InfoTrac: A Second Opinion

By Van Arsdale, William O.; Ostrye, Anne T. | American Libraries, July-August 1986 | Go to article overview

InfoTrac: A Second Opinion


Van Arsdale, William O., Ostrye, Anne T., American Libraries


InfoTrac: A second opinion

RECENT ARTICLES ON INfoTrac, a videodisc index system from Information Access Corporation (IAC), have been overwhelmingly positive, mentioning some areas of concern, but nothing significant enough to warrant not subscribing. The University of Wyoming Libraries, on the other hand, tried InfoTrac, saw aspects that were noteworthy, and ultimately decided not to purchase the system. The purpose of this article is to encourage careful evaluation of optical disk products, such as InfoTrac, and to promote debate in the profession about the role of such systems in libraries.

It is not our intention to attack IAC. In fact, we appreciate and applaud the firm's efforts to develop a videodisc product for libraries and the support provided by both their sales and maintenance staffs during our trial use. We are convinced, however, that Info-Trac is more than just another reference tool; it represents a wholly new concept in information storage and retrieval. The service and fiscal responsibilities of libraries require them to look beyond the glitter of such systems and carefully weigh their performance and use in libraries.

Description of InfoTrac

For those not familiar with InfoTrac, the system is a combination of readily available equipment and videodiscs serving as the storage medium for more than a million bibliographic citations. The videodisc database consists of citations and indexing for almost one thousand periodicals from the last four years drawn from IAC's Magazine Indez, Business Index, National Newspaper Index, Trade and Industry Index, and Management Contents. The system is updated monthly by a replacement disk. Up to four user stations (each consisting of a microcomputer, monitor, and printer) can simultaneously accessup to four videodisc players. The searching software, provided on a floppy diskette, allows patrons to search the database, display results on the screen, and print desired citations. For libraries starting from scratch, the cost of the InfoTrac subscription for a four-station system is $16,000 per year for the first five years and $8,500 thereafter.

Equipment

We found several mechanical aspects of InfoTrac's packaged system to be unsatisfactory, given the current state of technology. The videodisc player was noisy. Unscheduled system downtime during the trial period exceeded the recommended maximum of two percent. The initial videodisc was defective and one of the keyboards malfunctioned. With both of these problems IAC was quick to supply replacements, even to Laramie's relatively remote location. Even so, several times a day the system would crash, which was distracting for other students in the area. Reference staff had to abandon patrons at the service desk for the time it took to correct the problem.

Maintenance of the printer was also a problem; it would mysteriously break down, get jammed, or print inches of blank paperbefore the user noticed it had run out of inc. In general, system maintenance required much more staff time than we had expected.

Software and database

The searching software in combination with the custom function keys is reasonably "user friendly" and easy to learn. InfoTrac's subject access is limited by the use of pre-coordinated Library of Congress subject headings. Such headings as "Chemistry, Organic" or "U.S.--Foreign Relations--Great Britain" are not typical of search expressions used by our patrons. In an online environment, users should be allowed to use Boolean combinations of uniterms or keywords. This is not possible in InfoTrac. There is a subject heading authority list with cross-references, but finding the correct heading in any reasonably long section, sucn as Great Britain, is a time-consuming process.

Searching success, then, is directly related to the ability to understand LC subject headings--a talent not usually possessed by most of our students. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

InfoTrac: A Second Opinion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.