Library patches its copyright search

The Library of Congress' U.S. Copyright Office has unveiled a Web-based copyright records search system that will serve as a user- friendly "Band-Aid" until its archive is moved to a modern database system.

The new search capability provides an alternative to the Telnet-based system used since 1978. The new search system, which runs a Perl script, actually issues Telnet commands to the older mainframe database automatically, said George Thuronyi, Webmaster of the Copyright Office.

The mainframe system contains the approximately 16 million copyright records created after 1978. The library holds an additional 40 million records stored on cards.

A recent survey showed that most visitors to the Copyright Office's Web site were first-time or occasional users not the types of people who would know or want to know how to execute Telnet commands, Thuronyi said. One participant called it "clunky," he said.

"They made it clear to us that we needed to design something that was Web-based and gave easier access to the database," he said. "These days, people want to click, and [with Telnet], there's no place for people to click."

Although the current database cannot allow text searches, the new system enables visitors to search in three categories: general works (such as books and music); serials (magazines and news.papers); and documents (such as contracts and licenses).

The new system is only an immediate solution, however. "We wanted to have something ready temporarily in order to give people a user-friendly experience," Thuronyi said. "We are now looking at moving all the records to a new platform, and when that comes along, we'll replace all of this."

The library is close to awarding a contract for a requirements analysis to help it determine what information technology it needs in order to transfer the records to a modern database, he said. After the award, the analysis should take about eight months.

"This is a temporary solution. It's a Band-Aid," Thuronyi said. At least now, however, "people do get to click."

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