Reviewed August 2019
Jennifer Matthews, Collection Strategy Librarian
Campbell Library, Rowan University
The Contemporary Culture Index (or ccindex) is a two-part website consisting of an infoweb and a database that provides bibliographical information on a variety of publications, many obscure and out of print, in the subject areas of architecture, art, cinema, cultural studies, design, literature, music, philosophy, photography, and social sciences. Both a practical resource and a complex intellectual exercise, Contemporary Culture Index provides detailed contextual essays along with basic metadata, information on institutional holdings, and actual and proposed subject headings.
Contained within the two parts of the website are the ccindex infoweb and the ccindex database. The ccindex infoweb is an annotated bibliography that features thumbnail images of the periodicals indexed. The ccindex database is a standard index-searching tool. The ccindex, taken as a whole, does not intend to be exhaustive but rather the creators attempt to index smaller, influential publications that may not be represented by common web or catalog searches. Also included in the resource is a list of subject terms that are not LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) to allow for areas that need description, but which do not currently exist in the LCSH. Users are invited to contribute to the subject heading lists in an effort to expand description for emerging scholarship.
To access the ccindex database one must first register for free. Once this is accomplished, the user can conduct either a browse or a search, with basic or advanced options. Entries include a simple citation, which can be cited and sent to a printer or emailed to the user. Although hyperlinked text displays in black, undistinguished from standard text, but titles, journal titles, names, subjects, and url’s are all hyperlinked to take the user to other areas and/or search possibilities. The advanced search tool allows users to combine up to four search possibilities. The results lists provides links for the user to retrieve articles either through a download or an online retrieval location.
The ccindex infoweb is the more flamboyant side in comparison, with clickable thumbnails that expand into large full-color images. Entries are listed in either recently added or alphabetical order. Additionally, the infoweb includes images of the periodicals with overviews of what material is covered, years of coverage, frequency, lists of subject headings, and a link back to the ccindex database to search the holdings. For many entries, notes on the periodical are included addressing specific points of interest for the title, complete with references. As with the ccindex database, users are able to share entries via social media, email or print.
The work of the ccindex was bolstered by a Graham Foundation grant in 2013, allowing the creators to expand the range of indexed publications and enhance mobile compatibility. A team of librarians based primarily in Somerville, Massachusetts, as well as Barcelona and Manhattan, maintains ccindex, regularly updating the website and attempting to incorporate links to a variety of relevant tools and resources for ccindex users. Examples of linked resources include Project Gutenburg and HathiTrust as well as similar projects such as Clip/Stamp/Fold and Primary Information, although some links are broken, missing, or need to be updated. The only drawback of this ccindex site in the mind of this reviewer is the deliberately amateurish look and feel of the website, with its heavy use of courier font and very simple layout, designed by the award-winning firm Project Projects. While the font selection and restrained design might impede readability, the site responds well on mobile devices. The true value to this collection is the access to the lesser-known and out-of-print publications that can be found within this index. Since the contributors are also willing to subsidize the traditional LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) headings to ensure greater flexibility within the search functions for individuals to find material the access to these publications is somewhat strengthened and encourages the new research that they support.