Read product reviews written by librarian-columnists Peter Jacso

Every month Peter Jacso reviews online and CD-ROM products.

In March 2001 the Gale Group published my review about Jerry Adams' website. I was not awed by it.

More than three years later Jerry Adams seems to have removed/changed the criticized pages and pressured the publisher to remove my review.

I was not in favor of his request but offered the compromise to post his reply on the Gale site.

Jerry Adams posted a reply on his site, proudly showing the modified pages.

It took him a long time to fix it, but to his credit he must have been busy to run for mayor of Portland. He got 1.42% of the votes so until the next election he may keep on working on the directory.

Indeed, it has already improved. I am glad that my criticism did not fall on deaf ears.

Sincerely, 

Peter Jacso

 

 

Response to Peter Jacso's Comments on the Awesome Library
by Awesome Library Staff

Gale Group published comments by Peter Jacso that Jacso billed as a review of the Awesome Library. We were surprised to find Gale Group publishing such a flawed work. Jacso's assessment of the Awesome Library did not meet minimum national standards for a professional evaluation (http://www.wmich.edu/evalctr/jc/). Specifically, we found the following failures in Jacso's assessment of the Awesome Library:

  1. Jacso claimed he sampled two categories in the Awesome Library, but the Awesome Library has hundreds of categories. His sampling was too flawed for him to make generalizations about the entire Web site. A broader sample reveals very different results from Jacso's summary. (See chart below.)

  2. Jacso did not determine the demographics of Awesome Library visitors or gain feedback from a sample of that demographic. Instead, he simply speculated about a possible demographic and presented that as a fact. He invented a pattern of use and presented that as a fact. Instead of doing the difficult work of research and inquiry, he simply presented unfounded generalizations.

  3. Jacso did not determine the percent of "dead" links within the Awesome Library, but made generalizations about them anyway. Jacso's generalizations were incorrect. He could have run free software to check for dead links, but did not take the time.

  4. Jacso claimed that Awesome Library is an 'advertisement-hosting business.' However, EDI sponsors Awesome Library as a public service. Whenever possible, such as the entire year of 2003, the Awesome Library carried no ads. Awesome Library is not an advertisement-hosting business.

  5. Jacso claimed he could not find any information on the past work of R. Jerry Adams, publisher of the Awesome Library. Jacso therefore implied that Adams had no prior achievements. However, a search on Google for "Jerry Adams resume" provides his seven-page resume as the #1 response on Google. Jacso could have asked Adams for such information. Jacso's comment showed a lack of integrity.

  6. Jacso claimed that reference works should be evaluated by their coverage of the categories "encyclopedia" and "geography." He cited Britannica and Librarians Index to the Internet (LII) as examples of excellent reference works. Britannica Online had 75 words on "encyclopedia." A search for "encyclopedia" on LII resulted in a top listing of "An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture." (Jacso evidently thought young children would be trying to find this particular encyclopedia when they search LII for "encyclopedia.") In truth, Jacso did not bother to compare his "ideal" reference works with the offerings from the Awesome Library on the categories he claimed were the essential core. Further, his premise is absurd. Visitors do not go to the Britannica, LII, or the Awesome Library primarily or frequently to look up the word "encyclopedias." In fact, Awesome Library visitors almost never go to our "Encyclopedias" page because our directory, index, and natural language search engine provide the help they need to find information.

  7. On geography, Jacso looked up "Arctic Circle" on the Awesome Library but did not seem to know that it had the same reference listing as LII. He claimed that the listing for Sao Tome was in French; it was not. He claimed that Sao Tome was misspelled; Awesome Library was reflecting the spelling listed at the time in its authoritative source, Allafrica. The listing had just been placed in the Awesome Library and was soon changed to the more common usage.

  8. Jacso claimed that Awesome Library failed to contribute in any of its areas of interest, such as "multicultural" or "world peace." Again, Jacso failed to base his assertion on any research or scholarship.

    Awesome Library is #1 on "multicultural training" on Google. Awesome Library is #1 on "Multicultural Toolkit" on Google. EDI and colleagues conducted pioneering research (through a federal grant) to determine how communication breaks down--and can be repaired--between diverse ethnic or cultural groups. Multicultural specialists and trainers throughout the U.S. have asked permission to include our Toolkit in their training. In addition, Awesome Library is one of the top ten resources listed in Google for "middle east conflict," "sustainable planet development" and dozens of other searches related to finding peace in the world. These are Awesome Library articles, not just links.

    Contrary to what Jacso implies, Google does not "care" whether Britannica recommends the Awesome Library for "multicultural" or other terms. The Awesome Library remains high on Google lists only as long as its information is more useful for visitors than other sources. Awesome Library can only compete with multi-billion dollar conglomerates through quality of work. It cannot out-advertise them. In fact, Awesome Library has never bought advertising in its nine-year history.

  9. Jacso claimed that the Awesome Library gained its leading role on the Web partly because it used words like "library" and "education" in its self-description. However, if you look up the word "library" on Google, you will find we are among the top ten; this placement is market-driven, not media hype, advertising, or branding. The Library of Congress, the British Library, and the American Library Association are also among the top ten and deserve to be there because they provide useful information to millions. We are honored to have been recognized in the same way and at the same level because of the usefulness and quality of our work.

    If you look up the words "education directory," you will find we are #2 this week. (We are often #1.) Our primary competition for #1 is Yahoo. According to MarketLeap, up to 260,000 sites link to the Awesome Library.

    The Web is a harsh mistress. People only continue going to Web sites that are useful for them. On Google, the words "education directory" yield 21.8 million sites and the word "library" yields 22.9 million sites. If merely using words like "library" and "education" in our description put us on top, why didn't it also put the other 43.7 million sites on top? Jacso's claim that Awesome Library's self-description in terms of words like "education" automatically and unfairly made it popular is absurd. Jacso's explanation of the Awesome Library's popularity makes no sense and is hardly a "professional" assessment.

    Despite what Jacso claimed, we find Web visitors to be very discriminating. For months we were among the "top 10" most popular sites for "current events." As soon as we cut back slightly on our support for "current events," the Web page dropped precipitously from popularity. (We were competing directly with CNN, PBS, and similar news media.)

We are sorry to see that a normally reputable company like Gale Group would publish Peter Jacso's article as if it were a scholarly work or a contribution for those dealing in reference works.

Awesome Library welcomes feedback. We get many reviews each day and some of those are posted on our "Recognitions" pages. Jacso claims he is an expert in evaluating Web databases. "As an expert," he claims that hundreds of thousands of other reviewers have simply cheated and linked to the Awesome Library without actually examining it carefully.

Jacso did find some errors and oversights within the Awesome Library. Pointing out an accidental comma between "Equitorial" and "Guinea" was worth an entire paragraph for Jacso--more words than Britannica devoted for its entire listing for "encyclopedia." Not yet including geographic information on Ecuador and Bolivia was another "gotcha." (We were in the middle of adding our geography section when he conducted his review in 2001.)

Jacso's findings of shortcomings in the Awesome Library have been repaired. However, Jacso's article still contains many typographical errors and does not have the polish of a professional work. For example, he misspelled "Awesome" in Awesome Library and he has sentences like: "Why does India gets [sic] one, but not Pakistan?"

Awesome Library will go on record to say that Jacso did not demonstrate that he sampled Awesome Library's content sufficiently to characterize it. His methods of evaluation did not meet professional standards for the field of evaluation. Many of his key conclusions were uninformed and false. He represents the worst in scholarship, the pseudo-scholar. Instead of doing the hard work of research and inquiry, he tried to pass off unfounded generalizations as fact.

The Challenge

We took Jacso up on his challenge at the end of his article. He asked the reader to compare the Awesome Library and LII on some searches to see which provides better, more authoritative information. We strongly agree with Jacso that LII is an excellent resource and we do recommend it to our visitors; nonetheless, we made 25 searches on Awesome Library and then LII, covering a sample of subject areas. The results are below.

Comparison of LII and Awesome Library on a Sample of Searches

Search terms

Awesome Library Matches

LII Matches

  • Super string theory

7 (includes relationship between relativity and quantum theory)

1 (no direct link)

  • James Earl Carter

5 (former president of the USA, mostly biographical)

0

  • Black-footed ferret

3 (includes picture and description)

0

  • Gulliver's travels

2 (provides entire text)

1 (provides entire text)

  • Time-series analysis

1 (link to 18 lessons)

0

  • Kronecker delta (math)

1 (links to description)

0

  • Schwarzenegger

12 (biography and news)

8 (news, no biography)

  • Comanche

7 (includes a detailed history in three parts)

0

  • Winnebago

4 (includes history, government, etc.)

0

  • Consumer price index

1 (definition)

8 (1 direct link, 3 useful links)

  • Flute

3 (describes three types of flute)

3 (music and descriptions)

  • ESL (English as a second Language)

11 (lessons, grammar, quizzes, the works)

14 (ditto)

  • Alzheimer's disease

44 (the works)

13 (good variety)

  • Homeland security

48 (reference information, news)

28 (reference information, news)

  • American flag

38 (includes pictures and history)

9 (includes pictures and history)

  • Iraq

576 (history, news, editorials, etc.)

164 (history, news, editorials, etc.)

  • biodiesel

18 (descriptions, diagrams, uses, essays)

4 (descriptions, diagrams, uses, essays)

  • moon titan

4 (news, description)

0

  • rewritable drive

1 (shows how to choose)

0

  • bullying

38 (how to prevent and handle)

8 (how to prevent and handle)

  • mitosis

2 (descriptions and lessons)

1 (lesson)

  • photosynthesis

4 (lessons, drawings, descriptions)

3 (ditto)

  • Mesopotamians

10 (lessons, history)

1 (limited)

  • trigonometry

33 (lessons, types, etc.)

6 (lessons, types, etc.)

  • gymnastics

12 (instructions, news, animation, illustrations)

3 (one direct link)

Results: Good results on Awesome Library on all 25; good results on LII on 14.

Comparison of LII and Awesome Library on Features

Features

Awesome Library

LII

Purpose, origins

Designed by educators to meet the needs of educators and students

Designed by librarians to meet the needs of librarians and patrons

Search Engine

Accommodates natural language; identifies placement of search results in the site's directory tree; handles some misspelling

Sometimes does not accept multiple words; handles some misspelling.

Type of link

"Drills deep" into the site to provide a precise search response

Sometimes links to Home pages; reader must then find the link(s) to the information

Dead Links

Few

Few

Quality of work

Excellent

Excellent

Consumer-driven rather than profit-driven

Yes

Yes

Directory tree for ease in locating resources

Yes, four levels

Yes, two levels

Organized for different audiences

Yes

No

Updated daily for current events

Yes

No

 

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