Downloading and Printing Search Results from Online Databases
Hagee, Jon, Boewe, Karl-Heinz, Information Technology and Libraries
The University of Kentucky Medical Center Library is a medium-sized library serving five colleges and a hospital. During the past year the university's main library and its various branches changed automated systems from LS/2000 to NOTIS. In addition to an online public access catalog (OPAC), our system offers the MEDLINE and ERIC databases online through the Multiple Database Access System (MDAS) developed by NOTIS. There are four OPAC/MDAS terminals available to the public in the Medical Center Library.
Since NOTIS/MDAS did not include a program for downloading search results, the library was looking for a method that would allow a user to capture selected screens during the scanning process into a file that subsequently could be downloaded or printed before concluding the search session. This article describes the method we devised to provide patrons a downloading and printing capability.
For terminals, we turned to inexpensive personal computers with both 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch floppy drives, 1 megabyte of RAM, and extended keyboards. Though a 286 provides adequate computing power for the downloading method described in this article, it is recommended that if libraries are acquiring new PCs, they acquire ones with at least 386SX processors to allow for future requirements. It should be noted that we did not install hard drives in these public-access PCs. There were several reasons for this decision:
1. To save money.
2. To avoid the problem of patrons using the terminals for other than their intended purposes.
3. To make use of the higher speed of RAM drives.
4. To avoid computer virus problems by using a write-protected bootup disk to bring up the workstations each morning. (1)
We used Procomm Plus, DOS 5.0, a file-viewing program (the DOS command "type [filename]" suffices), some custom programming, and various batch and communication script files. One of the functions of the custom programming is to strip out command lines from the screen snapshots before downloading them to disk; this programming will be slightly different when used with different databases to allow the program to take account of varying screen formats. Our programming is written for use with NOTIS/MDAS, but a few changes would allow it to work with other types of databases. (2)
The bootup disk (1.44 Mb floppy) creates a RAM drive, called drive C, and copies essential files to it, freeing up the floppy drives for downloading. The bootup disk is not needed again unless the computer needs to be rebooted. With a disk for each workstation and batch and script files for automatic bootup, several stations can be started up at the same time.
We use Procomm Plus with Televideo 955 terminal emulation. This combination seems to allow for maximum key configuration, color choice, and flexibility for external programs. Other high-end communications packages likely would work as well.
A screen "snapshot" saves each screen to a file in drive C. With one megabyte of RAM, there is a limit of about 125 screen saves per session. This limit can be increased to several hundred more by adding more RAM memory. The user may view the "memory file" at any time, using a macro to activate the DOS command "type [filename for saved screens file]."
When a patron wishes to download and print the contents of the file in memory containing the saved searches, a download and print command calls a custom program that strips the command lines out of the multiple-screen save file. Four inches are cut from each screen, allowing three screens per printed page. …