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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Spring 1998

Book Reviews

The Beilstein System: Strategies for Effective Searching

James W. Oliver
Chemistry Librarian
Michigan State University
oliver@pilot.msu.edu

The Beilstein System: Strategies for Effective Searching. Stephen R. Heller (editor). Washington DC: American Chemical Society, 1998. 208 pages. $74.95 (ISBN 0841235236).
This book complements an earlier book titled The Beilstein Online Database: Implementation, Content, and Retrieval. ACS Symposium Series, no. 436 (1989), also edited by Stephen R. Heller. It is important to note that The Beilstein System is a new title and not a new edition of the symposium series. It covers material that was not available in 1989 and concentrates on those areas not covered in the earlier book. The authors describe the means by which the Beilstein Institute compiles data on organic compounds and the various ways to search the data, such as Crossfire plus Reactions, Current Facts in Chemistry on CD-ROM,  and search systems  using different vendors. As a result the book provides a good explanation of the scope of the database in organic chemistry. It is useful in understanding what kinds of compounds are included. It would not serve as a direct tutorial on accessing the Crossfire plus Reactions or any of the other search systems, but knowing how the material is covered will enhance the readers knowledge of the database. I found some chapters very informative and I know what I learned will improve my searching while using Crossfire plus Reactions.

The first chapter is written by the editor, Stephen Heller, and explains the history and importance that both the Beilstein Institute and Handbook play in the coverage of organic chemistry. The second chapter written by Reiner Luchenbach, who retired as executive director of the Beilstein Institute in 1996 describes the coverage and treatment of organic compounds that go into the database. The next several chapters of the book cover the background of how information on compounds is presented to the researcher by the use of various computer programs that access the handbooks data. The chapters  describe the advantages of the various methods.

The book also contains information on the Crossfire plus Reactions program, a program  which was not available in 1989 and now subscribed to by a  large number of academic institutions. Given the greater use today of Crossfire plus Reactions by academics the book provides a good explanation for using that method to access information. In particular several chapters (five through nine) provide good descriptions of the content and scope of the database. They describe the features of the Crossfire server, which enables the searcher to find information on individual organic compounds and their reactions. Chapter five covers the architecture of the server, chapter six the interface. Chapters seven and eight cover the history and use of Crossfire plus Reactions by academia. Chapter seven covers the use of the program within an academic environment. Chapter eight describes the revolution that brought the Crossfire plus Reactions program to use within the academic market, first by the arrangement with the Committee for Institutional Cooperation (CIC) within the Big Ten universities. This was a major step toward reestablishing the status of Beilstein within the academic community.  The last chapter of the book discusses a recent drawing program (AutoNom) that allows the user to find the IUPAC name for a structure.

I found the book to be informative and a worthwhile acquisition for any academic or corporate library that regularly searches organic chemistry literature.

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