Association of College & Research Libraries

Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts is associate university librarian for public services and collection development at Willamette University, e-mail:, and Carol A. Drost is associate university librarian fortechnical services at Willamette University, e-mail:

Contentville. Access:

Contentville is the brainchild of Steve Brill, publisher of Brill’s Content and creator of Court TV. The purpose of this site is to provide access (for a fee) to the content of books, magazines, and other resources, and to provide commentary on the publishing and media industries. Materials for purchase are arranged into 12 categories: study guides (CliffsNotes™), dissertations (via UMI’s Dissertation Abstracts1*) database), magazines (links to subscription sites, not the full-text), e-books (in Microsoft Reader format), screenplays, books, “hard-to-find” books (provided in partnership with online bookseller Alibris), legal documents, speeches, archives, transcripts, and newsletters. The category labeled “Archives” is an article database providing access to “nearly 2,000 publications.”

The real onsite content (read: free) at this site are reports, essays, reviews, interviews, and critiques written by the cadre of “experts” (journalists, cultural critics, academics, and independent bookstore owners) such as David Halberstam, Sherman Alexie, Anita Hill, and Susan Gubar. These writers provide commentary and advice on topics ranging from the lowdown on fashion magazines to a critique of Madeleine Albright’s Ph.D. dissertation.

Categories at Contentville can be searched by keyword or browsed. The “Cross-Content Search” provides the ability to search all resources by topic. The “Advanced Search” allows searching by keyword, author, title, publisher, subject, content type, price range, and ISBN. Boolean, phrase, and proximity searching is available. A search cannot be done by date of publication, which is unfortunate if you are looking for the latest books on a subject.

It should be noted that some of the items found here are also available elsewhere on the Internet for free. For instance, Patrick Buchanan’s speech, “A Den of Thieves,” can be downloaded from Contentville for $1.95. However, by going directly to the Buchanan campaign Web site, it can be downloaded at no charge.

Having this content, or at least access to content, in one place may be a convenient albeit potentially expensive alternative for those without the time or research skills needed to find these resources elsewhere. The insider commentaries on the media may be of interest to business, journalism, and media students.—Robert L. Battenfeld, Long Island University,

The University of Michigan Law School Refugee Caselaw Site. Access.-http ://www.refugeecasela w. org. Enshrined in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the definition of “refugee” is the subject of much interpretation in national courts. This can have significant ramifications for the many people around the world who seek asylum (or “refugee status”) as a means of protection against persecution. A new database produced by the University of Michigan Law School may help to promote more consistent application of international standards by providing access to refugee caselaw from a variety of jurisdictions.

At the time of this writing, selected decisions from high courts in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States are available. The stated objective is to eventually branch out to other jurisdictions. Although date coverage is not indicated, U.S. decisions from the 1960s are included, while other cases from certain jurisdictions appear to date from the 1980s. Users can choose from several options for searching the database: full text, case name, country of origin of the applicant, court, date of decision, or jurisdiction. An additional search method is by “Hathaway number.” A Michigan law professor and one of the database’s masterminds, James Hathaway is the author of a well-known treatise in the refugee law community entitled “The Law of Refugee Status.” The chapter number system used in the book has been translated into a “topical” search option in the caselaw database.

Users may further refine their searches with a subsequent search—effectively conducting a search within a search. This feature can lead to some initial confusion since it is relatively easy to overlook the fact that one is “refining” a search rather than initiating a new one. The safest way to avoid getting zero hits erroneously is to simply follow the links provided at the bottom of each results page; either start a new query or conduct another search using the particular option selected.

The total number of cases available in the database is still relatively small (just over 300); users may be disappointed by a consistent pattern of no results retrieved, particularly when searching by country of origin or Hathaway number. For this reason, the most effective option is “full text.” Results are displayed in descending date order. The complete decisions, taken from LEXIS, are presented in .pdf format and their original language.

The database is designed for legal practitioners, refugee status decision makers, and policy makers. However, it will also prove a boon to law students drafting papers, briefs, or advisory opinions, whether in asylum clinics or the classroom. Although currently limited in the variety of jurisdictions represented, this resource is a useful tool for undertaking comparative work. And with its sophisticated search mechanism in place, the refugee caselaw database will only improve as its holdings begin to multiply.—Elisa Mason, independent information specialist, elisamason@

World War I: Trenches on the Web.


There is an increased interest in the major events that occurred at the beginning of the century. World War I: Trenches on the Web has been de- 1 veloped and regularly maintained since 1996 by a private individual, Mike

Iavarone. A network administrator by profession with an avid amateur interest in World War I, Iavarone has produced a comprehensive and highly accessible clearinghouse of materials relating to this period of history. Endorsed by the Great War Society and by the History Channel, Trenches on the Web is an outstanding example of a multimedia tool for the study of modern history.

Upon reaching the site, the searcher is initially overwhelmed by the somewhat rambling homepage, which takes up five screens. By the third screen, visitors discover a number of thoughtfully constmcted finding aids, most allowing different paths of access to all of the site’s contents.

The academic researcher will find the “Reference Library” section the most useful. The “Site at a Glance” flow chart maps out the site’s contents by subject and format. The chart offers quick access to such resources as original documents, a war atlas, photo archives, statistics, artwork, books, reviews, and a virtual reality hall. The “Exhibit" section features primary data, including 20 thumbnail photos, maps of the major theaters of action, and a timeline of the war. For the researcher who wishes to sample current discourse on the Great War, clear links are provided to an unmoderated discussion group and to an Internet Relay Chat session. Another service provided within the “Reference Library” is a comprehensive list to other external compilations of World War I materials, including several academic reading lists and bibliographies. Links are provided to not-for-profit World War I poster reproduction businesses and to booksellers.

While World War I: Trenches on the Web may not be a scholar’s first source of World War I information, this site nonetheless provides an original and content-rich gathering point for many supplementary research resources. Recommended for undergraduate and graduate historians and teachers seeking multimedia class materials.—-JaneDuffy, Ohio State University,

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