Census paves electronic paths

Take a test drive of the Census Bureau's new Electronic Subscription Service at http://www.census.gov/prod/www. Census' new service - free for the next few months - may pave the way for the Internet eventually to eclipse printed paper as Census' primary means for disseminating data to the public. Already, Census publishes some reports electronically without making them available in paper form.

Census' Electronic Subscription Service offers a sample of the Official Published Statistics for users to view. Eventually, Census plans to offer three levels of subscription service, ranging from a simple service of released reports in digital form to a more sophisticated service where users can manipulate data on-line. In the future, Census will charge a fee. Federal depository libraries will receive the service for free.

As the Census Bureau and just about every other organization with data to disseminate moves to the Internet, plumbing for information in a sea of data gets more and more complicated. For a look at an influential project that is helping to build the future of on-line searching, tap into Carnegie Mellon University's Informedia at http://www.informedia.cs.cmu.edu.

Informedia is a digital libraries research project funded by the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA. Developers envision it as a multimedia digital library holding digital video, audio, text and images, searchable to users by voice commands. Initially, the project will utilize a speech recognizer to "automatically transcribe video soundtracks" and then store the information as text.

Public-school kids in the Pittsburgh area are in for a treat: Test beds of the system will go into Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh public schools. To search the Informedia, students will be able to speak to the system. A student could ask the system verbally for all images and information relating to artificial intelligence and satellites, for example.

Coming Down From Blue Sky

After examining the Informedia home page, go for a blast of reality at http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/gw/libraries.html#catalogs.

Here, at the University of Iowa Libraries' Web page, you'll find links to today's "digital" public and university libraries.

The Web site brings together a wide variety of on-line library catalogs, including the Smithsonian Institution's Research Information System and a gopher-based directory of library catalogs around the world.

The site not only connects users to on-line library catalogs but also to on-line libraries.

Don't expect much from these libraries; searching through these services isn't like casually browsing through stacks of books. Difficult to use and often closed to non-affiliated users, these on-line libraries nevertheless represent first steps toward putting libraries on-line.

To take a look at how state information resource management officials are networking, connect to the Web site of the National Association of State Information Resource Executives (NASIRE), at http://www.state.ky.us:80/nasire/NASIREmain.html.

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