This article briefly reports on a strategy to examine alternatives for the provision of CDL-hosted abstracting and indexing (A&I) databases.  The strategy has been endorsed by the University Librarians and the Systemwide Library and Scholarly Information Advisory Committee (SLASIAC).  The recent RFP for CDL-hosted databases has provided the impetus and an opportunity to look at strategies for better integration of A&I databases and associated services.  All are agreed that the primary goal is clear: to provide as many databases under as few user interfaces as possible, integrate them with other services such as Request, and establish links to holdings and to full content.

From 1996 through 1999 a program to provide core A&I databases via a common interface for UC use has resulted in 9 locally loaded databases and 17 others made available through Z39.50.  During that time difficulties emerged that slowed the progress of the program.  These difficulties include the lack of a standard format for A&I records and the resulting development time to adopt the records to the MARC standard, frequent vendor changes in the structure and content of the A&I data, variation in the use of and adherence to the Z39.50 standard, and the necessity of constant adjustment of the user interface to accommodate these changes.  The advent of services such as linking to external content and of Request, which must be developed differently for locally mounted and Z databases, is another challenge to the current program.

Meanwhile, with the emergence of the web, vendors’ user interfaces have become easier to learn and teach.  The database licensing program, both via CDL and at the campus level, is actively adding resources from many providers with many different user interfaces.  At present, the CDL provides access to over 100 databases from external vendors; local campus offerings are likely to add several dozen more for any particular user.

The marketplace has also responded to demand for additional integration services such as links to campus library holdings.  The CDL has worked with three major database aggregators to provide such links.  In addition, article-level links to publisher sites is becoming a standard service, although it is going through a shakeout period to reach sustainable methods for providing links customized to each library.

Responses to the RFP for a vendor system to replace the current technology for Melvyl and the CDL-hosted A&I databases have shown relatively little vendor experience in supporting local loading of A&I databases.  The responses also propose methods that include the same level of format conversion and development currently required.

This has led the University Librarians and SLASIAC to endorse the necessity and desirability of moving to external vendor interfaces for CDL-hosted A&I databases.  A CDL-led evaluation process will begin immediately to assess vendor options.  An evaluation steering committee will be appointed with a representative from each campus.  It will be assisted by the Resource Liaisons, who will use the Resource Selection/Evaluation Criteria already established for evaluating external resources.  It will also be able to draw upon efforts already underway by health sciences librarians to make PubMed a viable alternative to MEDLINE/HealthStar.  CDL staff will provide other information for assessing vendors and working with them to ensure that links to Request, holdings and content are possible.  The committee will be responsible for communication and education to the user community during the process.  The committee will be charged to make a recommendation by summer 2001 as to which external vendors to pursue for the nine locally loaded databases and any of the Z39.50 databases which need to transition to new vendors.  Implementation should be complete by summer 2002 and parallel systems will be operated through December 2002 if necessary.  This effort should result in a more complete range of services for all A&I databases, and minimize the distinctions that now exist.

CDLINFO will continue to report on the progress of this assessment.  Readers are also encouraged to consult background information on the libstaff website at [http://www.cdlib.org/libstaff/sharedcoll/a-i-trans/] Items there include:

  • A lengthier description of the background and impetus for the assessment
  • The brief description of the situation and agreement to examine alternatives endorsed by the ULs and SLASIAC
  • The draft charge to an A&I Transition Steering Committee (to be formed)