This article begins a series to discuss machine readable data files (MRDFs) which are accessible by microcomputer and adaptable to library applications. The series will include a selected bibliography of data files with discussion of the application of the data files in libraries, and identification of relevant collection development sources. Although microcomputer accessible data is becoming increasingly available on CD-ROM and has been available on mainframe tape, this first article focuses on data on floppy diskette.
MRDFs provide information in a computer-readable form which can be further manipulated by users for analysis or presentation. This information is generally statistical but can also be graphic, bibliographic, or in the form of directory listings. The common characteristic among these data files is their format.
The use of a microcomputer provides efficient, individualized access to data files. Microcomputers are now commonly used in colleges and universities, and data sets for use with the microcomputer have a growing appeal to a variety of users. Many microcomputer MRDFs operate in conjunction with well-known software programs, such as Lotus 1-2-3, although others are complemented by their own menu-driven program. In most cases, users can tailor a printout to their needs or generate graphic representation of the data with which they are working. Data files can be used for comparisons of data elements chosen by the user from data sets, or statistical programs like PC-SAS or Systat can be used to study and manipulate data files. Data files for the microcomputer are generally inexpensive and relatively current. CD-ROM data files seem more expensive but, given the amount of information that they contain, they are often comparable in price.
Machine readable data files are marketed by commercial, governmental, and international agencies. Government data frequently is packaged in a less user-friendly format. Private companies usually supply data that is more easily accessible to users, though they may in fact compile MRDFs by adding value to data collected from government sources. Local agencies or organizations may also be producers of data files.
The data files reviewed in this article are adaptable for use with the following hardware: an IBM PC, color/ graphics adapter, 640K RAM, a math co-processor, and a dot matrix printer. Other hardware configurations are workable as well. It is essential, of course, to investigate hardware requirements prior to purchasing software or data files. It should be noted that data files are available for use with a variety of operating systems and are not limited to the IBM PC.
Each of these data files are in use in the Machine Readable Data Files Center of Davis Library at the University of North Carolina, which was established for microcomputer data in 1985. The MRDF Center serves students, faculty, and staff of the University, as well as members of the outside community. Faculty and graduate students in the disciplines of business, economics, geography, and city and regional planning, form the primary user group. The data files are used in conjunction with original research projects and class assignments. Patrons receive staff assistance and are provided with various types of documentation, instructional materials, or bibliographies that are a part of the MRDF collection. In addition, the Machine Readable Data Files Center serves as the location for all printed materials which are accompanied by floppy diskettes or materials related to other forms of machine readable data.
The following is a selective annotated list of some of the data files that have been collected at UNC. The list represents a sampling of the subject areas that are available, as well asthe products of various publishers.
ECONOMIC/BUSINESS DATA FILES TITLE City and County Government
PUBLISHER Advisory Commission on
UNITED STATES ADDRESS Advisory Commission on
1111 20th St. …