Friday, June 08, 2007

Libraries make you fat.

I have written about link resolvers before. In case you are not au courant with the latest library jargon a link resolver is software that makes a link between an article citation in one database and the fulltext of the article in another. It helps libraries maximize our investment in online information. How many times have you found a reference to an article and been frustrated to find that the database you are searching does not have the fulltext available? Perhaps you have given up, perhaps you have asked a librarian for help, perhaps you have placed an interlibrary loan request and been chagrined to find that the article was available all along -- just not where you were looking. Well no more, if we have it in fulltext, you will find it. Even better, if we don't have it in fulltext the software will guide you to search our holdings of printed journals to find a copy and if we do not own a copy will guide you to interlibrary loan (more on that in a later post I hope.) Link resolvers do more than that, but that is enough for now.

Olin Library just signed a licence with a company called Serials Solutions to use their link resolver and Bill Svitavsky is feverishly working on customizing the software as I write. In another example of the synergies possible when information, and particularly "metadata" (information about information) becomes digital we licensed their link resolver as part of a suite including monthly updates of MARC records of the online periodicals we have access to, which will be loaded to our catalog thus making that database a much more attractive option when you are trying to find out what we have access to or own. The suite also includes a federated searching software that will enable you to search more that one database at one time; helping to overcome the eternal question of all library users, "where do I start?" Finally the suite includes an Electronic Resource Asset Management System or ERAMS. This is a piece of backroom software that will enable us to better manage all this digital information we have licenced. All of this is based on the fact that Serials Solution has a knowledge base of the databases and the fulltext journals the Olin Library has licensed. This knowledge base underpins each one of these softwares.

I have been trying to come up with a metaphor to describe what is going on here. Time was, if you wanted to use a library, you entered the building, searched the card catalog, consulted printed periodical indexes, and than walked from floor to floor collecting the books and journal articles you needed. Along came networked computers, the Internet and the web. You entered the library website, consulted the online catalog and the periodical databases and moved from database to database collecting and printing the items you needed. With a link resolver, federated searching, and an enhanced online catalog you still enter the library website, but you no longer need to move from database to database. The next step is to put library resources where you are -- in Blackboard, Google, departmental websites, Second Life, etc. so that you do not even need to take that first step.

And people wonder why there is an obesity crisis in America. It is the librarians!

No comments: