By Welsch, Erwin K.
Computers in Libraries , Vol. 12, No. 1
As a librarian responsible for collection development, bibliographic instruction, and liaison work with the University of Wisconsin faculty concerned with European history, I frequently need to access and disseminate data from the library's online catalogs.
I use bibliographic references from the local online catalog network (the Network Library System or NLS), as well as cataloging and acquisitions modules of NOTIS to provide information about new books, do bibliographies for classes and other educational forums, and prepare various types of book lists. In all instances, my goal is to avoid retyping. It just seems time consuming and somehow foolish to retype data that is already in a machine-readable format.
Trying to re-use bibliographic information from OPACS and NOTIS, even though it is already in a machine-readable format, can be, well, trying. With a communications program it is usually possible to log the results from online databases.
But, as several other commentators have already noted, the display used in many/most OPACS does not make that type of capture practical. Instead, individual screens have to be put into a log file. Both methods work, but both capture a lot of text -- headings and tags especially -- not wanted in a final product.
One option, for tagged records, is to use any of a number of bibliographic reformatting programs to provide useable text. Programs such as Pro-Cite make it possible to import tagged records and to reformat them in any number of different ways for use in bibliographies. But most programs of this type are relatively expensive and have a learning curve that may be quite steep for inexpensive users, such as student assistants.
Another solution is to load the saved file into a word processor, in my case WordPerfect, and edit out unneeded text with the aid of macros and other automated routines. With a 386, this can be done fairly rapidly. Even counting the time for excluding extraneous information such as tags, experience has shown that bibliographies, particularly those with complex or lengthy entries, can be produced more quickly and more accurately using existing data than by retyping the text.
A Special Situation
For several reasons, neither solution was quite practical in my own work situation. I don't access the library's catalogs through a communications program, but through an IRMA board in a PC that provides a direct connection to the campus computer center. The IRMA board is faster and eliminates communication problems sometimes encountered when dependent upon a modem.
But the IRMA board also limits the PC's functions -- a situation that I suspect will be increasingly true as libraries utilize local area networks to access distant hosts. The most important consideration for this purpose is that it is not practical to log extensive search results and utilize the output.
I found my way around this IRMA limitation by using a utility program called PRN2FILE.COM to capture the screen display. The program came from that still marvelous and almost inexhaustible book of utility programs, PC Magazine DOS Power Tools (p. 1077).
Although PRN2FILE has limitations, it effectively does just what its name implies when said aloud: it captures the screen display and stores it first in the PC's buffer and then in a file name of the user's choice This file then can be loaded, since it is ASCII text, into a word processor and edited.
Last year I used just this process to produce a number of bibliographies and collection guides. As a type of reverse bibliographic instruction, I initiated a bi-monthly lecture series in which faculty members talked about the use of library resources in their research.
For each lecture in the series I prepared and distributed a bibliography of from ten to thirty pages on the subject of the lecture. The combination of the PRN2FILE program and WordPerfect macros was effective in editing out superfluous text and adding diacritics, making it possible to produce substantial bibliographies relatively quickly. …