An Electronic Library Grows: The Gateway to Cornell University's Albert R. Mann Library

By Barnes, Susan J. | Computers in Libraries, September 1993 | Go to article overview

An Electronic Library Grows: The Gateway to Cornell University's Albert R. Mann Library


Barnes, Susan J., Computers in Libraries


At Cornell University, the Albert R. Mann Library has operated a networked electronic library since 1991. This electronic library, known as the Mann Library Gateway, has been enthusiastically received by library users. Mann staff are now planning a major redesign of the Gateway. They have conducted focus groups to learn users' opinions about features to be incorporated into the new system. This article summarizes what users said during these focus group sessions. It also describes the current Mann Library Gateway and some examples of the electronic library's impacts.

Mann's Electronic Library

The Mann Library Gateway is a computer system that enables Cornell students, faculty, staff, and extension personnel to find information without leaving their offices or homes. The system manages connections to resources, some of which reside on computers at Cornell. Other Gateway resources are at locations across the country, available via the Internet. Gateway users make selections from an easy-to-use menu that features descriptions of each of the resources in Mann's electronic library. These include:

* References to agriculture, biology, business, education, geology, other scholarly fields, and general interest publications (the Agricola, BIOSIS, ABI/Inform, ERIC, GeoRef, and Periodical Abstracts databases).

* Tables of contents and references to articles from more than 13,000 serials in almost any subject (CARL UnCover).

* The full texts of fifty U.S. newspapers (including the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times).

* Information about products, industries, and over 10,000 companies in the United States, Canada, and Europe (the Dialog Business Connection system).

* Numeric data from the 1990 U.S. Census of Population and Housing.

* Climatological data and weather forecasts (the CLIMOD system from the Northeast Regional Climate Data Center).

* Numeric data describing crop production and natural resources (from the USDA Crop Estimates-County File and the National Resources Inventory).

* The holdings of members of the Research Libraries Group (REIN).

* The Cornell University Library's Online Catalog.

* A subject guide to all resources in the electronic library, plus electronic copies of Gateway handouts and user aids.

The extensive expansion of Mann's electronic library collection is underway during the summer of 1993. By the fall semester, 200 additional databases will be available via the Gateway through an experimental program conducted with Dialog Information Services, Inc. Shortly afterward, users of the Gateway will also be able to extract numeric data from 125 files produced by the USDA's Economic Research Service.

The Gateway operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. On- and off-campus, wherever network connections or phone lines are available, the Gateway makes information easily and quickly available for Cornellians' work. Examples:

In Research: Alan Collmer, associate professor of plant pathology, has two networked microcomputers that he, his students, and his research associates use for Gateway access in their lab. The electronic library has become an integral part of their study of proteins secreted by pathogenic bacteria.

In Extension: The Gateway enhances the ability of extension agents to provide farmers with information about new products, techniques, and markets. "We have agents out there using resources through the Gateway that they wouldn't otherwise have access to," says Henry DeVries, computer specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension.

In Instruction: David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences, says: "I use BIOSIS before every lecture to check that I have the latest information on any particular subject. I'm sure my teaching has improved because of this use."

Maintenance and expansion of the Gateway system are led by a team of Mann staff members coordinated by Marty Schlabach, a librarian in Mann's Public Services Division. …

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