Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Expanding the Ibistro Catalog with Reference Universe

Reference Universe is a similar to an enhanced general library catalog. The content of the database is from ebook and print book table of contents, article titles, and back of the book indexes. We have electronic sources that are indexed in the database being Gale Virtual Reference Library e-books, AccessScience, and numerous print titles in the library collection. Unfortunately, the database is notoriously slow at times as it matches titles in the Ibistro catalog – more on this later. For the extended post on datbase content, searching, and managing results below the labels click the link read more.

This database does an excellent job in finding information on obscure topics in authoritative sources without being overwhelmed. Such searches as the following yield poor results in an Ibistro search, but when using Reference Universe numerous sources appear on such topics as “crop rotation” in economic sources or the concept of economic “contagion” in psychology sources.

The primary methods of searching are by keywords or browsing (which tends to produce quicker results). The keyword searching part of the database could use improvement, but until then there are ways to get useful results from this database.

Browse Searching.
The fastest method at times can be using the browse function to find relevant content when just enough will do. However, the biggest limitation on this method is that you are restricted to one word entries in the “by article or index term(s)” feature. When you are looking for a concept that has just one word to describe it, this is probably an excellent method to use. Other Browse searching limiters such as publisher, title, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and Library of Congress Call Numbers are not so restrictive and a person can use multiple words.

Keyword Searching.
Single keyword concepts are best. The interface is unfortunately slow in comparison to most search engines. Users may finding this databases difficult to navigate
beyond the first page of results without extended wait times on page loads.

Managing Results of a Search.
Restricting a search to just titles in the library can be slow, and in many cases may be detrimental if you are working with someone who is used to get immediate results from a search.

The majority of the results that identify if the item is in the Charleston County Public library system are correct but, I add a few caveats. If a source such as Access Science or a Gale Virtual Reference Library ebook title comes up we may have it in the collection, but the database may not identify as available. When a result does appear in the Access Science database, you can click the link to the index entry and you will jump to the initial content. An "I" will appear with the mouse over option to "View Full-Text (through subscribing libraries)" and then click the full-text option to view text.

Currently our Gale Virtual Reference Library electronic ebooks and database titles do not appear in Ibistro which is checked for presence or absence of a title in a collection. A quick check of Gale Virtual Reference Library may be appropriate for an available e-book title for a search result that may appear in Reference Universe. When led to a title within Gale Virtual Reference Library you can go to the e-book title by selecting the article link, and then you will need to re-execute the search to get to the content. Unfortunately, with Gale Virtual Reference Library, I have not found an easy way to get from the link to the content as fast as AccessScience allows. In some ways, this is still a work in process.

We may also have a prior edition to the record or title in Reference Universe when in fact the information and book may be available to the patron in a branch. I can think of a few instances where this has occurred with titles in which several editions exist especially titles in business. If a search result seems to answer a question exactly, you may want to check the Ibistro catalog with a title search to verify a different (most of the time older edition) is not in the print collection.

The list of sources is provided within the database by clicking on the title list. This title list is rather lengthy currently at about 140+ pages of content. The title list is organized by publisher name, date, title, and indexed if it is a print or electronic source. Most of the big name publishers have provided content for this database. According to the database intro there are over 1,700 electronic works and
10,000 plus print titles indexed in Reference Universe.

Bottom Line
Reference Universe, even though it is a very slow database at times, is effective in finding authoritative sources on a variety of hard to find topics digging deep into numerous print and e-book titles providing much better indexing and finding aids to content than a traditional catalog.