Latin American Studies Volumes I and II (CD-Rom) – Reviewed Spring 1996

Reviewed by Myra Anderson, University of California, Riverside June 1995, Revised February 1996

Latin American Studies. National Information Services Corporation
(NISC), Suite #6, Wyman Towers, 3100 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland
21218, (410) 243-0798, Fax (410)243-0982. Latin American Studies
Volumes I and II are updated semi-annually and each release is cumulative.
The annual subscription cost for each volume is $1095 for a single station.
The price for two to ten users on a LAN is $1645 for each volume.

Introduction:

Latin American Studies is a two-volume anthology of databases
providing information about Latin America, including Mexico, Central America,
South America, and the Caribbean. The CD-ROM product also includes material
on Hispanics in the U.S., and Mexico-U.S. border relations. Each of the
volumes is an independent, stand-alone product offering unique coverage.
The two discs cannot be searched simultaneously.

Latin American Studies Volume I contains three databases:
the Catalog of the Nettie Lee Benson Collection at the University of Texas
at Austin and its four supplements (currently known as the Bibliographic
Guide to Latin American Studies
); the Hispanic American Periodical
Index
(HAPI) produced at the University of California , Los Angeles,
1970-; and the Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS) from the
U.S. Library of Congress, volume 50, 1990- . The CD-ROM provides bibliographic
citations for multi-disciplinary monographs, journals, and other print
materials published throughout Latin America and the U.S.

Latin American Studies Volume II holds the following four databases:
INFO-SOUTH Latin American Information System of the North-South
Center, University of Miami; the Latin American Database (LADB)
of the Latin American Institute (LAI) at the University of New Mexico;
the World Law Index Part I – Hispanic Nations from the Hispanic
Law Division of the Library of Congress and the Latin American Information
Base
(LAIB). Volume II contains articles and reports appearing
in news periodicals and current affairs publications (INFO-SOUTH, LADB,
LAI) and full text summaries of legislation in 29 Spanish speaking countries
(World Law Index Part I). Unfortunately, at the end of 1995 INFO-SOUTH
ceased. Because of the value of the database, NISC will leave it on the
disk for the immediate future and still hopes that a way will be found
to begin adding records again.

User Instruction:

The NISC Disc User’s Guide, a general guide for the installation
and searching of all NISC CD-ROM products, accompanies Latin American
Studies
. . The vendor also provides two one page Fact Sheets
which describe the contents of each volume. Included in the software of
the product is the AutoIndex, an on-line thesaurus consisting of Library
of Congress Subject Headings augmented with other frequently used concepts
and terms. The Rotated AutoIndex, a type of permuted index, is available
for some of the fields in the expert search mode.

Scope and Coverage:

Volume I provides over 650,000 bibliographic citations to interdisciplinary
sources in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Publications on ecology
and agriculture, women’s rights, business and public administration, and
refugees and human rights add breadth to the product. Mexico, followed
by Brazil and Argentina, receives the most extensive coverage. Topics of
interest to sociologists seem to be especially well represented. Anthropologists
and archaeologists will also find the CD-ROM useful for locating site reports
and information about contemporary indigenous peoples.

Volume II provides over 150,000 citations, along with abstracts
and full-text summaries, when available, to articles covering current events
and contemporary issues. References to business law, international relations,
education, agriculture, indigenous affairs, defense, economics, and science
and technology predominate. Mexico and Brazil appear to receive equal coverage,
followed closely by Argentina. The databases also provide good access to
information from Central America and Peru.

Geographic coverage includes publications emanating from, and about,
all Latin American countries. Volume I also contains citations to
publications on Hispanics in North America. Although an appreciable number
of the original sources are in English, the majority of the records are
for publications written in Spanish. Portuguese language publications are
also well represented, followed by sources in French. Articles written
in other European languages and some Native American Indian languages are
included. On-line abstracts and full-text summaries are in English and
Spanish.

The CD-ROM Volume I, offers access to numerous types of print
materials: books, serials, journal articles, theses and dissertations,
government publications, book reviews, obituaries, pamphlets, reports,
manuscripts, grey literature, and conference papers. Volume II includes
access to newspaper articles, newsletters, reports, and other current news
sources. NISC does not provide a list of the publications covered, but
all of those covered by the individual abstracting and indexing services
are included in the package.

Record Structure:

NISC software is menu-driven. Menu instructions on each screen simplify
the use of the wide range of options available. The user has the alternative
of searching in one of three different modes – novice, advanced, or expert.
In the novice mode, the terms are automatically searched in the basic index
or the author index. The advanced mode enables the user to restrict a search
to specified indexes. By selecting the expert mode, a searcher has the
opportunity to recombine search sets, restrict the search to one or more
of the individual databases (on the same disk), use the Rotated AutoIndex,
or restrict by language. In addition to being able to restrict searches,
one can broaden them by using the three truncation options. Searchable
fields or data elements include author, title, institutional author, source,
abstract, notes, keywords, publication type, and language. The keyword
field includes Library of Congress Subject Headings and dependent sub-headings
(e.g. “description and travel,” “study and teaching,”
etc.), augmented by other frequently used concepts and terms. The software
uses many common command features. Options are controlled by pressing the
function keys, the space bar, or the enter key.

Comparisons With Related Databases and Summary of Positive Aspects:

All of the individual databases are available through other electronic
sources. For libraries not having access to major databases providing extensive
citations to Latin American monographic and periodical literature, Latin
American Studies
Volumes I and II offers a unique product. The
scope and coverage are adequate to serve the need of undergraduates, as
well as many graduate students and faculty. Despite only a semi-annual
update, the product serves a current awareness function since many of the
sources are not readily available in the U.S. until a period of months
or years elapse. Since the print versions of the databases are published
annually, the NISC product offers more immediate access. The flexible search
software make the product desirable even if users can access these same
individual databases on library systems via the Internet.

Recommendations for Improvement:

Documentation written expressly for the Latin American Studies
product would better inform users of the scope and coverage of the product
and assist searchers with learning the mechanics of accessing the information.
Although the general user guide is thorough in its coverage of basic instructions
and commands, a short guide addressing the peculiarities of each of the
six individual databases, the extent of coverage and a list of publications
indexed would enhance the value of the CD. NISC notes that the databases
do not fill up the two disks and the company requests suggestions from
users about future databases to include. Perhaps instead, if space allowed,
all six databases could be mounted on the same disk.

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