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About the Guide

This Page Covers the Following Topics
From Print Publication to Online Presentation

Building the Online Research Guide: The Goals and Structure

Redesigning the Print Guide for Better Navigation Online

Illustrations and Digital Content Links

Searching for Text and Images

Cover of American Women guide

From Print Publication to Online Presentation

The online Research Guide, which forms the core component of the American Women Web site, began life as a print publication. During a period of nearly four years, eighteen Library of Congress catalogers, reference specialists, and editors surveyed their collections and compiled a richly illustrated, 456-page resource guide titled, American Women: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Women's History and Culture in the United States, which was published in December 2001 by the Library of Congress in cooperation with the University Press of New England.

Copies of this award-winning book are available from major booksellers, through the University Press of New England, and from the Library of Congress Sales Shop. A short press release announcing the guide's publication and an illustrated article about the book written by one of its authors provide useful background information on the guide's origin and content. Although much of the text and many of the illustrations are now available online, the published book remains an attractive and practical companion to the Web version, addressing audiences and ready reference needs not always met by online publications.

Building the Online Research Guide: The Goals and Structure

See caption below
Women workers install fixtures and assemblies to a tail fuselage section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif. Alfred T. Palmer. 1942 Oct. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-DIG-ppmsca-03058.
bibliographic record

While the print publication was still in production and long before it reached the book shelves of most major libraries, several members of the editorial team decided to approach staff responsible for creating American Memory sites with a proposal to mount the contents of the guide online–both text and illustrations. The goals were to establish the initial framework of an American Memory site that could point to and provide context for the Library's existing and future digital collections in the field of American women's history, while simultaneously enhancing access to the institution's thousands of non-digital collections.

To meet these two complementary goals, the online Research Guide:

  • preserves the print guide's original organization based on divisional reading room or research center and retains the useful collection summaries and descriptions of each division's catalogs, finding aids, and other access tools;
  • supplements the information contained in the divisional collection summaries by providing links to online catalog record descriptions and finding aids;
  • enhances access to the contents of the guide (and compensates for the loss of the print index) by offering a full-text search capability that retrieves text in the body of the guide and in the captions of illustrations;
  • improves the reader's ability to locate materials across the Library's complicated, multiformat structure by providing hyperlinks from one relevant section of the guide to another;
  • draws attention to the Library's growing digital resources by including many more illustrations than was possible in the print publication and by providing direct links to hundreds of digital items in the Library's American Memory collections (including some that were newly digitized for this site; see Building the Digital Collection), as well as to the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog and the Library's online exhibitions;
  • gathers in one place the scholarly introduction and the five topical essays that were interspersed throughout the print guide, thereby establishing an organizational structure independent of the divisional overviews, which can readily accommodate an infinite number of additional cross-divisional thematic analyses of the Library's women's history collections; and
  • describes collections that were acquired by the Library since publication of the print guide or that had been omitted from the print publication for other reasons.

Redesigning the Print Guide for Better Navigation Online

In redesigning and restructuring the print publication for online use, the following modifications were introduced to make the text more "Web friendly":

Text was divided into manageable sections that could be retrieved as separate Web pages.

  • "Chapters" in the book have become "sections" in the online presentation, and each section has been divided into several large subsections, which are nearly always titled Introduction, Using the Collections, Selected Holdings or Selected Collections, Conclusion, External Sites, and Visit/Contact. The content of each of these subsections varies depending on the reading room or administrative unit being described, but generally the following information will be found.
    • Introduction: Briefly highlights some of the division's notable holdings in the area of women's history; provides an overview of the division's history and acquisitions policies; and alludes to the strengths and weaknesses of its collections.
    • Using the Collections: Often delves deeper into the division's collecting policies; explains how the materials are arranged and described; suggests appropriate research methodologies; and identifies the major catalogs, finding aids, and other tools essential for uncovering and interpreting the unit's collections.
    • Selected Collections: The largest component of each section, the heading is self-evident. This is where you find descriptions of selected holdings, grouped by topic, format, date, or other criteria meaningful to each division.
    • Conclusion: Summarizes some of the holdings information and key research advice given within the section.
    • External Sites: Gathers in one spot all the links to Web sites outside the Library of Congress Web pages that appeared in the section.
    • Visit/Contact: Lists the telephone number, postal and email addresses, hours of operation, and essential access and use information for all Library reading rooms and for the specific one being described in the section.

  • Each of these subsections is usually further broken down into divisions, subdivisions, and so forth, often with additional headings and subheadings.
  • General Collections introduction page (screen capture)

  • To assist navigation of the hierarchical divisions and subdivisions, a navigator panel containing an expandable headings list (or table of contents) appears on the left side of each page.

  • The arrow in the navigator panel identifies the division or subdivision of the section that is currently being viewed and helps provide context for the section's overall organization. When you select any of the hyperlinked headings in the navigator, the headings of the next-level divisions are revealed. Simultaneously, the text on the right side of the screen jumps to the beginning of the division selected on the navigator. The three images below show the expanding table of contents in the navigator panel for the General Collections section of the Research Guide.
1. Fully collapsed navigator on the Introduction page 2. When the Selected Holdings heading is highlighted, the navigator expands to show subsidiary categories. 3. When Starting Places is selected, further subdivision headings are revealed.
Navigator on Introduction page (screen capture) Navigator with Selected  Holdings  highlighted (screen capture) Navigator with Starting Places selected (screen capture)

  • The navigator is generated dynamically from the XML-coded text through the use of an XSLT stylesheet. An expandable table of contents for the entire Research Guide, based on another stylesheet, is available elsewhere on the site.

Text was also reformatted to allow for easier skimming of pages and to accommodate expanding content.

  • Subheadings were added to the section divisions. These subheadings do not appear within the navigators since they do not represent separate Web pages.
  • Bullets, numbered lists, italics, boldface, and other formatting conventions were introduced to break up dense narrative passages and draw attention to specific information.
  • Longer paragraphs were divided into two or more paragraphs based on logical breaks in the text.
  • Some transition sentences and paragraphs linking passages in the narrative-based print guide became unnecessary or confusing in the online presentation, and they were omitted.
  • Efforts were made to make each Web page "stand on its own," since readers will land on pages as a result of search queries and will not necessarily have read the pages in the order in which the information had been presented in the printed text. When appropriate, links were added to direct readers to a related discussion elsewhere in the same or another section of the guide.

Illustrations and Digital Content Links

The ability to link to other digital files was the primary motivation behind producing an online version of the Research Guide. The guide takes advantage of five kinds of links.

Types of Links

1. Cross-reference links of the see and see also variety that facilitate quicker navigation between related passages in the guide. When the context of the sentence makes it clear where the link is headed, the link is placed on the appropriate words in the text; when the destination of the link is less clear, parenthetical statements have been added to alert readers to the title of the section to which they are being referred.

2. Catalog record links and bibliographic record links. The former type of link appears only in the body of the guide, whereas the latter appears only in brief illustration captions.

  • Links to catalog records appear in brackets within the text, e.g., [catalog record]. These links launch a search string via the Z39.50 information retrieval protocol that retrieves a formatted display of a Library of Congress Online Catalog record. Catalog records supplement and may even supersede some information in the Research Guide, specifically with respect to the dates and quantity of the material described, since the catalog records are likely to be updated more frequently than the text in the Research Guide. Since catalog records sometimes contain their own links, it is possible to move from a summary description in the women's history Research Guide, to a potentially more detailed catalog record, and ultimately through a link in the catalog record to an in-depth collection finding aid or perhaps a digital surrogate of an item.
  • Links to bibliographic records are discussed below under Glossary of Links.

3. Links to other Library of Congress Web sites. In addition to linking to information in the Library's catalogs, the Research Guide also includes links to relevant Library of Congress Exhibitions Web pages, home pages for American Memory collections, lists of finding aids and other resources appearing on reading room home pages, and other useful materials available on the Library's site.

4. External Links. These are used sparingly in the American Women Research Guide, and when they do appear they first take the reader to an intermediary page containing a standard disclaimer alerting the reader that the destination site is outside the Library of Congress Web pages.

5. Links to digital content. These links, which may be the most important of any type used in the American Women Research Guide, point to the Library's growing digital resources. They appear in the body of the text and are used in both the captions and thumbnails of illustrations. They link to related digital content throughout the Library of Congress Web site, provided the content is accompanied by bibliographic records or other descriptive information. Such digital content may be found principally in the American Memory Historical Collections, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC), and Library of Congress Exhibitions Web pages, as well as in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Be advised that although the digital surrogate may be accessible on the Library's Web site, the original item may be held by another institution which loaned the item to the Library for an exhibition or which received an Ameritech Award to digitize its materials for inclusion on the Library's American Memory site.

Glossary of Links

In an effort to alert the reader to the type of file they will access, the following labels are used for digital content links:

Used in the body of the text to link to sound files. The link resolves to a bibliographic record in American Memory that contains playback instructions and a list of audio file formats from which to select. The bibliographic record may also contain a thumbnail image from an album jacket or related item.

bibliographic record
Used in short captions of illustrations to link to information in either American Memory or the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) that describes the item being illustrated. The description usually includes the title of the item, name of the creator, date the item was created, physical medium of the original, reproduction and digital identification numbers, and information about subjects represented in the item. In addition to this summary information, the bibliographic record includes a link for viewing or listening to the item.

[catalog record]
Used in the body of the text to link to Library of Congress Online Catalog records (see item #2 under Types of Links, above, and the illustration below).

exhibit display
Used in short captions of illustrations to link to descriptive information about an item that appears on the Library's Exhibitions Web pages.

full caption
Used in short captions of illustrations to link to a pop-up window containing a longer caption describing the item. The only illustrations displaying a "full caption" link are those that appeared in the print version of American Women. It is possible that fuller captions will be supplied later to images that were added to the online version of the Research Guide. The full caption also includes a thumbnail version of the image, which is useful when the full caption is accessed by way of a full-text search rather than by clicking on it from the illustration on screen (see Searching for Text and Images below).

[full item] or full item
Used in brackets in the body of the text and without brackets in short captions of illustrations to link to a set of images that make up a complete unit of material, usually textual in form, such as an entire letter, speech, book, pamphlet, or music score. The link generally resolves to a bibliographic record that contains either (or both) a thumbnail version of the first image in the set or a text link containing a phrase, such as view the images. Clicking on either the thumbnail or text link will launch a presentation of the remaining images, often through a page-turner device.

[moving image]
Used in the body of the text to link to motion pictures, films, Web broadcasts of Library events, etc. The link generally resolves to a bibliographic record in American Memory that contains playback instructions and a list of file formats from which to select. The bibliographic record may also contain a thumbnail still image from the moving image file. Links to Library Webcasts go directly to the digitized video file.

Used in the body of the text to link to pictorial material (such as photographs, prints, drawings, or cartoons). The link resolves to a bibliographic record in either the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) or American Memory that contains a thumbnail of the image with instructions on how to access a larger version.

Using Links

The following series of screen captures from the Manuscript Division section on Reproductive Health provides examples of some of the links described above.

Here is the overall layout of the page:

Manuscript Division page on Reproductive Health (screen catpure)

The first two paragraphs of text contain several types of links.

Manuscript page on Reproductive Health showing link types (screen capture)

  • The first link is a cross-reference alerting the reader to information on other collections relating to public health nurses in another part of the Health and Medicine discussion in the Manuscript Division section.
  • The second link is to the catalog record for the Margaret Sanger Papers. A screen capture below gives you a glimpse of what the Z39.50 search retrieves from the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Note especially the link at the end of the record, which takes you to a detailed finding aid for the collection.
  • The third link is also a cross-reference, but this one directs you from the Manuscript Division portion of the Research Guide to the Rare Book and Special Collections Division portion. The description could also have included references to Sanger photographs in the Prints and Photographs Division and a Sanger radio broadcast in the Recorded Sound Section of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, but the author elected to have researchers discover those sources by doing a full-text search of the guide (see below), which would also uncover references to Sanger in the General Collections and Area Studies sections of the guide.
  • The fourth link is an example of an external link, and a screen capture below shows the destination of that link.
  • The final link is to a moving image file that contains a videotaped broadcast of a presentation by Esther Katz, editor of The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at the Department of History, New York University, who spoke at the Library of Congress in March 2003 about the Sanger Papers.

Second link: catalog record for the Margaret Sanger Papers
SangerCatalog image
Final link: External link listed on Manuscript External Sites page
Manuscript External Sites page (screen catpure)

In addition to the links that appear in the body of the text, there are also three links in the illustration The Complete Dainty Maid Outfit.

  1. The thumbnail image links to a larger version (see screen capture below). In this instance, that larger image is accompanied by a digital identification number as well as by links to the bibliographic record and to higher-resolution versions of the image. This type of display is known as a "secondary" American Memory display. Thumbnails of images from the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) also resolve to a similar "secondary display." Thumbnails of items that are part of page-turner displays or exhibit displays link to larger jpeg-format versions of the images but those versions do not provide any identifying information or links to higher-resolution images.
  2. The bibliographic record links to descriptive information about the item being illustrated, and it includes a thumbnail image that goes to the secondary display.
  3. Secondary display
    Illustration secondary display (screen capture)
    Bibliographic record
    Bibliographic record for illustration (screen capture)

    Full caption for illustration (screen capture)

  4. The full caption link is a clue that this image appeared in the print publication. The link brings up a pop-up window that includes the descriptive information that appears under the illustration together with a longer caption. The screen capture shows how the pop-up window appears on top of the formerly active window in your browser. The contents of this and all full captions are searchable through a full-text search (see below).

Searching for Text and Images

The American Women full-text search form is similar to those for other American Memory collections, but there are a few points that you should keep in mind.

Interpreting Your Search Results

As is the case with other American Memory collections, searches done in American Women result in a list of Web pages, ranked according to the positioning and frequency of your search words within the pages.

For example, a search for the phrase "White House" in the American Women Research Guide identified thirty items, the first twenty of which are shown in the sample screen capture below. Included among the search results are Web pages consisting of full captions of illustrations (only those images that appeared in the print version of the guide) and Web pages containing portions of the body of the guide. You can usually distinguish between the two types of results because entries denoting caption pages often contain a reproduction or call number, and entries for the guide proper include the title of the specific Web page containing your search words, followed by a colon and the name of the division in whose section the page appears.

Results of search for White House (screen capture)
In the example,

  • entries 1, 5-9, 13, and 15-20 go to Web pages containing text from the body of the guide relating to holdings in the Manuscript, Prints and Photographs, and Geography and Map divisions (note the colon and division name appearing at the end of each entry)
  • entries 2-4, 10-13, and 14 take you to text in the full captions of illustrations (note that all but one of these entries contain a reproduction or call number)

If you select any of the entries for the guide, you are taken to the appropriate page, where you will find your search words appearing in boldface on the screen. After finishing with that page, you can select buttons at the top of the screen to see the Previous entry, Next entry, Item List, or conduct a New Search. You can also select any of the headings in the navigator panel (on the left side of the screen) and proceed to browse through the guide. If you opt to select a navigator heading, you leave the temporary display view generated by the search and begin accessing pages with permanent URLs (see Searching American Memory for more information).

Selecting one of the caption entries in the search results list takes you to a different display, as explained below.

Search Results Include Text Appearing in Full Captions

Search results will often include the full captions of those illustrations that appeared in the print version of the guide; these can be recognized by the phrase "Full caption:" preceding the title on the brief item list. Because these captions are accessible through pop-up windows (see Using Links above), the link on the search result page resolves to a separate Web page containing the brief head note, full caption, and thumbnail version of the illustration. See, for example, the screen capture of the display page for the Vinnie Ream photograph, which is item 10 in the search results list above.

Pop-up full caption (screen capture)

The top of this display offers the same options as the search displays of the guide pages, i.e., "go to" buttons for the Previous entry, Next entry, Item List, or New Search. You cannot, however, get to the guide proper from this display. What do you do if you want to locate the Vinnie Ream photograph in the section of the guide where it appears because you are interested in seeing an enlarged view of the image or would like read the text which the Ream photograph illustrated?

  • Often the Web page containing the illustration is represented in the results of your initial search, but finding it may not always be easy. For example, although the Ream image is held in the Prints and Photographs Division, the photograph appears as an illustration in the Manuscript Division section of the guide on Artists, Architects, and Designers, which is entry 27 in the search results. It may not occur to you to select that entry, however, if you do not know that Ream's papers are held in the Manuscript Division.
  • The alternative is to do another search, this time limiting the words searched to those that appear in the head note of the full caption. Searching for the reproduction number "LC-USZ62-10284" will lead to the most precise results, exactly two hits--the full caption page and the Manuscript Division page on Artists, Architects, and Designers, where the illustration appears.
  • Another possibility would be to search for "Vinnie Ream," which would also uncover resources relating to her in the Prints and Photographs Division section on Architecture, Design, and Engineering Drawings.

Searching for Digital Content

Much of the digital content that is either linked to or displayed in American Women is drawn from elsewhere on the American Memory site, the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC), and the Library's Exhibitions Web pages. A relatively small number of items have so far been digitized solely for this site (see Building the Digital Collection). Although for technical reasons a search page exists for these items, it is not prominently featured on the site because search results may be misleading. It is better to retrieve the items as part of a broader American Memory search (see Searching American Memory), with the added benefit of accessing a much larger pool of resources than has been referenced or illustrated in the American Women Research Guide.

Although the American Memory search page is the preferred way to search for digital items, you can of course access many digital items in American Women by following links from the illustrations and text in the Research Guide (see Illustrations and Digital Content Links, above). To locate these links using the full-text search form, you can search for words describing the content of the items, but you might also consider searching the exact phrases "full item,""full caption," and perhaps even "bibliographic record," although the latter will generate a significant number of results. These searches will not retrieve full-item audio or moving image files, but searching the terms "audio" or "moving image" for such links is not particularly efficient, given the frequency with which the words are used in the text of the Research Guide. Audio or moving image digital files relating to American women can be located by reading the relevant sections of the Research Guide and by searching American Memory directly.

Additional Sources of Help

For additional advice on constructing searches in American Women and other American Memory collections, see Searching American Memory on the American Women home page. Also be sure to explore the Search Tips link on the American Memory search form.

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