Getting to full text off campus (Library Hacks)

When you're on campus, getting to the full text of articles licensed by University Libraries is easy: Most of or providers recognize the U of M IP address and you're in. But off campus can be different. You can, of course, log in using the VPN. But if you haven't, and you're on a publisher's site, you might see a prompt to pay for content that we already have. 

You can always back all the way out, go to the Libraries home page, find the journal or publisher in one of our A-Z lists, and find the article all over again. But we have another solution that's much quicker.

Go to the Libraries Tools page and click on the Add the Proxy Bookmarklet for Off-Campus Access link under Browser Tools. Drag the Reload via U of M Libs button up to your browser toolbar. That's it.

Now, next time you're confronted with a pay wall or login prompt, click that button. The page you're on will reload through the Libraries proxy, and you'll be prompted to log in with your U of M Internet ID if you haven't already. Assuming we really do have access, you'll be able to download the full text.

And if we don't have access? That's another Library Hack. Stay tuned...

Formatting Your Dissertation in Microsoft Word

Over the last couple of years, librarians who teach workshops have made a point of trying to capture at least one recording of a workshop on video so that people who can't attend a workshop have some way of getting the instruction they need. These recorded workshops have been quite popular. In particular, students have viewed clips of the Formatting Your Dissertation (or Thesis) in Microsoft Word workshop hundreds of times.

When the time came this winter to record a new version to match the current version of Microsoft Word, we decided to take a different approach. This workshop is particularly "modular" and students often need help with just one or two things at a time. We'd previously handled that by cutting up the recording into pieces and posting each piece in a section of our Moodle page. This time around, we've created a set of tutorials that match the workshop in content, but are designed for individual computer-based instruction. Each describes a Graduate School formatting requirement or a Word feature you're likely to need and allows you to click the right menu and dialog box selections to format a sample document.

Orientations for Grad Students

One of my favorite weeks of the year is the week before Labor Day. That's because I have the opportunity to tell a couple of hundred new graduate students about the great resources we have at University Libraries. Unfortunately, the talks always fly by, and by the end of a long orientation day I know that students will barely remember the tips I mentioned.

If you're struggling to remember what I said last week, maybe looking at the handout and presentation I gave will help:

Library Hacks (handout I used for all Fall 2011 orientations)

Not enough? Feel free to email me to ask questions or schedule an appointment, or find me in the KHKH Rice Student Center on Thursdays 3-4,

Winter Workshops in Walter


Walter Library is hosting a week of workshops to kick-off the new year and give you the research advantage. Each session is free to register and held in Walter Library.

Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Location: 314 Walter Library
Register for this Course (Faculty and staff members encouraged)

Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:00pm - 4:15pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Tue, 01/11/2011 - 1:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Tue, 01/11/2011 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Wed, 01/12/2011 - 11:00am - 12:30pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Thu, 01/13/2011 - 1:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Fri, 01/14/2011 - 10:00am - 11:00am
Location: 310 Walter Library
Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:30pm - 2:30pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:30pm - 3:45pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Register for this Course

Shoveling citations


EDIT: Hmm, I wonder why people don't post preliminary results on their blogs all the time. Well, because sometimes they think they've proofread more carefully than they have. At least that was the case with me. When I reviewed my citation data again, I found that I'd accidentally categorized a set of IEEE journal articles as conference papers. Once I'd fixed the data, the split between articles and conference papers wasn't nearly so even. And IEEE moved well ahead of AIP in article citations. More details in the "future article" mentioned below.

IMG_0753.JPGI'm now a third of the way through my six week leave. And yes, I was happy to stay in my cozy home office today instead of waiting at the bus stop. Or on the four foot high mound of snow where the bus stop should be.

Leading up to the leave and during the first week, I read a fair amount of literature on engineering resources and reviewed many of the pages other librarians have built for their students. Thanks to others' thorough work, my "book knowledge" is pretty solid, and I've seen great examples of what others are doing.

But in order to get people to actually use the instruction modules I create, they'll need to know why they need them. The best way I can think of to do that is to educate them (and myself) about what other people just like them have found useful. And that means digging into the richest source of data available to me: Dissertations and Master's theses written by students in U of M engineering and computer science programs over the past few years.

I started with the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. Over the last ten years, ECE granted 27% of the Masters degrees in engineering and computer science, and 23% of the PhDs, so ECE grad students account for a healthy share of the target audience. To preserve my sanity and keep the time required reasonable, I put a few parameters around this experiment:

I was able to collect all citations from 47 PhD dissertations and 10 Masters theses. For the record, the UDC turned out to be the better source for theses: Only one thesis showed up in the Proquest database. For dissertations, all were at least in the Proquest database and most--39 of 47--were in the UDC as well.

Oh, results? Well, I'll leave most of them for a future article. I'm anxious to compare the ECE results with those of other departments, and I think such an analysis may be useful for others as well. But here are a couple of interesting tidbits:

Citation sources were predominantly split between articles from academic journals (mostly peer reviewed) and conference papers.


8% of the citations were to books. An array of websites, magazines, patents, software, and theses made up the remaining 9%.


I also looked into who published the articles cited. I was surprised to find that IEEE was second on the list of publishers. American Institute of Physics edged out IEEE, 274 citations to 259. On the other hand, I'm confident that if I took the time to find the sponsors for all the conferences listed, the vast majority would be IEEE-sponsored.

My favorite citation? Has to be this awesome video of Boston Dynamics' BigDog.

I love my job.

week from Monday I'll be shifting my work responsibilities for a short time. Goodbye, lists of books to buy or not buy; hello, lists of learning objectives and instruction scripts. (Oh, and sweats and slippers and my tranquil home office.)

I've been granted a "mini-leave:" Six weeks to focus on a specific project that I probably would never have found time to do alongside my regular responsibilities.

I'll be creating a series of short online tutorials targeted at new graduate students in engineering and computer science. I hope that the set of tutorials will be customizable for different departments, or even different labs. The tutorials will be loosely organized around the common types of literature depicted in the sketch below. 
FindingYourWay-HubPrototype.jpgStudents can use the tutorials to learn:

  • What a particular type of literature is: Who creates it, why they might use it, and where they can find it
  • How to use different tools available through the Libraries or on the Web to find what they need
  • Which specific journals, conferences, or repositories they need to be familiar with in their field of research 
I'm going to try to use this long-dormant blog to document my progress and gather feedback as I develop prototypes.

So is this something that would be helpful to you, or would have been when you started your graduate education? If so, let me know in the comments.

Working off-campus

Suppose you'd like to review some article citations and you're off campus. If you're feeling lucky, you can just search Google Scholar and find PDFs of the articles you want. But what if full text isn't freely available online?

If University Libraries has purchased access to the journal you want, you can go to the Libraries website and either find the journal in the E-Journals list or fill in citation information with the Citation Linker. In either case, you'll be prompted for your X.500 credentials and recognized as an affiliate once you get to the publisher's website.

But if you prefer to go straight to IEEE Xplore, ACM Digital Library, Elsevier ScienceDirect, or another publisher site, just drag the bookmarklet below to your browser toolbar. When you're on a publisher's webpage, click the UMN Access button. The code will update links on the page to use the University Libraries's proxy and you'll be able to download full text just as if you were on campus,

UMN Access

The idea and code for this bookmarklet came from Daniel Feldman, a graduate student in Software Engineering. Thanks, Daniel!
umlibs_logo.jpgWith a renewed focus on the first-year experience, a strong emphasis on capstone and design projects in the senior year, and renowned graduate programs, the Institute of Technology is committed to producing well-rounded students with a skill set that includes critical thinking, managing and synthesizing scientific information and data to create and effectively communicate new knowledge.

To help you and your colleagues more fully integrate these skills into your courses and curriculum, the University Libraries invite you to an intensive one and one-half day seminar.

A $250 honorarium is offered to those who participate.

Through presentations, small group discussion with colleagues, and individual consultations with science and engineering librarians, you will...
  • Reflect on teaching practices and assignments to improve your students' ability to  navigate the literature of your field, critically evaluate information, turn data into meaning, and effectively convey new knowledge
  • Explore issues around scientific scholarship, including publishing, copyright and open access to help prepare students to negotiate the publishing world themselves
  • Consider strategies for managing your data and be able to advise UROP students and members of your research group on this topic
  • Learn how to keep up with the literature and increase your productivity with information gathering and organizational tools

When: Wednesday, May 19, 2010, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Thursday, May 20, 2010, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. There will also be a short follow-up meeting in late fall.

Where: 101 Walter Library

Space is limited. Please fill out the registration form below by Monday, May 3. You will receive a confirmation email in early May.

Questions? Please contact Kate Peterson (, 612-626-3746)

January Workshops for Grad Students

Our Winter Break Workshops in Walter are designed specifically for graduate students in the sciences and engineering. They are free and open to anyone; just register by following the links below each event. Many more workshops are also available throughout the University Libraries, see a full list here.

Introduction to Citation Managers
Tue, 01/05/2010 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Location: 101 Walter Library
Instructor(s): Meghan Lafferty
Capacity: 50
Status: Open
Thu, 01/07/2010 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Capacity: 17
Status: Open
Mon, 01/11/2010 - 11:00am - 12:00pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Capacity: 17
Status: Open
Tue, 01/12/2010 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Instructor(s): Jon Jeffryes
Capacity: 17
Status: Open
Wed, 01/13/2010 - 11:00am - 12:00pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Capacity: 17
Status: Open
Wed, 01/13/2010 - 3:00pm - 4:15pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Capacity: 17
Status: Open
Thu, 01/14/2010 - 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: 310 Walter Library
Instructor(s): Janet Fransen
Capacity: 17
Status: Open
Register for this Course
Recorded workshop is available in two parts
Online resources are available

Excel for Engineers

Next week I'm teaching a workshop called Excel for Engineers and Scientists. I taught a similar workshop at the instructor's request for a Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering class last winter, and have been eager to try it again as an open workshop. I'll be teaching primarily about using Visual Basic for Applications to interact with Excel.

In the BBE class, I showed them how to solve a particular watershed problem from their homework. I could use more good engineering examples. If you've got one, or if you've got suggestions about what engineers should know about using Excel, I'd love to hear from you. Email me, or leave a comment.

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