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Browsing the Global Bookshelf
Bibliographic sources and methods for landscape architects.
By James L. Wescoat Jr., ASLA

Can you get into the best electronic libraries in the world, select the publications most relevant for your project, and organize them quickly? This question increasingly confronts every project landscape architect and student of landscape architecture. Although practicing landscape architects undertake thousands of web-based bibliographic searches each year, they have few clear guides about how and where to search. The skills involved are the same for the designer and researcher, but with the exception of doctoral students who must search comprehensively, designers face severe constraints on how much time they can spend searching for and selecting promising material and then reading and using it.


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Why should you conduct a bibliographic search? If you do not search, your project fails to benefit from information about the places, peoples, and plants that you can find in previous publications. The rapid expansion of internet library resources leaves fewer excuses for failing to seek and use published resources in a systematic way. Older textual bibliographies may still be useful, especially for publications that do not have online electronic indexes (for example, for Landscape Architecture magazine, see Ferguson, 1988; www.asla.org/lamag/magazineindex.html and www.asla.org/lamag/archive.html; and the Avery Index of Architectural Periodicals, by subscription at eureka.rlg.org).

Indexing is a problem in landscape architecture, compared with engineering and environmental sciences, in part because project reports are rarely copyrighted and distributed to research libraries and because some projects are not reviewed in the journals indexed by online databases. These practices must change if we are to take advantage of the revolutions in library science and information technology and learn from project experience and related research.

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