Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A super catalogue in the library

For the libraries it has been a long way of computing and digitisation. In the Netherlands it took more than 10 years before the academic libraries finally started up the computer service PICA in 1979. The libraries have been digitising their indexes. In the eighties they made an excursion, thinking that they should be the main community information network competing with local newspapers and other services. By the nineties they came into the position to offer services on internet.

The Amsterdam Public Library has now produced a super catalogue. By linking their database to some 20 databases of other institutions it is interesting to see what a search delivers. When you are hunting for a book about the Dutch painter Rembrandt, you will get a series books, but you will get also information on the exhibitions and you even can buy a ticket to go to the exhibition.

The super catalogue is powered by the Aquabrowser, a search engine which does not work on the Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT, but on the word recognition with synonyms and antonyms. The search tool has been developed by the Dutch company Media Solutions and is a favourite search program in the library environment as well with media companies (newspapers, broadcast companies). The browser gives hints and associations, which for example Google can not produce in a search. Just have a look at the site (even if you can not read Dutch.) in order to get a feel for the search engine and type in a word of interest.

The super catalogue is an interesting marketing instrument for the Public Library. When you have received the results of your search, you get a long list of references. When you want to see the results, you will need a Public Library membership card. I looked up what the super catalogue produced with my own name. It produced one link to an article, but some 27 links in another database to articles, books and translations. Some articles I even did not recognised anymore. So I will have to get a membership card in order to access these links!


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