Index Blending: Enabling the Development of Definitive, Discipline-Specific Resources

Article excerpt

Index Blending is the process of database development whereby various components are merged and refined to create a single encompassing source of information. Once a research need is determined for a given area of study, existing resources are examined for value and possible contribution to the end product. Index Blending focuses on the quality of bibliographic records as the primary factor with the addition of full text to enhance the end user's research experience as an added convenience. Key examples of the process of Index Blending involve the fields of communication and mass media, hospitality and tourism, as well as computers and applied sciences. When academia, vendors, subject experts, lexicographers, and other contributors are brought together through the various factors associated with Index Blending, relevant discipline-specific research may be greatly enhanced.

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As consumers, when we set out to make a purchase, we want the utmost in quality, and when applicable, quantity, and of course all of the other "appeal" factors that might be associated with a given product or service. These factors may include any number of categories, not the least of which is price. In other words, let it suffice to say that, as buyers, we want to have our cake and eat it, too. But how often is this a realistic approach to evaluating a given item for purchase? We first must decide what is important to us, decipher the order of this importance as we see it, and evaluate our options. Wouldn't it be much easier if one product in every situation had all of the factors that we deem important, and the appropriate price to go along with it?

According to Veliyath and Fitzgerald in an article published in Competitiveness Review, firms can either position themselves at the high end, offering higher quality at higher prices, or at the lower end, offering lower quality at a lower price (or anywhere in-between on the continuum of constant value for customers). Customers, however, want more of what they value, such as convenience, speed, state-of-the-art design, quality, etc. Competitors then try to differentiate themselves from their rivals along the same line of constant value, either by offering a higher quality at the same price or the same quality at a lower price (thereby increasing value for the customer). (1)

As such, and using a common example, is it possible to have the handling of a BMW sports car, the luxurious ride of a Cadillac, the passenger space of a Winnebago, the cargo space of an oversized pick-up truck, all for the price of an economy car? It's doubtful. But through recent developments in the electronic research database market place, and a process known as "Index Blending," we may be closer than ever to this ideal formula when it comes to Web-based reference resources for academic libraries.

The phrase "Index Blending" is used here to describe an original concept/methodology initiated by EBSCO Publishing (EBSCO). This is not to say that EBSCO is the first vendor ever to have combined resources to create a new product, but to the authors' best knowledge, no other vendor has pursued the "blending" of resources to the same extent and with such a strong guiding directive as EBSCO has.

Index Blending is the combining of niche indexes and other important components to create a single definitive index for a particular discipline. As vendors seek to offer the most powerful research database for a given area of study, the pieces may come together through a combination of existing resources and proprietary development. In other words, in order to refine the tools used for research in a discipline, existing resources may be combined, fleshed out, further expanded upon, and enhanced to culminate in the archetypical index for the particular discipline. Perhaps this represents the solution to the dilemma that "database choices become increasingly complex when multiple sources exist that cover the same discipline. …