CD-ROM: A Review of the 1994-1995 Literature

By Adkins, Susan L. | Computers in Libraries, January 1996 | Go to article overview

CD-ROM: A Review of the 1994-1995 Literature


Adkins, Susan L., Computers in Libraries


This review covers only a fraction of the English language literature published in journals and proceedings during 1994 and the first half of 1995. It is organized around two broad concepts: 1) what are the major trends in the CD-ROM industry as a whole, and 2) how do these play out in libraries? Overall, it looks for general trends as well as unique isolated events which may or may not have long-term implications, and it relies heavily on what ultimately impresses a lone, fatigued librarian who is still struggling to master the interface for Jane's All the World's Aircraft on disc!

In general, articles on publishing, networking, and CD-ROM applications in developing countries stood out overwhelmingly in sheer numbers as well as in substance. The significant increase in literature on applications of CD-ROMs in the Pacific, Asia, and Africa appears to validate earlier predictions that the technology is especially suited for filling the information gaps inherent to the developing regions of the world.

Editor's Note: Since this article contains a great many references, we have chosen to handle them differently here. For ease of use, we have divided them according to section, and placed each set of references at the end of its section rather than grouping them together at the end of the article.

Introduction

Bibliographic and full-text databases on CD-ROM are now installed in more than 90 percent of our academic and secondary libraries and at approximately half of our public and corporate libraries.[1] While the base of installed CD-ROM drives is estimated at 20 million and growing rapidly toward 60 million by 1996,[2] the amount of published literature covering the development of the industry has reached the overwhelming stage. Journals offer a public forum for discussing such topics as networking, training, standards, user studies, surveys, and product reviews. In addition, copyright and licensing issues, management problems, search engines and interfaces, multimedia and other formats, applications in developing countries, hardware, marketing, pricing, and the general state of the industry are popular concerns.

CD-ROM spawned numerous new journals, such as CD-ROM Professional, while it enriched others, like Database, with a broader perspective. Several journals that specifically targeted CD-ROM disappeared over time, One of the most recent casualties being CD-ROM World, which ceased in early 1995. However, at the same time, the subject became commonplace in such publications as Program, Online, EDUCOM Review, INSPEL, New Information Technologies in Agriculture, the African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science, and the Journal of the American Society for Information Science.

The result is a robust and progressive body of literature which continues some familiar themes from year to year. After reading a significant portion of this work, it is difficult to avoid the observation that librarians in particular never seem to tire of writing or reading about the questionable future of the CD-ROM. Almost every article that had anything to do with CD-ROM and that was authored by a librarian had at least one sentence that speculated on the demise of the technology. Perhaps this is merely an old habit - nothing more than a reflex born of all those library budget reviews where upper management continues to ask the same tired questions: Will CD-ROM technology last? Will it be replaced overnight, leaving libraries with huge investments in obsolete hardware?

Karl Beiser, Maine State Library, indirectly addresses this issue frequently in his "CD-ROM Report" column in Database magazine. His firsthand knowledge of CD-ROM technology gives extra credence to his often eloquent wordsmithing:

Stasis is nowhere to be found. Only transitory moments of dynamic equilibrium can be expected from the interplay of student needs, budget resources, physical space, license requirements, the growth and evolution of the campus network, changes in CD-ROM and LAN technology, changes in the content and software associated with CD-ROM products, changes in the economics and technology of tape loading of vs. …

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