Academic journal article Notes

RILM Online: A Comparison of Vendors

Academic journal article Notes

RILM Online: A Comparison of Vendors

Article excerpt

(The following review is based on a presentation by the authors at the Electronic Reference Services Subcommittee session at the annual meeting of the Music Library Association in Arlington, Virginia, 12 February 2004. Some recent updates have been included. All Web sites were accessed on 26 May 2004.--Ed.)

For decades the RILM Abstracts of Music Literature has been a household word to everyone engaged in serious music research, and if anyone needed an indication of its importance it should suffice to note that no fewer than five database vendors are now making RILM data available through their interfaces. The relative virtues of their products have already been the subject of at least one investigation (Guy Leach, "Comparative Review of RILM on NISC BiblioLine, OCLC FirstSearch, and Silver-Platter," Charleston Advisor 4 [July 2002],, and will continue to motivate subscription decisions at institutions supporting music research. Evaluations and recommendations regarding the FirstSearch interface have also been produced since 2000 by the Music OCLC Users Group Reference Products Committee (the most recent iteration of these recommendations is available at With the recent discontinuation of the five-year indexes to the paper RILM volumes, no doubt many smaller institutions will feel an added degree of urgency in migrating to an online interface as well.

The following comments seek to describe, in lieu of illustrations, the "feel" of each of the interfaces, as well as their salient characteristics. Major features of the interfaces are summarized in the accompanying overview (see table 1 pp. 202-3). The URL accompanying each vendor represents only the home page address, or the page where the RILM database is described, since the actual mode of access to RILM may vary, even with the same vendor, among different subscribing institutions.

Cambridge Scientific Abstracts: Internet Database Service.

The interface developed by Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA) is busy, but it does not yield the impression of clutter. It divides the screen into two frames, and manages to include in its left-hand frame most of the options a patron would need for basic searching, without requiring the patron to scroll down (assuming the most common screen resolutions). Terms entered in the search box can be limited in the usual ways (date, publication type, English only, etc.); multiple-term searches can be executed as "exact phrase," "any word," or "all word" searches. Especially gratifying is the fact that the patron's choices are "sticky"--that is, retained from one search to the next. The default search "as keyword" omits author words, but the pull-down menu allows for an "everywhere" search that accesses all fields--and this choice is sticky as well.

The right-hand frame is used for displaying results, which can be displayed as citations or full records, individually or in lists. Useful hyperlinks are provided for author names, as well as for the numerical identifiers connecting main and component works. Subject headings are also hyperlinked, but in a manner that breaks between main and subheadings: "Aesthetics: viewed by Boulez, P.," for example, is broken into two different headings at the colon, and the latter heading is not terribly useful.

Scrolling down the left-hand frame reveals a button to "Advanced Search" (guided keyword) mode; a logical search string mode is also available within Advanced Search. Other buttons include "Thesaurus Search" (CSA is one of only two interfaces to offer the RILM Thesaurus), "Browse Indexes" (authors, subjects, journals, and document types), and "Search History/Alerts." The subject browse index still needs some work, as it lumps main headings and subheadings (e.g. "viewed by Boulez, P. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.