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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Fall 1999

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

Journal Reviews and Reports

BiblioNet Database Review

Ian Gordon
Science Librarian
James A. Gibson Library
Brock University
igordon@spartan.ac.brocku.ca

Note: CISTI discontinued its BiblioNet service on September 1, 2000. -- ed.

Gaining end-user access to web-based electronics, technology and telecommunications bibliographic databases can be a frustrating task. Researchers prefer full-text, end-user access to a full range of news, academic, conference, dissertation, and preprint resources. However, providing current and retrospective access to such a one-stop-shop resource at a reasonable price continues to be elusive. While traditional database vendors continue to re-invent themselves and miss the mark, {BiblioNet}, a new service offered by {CISTI}, attempts to fill this small market niche.

Databases

BiblioNet offers a full range of {services}, {databases}, a quick reference "Ask Us" service, and links to other NRC, CISTI and free web resources. Defining the boundaries of what constitutes appropriate information technology and telecommunications (IT&T) bibliographic databases can be challenging. The strength of BiblioNet is its web-based access to Inspec, ComputerSelect Web, and an IT&T Tables of Contents database.

Inspec is an essential source of physics, electronics and computer-related research. Produced by the {IEE} Inspec is available in a wide range of products, but remains very expensive. IEE's Inspec subscription pricing policies tend to favour large institutions, libraries and consortia. Small to medium sized libraries, businesses and research groups have either been frozen out or can not afford end-user access to this important database. BiblioNet has attempted to bridge this gap and has negotiated access to Inspec, updated weekly from 1995 to the present.

BiblioNet's search engine is flexible and is aimed mainly at the novice and corporate end user. The search engine includes all important search and limiting features and allows for browsing and modifying of search strategies and results. Although a blunt instrument to search such an exhaustive and information-rich database, BiblioNet's search engine is a good first start and adequate for most, if not all searchers. Search results can be browsed for free, with individual full-text records displayed for two dollars per record. As a value-added option, CISTI adds document delivery options attached to each full bibliographic record. Improvements to Inspec could include the development of an integrated thesaurus, the inclusion of a greater number of database field search options, more retrospective coverage, and elimination of the two dollar charge for viewing full records.

{ComputerSelect Web}, published by the Gale Group provides access to a twelve month rolling archive of 120 core publications, including the full text from 70 leading magazines, newspapers, and newsletters. Integrated within the database are links to technology-related company profiles, products and a variety of web-based reference resources. BiblioNet links directly to ComputerSelect's own software and search engine. ComputerSelect is a truly integrated package, yet could benefit from a deeper, regional and international coverage of IT&T products, companies and resources. Even though it is difficult to calculate the redundancy of the IT&T literature, it is probably greater than twelve months, yet less than five years. It would be a bonus if Gale provided a five year archive and linked ComputerSelect to a number of related in-house Gale subject-related reference and database resources.

BiblioNet's {Tables of Contents} database indexes articles and provides tables of contents for over 1,600 IT&T and business-related journal titles. This database is a subset of CISTI's {CISTI Source} database that indexes and provides contents and document delivery options for over 14,000 journals from 1993 to the present. It is important to note that only the author, title of the article and title of the journal are available to be searched in this database. Just as the database name suggests, bibliographic records do include subjects or abstracts. However, CISTI's Basic Plus search engine's design, logic, and flexibility is quit remarkable. BiblioNet through CISTI Source provides an electronic current awareness service that delivers tables of contents by a variety of options including e-mail.

Price

The BiblioNet {Price Guide} details all subscription and pricing options.Individual and institutional memberships are available for $100 per year, but the quick escalation of subscription prices for institutional members based on the number of full-time employees (or students for academic institutions) limits its use to individuals and small research communities. BiblioNet was designed for the information technology and telecommunications professionals, either self employed or in a small to medium sized company, without access to research information. Although CISTI is willing to experiment with flat-fee subscription options the service remains too expensive for most academic libraries.

Weaknesses

The BiblioNet search engine although appropriate for basic searching and current awareness may be frustrating for the experienced searcher and information professional. The inability to move through a series of search statements common to other pay-as-you-go database vendors (i.e. Dialog, STN, etc.) restricts BiblioNet to an end-user, quick reference product. I would challenge BiblioNet to move forward and add extra value to this resource at no extra or minimal charge. Resources to consider would be a patent document supplier (e.g., MicroPatent), engineering database (e.g., Ei Engineering Plus), full-text news service (e.g., Lexis-Nexis or Dow Jones Interactive), Books-in-Print, OCLC's or Wilson's General Science Abstracts, pre-1995 Inspec coverage and a generic science/technology database. Another option would be to consider full-text e-journal access and/or to link up with the University of Toronto's Elsevier e-journal project. BiblioNet could also benefit from a more flexible pricing policy and subscription plan that would take into account flat-fee subscribers, infrequent users, IP or domain-wide access for small to medium sized science libraries.

Strengths

BiblioNet is a new product, waiting for further product development. The main strengths of the service are its access to the Inspec database and document delivery services. An interesting feature is the meta-search window that allows anyone to search all BiblioNet's databases using one search window. BiblioNet should continue to build on these features in the delivery of full-text and e-journal resources. The service is quick, reliable and is linked to CISTI's reputation for quality service. Instructions are available in French and English languages. However BiblioNet could easily add Spanish and other language-specific interfaces.

As traditional online databases attempt to create integrated online resources, individual researchers, special librarians, information professionals, corporate and small libraries, academic departments and labs, recognize the need for access to scholastic research at a reasonable cost. BiblioNet is a small, yet important step towards meeting these needs.

Contact BiblioNet at 1-800-668-1222 or cisti.biblionet@nrc.ca for more information, to provide {feedback}, or to take advantage of the {free trial} offer. Check it out yourself.

Thanks to Christine Midwinter, Marketing Officer, CISTI/NRC for her continuing assistance and support.

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