Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
ENGnetBASE is searchable from its home interface or as part of a library's wider CRCnetBASE subscription package at www.crcnetbase.com. Its titles are in PDF format and search results are displayed and accessible as chapters of a larger book, which expedites downloading and makes results otherwise more manageable. ENGnetBASE's search interface was redesigned in 2005, and robust browsing, basic search, and advanced search techniques are offered. Overall, the redesign is a substantial improvement.
The easy search box in the new interface functions as a natural language search in the full text of all included titles and returns results based on three aspects of uniqueness and relevance: 1) the number of documents containing a term, used to measure uniqueness; 2) the number of occurrences of a term in a document, used to determine relevance; and 3) the density of the term within a document, also used to measure relevance. This relatively sophisticated method of returning results improves what could be a rather blunt keyword search in a very broad set of targets, were the relevance ranking based on gross occurrences per document. The easy search box also recognizes all the commands the advanced search interface does, which are extensive and well-explained in the help file.
Both interfaces allow search boxes for title, author, and keyword in the full-text, and results list options for including abstracts, ordering results by number of hits, alphabetical by title, or by document size in ascending or descending order, and allow results to be limited in number (10-500) and results per page (10-100).
Phonic searching allows the searcher to use the command "#" before a term to indicate that results of similar auditory structure be included in the results. For example, the search "#smith" would return results of both "smith" and "smythe." Fuzzy searching allows a search to account of possible misspellings, and uses the character "%" as a command. It also allows up to ten instances of missing, erroneous, or misplaced letters. For example, "engine%r" would account for the missing "e", and "engin%%r" would account for both missing vowels.
Synonym searching uses the character "&" at the end of a term to indicate that synonyms should be included. For example, "quick&" would include "fast" or "rapid." Variable term weighting allows a very experienced user to override the natural language search weights ENGnetBASE uses to determine relevance. For example, "thermodynamics:5 AND combustion:1" weights the first term five times more heavily in the search results than the second. This can be a very valuable tool for an experienced searcher.
While these techniques are probably not used frequently by casual users, they can be useful with in-depth research, and are probably more or less necessary in a full-text collection search. Ultimately, users' expectations will demand that such complexity in searching, relevance ranking, and distinctness measuring be handled behind the interface by sophisticated programming. At this time, however, giving users these options without confusing them is the key to good design, and ENGnetBASE's recent redesign does this better than its previous iteration.
The citations are not exportable to reference management software, but users of these products can manually enter citation information.
There are at times technical considerations with the product's use of PDF files: the most recent version of Adobe Acrobat is usually necessary, and a user's browser must be configured in a way as to allow these files to appear in separate windows, which at times can be disallowed by simple pop-up blockers installed on most library computers.
In comparing ENGnetBASE to competitors, particularly Knovel Handbooks, there are pluses and minuses. Its collections are significantly smaller, but its lower price allows for its inclusion in many library collections. Though it probably should not be considered a thorough or comprehensive reference and handbook collection, it is a good alternative when budgets are constrained or a good supplement when budgets are less constrained. As many engineering and science libraries have been purchasing CRC handbooks for many years, ENGnetBASE provides the ever-desirable electronic and remote access patrons of such libraries are increasingly demanding.