Improving Services

NAL Adds Current
Indexing Citations

In 1994, NAL's Indexing Branch began using the ISIS (Integrated System for Information Services) Journal Indexing Subsystem to input current indexing records. ISIS is NAL's online union catalog. Using ISIS in this capacity enables searchers of the ISIS system to retrieve AGRICOLA journal citations 2-6 weeks earlier than previously possible. It will also result in a cost savings to NAL because two processing systems are no longer needed. This capability is the result of work in development and testing by the library software vender, VTLS, Inc., and NAL staff.

At NAL, indexing records are created for individual journal articles or book chapters and are associated with the host publication through a brief description.

Because of the large number of indexing records created by NAL's Indexing Branch, NAL wanted a system that would expedite the input of these records. Two features of the Journal Indexing Subsystem do this. The need to rekey data has been minimized by mapping appropriate elements from the host publication record in the Cataloging Subsystem to the indexing record being created in the Journal Indexing Subsystem. Once a citation for an article from a specific journal issue is created, elements from this record can be carried over from one indexing record to another.

Because of the changing nature of controlled vocabulary and the relatively static nature of older records on the AGRICOLA database, NAL also needed a feature that would let patrons search multiple versions of thesaurus terms as subject headings, while providing authority control based on only the latest version. This authority control is performed through online verification of the descriptors assigned to the indexing record. During input, the system allows the indexer to proceed only if the term entered is valid. The use of multiple versions of thesaurus terms is a component of the Journal Indexing Subsystem.

The final indexing-specific feature is the ability to insert scanned author abstracts into indexing citations. From 1988 to 1990, NAL staff conducted studies on various methods of scanning and found that scanning and optical character recognition technologies were two and one-half times faster than the manual keying of abstracts. This increased rate includes the time required to correct errors resulting from the incorrect recognition of characters by the conversion program. In 1991, the use of scanning was incorporated, and the number of scanned abstracts added to AGRICOLA has steadily increased.

ISIS contains over 334,000 indexing records and 534,000 cataloging records. In addition to NAL citations, the database includes machine-readable citations from the National Arboretum and USDA's Agricultural Research Service regional research center libraries.

Foodborne Illness

Information on preventing foodborne illness became available from a new information service set up at NAL in 1994. Part of NAL's Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC), the new service, called the Foodborne Illness Education Information Center, is in business for educators, trainers, and organizations developing education and training materials for food workers and consumers. The center is a joint program of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). USDA and FDA established the center as part of a national campaign to reduce the risk of foodborne illness and to increase knowledge of food-related risks at all stages of food handling and preparation, from producers to consumers.

The center's primary function is the development and maintenance of an educational database. The database is a compilation of consumer and food worker education materials developed by universities, private companies, and government agencies. Materials include computer software, educational research, audiovisuals, posters, and games and teaching guides for elementary and secondary school curricula. Also included are training materials for managers and workers at retail food markets and food service institutions.

Reports of the database are free and available by modem via the Internet from the FNIC gopher, NAL's electronic bulletin board ALF, and PENpages International Food and Nutrition Database (IFAN). Floppy disk copies of the database are available from the center.

YDIC Establishes

An Internet information service on violence and youth at risk was established at NAL's Youth Development Information Center (YDIC). Called PAVNET (Partnerships Against Violence Network), the service is a project of the National Institute of Justice, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and NAL. The service is a "virtual library" of information from throughout the Federal Government on violence in the United States and youth at risk.

PAVNET is set up primarily to serve State and local community officials who are struggling to deal with the problems of violence in their communities and how it affects young people. PAVNET provides specific information about antiviolence programs, technical assistance on setting up programs, and funding sources available at the Federal, State, and local levels. It is a UNIX-based communications system programmed with ALMANAC and Gopher software. ALMANAC software (developed by Oregon State University under a grant from the Kellogg Foundation) allows full-text documents to be delivered through e-mail technology. The Gopher software allows access to PAVNET over the Internet.

NAL's Youth Development Information Center is the manager of PAVNET, with YDIC selecting and upgrading materials on the system and providing the physical location. USDA's Extension Service (now Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service) provides technical guidance and support for the online system and information on USDA's "Youth at Risk" initiative. The National Institute of Justice provides financial support and information management leadership and coordination.

Provides Youth

A computer network to assist youth counselors and other youth development professionals is now available from NAL on the Internet. The network, called CYFERNET (Child, Youth, and Family Education and Research Network), is maintained by NAL's Youth Development Information Center (YDIC) and USDA's Extension Service (now Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service).

CYFERNET offers curricula for youth development programs and information on materials that can be used to support those programs. This includes descriptions of Federal programs that deal with child, youth, and family issues; a list of all "Youth at Risk" sites; texts of 3 years of seminars dealing with problems of the family; youth statistics; lists of youth and family information centers and clearinghouses; and bibliographies of literature on youth-related issues. A curriculum review process, conducted over the Internet using 4-H professionals, helps to manage the quality and relevancy of the programs offered through CYFERNET.

YDIC is expanding CYFERNET services. For example, YDIC is helping to establish "networks of action" within the child, youth, and family development community of the land-grant university system. These are networks of four or more universities collaborating through the Internet on specific issues. CYFERNET is also used as an electronic clearinghouse for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Regional Alcohol and Drug Awareness (RADAR) network. Links between CYFERNET and RADAR improve access to substance abuse resources needed by State programs and county extension agents.

NAL Improves
Service to USDA

Throughout the year, NAL and the Agricultural Research Service continued to cooperate to improve information services to USDA researchers. NAL and the University of California at Davis (Shields Library) completed a remote-user evaluation study. The resulting report focuses on USDA researchers' use of NAL, USDA field libraries, and cooperating land-grant university libraries. It includes strategies to improve delivery of information services to USDA scientists.

Food Labeling
Education Center

Established as part of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, the FDA/USDA Food Labeling Education Information Center is in full swing at NAL. The center is a cooperative effort between NAL's Food and Nutrition Information Center, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the Food and Drug Administration.

A cornerstone of the center's activities is a database of new food labeling education activities and materials developed by the private and public sectors. Center staff provided technical assistance nationwide to those developing materials to assist the consumer in understanding and using the new food labels.

Continues To Grow

There are now well over 3 million records in NAL's AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) bibliographic database. This milestone was reached in the summer of 1993. AGRICOLA is the backbone of the NAL collection and consists of records for literature citations of journal articles, monographs, theses, patents, software, audiovisual materials, serials, and technical reports relating to all aspects of agriculture. It is a catalog and index to the NAL collections.

Since 1984, AGRICOLA has been expanded to include materials collected and input by cooperating institutions. The database has been available on magnetic tape since 1970. Tapes are updated monthly. Coverage of AGRICOLA is international in scope, with records representing materials in more than 65 different languages from more than 160 different countries. About 65 percent of the records are for English-language documents.

NAL Conducts
Animal Welfare

NAL's Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) continued to offer a unique training course on meeting the information needs of those using animals in research, teaching, and testing. The 2-day workshop includes an overview of the Animal Welfare Act; a review of the alternatives concept; an introduction to NAL, AWIC, and other information organizations; instruction on the use of information databases; and online searching exercises.

Last year, AWIC conducted a total of eight workshops reaching 170 professionals. The workshops were held at NAL, two pharmaceutical companies, an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regional conference, Georgetown University, and a National Institutes of Health training workshop.

Workshop participants included representatives from the Office of Animal Care and Use for the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Humane Society of the United States, and the office of the National Animal Care Coordinator for the Agricultural Research Service.

ILB Speeds

There have been important changes in NAL's Interlibrary Borrowing Section (ILB). ILB is responsible for obtaining materials for USDA researchers that are not available from the NAL collection. Traditionally, the borrowing process had been time-consuming, with ILB transmitting requests to other libraries and then waiting to receive the material via regular mail.

NAL has reduced the time required to obtain and deliver documents by using private companies that specialize in rapid document delivery. Agreements with these companies permit on-line ordering of journal articles and delivery of the articles via telefacsimile, usually within 24 hours.

Agreements were negotiated with certain publishers to scan and retain articles in electronic format. These agreements permit delivery of materials in about 6 hours. NAL has also worked out an arrangement that allows ILB to order documents and have them faxed directly to the patron.

Another step that has improved services is the purchase of an electronic document transmission and receipt work station. It consists of a scanner, a high-quality laser printer and a DOS-based microcomputer. The system allows the operator to scan documents and transmit them via the Internet to other sites.

NAL Collects
Materials on New
Food Guide

The USDA's Human Nutrition Information Service, which merged with ARS in 1994, and NAL's Food and Nutrition Information Center signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the agencies to build a database of educational materials on USDA's new Food Guide Pyramid. USDA developed the Food Guide Pyramid to provide the American public with basic information on good nutrition and healthful diets. All materials acquired under this agreement become part of the NAL collection, and appropriate items are listed on AGRICOLA.

NAL Increases
Coverage of Plant

In support of USDA's Plant Genome Research Program, NAL's Indexing Branch increased coverage of plant genetics literature in AGRICOLA. Since the initiation of the Plant Genome Research Program in 1990, AGRICOLA has accumulated over 25,000 citations related to molecular genetics. This is an increase of 240 percent in the number of citations added during the year over the number added in 1990. Genetics and breeding citations that have full abstracts increased from just 20 percent in 1990 to over 50 percent in 1994.

Over 5,000 citations in AGRICOLA are identified as containing molecular sequence data. Efforts continue to enhance access to plant genetics information in AGRICOLA by improving NAL's indexing vocabulary in this area.

NAL Conducts
Food Irradiation

NAL'S Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) is conducting a study on providing international access to food irradiation materials. The library has converted an NAL CD-ROM containing thousands of pages of unpublished food irradiation research materials to another software package, improving its usefulness.

FNIC also contacted a food irradiation expert to evaluate thousands of documents on food irradiation research conducted by the Army in the 1950's and 60's. The materials are being scanned for a series of CD-ROMs.

Germany, France, and other countries have indicated an interest in providing documents to an international center for food irradiation information to be located at NAL. NAL is seeking funding for this. The U.N.'s International Consultative Group for Food Irradiation and USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service strongly support this project.

NAL Adds
Research Library
on CD-ROM to

NAL added to its collection a complete international agricultural library on CD produced by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the World Bank. The 17-disc Compact International Agricultural Research Library: Basic Retrospective Set 1962-1986 contains full-text documents covering six agricultural areas: including productivity, management of natural resources, improving the policy environment, strengthening agricultural research, germplasm conservation, and building linkages between developing countries and other elements of the global agricultural system.

NAL staff provided technical assistance during the early development of the library-on-discs and evaluated the database during the final trial period.

The discs contain 1,350 titles comprising more that 190,000 pages of research materials. In addition, there are over 50,000 images and graphics. Documents in 10 languages are included, contributed by 20 CGIAR and associated agricultural research centers.

The World Bank is marketing the library worldwide for $1,950 plus shipping and handling.

Global Change
Program Tests

A sample database of global change information became available at NAL and over the Internet in 1994. A pilot project of the Global Change Data and Information System, the database is an effort by the U.S. Global Change Research Program to make global change data and information more accessible. Project managers are also seeking to show that traditional database searching methods can be enhanced by using "natural language with a semantic network of word meanings and relationships" that is commercially available. NAL is coordinating the project.

The database uses off-the-shelf client-server software to improve access to global change information from the Federal Government, academia, and the international community. The pilot system lets users query data and information using common language techniques. These techniques allow quick and easy access to worldwide information on all aspects of global climate change.

The sample database contains over 10,000 documents related to global change including international treaties, protocols, and agreements; medical studies; and public opinion surveys related to environmental issues.

Other organizations participating with NAL in the pilot project are Argonne Laboratories, Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Technical Information Service, the Defense Technical Information Center, Oak Ridge Laboratories of the Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Library of Congress, Roper Public Opinion Poll, the University of Maryland, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A related project called "Assisted Search for Knowledge" will develop a system to allow students, researchers, policymakers, and the public to navigate easily through the vast amount of global change data and information to get the information they need.

ASK will let users browse through data and documents, search files, selectively review and order data and documents, use intelligent hypertext to find related information, construct complex queries, or state questions in simple English.

NAL Receives Rare
Set of Plant Name
Index Cards

A complete set of rare Gray Herbarium index cards, which helps botanists keep track of the scientific names of thousands of plants, was donated to NAL in 1994. The set was donated by a scientist with the Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory of USDA's Plant Sciences Institute and is an invaluable addition to the NAL collection.

Keeping track of thousands of plant names has always been a problem for botanists. Charles Darwin became so frustrated with the difficulties of communicating with fellow scientists around the world because of a lack of common reference sources for plant names that he personally endowed the famous Index Kewensis. As serious study of plants in the western world gained momentum in the last half of the 19th century, a similar need was felt by botanists in the New World. This led to the creation of the Gray Herbarium Card Index (Gray Cards) in 1891, which included literature dating back to 1886. The Gray Cards were developed to be used in conjunction with the Index Kewensis.

The Gray Cards are an index of all the botanical names, of species rank and below, of phanerogams and vascular cryptogams native to the new world. Bibliographic information is included also. At present there are more than 300,000 cards. The Gray Cards are the only index that includes subspecies, varietal, and form names of botanical species.

NAL Expands
Electronic Access
to Food and

NAL's Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) began a series of electronic outreach projects in 1993 and 1994. The first was the creation of a special subboard, FOOD, on ALF (Agricultural Library Forum), NAL's electronic bulletin board. Most of FNIC's publications are available for downloading from ALF, and a menu of short bulletins offers and summarizes FNIC services. ALF users may leave reference requests for FNIC staff as well.

FNIC information specialists also began receiving and responding to reference requests via electronic mail. Food and nutrition questions received in FNIC's electronic mailbox are handled in the same way as telephone and written requests. Some FNIC publications may be sent to patrons by electronic mail.

A major project to build a FNIC gopher came to fruition. This Internet access point offers many FNIC publications, including the full reports of five special databases maintained at FNIC: Food Guide Pyramid Database; Microcomputer Software and Multimedia Programs Database; Educational Materials Developed by Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children Database; Foodborne Illness Educational Materials Database; and National Exchange for Food Labeling Education Database. These reports also are available from ALF, via electronic mail, and on diskette. FNIC's gopher is linked to NAL's gopher and other gopher sites nationwide.

To help patrons discover the wealth of food and nutrition-related information available electronically, FNIC published "Selected Electronic Sources of Food and Nutrition Information." This 70-page how-to guide for electronic bulletin boards, free online databases, and Internet sources also included a listing of Internet service providers and a bibliography of electronic communication references.

Through special arrangement with The Pennsylvania State University, full text of FNIC publications also became available from the International Food and Nutrition Database (IFAN). IFAN offers free access over the Internet.