A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
March 9, 2006 Volume 36 / Number 6

 

The Road to Hell Is Paved with Bad Citations

The other day I was having a quick bite with my old friends J. T. Leroy and James Frey. They were shocked (shocked!) to learn that when I was but a nipper I was force-fed library paste and the fiction of Danielle Steele while being silently shushed by cloistered nuns. Obviously I became a librarian as a way to overcome my traumatic childhood.

Now I don’t really remember the library paste or nuns, though I have a vague memory of penguins, and have steeled myself from reading formulaic potboilers, but that’s what I read in my official biography in Wikipedia, so it must be true, right? Then I got both repressed memory therapy and a past lives reading and discovered that in a previous lifetime I was actually the famous Mexican (or was I German?) author B. Traven. Another literary hoax solved. I just can’t wait to tell Oprah. Maybe she’ll even let me sing “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore.”

We have Turnitin to detect student plagiarism, the CRAAP Test http://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/evalsites.html to evaluate the reliability of Web sites, snopes.com to check out rumors, and various quotation dictionaries for famous quotes, but what to do with an unattributed quote? The song “Naked Anymore,” for example, was sent to me as a video e-mail attachment, but there was not so much as a hint as to who wrote it, as is the case with so many fruits of the electronic grapevine.

That one was easy: I just did a Google Advanced search of the song title as a phrase and, presto, there were Sheb Wooley and Dick Feller, whom we might think of as Sheb and Dick, the Wooley Fellers. Had that failed, I could have tried various lyrics databases.

So today my homely homily is very simple. Before enlightenment: verify information, cite sources. After enlightenment: verify information, cite sources. – I. M. Anybody II, Universal T. Librarian.

—Jim Dwyer, Meriam Library
Bibliographic Services.