National Agricultural Library Assessment Report
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Appendix J
 
Some sample quotes from selected questions
 
Question 4: Describe what types of agricultural-related information and reference services you would like to see our nation have by the year 2010.
 
Ever watch Star Trek? That's what I want.
 
AGRICOLA just does not cover everything I need.
 
A comprehensive, consolidated search database of all available materials in the system.
 
A fully integrated linkage to every major university library system worldwide so that resources can be downloaded or sent electronically to where they are needed. Don't try to become only a huge repository, since you will never be able to keep up. Get the best technical talent to constantly find new sources of information and ensure you have the ability to keep up with the technology. Hire contractors or term employees who are top notch, don't hire staff whose skills will quickly become outdated, but who have to be retained, thus hindering your ability to adjust to evolving demand.
 
A help guidebook at the computer workstation on using the databases.
 
A perfect information gathering world from the client’s perspective would be: to find relevant citations on any topic by searching in one mega-database; the citation/abstract links directly to the article or book cited; and, if the book or article has interesting references or footnotes, they link directly to the items cited.
 
If NAL wants to be the public's source of agricultural information, they will have to upgrade AGRICOLA so it is actually usable by the public (abstracts for more entries, sources of documents clearly indicated) and back it up with a service that leads the users more reliably to the indexed information. Even links to a map of depository libraries would help.
 
The facsimiles that I have received have been mostly illegible.
 
…since the inception of the e-mail service, the quality of search results has gone way down. There are way too many unproductive results from fields of study in which I have no interest at all. I have called and tried to get this fixed, but to no avail. It seems like asking a lot, but to be able to have all literature databases under the same searchable roof could speed things up tremendously. Otherwise, when one has an idea but needs to spend half a day to get the answer instead of 30 minutes, the brainstorming is just not the same.
 
I would like to see a directory of what services and informational sites are available.
 
I understand there is some consideration being given to closing the DC reference center at the USDA facility on index. Please don’t do it! Please maintain this oasis of quiet, and real magazines, and real people to answer questions. I go to the reference center several times a month to catch up on magazines like the futurist, ADA journal, Demographics, and Alternative Agriculture.
 
I would like to get clear, clean reproductions of articles printed on both sides of the pages. Faxing articles results in unreadable text, undecipherable graphs & tables, and 2 times the paper (and space) resources.
 
I would like to have a system where you entered a keyword or phrase and all the available research would be accessible or at least information indicating which universities had the research in that area.
 
I would like to have on-line access to all of the major journals in a virtual library, this would also include archived journal issues.
 
Need a PubMed type of bibliographic access for food and agriculture literatures.
 
The challenge for me is not having a single source indexing service to determine where the information is located. Currently, there are gobs of information available, but it is scattered all over in individual repositories, many of which are not linked together, making the accessing the information difficult at best.
 
NAL's web page is thorough and it clearly outlines the services that are available. Like all of the rest of us, they have to come to grips with the fact that people are going online for their information, and they are not reading text that they judge 'peripheral' to the information they are seeking. Information seekers MAY read some text if it pops up when they need to know, but they are not going to search AGRICOLA, then go to the Library's site to find out their document delivery policies. If NAL views AGRICOLA as its window they need to upgrade and integrate the information they want to share through that site.
 
The National Agricultural library should be refurbished so it once again becomes the world preeminent Agriculture library. This entails subscribing to more journals, forging greater cooperation with the land grant universities, having more service personnel to serve the nations science community, and making greater and greater amounts of the holdings and assets (databases) more friendly to remote access. It appears to be under- funded as is everything.
 
There needs to be a website with all types of information of existing books and journals of all major libraries. The resources from these institutions needs to be pooled so anyone can access this by request through local and interlibrary copying of the materials. If the publication is web-based, then there should be access to individual users and paid for by the local institution. There could also be a way to pool the cost so that it is paid for per usage by the local institutions.
 
We need to be able to obtain copies of journal articles on line without requesting them through an email request and then waiting for them to be sent by mail or through Ariel electronic transmission We also need to be able to search current journals online ad be able to read articles and then directly print them.
 
Question 5: Which information services available from any of the other 3 national libraries, or any other library system, do you find most useful for your own needs?
 
I constantly use the DC Reference Center for information demands that I have to meet on short notice. I rarely have the luxury of personally browsing through materials or databases, so rely on professional expertise to help guide me to the most fruitful resources. They also provide support services like calling to expedite my receiving a requested article or book that I need to finish short deadline policy analyses.
 
I have found PubMed to be the most useful, the other sites have been quite slow and my searches seem to pull up a lot of extra non-useful information that it takes too much time to sort through to make it worth the chance of coming across something useful.
 
If NAL wants to provide national agricultural information services by 2010, certainly they need to go to 'the people' to find out what information they are seeking. Then NAL must create or compile content, not just indexing. The categories and specific information sought by 'the public' can be easily identified, at least generally--track questions and information seeking behavior through cooperation with USAIN and IIALD librarians. I find our users, faculty and students included in there with the general public, increasingly less willing to wade through pieces of the puzzle. They want 'packages:' mosquito eradication in wetlands or farm ponds, how to 'reforest' my backyard, find a recipe my grandmother used during the depression, to name just a day's 'catch.' Can NAL become a provider of information packages related to agriculture instead of 'just' indexing? Can it become a gateway to information being churned out by its own as well as other agencies? Is it realistic to expect them to do so? I'm not sure, but you asked!
 
… retrospective indexing is certainly becoming more important, as folks are less willing to work hard to find things that aren't in a computer. NAL has done some work in this area in the past, and sometimes older cites are found in AGRICOLA. If more older USDA publications could be made available through indexing or full text, that would be a great service for librarians who are becoming themselves less adept (as the old guard disappears) in seeking and finding information that isn't online.
 
Quick response to requests for information and assistance. Innovative approaches to providing service to research and practical inquiries. Attempts to include regional and local information in resources.
 
The equivalent of the ERIC document collection would be nice for “gray literature,” but I don’t see that happening.
 
The obvious comparison is to ERIC, but I'm not sure that can be created retrospectively. Certainly ERIC has been slightly more responsive to the shifting information paradigm, but I don't think they are a current model. The NLM provides an incomparable database. Maybe that can't be created retrospectively either, but NAL could "go forward" from 2000 and that would be a good contribution. Impeccable indexing and online links to government publications (the modern equivalent of ERIC's microfiche)--what more could we ask?

Question 9: What do you consider the most important or critical service currently provided by NAL?
 
NAL should take a lead in providing agricultural information to the public, and should employ the latest search and linking technology. NAL can be the starting point to other USDA sites which have publications.
DC Reference Center offers a multitude of concrete and tangible-as well as intangible- services to its patrons that simply are not practical, cost-effective, or timely to attempt to provide online as a substitute option. If cost of the DC Reference Center is an issue, then please investigate the possibility of "green booking" those expenses, on a pro rata basis, to USDA's program agencies and staff offices, and KEEP the DC Reference Center!
 
Document delivery of materials listed in AGRICOLA that are not available anywhere else but NAL.
 
Sending copies of papers in older journals and sending older reference books… Service is great, and I am more than satisfied. They have never failed me, even when I have requested the most obscure journals.

 
Question 10: What new or improved service would you like NAL to provide in the future?
 
AGRICOLA database needs to be improved. If abstracts for the older literature could be provided it would be great. Also, the web-based AGRICOLA needs to be improved. When I used it, there was no way to download the information into a database manager like Procite or Reference Manager and then manipulate it to get it set to output selected articles into a text file, use WordPerfect to format the format that the document delivery system can take and email the request as an attachment.
 
If NAL had more funding to improve existing services, I think they should pay more attention to AGRICOLA. A comprehensive, integrated database available to users worldwide as the web version is now, could be an important source of information to many citizens, including farmers, foresters, [etc]… If this database also linked outward to U.S. government publications and web-based Extension and Experiment Station publications it would be a great public service as well as an important example for distribution of information. Even if AGRICOLA linked ONLY to those publications of USDA, it would be a wonderful asset to information seekers.
 
NAL needs to provide training (online or in person) to scientists of all the services that they already offer, especially to government employees. Possible locations of these training sessions could be RL meetings, and new scientist orientation. Periodic electronic newsletter broadcast to ARS research scientists highlighting the services that NAL does provide.

 
QUOTES FROM SURVEY RESPONDENTS
 
What do people want from an information system in the year 2010:
 
A fully integrated linkage to every major university library system worldwide so that resources can be downloaded or sent electronically to where they are needed.
 
A perfect information gathering world from the client’s perspective would be: to find relevant citations on any topic by searching in one mega- database; the citation/abstract links directly to the article or book cited; and, if the book or article has interesting references or footnotes, they link directly to the items cited.
 
I would like to have on-line access to all of the major journals in a virtual library, this would also include archived journal issues.
 
If NAL wants to provide national agricultural information services by 2010, certainly they need to go to 'the people' to find out what information they are seeking. Then NAL must create or compile content, not just indexing. The categories and specific information sought by 'the public' can be easily identified, at least generally--track questions and information seeking behavior through cooperation with USAIN and IAALD librarians. I find our users increasingly less willing to wade through pieces of the puzzle. They want 'packages: ' mosquito eradication in wetlands or farm ponds…' Can NAL become a provider of information packages related to agriculture instead of 'just' indexing? Can it become a gateway to information being churned out by its own as well as other agencies? Is it realistic to expect them to do so? I'm not sure, but you asked!
 
The National Agricultural library should be refurbished so it once again becomes the world preeminent Agriculture library. This entails subscribing to more journals, forging greater cooperation with the land grant universities, having more service personnel to serve the nations science community, and making greater and greater amounts of the holdings and assets (databases) more friendly to remote access. It appears to be under- funded as is everything.
 
Ever watch Star Trek? That's what I want.

 

 
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Last Updated August 13, 2002