Magazine article Computers in Libraries

CD-ROM Databases with Full-Page Images

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

CD-ROM Databases with Full-Page Images

Article excerpt

CD-ROM and online database searching is wonderful (if you have access to good databases with decent software, that is), but getting a nice hit list of bibliographic citations, descriptors, and abstracts is only half of the journey. When you want to read those cited journal articles or conference papers, you may realize that the trouble has just begun.

When we had to wade through volumes of KWIC and KWOC indexes or printed abstracting and indexing journals and jot down the bibliographic citations, finding the source documents did not seem that arduous in comparison. Today, you can do as good a search in 10 minutes as you could in a day or two in the era of printed indexes and abstracts. But finding the actual documents, then, is another matter. If your library does not subscribe to the serials where the most relevant items of your search were published, or if the issue is missing, or if the pages you need have been torn out of that particular issue, you feel pretty frustrated. Getting the documents through interlibrary loan may take weeks, and can cost the lending and borrowing libraries--and the end user--a lot of money.

Full Text Is Just That--Text

Full-text databases may alleviate the problem, but often they cannot substitute for the original print document because they include only the plain text, but not the figures, charts, tables, and screen shots that are useful and sometimes even essential for understanding the article. This column, for example, is perfectly appropriate as a full-text record, but my feature article last month about atlases would not be nearly as useful without the screen shots that accompanied At.

Page-image databases that reproduce the look and feel of the original document (including the typography and the layout) are not yet common online. I love to see The New York Times on my screen and then print it out in the characteristic typography and layout, and I am amazed at how perfectly even the crossword puzzles are reproduced (either in the Adobe Acrobat or Corel's Envoy format), but one does not live by The New York Times alone.

The only comprehensive online page-image database is UMI's ProQuest Direct. It is an exceptional system that offers a variety of output formats for articles from thousands of journals. The formats include bibliographic citation only, citations with abstracts, full ASCII text, full ASCII text with the reproduction of the figures, and, best of all, page-image format. This variety of options is not available for all the records, but based on my sample searches the full gamut of options were there for an impressively large portion (nearly 80 percent) of my search results. The convenience is just incredible.

You are wondering about the price? It may seem high at $10-$12 per article (depending on the yearly volume of use) until you consider the real cost of an interlibrary loan transaction, or the fee for 2-day service by a document delivery shop. True, depending on Internet traffic, downloading a six- to eight-page article can take quite a long time (even on the shared T-1 line that I have the good fortune to use), and the quality of the printout (which can be set by the user) may not be Xerox-quality, but it is still a superb service.

Only the CD-ROM alternatives of page-image databases are better than ProQuest Direct. There are a number of such products, and I will discuss three recently released ones that represent different approaches. For the first two, the pricing structure is based on a number of factors, so you will need to consult the publishers for exact prices.

UMI's Newest Product. ProQuest Medical Library

UMI has been publishing page-image databases on CD-ROM since the early 1990s. ProQuest Medical Library is the latest member of the family. It includes searchable bibliographic records and abstracts for about 120 medical and nursing journals as well as the facsimile of the articles--that is to say, users view the articles in full page-image format, just as they first appeared in print. …

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