AUSTIN, TEXAS, September 11, 1997 - Nichols Advanced Technologies announces the release of Athena 97, the latest release of its award-winning Athena library automation system.
The major enhancement to Athena 97 is in searching. Athena 97 now offers three searching options: a single-term search, a more advanced Boolean search, and Visual Search. The revolutionary Visual Search allows patrons to perform more functions than ever before - simply by clicking on icons. Patrons can use it to search the library, view bibliographies a librarian or teacher has created, launch applications, access CD-ROM databases, and more. And because each icon can be customized, Visual Search can become the patron station's desktop. From this desktop, patrons can not only begin their research, but they can complete their projects.
The patron station desktop can display numerous icons. For example, one icon may be the patron's gateway to the library's collections. Another icon may include a bibliography of items a librarian recommends or of new arrivals to the library. Several others may offer access to CD-ROM databases the library has networked. Other icons may launch applications such as a word processor or a database spreadsheet program.
If the patron clicks on an icon that begins a search of the library, a subsequent screen of icons appears, offering options that narrow the search. For example, icons representing Dewey or LC classifications may appear. If a patron then clicks on the icon representing "Arts," for example, a subsequent screen of icons representing various types of arts appears. When the patron has clicked through the hierarchy of icons and sufficiently narrowed the search, a list of results appears.
Once the patron has searched the library, the patron can begin searching CD-ROM databases the library has networked or installed locally, such as those published by UMI, SIRS, Ebsco, or Facts On File - simply by clicking on the appropriate icon.
After exhausting all resources, the patron can organize and synthesize notes and information with the use of applications he can open with a click of a button. Visual Search can be customized to launch any application such as a word processor like Microsoft Word or a database spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel - or even art programs like Corel Draw or Adobe Photoshop. The patron can then use these programs to complete his project.
"The ability of Athena 97 with Visual Search to give patrons greater access to more resources is extremely important. But just as important is its ability to provide libraries of all types an easy way to organize information," said D. Bruce Butler, President of Nichols Advanced Technologies.
As an example, Butler cited a recent meeting the company had with a large film special effects company in Los Angeles. The company was interested in Athena because Visual Search gave them an easy way to catalog special effects like smoke and explosions. "If a patron clicked on a generic 'Smoke' icon," Butler said, "the company could customize a screen to present a subsequent group of better defined smoke, such as smoke from a smokestack and smoke from a burning building."
As unlikely as this application might be to most libraries, the idea of viewing topics hierarchically and through bibliographies is very appealing. "Imagine," said Butler, "a school having an icon that says 'Teachers'. If a student clicks on it, a screen of icons, each representing a different teacher, appears. If a student clicks on one, a list of items recommended by that particular teacher appears. Visual Search gives libraries this tool, as well as greater access to more resources."
Athena 97 is now being shipped with Visual Search. It comes with over 100 Visual Search buttons linked to searches that libraries will find useful, and library staff can easily configure new buttons.
Visual Search is a very interesting tool to have in the library," according to Phil Stohrer, librarian at West Middle School in Portage, Michigan, who tested a pre-release version of Athena 97. "The ability to pre-design searches is such a time saver. I had a class come in to the library looking for Newbery books, and instead of directing 30 individual students on where to find them, I configured an icon in Visual Search. It made their time in the library much more beneficial for them and for myself."
Besides Visual Search, Athena 97 includes hundreds of other enhancements including extended phrase searching, enhanced bibliography generation, better reporting and tracking features, improved "See" and "See Also" reference capabilities, and the ability to make global changes to numerous MARC records in a single operation.
Athena is the best-selling library automation system for Windows and is rated #1 by the American Library Association's Library Technology Reports (L.T.R.). The L.T.R. report rated 36 library automation systems in twelve categories and awarded Athena the highest ratings in 10 of the 12 categories considered and the highest ratings overall. Athena provides circulation, searching, cataloging, Internet solution options, cross-platform capabilities (Windows, Macintosh and DOS), and related functions for large and small public, academic, corporate, and school libraries and school districts.
Austin, Texas-based Nichols Advanced Technologies, which has additional offices in La Crosse, Wisconsin and Edmonton, Alberta, provides powerful, easy-to-use library solutions for all major microcomputer systems. Founded in 1983, Nichols delivers library automation systems, retrospective conversion services, barcode readers, and automation supplies.