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Internet Reviews

Sara Amato, editor

American Directory Assistance. Access: http://www. abii. com/

American Directory Assistance is one of the free services offered at the American Business Information (ABI) Web site, a publicly- held company in business for 25 years that develops products to service the business and marketing communities. They produce a series of directories on CD-ROM for both personal and business use. Their databases are compiled from many sources including 5,200 Yellow Pages and Business White Pages; annual reports; SEC information; federal, state, and municipal government data, as well as business magazines and newsletters. With regard to currency and accuracy, they report that each business listing is verified with 16 million phone calls a year from staff who update and verify information on a continuous, real-time basis.

ABI’s free directories are designed for students, businesses, public users, and potential buyers of their products to do everything from direct mail advertising, telemarketing, planning a vacation, or tracking down people who owe you money. Academic users will find this tool useful for basic quick directory assistance. You must first select either the “business” or “people” directory to conduct your search. The people, or residential, directory assistance is actually a database product of “Database America Companies”—a marketing information company that merged with ABI in 1996. The people directory is simple and direct, featuring a search form screen where you can enter either a name or a number and pull up the full name, address, and phone number. It automatically truncates a name and will search the entire country or you can limit the search by state and city. The reverse directory feature is useful and not available on many other directory sites.

The free American Directory service for finding businesses is clunky and cumbersome for doing any real business marketing type of research, although you can search by industry type and limit by a geographic area, be it a city, state, or zip code and get a listing of business addresses and phone numbers. However, in order to perform this type of subject search, you must select the link to “yellow pages” or “sales leads and mailing lists” at the bottom of the screen. This latter link offers a more complex search engine and the ability to search by SIC code, major industry group, or yellow page headings and then limit by city, state, zip code, or Metropolitan Area (MSA). This would permit one to locate, say, all the Web design companies in your town or zip code area to either hire a designer or apply for a job. This type of search takes many steps, but you do finally get a results list.

For a charge of $3.00 they will let you then download a company profile of any of the business you select. A search for Web design businesses in the New York city area netted 91 hits and a charge of $45.50 to download the whole list. A similar search of another directory Web site, Big Yellow, (http://wwwl.bigyellow.com/) netted 14 hits, all free with direct links to each company’s Web page. When doing a simple, straightforward search for the number and address of a particular company, however, you are required to enter both the name of the company and the state—which is fine if you know where the company is located. If not, you are out of luck. There other directory sites that do offer this useful feature, including Switchboard (reviewed next).— Lucinda R. Zoe, Baruch College; lrzbb@cunyvm. cuny.edu

Sara Amato is automated systems librarian at Central Washington University;samato@tahoma. cwu. edu

Switchboard. Access: http://www. switchboarcl.com/

Switchboard provides a simpler interface and a few more alternative features. This free residential and business directory service has been on the Web since 1996, offering access to databases provided by the ABI company noted earlier. This site does offers a number of additional features, such as the ability to search for Web sites and e-mail addresses, apply for a free e-mail account, and send flowers or a card to anyone you choose with a few clicks of the mouse and a valid VISA card. However, a number of searches for e-mail addresses came up with zero hits, so this part of the service isn’t comprehensive by any means. The business directory does allow for searching by company name without having to enter a state, which is useful, and it does permit searches by major predefined category that can then be limited by geographic area. However, it isn’t as sophisticated as the American Business Directory’s homesite as far as breakdown by zip codes, MSA, or SIC codes.

Switchboard offers a single site for finding friends, family, and colleagues nationwide on the Internet while protecting their privacy. Regarding privacy, they allow users to delete their entry if they want and they do not allow for reverse look-ups. Another unique feature of this site is the ability of users to register with the service and update their own entry with additional information such as FAX number, hobbies, e- mail address, etc. Academic users would find either of these sites useful for basic phone directory services, and clever and patient business students could make use of the more advanced features of the ABI site.—Lucinda R. Zoe, Baruch College; lrzbb@cunyvm.cuny.edu

NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL) Access: http://www.nara.gov/ nara/nail.html The National Archives and Records Administration is a vast storehouse of information holding about 21.5 million cubic feet of textual material and a huge amount of information in multiple formats. Until recently, this was housed in 33 separate facilities such as Presidential Libraries and regional archives, but a prototype Web-based service has appeared. A new Web-site unifies all of these collections in one location, allowing the user to search all or selected repositories. The concept of accessing all of this information from one’s desktop is rather exciting, and the first steps have been taken to make this a reality.

NAIL (NARA Archival Information Locator) is a searchable database of more than 20,000 items vital to those studying U.S. history or genealogy. Although this is a tiny portion of the available records, this pilot project holds great promise for the future of access to this material. The heart of this service is a search engine that allows one to search the entire available holdings.

For those of you who are familiar with Silverplatter’s ERL front-end, this search engine looks very similar, although it’s customized for NARA. The user is offered the familiar forms for entering keywords and the use of a full boolean search. It is also possible to specify the types of materials desired (from sound clips, to text, to still photographs), as well as the location of the material and the description level (from record group to item). Doing a quick search on “Custer” turned up a list of sound recordings, textual records, and films held at various locations. The most exciting feature of this service is that a few of the items have been made available online, and it was possible to see some of the still photos on my screen. The NARA plan is to make much more of this database instantly available as development continues.

For librarians, this type of Web service could be a big step forward in terms of access to remote collections and the ability to help patrons with an interest in unique historical documents. The search engine is quick, flexible, and intuitive, and the record display includes titles and brief descriptions. It is also possible to view full detailed records at the click of a button.

With the addition of more records and online documents, as well as the eventual inclusion of genealogical records, the job of both the librarian and the researcher should be made significantly easier. This project is off to a great start and is a fine example of the Internet at its most useful.—Doug Horne, University of Guelph; dborne@uoguelph.ca ■

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