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09/24/91

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Easier access to bibliographic data bases

STANFORD -- Starting with the fall 1991 quarter, scholars at Stanford University will be able to access electronic bibliographic data bases -- without necessarily having to go to the library.

According to Anthony Angiletta, chief of an access to information group in Libraries and Information Resources, the availability of three important journal indexes on the university- wide network is the first step in an effort to increase access to such information.

The program is one of the results of the merger last year of two administrative areas, Stanford University Libraries and Information Resources, into one vice presidential area.

"This is symptomatic of some of the organizational changes we've had since last year," Angiletta said. "(The merger) allowed us to very quickly assemble a group that could address, if not long-standing needs, at least needs that have been around for a while."

Under Vice President for Libraries and Information Resources Robert L. Street, the work group is exploring within the bounds of available resources ways of increasing online access both to bibliographic information and to knowledge resources themselves.

"Ever since the creation of the online catalog Socrates, we've proceeded on a path to expand the information available," Angiletta said. "Right now, we're increasing in the areas of bibliographical data bases."

The first three files that will be available via Folio, which is accessible from virtually any personal computer hooked up to the Stanford mainframe, are Medline, PsycINFO and INSPEC.

Medline (see separate story, Medical Center Report, page 17) will be accessed through the University of California's data network, which is already available to Stanford users. Angiletta said the other two data bases can be accessed directly through Folio.

Medline is a comprehensive bibliographic data base covering the journal literature of medicine and the health sciences. PsycINFO covers psychology and several behavioral sciences, and INSPEC is used in physics, electronics and computer science research.

Data bases tentatively planned for the future include:

  • ERIC, a comprehensive data base for work in education;
  • COMPENDEX PLUS, for engineering and technology; and
  • GEOREF, for all areas in the earth sciences.

While serving all areas of the campus, Angiletta, said Libraries and Information Resources particularly seeks to serve the needs of four schools: Earth Sciences, Education, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences.

The guiding principle in the selection of data bases hitherto has been predicated on the Benthamite principle of "trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number of our patrons," Angiletta said.

When the six aforementioned data bases are available on-line, he said, all four schools will be served to some degree. However, "the humanists haven't been taken care of yet. . . . We hope to do that through networked CD-ROM [compact disc retrieve-only memory]."

Increasing the number of, and access to, compact discs forms the second prong of the work group's effort. Vast amounts of information can be stored on one small laser-read disc, but currently only one user at a time can access the information.

"We will soon be testing networked CD-ROM technology, which has the potential of allowing multiple users to scan the same disk simultaneously."

In the meantime, "we hope to put on-line the Expanded Academic Index, like Medline accessible through Melvyl [the University of California system]," he said.

Besides being a useful tool for humanists, as well as social scientists, that index, which covers the contents of more than 600 journals, is of great use to undergraduate students.

While the major objective of the present program has been to meet the demand for information about journal contents, Angiletta said the continuing challenge is to seek affordable ways to provide access to relevant source data, whether that is the primary text, large-scale numeric files, visual and cartographic data, or factual and statistical files.

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