Health care libraries discover art of electronic data management in corporate intranets

Woburn 22 January 1999 Today, competitive intelligence and news dissemination have been elevated to special sciences. Corporate libraries host a tremendous wealth of information resources, which can turn their role into an important strategic asset. Intranet technology seems to function as a major key to accurate data retrieval and management. Both Mallinckrodt, Inc. and The American Heart Association, two prominent health care organizations, have found very useful support in the DB/Text WebPublisher software, as designed by Inmagic, Inc. The flexible library automation tool not only provides both the external user and the institutions' employees with a prompt access to the requested data but also integrates advanced applications, which move way beyond the use of the simple library catalogue.

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Today, competitive intelligence and news dissemination have been elevated to special sciences. Corporate libraries host a tremendous wealth of information resources, which can turn their role into an important strategic asset. Intranet technology seems to function as a major key to accurate data retrieval and management. Both Mallinckrodt, Inc. and The American Heart Association, two prominent health care organizations, have found very useful support in the DB/Text WebPublisher software, as designed by Inmagic, Inc. The flexible library automation tool not only provides both the external user and the institutions' employees with a prompt access to the requested data but also integrates advanced applications, which move way beyond the use of the simple library catalogue.

In 1924, The American Heart Association (AHA) was founded as a non-profit health care organization in order to reduce the incidence of death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Based in Dallas, the AHA hosts nearly 500 employees at its National Center and its affiliates in the United States and Puerto Rico. Two full-time librarians are working in the intranet-based library at the AHA National Center. Beyond automating library services, the Inmagic software is applied in an interesting help-desk capacity. As the managing librarian, Vanessa Perez is able to quickly handle all incoming information requests about recent developments in health care research and prevention methods, both from the internal staff or the public.

The AHA librarians manage a circulating collection of approximately 2000 titles, a reference collection of 450 volumes and almost 340 journal titles. In addition, over one hundred Web pages of information on the AHA's intranet site make the library's DB/TextWorks databases available to all AHA staff throughout the country. The majority of the data requests relate to the five journals, published by AHA. The Inmagic software enables the librarian to quickly query the news release database by means of a key word and retrieve all specific details about the journal's name, the article's authors and the age number. In order to present the information as more identifiable for the user the librarian can easily format the data by changing the descriptor field to be a key word, for instance.

The Mallinckrodt Corporation already was established in 1867 as a provider of medical products and pharmaceuticals. Currently, the multi-billion dollar company, headquartered in Hazelwood, Missouri, employs 12,000 people all over the world. One of the three libraries supporting Mallinckrodt's activities constitutes the Information Resource Center (IRC), which has been founded in 1972 and at present is managed by Grace Brill. The IRC corporate library hosts five people, who are reporting to Mallinckrodt's Corporate Information Services function. In 1995, Grace Brill took part in a team charged with the planning and implementation of the corporate intranet. One of the very first applications consisted of the IRC resource catalogue in order to make all the acquired data available to the employees.

The second area in which the librarian invests a lot of time is building and managing the competitive files database. The library staff has to read a wide range of relevant industry news publications, gleaning relevant product and market information, which is supplemented afterwards with data from online searches, through the use of news alerting mechanisms. This results in an intelligence news report which is e-mailed to the Mallinckrodt staff around the world. This enables the employees to address their requests on a better informed basis to the library. If an online search of fee-requiring databases has to be conducted, the more specific the query, the less the costs will be and the higher the quality of the results.

Inmagic's DB/Text WebPublisher software is lying at the base of both these successful corporate intranet stories. All information intended to put on an intranet or Web site is organized within the framework of a textbase instead of static HyperText Markup Language (HTML) documents. Inmagic company has combined in this innovative Web publishing technology the power and accuracy of a database system while at the same time offering the speed and flexibility of a text retrieval programme. The software runs on a Windows NT platform and features a field-based search engine for efficient search queries through hundreds of thousands of records. This system no longer involves any hyperlinks to large amounts of data nor requires endless trial-and-error searching, all thanks to the unique "word wheel" index browser.


Leslie Versweyveld

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