Use of electronic periodical indexes in libraries - whether on CD-ROM, tape loaded on a local system, or accessed through the Internet - continues to multiply. A 1992 article by Martin Goldberg noted that, despite their continued growth, there is a lack of scholarly evaluation of such electronic resources.(1) Subsequent to the publication of that article, some research has appeared on electronic periodical indexes from a general, multidisciplinary viewpoint, and some from the interest of specific disciplines.(2) But for the subject of music, other than some brief mention in a few articles,(3) no in-depth evaluation regarding electronic access to periodical literature has appeared.
This article will evaluate the coverage of music literature in selected general electronic periodical index databases. Nancy K. Herther has outlined eight criteria for the evaluation of CD-ROM products: (1) accuracy and documentation, (2) appropriateness, (3) ease of use/comprehension, (4) authority and credibility, (5) content analysis, (6) comparisons to similar products, (7) revisions, updates and other special services, and (8) overall value/interest/worth.(4) While Herther conceived these criteria specifically for CD-ROM products, and the databases discussed here are available in other formats, these criteria are still useful for the purposes of this study. Addressing all of these criteria to some extent (with the exception of ease of use), this study examines the number of music-related titles appearing in each index (appropriateness), the kind of indexing provided (comparisons), the types of music materials found in each database (content analysis), the accuracy of the data, and the currency of the data (revisions and updates). All of the databases are products of corporations and organizations well known to librarians, but due to the number of databases examined here, combined with the fact that several are available in a variety of formats (CD-ROM, tape load, or online), space constraints do not allow this article to address aspects of authority and credibility. Consequently, a comparison of the search engines is not a part of this study.
Given the pre-eminence of Music Index and RILM Abstracts for literature on music, a comparison of general databases may not seem immediately worthwhile. Certainly Music Index and RILM - whether taken singly or as a pair - provide coverage far superior to that of any general database. But there are two factors that encourage this exploration of other databases: cost and timeliness.
The current rate for a one-year subscription to Music Index on CD-ROM is $1195; MUSE, which contains the CD-ROM version of RILM, is $1395 (RILM is now also available on OCLC's FirstSearch with various pricing options(5)). At these prices, many libraries, especially smaller music libraries, may find it impossible to acquire one, let alone both of these indexes. Yet many libraries lacking a music database will have access to one or more general online indexes.
Currency of information is the other issue. The previous electronic version of RILM provided coverage only to 1993. That is a delay in coverage of over two and one-half years. Music Index was no better in this area: the previous electronic version covered 1979-1993. The manufacturers of both products have announced that the Spring 1997 updates, scheduled for release in May 1997, will improve currency: RILM will include abstracts through 1994 and citations only for 1996 up to the beginning of March 1997; Music Index will expand its coverage through 1995. Additionally, Chadwyck-Healey has just released a new CD-ROM product, International Index to Music Periodicals (lIMP), which will be updated quarterly; the first disc contains indexing for journals published in 1996. Prior to this very recent development, however, most general indexes were much more current.
A list of journal titles compiled from those indexed in Music Index and RILM will serve as a basis for comparison. …