Library without Walls


What's the best way to synthesize nitrobenzene? Which granting agencies are likely to support research in number theory? Which American companies produce gold-plated wave guides for a new device that involves microwaves?

Thanks to a major expansion of library-user services, researchers and staff of the Weizmann Institute can now conveniently find answers to these questions -- and many others -- without leaving their offices. Over the past year, notes Chief Librarian Ms. Ilana Pollack, several databases acquired by the Institute Library System have been hooked via optical readers and computer servers into the Institute's communications networks, enabling a wealth of library-catalogue, bibliographical, scientific and general information to be accessed by PC and Macintosh computers throughout the campus. While using or borrowing books, as well as consulting journals, will still require library visits, much preparatory and bibliographic work can now be done from a researcher's own laboratory or office.

Access to up-to-date scientific information is of particular importance to scientists and students in a small country like Israel, which is geographically isolated from the major centers of research. Those at the Institute now enjoy computer access to the book and periodical catalogs of all of Israel's major university libraries; the MEDLINE medical literature database; Current Contents in chemistry, physics and the life sciences, which is updated every week to provide the most recent literature citations and abstracts; and other databases that provide information about chemical technology, syntheses, hazardous materials and environmental pollution. Just two of the more general computer-accessible resources include the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers and GRANTS, information about thousands of agencies that support scientific research. Many additional databases stored in computers abroad are also available through the library's Information Retrieval Unit, headed by Ms. Miriam Farber.

This library-without-walls program is one aspect of a major library expansion and modernization master plan. It has already included the building of the Frankel Mathematics Library, inaugurated in 1989; the Rochlin Science Teaching Library, opened in 1990; and the innovative Goldschleger Library of Life Sciences, dedicated in 1992. Plans have been drawn up for a new physics library, a remodeled Wix Central Library, and a future expanded chemistry library, as well.

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