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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2001

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Conference Reports

222nd National Meeting of the American Chemical Society
Division of Chemical Information
August 26 - 30, 2001

Leah Solla
Chemistry Librarian
Cornell University
lrm1@cornell.edu

The 222nd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) was held in Chicago from August 26 to August 30, 2001. The ACS Division of Chemical Information (CINF) provides a forum for the exchange of information and expertise among the generators, developers, providers, and users of chemical information. A comprehensive compilation of abstracts from relevant technical sessions, many with links to PDF presentations, is available at {http://acscinf.org/docs/meetings/222nm/222cinfabstracts.htm}

This was an excellent conference for networking. A sense of responsibility is developing toward how chemical information is being passed on within and among libraries both in academia and industry. Increased interdisciplinarity is pushing issues of the unique features of chemical information metadata. It is becoming important not only to pass on knowledge of traditional resources in other disciplines to users, but also to know how information works in other disciplines. A collaborative atmosphere dominated the discussions at meals, cocktail parties, and other social events eclipsing the usual disheartening discussion of serials cost.

Several sessions focused on topics that directly or indirectly related to chemical information. Among them were sessions on chemical identifiers, chemical information instruction, science portals, computer-assisted applications, e-libraries, and careers in chemical information. Abstracts are very nicely pulled together on the web site listed above.

Chemical identifiers: Chemical researchers have been writing, rewriting and generally struggling with chemical nomenclature, which is in effect core metadata, for over 100 years to develop standards to facilitate information exchange. The 3D structure of a compound is integral to its chemical behavior. Representing the 3D configuration unequivocally with a textual name, or even a two-dimensional drawing, involves very complicated nomenclature rules that have developed over decades. The issues involve consistency of use, working with computers to functionally assist in generating names, translation between names and structures, and even subsequent property information related to 3D configuration. The daylong symposium "Chemical Identifiers - Names and Structures" honored Kurt L. Loening, considered the world's foremost expert and leader in chemical nomenclature. Papers in the symposium included studies of AutoNom, an automatic naming tool, and using Chemical Abstracts for substructure searching.

Science portals. Portals are designed to provide access to many points from a single site. In order to provide effective access a context needs to be provided. If context is not explained and understood, useful connections between resources can be lacking. Within the area of chemical reactivity for example, one needs information about structures and properties and reaction schemes and wants to jump between these with ease. But who can say what the average chemist using the Internet wants to know? The "life of the chemist" web sites do well by focusing on the various logistical aspects of being a chemist- meetings, jobs, news, etc. Some portals focus on searching the Web for specific types of information of interest to certain groups, say commercial sources of chemicals. The criteria tend to be more sophisticated because the users are professionals, know their field, and have developed discerning eyes. But other portals have limited criteria and do not appear to be any more useful than the general web search engines.

Computer-assisted applications. This session was primarily geared towards chemical information generated in active organic chemistry research, and focused on how researchers need and want that information structured and available. Librarians have been remiss about being involved and bringing their expertise to bear on the management of information much in this area. However, the presence of librarians is being felt, and chemical information vendors are beginning to realize the importance of cross-linking between useful content resources, metadata, and end-user interactivity -concepts traditionally developed and supported by librarians.

E-libraries. The session on electronic libraries was combined at the last minute with one on remote support for end users. The result was a well-balanced mix of presentations addressing both services and collections in the electronic environment. The session provided the science library world with a showcase for the kind of work they have been doing to serve patrons. There were several demonstrations of how librarians bridge the gap between zealous information vendors and the end-users with various information backgrounds. The discussion was productive for audience and speakers alike, and highlighted the great need for discussion between the various contributors to CINF-librarians and information vendors from both academia and industry.

In various programs throughout the meeting, there were additional presentations related to chemical information. There were sessions on patents and intellectual property in general, teaching chemical information, working with students to develop poster sessions, and using the Web and the Internet to find and/or disseminate chemical information. This wide range of presentations is recorded on the {CINF web site}. Readers are referred to this site for more information.

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