The National Agriculture Library (NAL) has provided a significant public resource for agricultural information by developing public access AGRICOLA, a Web-accessible version of the NAL database describing books, journal articles, and materials in a range of other formats. Web-accessible AGRICOLA is broken into two segments. The Online Public Access Catalog covers books, audiovisual materials and serial holdings from the Library's very comprehensive agriculture collections. The Journal Article Citation Index is not a citation index in the usual sense but rather a database of citations to journal articles, books chapters, and similar materials. Each segments can be searched by browsing a list of terms, by keyword or field-limited searching, or by using a quasi command-based advanced mode. The interface has a stripped down to basics look and the help offered is succinct, although somewhat superficial. The advanced mode in particular could use further explanation. Also, the basic keyword search (which is really a fielded search) only supports the combination of two search terms. The advanced search supports a maximum of six terms. Despite these limitations, the rather basic functionality is effective and many users may find it more than adequate for their needs.
AGRICOLA is a significant compilation of the agricultural literature, particularly that of North America. As such it is of interest to a wide range of potential users from farmers to policy makers. NAL's Web-based version makes this tool available to a much wider range of citizens than have had access in the past. While commercial systems may offer more effective or more efficient retrieval, the Web-based NAL form of AGRICOLA is fairly easy to use and is an effective way for casual users or serious researchers to identify published sources of agricultural information.
Karla L. Hahn
Collection Management Coordinator
University of Maryland Libraries