DiscLit: American Authors

Article excerpt

DiscLit: American Authors. OCLC, 6565 Frantz Rd., Dublin, OH 43017; 1-800-848-5878, or G.K. Hall & Co., 70 Lincoln St., Boston, MA 02111; 1-800-343-2806. Hardware and software requirements: IBM PC, XT, AT, or PS/2 or compatible models, OCLC M3xx models, at least 640K RAM, DOS version 3.1 or higher, compact disc drive, and MS-DOS extensions 2.0 or higher. A black-and-white or color monitor may be used. Price: $995.

DiscLit on CD-ROM is a joint venture between OCLC and the publisher G.K. Hall & Co. Stored on a single CD, the product consists of two units: Twayne's United States Authors Series and the OCLC American Authors Catalog. The two units, referred to as the "Books" and the "Catalog," are searched separately, but the information in the two units is linked so that users can move easily between them. Published in book form by G.K. Hall, the Twayne's series is composed of 143 volumes, each on the life and works of a different American author, and each having that author's name as its title. The full text of the 143 books is contained on DiscLit. The other unit of DiscLit, the OCLC American Authors Catalog, contains bibliographic information for more than 100,000 books, serials, recordings, videos, and other materials by and about the 143 authors.

Installation of DiscLit is quick and easy, with clear instructions provided in the setup guide. An online tutorial is fairly well done, although to a first-time user of CD-ROMs it might seem overly complicated. The screen displays are quite cluttered. The tutorial's search tips are helpful, although some jargon terms, such as limiters and navigation, might be confusing to new users.

To search DiscLit, you may choose one of two searching modes: "new or casual user," or "experienced user." The fast mode is a menu-driven system which is quite user-friendly. The user can enter a term or phrase, or can combine terms by entering them on separate lines. For example, suppose a user wants information on American authors who have written on the topic of women and religion. Searching the full-text Books unit, the terms women and religion would be entered on separate lines, resulting in a list of authors" names with numbers indicating occurrences of the search terms. (Isaac Bashevis Singer was at the top with eighty-nine occurrences.) The system, by default, searches for the two terms in the same section of a chapter. What is a section? This is never defined on the CD or in the documentation. However, this default of combining terms by section has great potential for false hits. To avoid this, the user may specify that terms be in the same paragraph or within a certain number of words.

The search for women and religion resulted in a list of books, with those on Isaac Bashevis Singer, Sara Teasdale, and Emma Goldman having the most occurrences of the search terms. "Opening" the book on I. B. Singer, the user is first presented with the table of contents, with search word occurrences for each chapter. "Navigation" through the book itself is straightforward: chapters can be selected and opened, and moving through the chapters is facilitated by a very useful feature, "Jump to search word." This enables the user to skip irrelevant chunks of text and move to the next occurrence of the search word(s). Another handy way of moving around in a book is to go to the back-of-the-book index, select a page number for a particular topic, and jump to that page. …