Frequently Asked Questions

Why FOREASt?

Concerning East Asia, a variety of organizations and individuals have contributed a large number of scholarly resources on the Internet, including:

  • a tremendous amount of texts and images digitized by cultural institutions – libraries, archives, and museums, in both East Asia and the West;
  • official documents and statistics provided online by various governments under the e-government initiatives;
  • online reference tools and other types of resources developed by individual scholars and academic institutions in the process of teaching and research;
  • open access journals created by East Asianists (graduate and professional students included);
  • services provided by Internet companies like Google and Baidu in order to gain shares of online traffic. 

Because these resources are free, those organizations and individuals behind them usually do not have the incentive to “market” them widely, so they tend to be invisible to the library and scholarly community. Furthermore, many of these resources use an underlying database structure and their contents tend to be hidden from search engines like Google. 

By putting these open access resources in one place and presenting them in multiple, user-friendly ways, FOREASt hopes to make a difference and help promote these resources as a viable alternative to commercial products. This endeavor certainly gained urgency as library budgets were cut everywhere in the recent global financial meltdown. That said, FOREASt is meant to supplement rather than substitute the collections, both physical and electronic, in the libraries of your own institutions. If you need to access a real East Asian library at some point,  here is a list of them in North America.

Who is FOREASt for?

Anyone with the Internet connection can access FOREASt. Because it covers a large number of resources that are in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, researchers who are able to read one of these languages may find it most useful.

How are “Free Open Resources” selected?

Currently FOREASt mainly covers two types of free open resources:

  • searchable databases: textual, visual, or numeric
  • electronic journals: English-language, currently in publication titles only

This division is actually superficial because an online journal may evolve into a database as the contents accumulate over time and a search engine is added to it. So clearly FOREASt favors searchable databases over regular websites in terms. There are several reasons for the preference of searchable databases:

  • most of these databases are developed and maintained by reputable institutions and renowned scholars, which speaks for their quality, stability, and long-term viability;
  • the content in searchable databases tend to be more substantial than regular web sites (which is why they need their own search engines in the first place);
  • unlike regular websites, many (if not all) databases are not fully indexed by web search engines, so it is more worthwhile to spend time promoting them in here.

Please also note that FOREASt does not try to collect every free database available (in the real world, academic libraries do not buy every book ever published either). For example, FOREASt does not collect websites of individual newspapers–many of them are searchable, but there are just too many and the information in them overlap a great deal; for the same reason, we do not include all the online library catalogs. In both cases, we prefer aggregators, i.e. online union catalogs and news archives consisting of multiple newspaper titles.

What are the differences between FOREASt and existing directories of academic websites?

FOREASt is different for the following reasons:

  • unique geographic coverage (East Asia)–the scopes of some similar sites are either broader (for instance, Asia) or narrower (China only, for example);
  • free content only;
  • selective content (see the answer to the previous question);
  • flexible and easy to use, with multiple ways (searching, browsing, exploring by keywords) of discovery;
  • interactive–both researchers and librarians are encouraged to rate orcomment on existing resources and recommend new ones (comments will be made public within 24 hours, and new titles will be added usually over the weekend).

What does a FOREASt database entry cover?

In FOREASt, every database has a dedicated entry, which includes the following information:

  • the web address;
  • a brief description that is primarily based on the information from the resource itself, and it will be updated based on user feedback;
  • tags (keywords), also describing what a resource is about (but clicking on a tag there will take you to other WordPress blogs using the same tag, which has its pros and cons);
  • comments box, which you can use to share your experience with a particular resource for the benefit of other researchers (the name and email part can be skipped if you prefer to remain anonymous).

How can I find something that is not on the main page?

In three way:

  • using the search box if you know what you are looking for;
  • exploring the tags (keywords) in the tag cloud;
  • using the navigation bar on the left to browse the database and journal lists (see below).
How can I navigate the site?

Imitating the physical layout of many East Asian libraries in North America, FOREASt has five main sections on collections and one service section on the left column that you can easily browse:

In addition, FOREASt extends itself into the social media world via its discussion forum on WordPress.com. In the blog format, the discussion forum provides a convenient way for researchers to comment on particular resources and recommend new resources, anonymously if desired.

Who is behind FOREASt?

FOREASt was conceived and developed by Tao Yang, the East Asian Librarian at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He brought to this project nine years’ professional experiences, first as a reference librarian in the East Asian Library at Yale and then the East Asian Librarian at Rutgers. Members of the Council on East Asian Libraries and Tao’s colleagues at Rutgers also provided important help and support. More information about the FOREASt community is available here.

For more information about Tao, please go to his personal homepage. He can be reached via email: taoyang@rci.rutgers.edu. You may also follow Tao on Twitter.

How can I contribute?

The simplest way to contribute is to rate a resource by using the stars on top of the entry. You may also leave comments on an entry to share your experience and insights, which will benefit other researchers; if you want to remain anonymous while commenting, you may skip the name and email part (which is put there by WordPress) and just write your comments in the comments box. Recommending additioanl resources has been popular among FOREASt users. To suggest a database, you may use the comments box, or write to Tao via email. Thanks for your contribution in advance!

About the banner image

The banner image is modified from the original (http://www.flickr.com/photos/45688285@N00/3056709/ under the Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0). The trees in the image imply FOREASt (pronounced "forest") while the cloud symbolizes "cloud computing".