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Review: BibSite

A review of BibSite, a research and pedagogy clearing house from the Bibliographical Society of America, led by Erin McGuirl, Eric Ensley, Emma Sarconi, and Adriana Cásarez

Published onDec 19, 2022
Review: BibSite


Project Team
Erin McGuirl, Bibliographical Society of America
Eric Ensley, University of Iowa
Emma Sarconi, Princeton University Libraries
Adriana Cásarez, University of Texas at Austin

A full list of the project team is available on the site.

Project URL

Project Reviewer
Paul Fyfe, NC State University

Project Overview

Eric Ensley

BibSite is an open access digital repository for discovering and sharing bibliographical research and pedagogical materials. It was created under the direction of the Bibliographical Society of America (BSA) through the support of The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. 

The platform is designed for scholars, instructors, professionals, and students of bibliography, in the broadest sense of the term, to easily find materials that can further their own research, teaching, and studies. Bibliography is the study of a variety of aspects of the book, from its history and cultural import to its textual content and the history of its making. Bibliography as a field of study is not restricted to any particular period or location. BibSite collocates resources from contributors and those indexed across the internet in a way that makes all its materials more readily discoverable than stand-alone items posted on a personal or university website. BibSite’s extensive metadata for every resource enhances discoverability in a crowded World Wide Web and provides a persistent URL (or permalink) for each contribution so that BibSite materials can be accessed through citations indefinitely. The BSA is committed to maintaining BibSite as an ongoing service over time.

BibSite was created through a collaborative team of bibliographers, web designers, and information professionals. The BSA secured the funds to hire web designers (Julia Novitch and Ghazaal Vojdani) to create the open-source public facing platform. The project was managed by Scott Ellwood of the Grolier Club from 2021 to 2022. Using Collective Access as its base repository, BSA brought on an editorial team of information professionals to create entries and metadata for the platform. 

People who study and work with textual objects can contribute their own work or index resources from across the internet. Contributors can use BibSite to provide public access to their accumulated published and unpublished research. They retain all intellectual property rights to any resources they submit. They can submit revised and updated materials at any time — and, indeed, are encouraged to do so on an ongoing basis. If they so choose, contributors may also request that their contributions be removed from BibSite at any time. Works are solicited from scholars and teachers of bibliography through a variety of outreach efforts — users can submit their own work via a form available on the website. Material hosted elsewhere is also entered into the database by the team. 

Operating under the direction of the Executive Director of the BSA, Erin McGuirl, the editorial board for BibSite is made up of a rotating group of members. Currently the team is headed by general editor Eric Ensley, the Curator of Rare Books & Maps at the University of Iowa. Eric holds a PhD in English from Yale University with a specialty in early book history and an MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has worked on numerous digital and cataloging projects, including at Yale’s Beinecke Library. Editors include Emma Sarconi, who is Reference Professional for Special Collections at Princeton’s Firestone Library. She holds an MA in English from NYU and an MLS from Long Island University and has worked extensively on digital projects like Her Book. Adriana Cásarez is U.S. Studies Liaison Library at the University of Texas at Austin; she holds an MLS from the University of Texas and has worked extensively as a cataloger there. 

Project Review

Paul Fyfe

BibSite is an open-access research and pedagogy clearinghouse from the Bibliographical Society of America (BSA). As a digital repository, BibSite hosts materials and aggregates resources from the web related to the study, practice, and teaching of bibliography and book history. These include articles, presentations, research addenda, syllabi, lesson plans, reference sources, and various documents, published and unpublished. BibSite aims to serve the BSA’s community of scholars, students, librarians, archivists, and booksellers, though its resources are open to anyone. Its materials are populated by BibSite’s editorial team; they also invite anyone to suggest contributions to its database. 

As its title suggests, BibSite wants to offer a go-to site for the study and teaching of bibliography, broadly construed. BibSite does not produce instructional content but offers a content aggregation and discovery platform for its community. It hopes to facilitate the sharing of research and pedagogical materials related to the BSA’s mission. In so doing, it fills a gap between resources dispersed across academics’ websites and those diffused into more general-topic institutional and disciplinary repositories.

Technically, BibSite is a database of materials housed in its own digital repository as well as resources it indexes from the web. Each resource is catalogued according to a controlled vocabulary by the ACRL’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS), subject headings from the Library of Congress, as well as additional keywords, tags, and descriptions provided by the editorial team and submitting users. BibSite foregrounds the search bar on its main page, letting users facet and refine those results, or else use hyperlinked subject headings to find related materials. Each resource in BibSite also has a stable URL, which may help users find its resources from other search engines or discovery platforms. 

BibSite has already ingested a useful, if sometimes niche, set of materials. The front page’s randomizer might feature, for instance, “A Bibliography of Jean Ingelow’s Contributions to the Youth’s Magazine, 1851-1858” or “American Editions of Russian Literature Issued Prior to 1877, Located at the American Antiquarian Society.” The specificity of these materials relates more to BibSite’s service as the digital annex of the BSA. That is not a criticism: it gives BibSite a long-term identity and stability, including the BSA’s admirable commitment to “maintaining BibSite as an ongoing service over time.”

If it aims to serve a broader community, how will BibSite position itself relative to large research discovery platforms? Will it ingest materials from those or from other organizations? Will it make its own content discoverable elsewhere? (And, in the shorter term, will it please upload a favicon and include COinS metadata on its resource pages for citation management software?) These questions aside, in producing a stable, open repository for its community, the BSA has a solid foundation to enhance and extend its service online. 

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