Chapter 1 – Introduction


 

According to my Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, agriculture is “the science or art of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation of these products for man’s use and their disposal ( as by marketing)”.   The purpose of this work is to list and evaluate electronic information resources that support the information needs of those working in or studying agriculture.  This is also an attempt to list the major electronic information resources all in one complete guide.

 

It is my hope that the farmer, the researcher, the entrepreneur, the academic community, librarians, and extension professionals will find something of value here.  All types of electronic information sources have been investigated assembled here.  Each chapter also lists tools for  further  exploration.

 

Chapter  Two — Online Databases examines  databases that contain agricultural information.  A database is simply an collection of information organized for rapid search and retrieval.  An online database is one that resides on a remote computer and must be accessed via a telephone line and modem or over a network such as Interment. Part A lists sources of information for locating and evaluating databases.  Part B lists and discusses the vendors that provide database services.  Part C contains the entries for the 13 major agricultural databases.  The databases include bibliographic databases for locating books and journal articles, full text databases, numeric data, and chemical information.  I have evaluated the ones I had access to and have included citations and reviews from other sources when available.    Part D lists databases related to agriculture but not where agriculture is the major focus.

 

CD-ROM or compact disc read only memory products are presented in Chapter Three.  This format of information storage is usually located on a local computer or network.  Many of the products listed here have an equivalent in the online databases.  Each product is available for lease or purchase by the individual user or institution. This chapter is divided in to four sections.  Part A contains sources of information for locating cd-rom products and databases.  Part B is a directory of the major vendors that sell or lease cd-rom products.  Part C contains entries for  30  cd-rom products directly related to agriculture.  These include bibliographic sources, full text, multi media ( video or graphics, sound , and text),  numerical ,  and chemical information.  Part D lists 26 products that contain information related to agriculture.

 

Electronic information is also available on computer diskette or magnetic tape for “local” loading.  Many of the major online vendors offer their products in such formats.  In these cases the data is transferred from the diskette or magnetic tape directly to a local computer.   These may eventually be replaced by cd-rom.  Chapter Four looks at these products.  Part A lists information tools for evaluating and locating electronic information for local loading.  Part B lists the vendors that sell or lease such information.   The United States Government is a large vendor of such products.  Part C lists 39 datafiles.  These include the equivalents to the online databases but also include many time studies as well.

 

One of the most useful areas in electronic agricultural information is the library online catalog.   Online public access catalogs (OPACs) are fast replacing the traditional card catalog.  The online catalog allows the user to stay at home or in his or her office while still exploring the library resources available.   The user  that has access to the Internet can also look at libraries anywhere in the world.  Chapter Five looks at libraries with collections in agriculture that have made their opacs accessible to remote users either by telephone and modem (dial-up) or by way of the Internet  (using telnet or tn3270 software).  The 60 institutions listed here include large universities, public libraries, and two year technical colleges. Many are outside the United States.  Continents represented here include North America,  Europe, Australia, and some island nations.  I tried to locate libraries in South America, Asia, and Africa but could not find any with online catalogs that allowed remote access.  Many of these libraries also allow remote access to online databases, electronic bulletin boards, and internet resources.  I have been able to connect to most of them.

 

Many other electronic services are available to the adventuresome user.  Chapter Six examines many new and unusual information resources that are available via dial-up,  over the internet, or by way of BITNET electronic mail.  Part B examines electronic bulletin boards.  These offer access to electronic mail as well as allowing the user to get computer programs and other types of items.  Many are sponsored by universities and state cooperative extension offices.  Part C  Documents listserv that deal directly with agriculture.  A listserv is an electronic forum or discussion group conducted via electronic mail.  This is where the user can find others with similar interests or where the user can get help with almost any topic.  Each listserv is usually dedicated to a single area of discussion.  People are the most valuable source of information and listservs are where you reach them.  Almanac servers have been set up by various groups to provide for distribution of information such as newsletters and news releases.  They are one-way communications only.  Several also provide access to documents by sending the user a catalog of products and services.  Perhaps the most interesting development has been the introduction of new services available via a new server called gopher.  Gophers in many cases are replacing electronic bulletin boards.  Gophers are entirely menu driven and use what is called client/server technology.  The client is the program that resides on your computer or the one yours is attached to.  The server is on a remote site on the Internet.  The gopher client on your machine  sends a request to the remote server, gets the information, breaks the connection and then displays the information on your screen.  You then make a selection from the screen and the gopher client then retrieves the requested document or directory or file from the remote site and then displays it for you.  There are many gopher servers on the internet that have agricultural information on them such as reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Another parallel development to gopher is the World Wide Web.  At  the time this book was written the WWW did not offer any agricultural resources that  were not already available on gopher.

 

 

While I hope that this book will answer the majority of your questions, please feel free to contact me via electronic mail at drewwe@snymorva.cs.snymor.edu.

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