collecting, preserving, and providing access to an array of special collections by developing graduate-level curricula and by sponsoring exhibitions, workshops, and research in the areas of sexuality, gender, and reproduction.

This well-designed, award-winning Web site provides “researchers, professionals and the general public” with information about the Institute and other resources for the study of human sexuality. However, the collections themselves are not targeted to the general public. The materials are not digitized, nor are they available to the public except during scheduled public tour dates. Due to the sensitive, often explicit, nature of the collections, they are only available onsite to “duly qualified students of sexuality, including university faculty, other scholars and professionals, and university students at least 18 years old.” The stacks are closed and items are noncirculating.

Though not a digital repository, the Web site does serve as a portal to important information about the institute and its policies and provides access tools to assist with resource discovery. In addition to offering current, detailed pages about its services, events, research and curricular initiatives, the site dedicates much attention to the description of its collections: “the mundane, the arcane, the exquisite, and the scientific.” The wide-ranging collections include art, artifacts, film, books, interview transcripts, data, and codebooks. Many of the print and audiovisual items have records in the Kinsey Institute Library Catalog.

The institute does make available to all visitors to the site the full-text of its newsletter, “Kinsey Today,” as well as a few codebooks, both in PDF format. “Related Resources” also offers links to an assortment of useful material, including online bibliographies, journals, data archives, and Web guides, for anyone interested in sexology.

However, the Kinsey Institute site will be most beneficial to those with academic objectives. The site is recommended for students, faculty, and professionals engaged in human sexuality research or curious about the current resources available to them in the expanding fields of sexuality, gender, and reproduction.— Sheri Webber, Purchase College, sheri.webber@ pumhase.edu

Call for writers

If you’re interested in writing for Internet Reviews, please contact editors Joni R. Roberts, jroberts@willamette.edu, or Carol A. Drost, cdrost@willamette.edu.

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