Magazine article Computers in Libraries

The Periodicals Collection: A dBASE III Database

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

The Periodicals Collection: A dBASE III Database

Article excerpt

The Periodicals Collection: A dBASE III Database

The Simmons College School of Social Work Library is a specialized collection in the fields of social work, human behavior, social policy, and other related subject fields. The library owns approximately 25,000 volumes and 200 active periodical titles, and is designed to support the curricular of the school's masters and doctoral degree programs.

Our collection of active periodicals is one of the library's most highly used facets, providing as it does access to current thinking in the human services. However, the library also owns a large number of "dead runs" of older periodicals (i.e., publications whic have ceased to publish), which are retained for archival and historical purposes.

We, of course, have our share of shelf-space woes (perhaps more than our share), and consequently all of our dead runs and even a portion of our live runs are shelved outside the library proper, in various closets and classrooms throughout the School of Social Work. Over the years, this has made the procedure of retrieving periodical issues from the collection ever more complicated, as the number of possible periodical locations has grown. Until the present project was underway, the only reliable records of periodical locations resided in the periodical check-in file and the technical services intern's memory.

Obviously, what we needed was a periodicals location/holdings list, both for our own purposes and to serve the needs of our users. A dBASE III database seemed to offer great flexibility and ease of updating, and had the additional feature of allowing limited subject indexing, which was something we had often contemplated producing for our periodical collection.

The library's computer is an IBM-compatable Compaq Portable Personal Computer, with 256 kilobytes of memory and two disk drives. We recently upgraded our memory to 640 kilobytes, which has improved the efficiency of some of the procedures described below. However, only 256 kilobytes was required to support the project described.

Database Creation

The first phase of the project was the creation of the structure of the database. Kris, who was then the technical services intern librarian, analyzed the periodical access needs of the library and designed the field structure as follows (Figure 1):

Six fields may not seem like a great deal of information, but it was sufficient for our needs. (Note that this database is maintained solely for the purpose of providing access lists; check-in, claiming, binding, and other procedures are recorded elsewhere.) It is a fairly simple task to add additional fields as unforeseen needs arise.

The CONT field is a continuation field for additional title information, such as former or subsequent title or issuing body. The LOCATION field contains a two-character location code. HOLDINGS shows the dates owned by the library. SUBJECT1 and SUBJECT2 are the two subject heading fields.

With the database structure in place, the entry of individual records was begun. Most periodical information was taken directly from the periodical check-in file, but because some of the older records (especially those for dead runs) were doubtful, examination of the actual volumes was necessary in many cases. Ultimately, a complete inventory was made of periodicals outside the library proper, and this information was entered into the database.

Subject analysis was undertaken by Kris and Ann Collins, another intern librarian. Issues of each periodical were examined, taking special note of statements of purpose. Most of the headings were adapted from those used by Psychological Abstracts and the Library of Congress. A few form headings, such as NEWSPAPERS and POPULAR MAGAZINES were used.

Once the record for each periodical title had been entered, it was easy to produce alphabetical title/location/holdings lists using the Create Report command. …

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