Several libraries wishing to create data bases of their journal literature and in-house documents have asked us to comment on the differences between developing a system on an in-house computer and using the private file facilities of data base services such as BRS, Dialog, and SDC.
Either option has similar software requirements: a Data Base Management System (DBMS) and hundreds of applications programs which create the file formats, thesaurus master files, screen display formats, menus, prompts, report formats and updating procedures, etc. A DBMS is part of the systems software--the set of general purpose programs which enable a computer to function and to control its own operations. A DBMS makes it possible to access information using any one of a number of search keys without having to create different files for each different approach. It also permits the independent modification of the applications software or the data base design without changes in one impacting on the other. Most DBMS also provide data security techniques and procedures. The applications software consists of programs, each containing hundreds of lines of code, that take advantage of the DBMS to create and utilize specific files. The applications software developed by commercial data base services typically represent an investment of more than $500,000 in programming costs.
Each of the major data base services-SDC, Dialog, and BPS-offer confidential private file services which permit an institution to create and access its own data bases using the vendor's mainframe computer installation. Many libraries use these services for mounting online indexes and catalogs. However, this approach has its draw-backs, particularly when heavy usage incurs high telecommunications charges.
In the face of such drawbacks, some libraries with access to local computing resources that are equipped with appropriate DBMS have considered developing their own applications software. Several special libraries which have secured bids for the independent development of software to support a single bibliographic data base have received quotes of $75,000 to $150,000 and more.
It is not generally known, but at least one of the major data base services-BPS-makes its software available for use on a customer's own mainframe and has recently announced a new version of the software to operate on minicomputers and micros. Initially, the new product has been designed for use on the Onyx microcomputer but there are plans to adapt the programs for smaller micros. The software will also be available for minicomputers such as the DEC 1170 and IBM's Series I. The BPS applications software incorporates a DBMS so it is not necessary to purchase that separately. The computer must have the UNIX operating system. The mini/micro software has some new features not available in the mainframe version of the product.
Commonly an organization will begin the development of its files on a data base service machine and move on to purchase the software for use on its own equipment once it has determined that it is satisfied with the software performance and its data base is large enough to warrant the investment. [Contact: Bibliographic Retrieval Services (BPS), 1200 Route 7, Latham, NY 12110 (518) 783-1161.]