By Ellen Broidy (UCLA), Resource Liaison

After a month of beta testing, ABC-Clio unveiled a new search interface for America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts on January 2, 2006.  While users continue to have the option of doing a basic or an advanced search, the opening screens have a markedly different look and feel and allow for enhanced searching across the databases.

Highlights of the new interface include:

  • A combined simple and advanced search screen that allows the user to control the display of search fields and search results.
  • New pop-up help tips to assist in constructing successful searches.
  • New retrospective coverage from JSTOR journals dating from 1838-2005, resulting in an increase of nearly 78% in full-text links by project’s end.
  • New search history functionality that records search criteria, allowing users to rerun previous searches.
  • New expand and collapse record functionality that streamlines the process of viewing results by displaying and hiding abstracts at the click of a mouse.

Other useful enhancements:

  • A new Export to Citation Manager feature that will allow the user to save results directly to EndNote, ProCite, or Reference Manager (RefWorks will remain an export option).
  • New setup functionality for non-OpenURL resolvers, permitting linking to non-OpenURL catalogs.
  • A User’s Forum that will provide technical and database content support and a place for discussions related to the databases.
  • Full-text links to over 330,000 sources, including ProQuest’s Dissertations and Theses Database.

In general, the changes add value to the databases, particularly in terms of enhanced access.  The new design, however, may require a period of adjustment for frequent users (and librarians).  The box format, while separating out the possible elements of a search argument, makes the screen appear busy and crowded and it’s less than immediately apparent how to back out of some of the features.  There are a number of bells and whistles such as lengthy author, subject and journal indexes but no apparent way to drop into a particular part of the alphabet with the exception of the journal list; however that requires accessing it from the very top of the initial search screen rather than from the search box feature. On balance, these are relatively minor shortcomings. Librarians and users should appreciate the changes to these important databases.