Magazine article Information Today

CD-ROM Databases and Software Down Under

Magazine article Information Today

CD-ROM Databases and Software Down Under

Article excerpt

Before I left for the Australasian Online and CD-ROM conference, I wanted to read something about the CD-ROM databases produced in that part of the world. I thought some quick-and-dirty searches in Library and Information Science Abstracts, INSPEC, Information Science Abstracts, Microcomputer Abstracts, and Library Literature would yield enough citations to keep me reading while taking the long flight. I couldn't have been more wrong. I could count the articles that reported about CD-ROMs in Australia and New Zealand on one hand, and one finger was almost enough to count how many of those were about indigenous databases.

It was surprising that databases covering U.S. library and information science publications had so little information on the subject. It was even more surprising that British databases which abstract and index many English-language library and information science related journals in the Pacific region also turned out to provide very shallow coverage. The logical conclusion could have been that not much was published about Australian and New Zealand CD-ROM databases, or worse, there were no such databases.

However, I did not rush to this conclusion because I had learned my lesson two years ago when I went to Mexico for the North-South Online Meeting and, before leaving on my trip, could not find much information about CD-ROM databases published in Mexico and other countries in Central and South America. When I reached the conference, however, I saw dozens of high quality CD-ROMs originating from Mexico and sporting locally developed or adapted powerful retrieval programs.

CO-ROM Databases

It was correct not to rush to a conclusion because the conference and the exhibit proved clearly that there is significant CD-ROM production activity in Australia and New Zealand, especially considering a population of only 17 and 3 million people, respectively. As we shall see below, there is good coverage of all the major fields of science and technology, medicine and life science, social science and humanities, business, and law.

Bibliographies and catalogs

The only surprising omission is the lack of the national bibliographies on CD-ROM, a category that is usually given top priority in indigenous database production from Ecuador to Hungary to Venezuela. One reason for this lacuna may be the online availability of the Australian and New Zealand national bibliographies through Ozline and Kiwinet, respectively. The Australian Union Catalog of Serials is available on CD-ROM, and it is a good source for finding bibliographic details (in addition to holdings information) about serials published both in Australia and New Zealand. As for books, THORPE ROM provides information on nearly 100,000 Australian and New Zealand in-print titles.

Reference information about video materials (including foreign videos) is available in Film & Video Finder, published by INFORMIT, the commercial arm of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in association with The Australian Catalogue of New Films aid Videos Ltd. A multimedia database of Australian feature films with detailed synopses and a rich collection of film stills and clips is scheduled to be released by the you read this.

Abstracting/indexing databases INFORMIT is far and away the largest publisher of abstracting/indexing databases of Australian focus. All the Australian titles discussed in this section arc published by INFORMIT. In New Zealand there is also a strong concentration in CD-ROM publishing. The Royal Society of New Zealand, together with Industrial Research Limited, produces a database combo of eight databases named SPECTRUM, published by SIR Publishing. Similarly, the National Library of New Zealand in partnership with ALDIS (a division of GEAC) publishes the Index New Zealand-CD product. Due to the relatively small size of the databases, it is common practice in both countries to offer several databases on a single CD-ROM. …

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