eBooks and Maritime History – see and hear it at ALAMW

Peter McCracken, librarian and founder of Serials Solutions, has a new hobby – ships.  His site, ShipIndex.org, helps people do research on hundreds of thousands of specific vessels. With over 1.5 million citations in it, the site tells you what books, journals, CD-ROMs, websites, databases, and other sources mention particular ships. It includes vessels mentioned in references sources like the Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History (a 2008 Dartmouth Award Winner), Naval Warfare: An International Encyclopedia, and others. It currently includes the contents from about 170 books, and whenever possible, it links to an electronic version of those books via Google Books. The team is working with several online reference publishers to incorporate links between their products, helping people discover references to ships in online databases, and helping people working in online databases to learn more about the ships mentioned there.Despite the apparent maritime nature of the resource, McCracken insists it’s not just for maritime or naval history. “Maritime history is about the space between places. It’s about the movement of people, goods, and ideas. Maritime history, and tracking information about vessels, is relevant to nearly every aspect of history, to say nothing of its role in genealogy. It fills this fluid, multi-disciplinary space that I feel has application absolutely across the board.”

To celebrate this new venture, Peter will have a unique offering on the ALA exhibit floor in San Diego – for every library that signs up for a free trial of the site, Peter will sing a sea shanty, right there, among the other exhibitors , at Table 722, in the Small Press Area . They’re calling it “We Sing Sea Shanties on the Show Floor.” Peter actually has a bit of experience singing sea shanties, so be certain to ask him all about it.

McCracken believes that we’ll see a growth of smaller databases that can provide greater in-depth coverage of narrower topics, with content brought together by discovery tools such as Summon, EBSCO Discovery Service, and others. Until then, he’ll be singing sea shanties on the show floor – and, no, “What Do We Do With a Drunken Sailor” will not be on the playlist, but you can always ask.