Magazine article Information Today

Gale's Ready Reference Shelf on CD-ROM; a Quick, Searchable Guide to Information Resources at Your Fingertips

Magazine article Information Today

Gale's Ready Reference Shelf on CD-ROM; a Quick, Searchable Guide to Information Resources at Your Fingertips

Article excerpt

The first librarian I worked for told me that 80 percent of the reference calls she received could be answered by the telephone book, an almanac, and a dictionary. Almost 20 years later, I might add to that list a few more reference tools, including Gale's Ready Reference Shelf CD-ROM -- at least if I were thinking about what tools a reference librarian needs behind the desk.

The purpose of this CD is to enable library patrons to find some of their own basic information (or, of course, let the librarian find it on the CD), thus freeing up reference librarians for more in-depth information. On one CD, you have access to the following resources:

* Encyclopedia of Associations

* Publishers Directory

* Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media

* Directories in Print

* Newsletters in Print

* Gale Directory of Databases

* Directory of Special Libraries

* Research Centers Directory

* Encyclopedia of American Religions

Whew! To point a library patron at the equivalent books in hard copy could cause him or her to recoil in horror. But having access to those sources through a single CD and a very easy-to-use GUI interface makes it much more likely that a patron will actually take advantage of the resources available.

What I found most attractive about the Ready Reference Shelf was the ability to search a number of sources simultaneously. If I need a quick list of the top information resources on the machine tool industry, I can type in the phrase machine tool* and retrieve a list of machine tool associations (both in the U.S. and abroad), directories of machine tool manufacturers, libraries and research centers within machine tool companies, periodicals on the machine tool industry, and online and CD-ROM databases that cover the machine tool industry. (See Figure I for an example of the results display.)

If I am like most librarians, we tend to go to the same resources for most reference questions. One of the advantages of the Ready Reference Shelf is that it lets me go to a number of reference tools at once, including some I may not have thought of at first. I may not be likely to pull five different print directories off the shelf to compile a list of resources, but I'm certainly glad I can search them all at one time.

Ease of Use

As with most Gale CD products, the Ready Reference Shelf is incredibly easy to install and set up. If you are going to put the CD on a network, you need to be near a telephone to get an unlock code from customer service; other than that, the process took all of about one minute. Interestingly, Gale lets you initially install the CD on a 30-day trial. You cannot print or save retrieved records to disk until you decide that you want to install the CD permanently, and once you have agreed to permanent installation you cannot return the CD for a refund.

Searching the Ready Reference Shelf is simple and self-evident. You can use the Quick Search option and just type in a word or phrase; the software automatically searches titles, subject terms, keywords, and acronyms. A more powerful search option, Extended Search, lets you limit your search in a number of ways:

* By type of entry (search for associations but not periodicals, for example)

* By organization, database, or publication name

* By geographic location

* By subject or full text

Each record is fairly brief, so complex searches are usually not necessary. …

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