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Charles Hildreth has stated that the first two generations of online catalogs are deficient tools for effective subject access for the following reasons:

  1. they do not sufficiently assist with the translation of entered query terms into the vocabulary used in the catalogue;
  2. they do not assist the user with alternate formulations of the search statement or execute alternate search methods when the initial approach fails;

  3. they do not lead the searcher from successful free-text search terms (e.g., title words) to the corresponding subject headings or class numbers assigned to a broader range of related materials;

  4. they do not facilitate open-ended, exploratory browsing through following pre-established trails and linkages between records in the database, in order to retrieve materials related to those already found;

  5. they do not rank the citations in large retrieval sets in decreasing order of probable relevance to the user's search criteria;

  6. they do not provide online thesaurus aids useful for subject focusing and topic/treatment discrimination; and

  7. they do not provide sufficient information in the retrieved bibliographic records - such as tables of contents, abstracts and book reviews - to enable the user to judge the usefulness of the documents.[11]

The first two items in this list contribute to search failure, the last three to information overload, and numbers three and four are responsible for the difficulty of finding additional material when some, but an insufficient quantity of material, has been located. These problems exist in virtually all first- and second-generation online catalog systems in use today. This failure to provide adequate access to the topical contents of library collections through the online catalog is a serious and widely recognized problem for all libraries. The Cheshire II system was designed to provide remedies for these problems, and to provide a platform for the ongoing development of full-text and multimedia library information systems.

Next: Acknowledgments Up: Cheshire II: Design and Previous: Evaluation Objectives

Contact: Ray R. Larson