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Going Beyond the Walls

Beyond the Library Walls

by Phyllis Holman Weisbard

In your travels around the Web, if you’ve noticed some organized sites with helpful explanations of each linked resource as well as hints on how to search the Web effectively to find information on women, chances are the sites were created by librarians. Why? Because we are trained to classify, organize, describe, evaluate, teach, list, and actually find information. And we love doing it. Plus most librarians (about 83%) are women, and many of us have had computers in our work lives for almost twenty-five years. When Internet resources started popping up, no wonder librarians were right there trying to create order out of the chaos.

The University of Wisconsin System
Women’s Studies Librarian’s Office

which I created and maintain, is an example of an attempt to help faculty and students in women’s and gender studies locate material relevant to their course work and research interests. For my office staff and me, this is an extension of the work we have long been doing with print and audiovisual resources.

First, A bit of background. In the mid-1970s, when women’s studies programs were being established on campuses of the University of Wisconsin, concerned faculty and librarians on those campuses lamented the lack of book lists, bibliographies, and other tools to help them find material on women in the libraries. They came up with the idea of requesting funding from the central administration of the university system for a librarian-at-large who would assess the existing library collections and alert everyone to new resources. The first statewide women’s studies librarian (WSL) began her work in 1977.

Many bibliographic projects emanated from the WSL in the early years, including an award-winning book, Women’s Studies: A Core Bibliography (1979), its 1987 supplement, and a series of short bibliographies.

Three periodicals were begun to track new publications:

    Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women’s Studies
    (reviews of books, AV resources, other items of note; now also information on new electronic resources and topical Web reviews)
    Feminist Periodicals: A Current Listing of Contents
    (quarterly reproductions of the tables of contents of over 140 women-focused publications in English from around the world)
    New Books on Women & Feminism
    (a subject-arranged and indexed listing that comes out twice a year).

Subscription information and further description of these publications are available at

Today, many of our publications are accessible online, in part in commercial databases to which academic libraries subscribe, and in part on our website. New Books on Women & Feminism is included in Women’s Resources International, a database with citations and some abstracts. Feminist Collections is available in Contemporary Women’s Issues and GenderWatch, two databases that offer the full text of articles from women’s studies sources.

Sample articles from Feminist Collections are mounted on our website at

Women’space readers may especially be interested in our Web review articles, which evaluate websites focused on women’s topics. To date, our reviewers have assessed the information value of sites focused women and computer technology, eating disorders, breast cancer, medieval women, lesbian resources, reproductive rights, women’s rights as human rights, transgender information, and women’s poetry. Readers stumped on the criteria for evaluating websites in general will find useful Susan Barribeau’s "The Elusive Quality of Web Quality,"while anyone looking for funding information on the Web will be helped by Elizabeth Breed’s "Funding Sources for Women."

We also mount the "Computer Talk" column appearing in each issue of Feminist Collections. This feature describes new websites, discussion lists, and other electronic resources on women. Sites mentioned in both the Web reviews and "Computer Talk" are hotlinked for on-the-spot examination. In addition to Web reviews and "Computer Talk," Feminist Collections co-editor Linda Shult and I choose two or three more articles from each issue for readers to sample on our website. Our selections include articles about women’s studies, technology, and distance education, plus representative book review essays.

Besides articles from Feminist Collections, we have several bibliographies on our website, running the gamut from "The Glass Ceiling" and "Information Technology and Women’s Lives," to "Women Mystery Writers." We are also the online home for a series of "Core Lists in Women’s Studies" -subject lists of books currently in print -compiled by members of the Women’s Studies Section of the American Library Association. Anyone wishing to get up to speed on women’s studies approaches to "film study," "HIV/AIDS," "mass media," "science," or any of twenty-five other topics will find the relevant core list a ready-made reading list.

In order to serve the University of Wisconsin-Madison community, a section of the website leads to explanations of print and electronic resources available to the campus. The files may be read by anyone, but the databases are restricted to valid campus users.

The remaining sections of the website serve as a gateway to women’s studies resources mounted elsewhere on the Web. Readers who follow the feminist ‘zine scene will find a convenient page of links to Web presences of ‘zines and other women-focused periodicals at

Links to women’s studies programs, research centers, libraries, and archives are grouped on another page
as is information on women’s bookstores, publishers, reviews, and texts of book chapters
A variety of subject pages lead to content-rich sites on international concerns
www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/info.htm, and many more.

Another section tracks women’s studies courses on the Internet
Other sections describe how to use general resources to find women-focused information
www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/others.htm#general, and
how to conduct searches of prior messages posted to electronic discussion forums www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/others.htm#archives.

Many of the subject pages link to other megasites so our Web visitors can see other ways of arranging and describing sites and be led to other useful sites. Megasites created by Joan Korenman of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County are especially valuable, including her comprehensive
Gender Related Electronic Forums, and

Women’s Studies/Women’s Issues Resource Site

Voice of the Shuttle: Gender Studies Page
by Alan Liu, is a frequently updated site that includes a search feature, and

WSSLINKS: Women and Gender Studies Web Sites
a project of the Women’s Studies Section of the American Library Association, leads to several topical pages maintained by librarians.

Women’space readers are invited to subscribe to our publications, use our website, and volunteer to write Web reviews for Feminist Collections.
Feedback, corrections, and suggestions for additions to the website should be sent to me: pweis@macc.wisc.edu

Budding reviewers should contact either Linda Shult: shult@macc.wisc.edu
or me: Phyllis Holman Weisbard University of Wisconsin System Women’s Studies Librarian

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