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Gale ReferenceLink Brings Dialog Back to Public/Academic Library Market
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Posted On October 7, 2002
Thomson Corp.'s Gale Group subsidiary has a strong presence in the public and academic library markets—markets that Dialog Corp., another Thomson subsidiary, has generally abandoned for years.

Dialog's data is now coming back, but will be supplied and supported by Gale, in keeping with Thomson's general business strategy of "horses for courses" when it comes to dealing with different business channels. The newly announced Gale ReferenceLink will offer approximately 50 databases out of Dialog's more than 600, plus some 1,500 full-text sources from an abridged version of Dialog NewsRoom. The product will employ a single user-friendly interface that emulates Gale's own InfoTrac interface. According to the press announcement, ReferenceLink is the first of a line of online products and services planned for academic and public libraries worldwide. The partnership between Dialog and Gale was announced last April [see "Gale Group, Dialog Announce Marketing Alliance" at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17213].

"ReferenceLink is a great example of how Thomson integrates its business and products to respond to specific customer needs," said Gale Group president Allen Paschal. "This collaboration between two businesses with exceptional content and skills in creating precision search engines brings to market a product that libraries have told us they need. It is a deep, smart product that will make libraries more valuable in serving their communities' information needs."

Roy M. Martin Jr., Dialog's president and CEO, said: "ReferenceLink from Dialog and Gale will greatly simplify how library patrons and students undertake research of news sources."

Paul Colucci, Dialog senior vice president of product development, noted, "Together with Gale we will deliver the information we collect to a broader universe of users through libraries, schools, and universities around the world."

Paschal pointed out that the Dialog ReferenceLink service would also give Gale access to very desirable files—such as ERIC and MEDLINE—for their traditional customers. He said that Dialog would continue to focus its marketing efforts on the corporate librarian. However, Paschal did assure me that the academic/public library market would not be forgotten again in Dialog's strategy-building. Now Gale will represent those interests to Dialog. "We have a team of people already assigned," said Paschal. "We will now serve as the eyes, ears, and the voice of our customers to Dialog."

An abridged version of Dialog NewsRoom will provide access to more than 1,500 newspaper and journal full-text articles from USA TODAY, The Boston Globe, Consumer Reports, The New England Journal of Medicine, etc. According to Dialog and Gale executives, the limitation on coverage that drops NewsRoom from more than 6,000 sources in its full Dialog version to the 1,500 in ReferenceLink stems from two causes: contractual restraints imposed by publishers or providers and existing content coverage in other Gale products (InfoTrac, in particular). For example, Gale retains access to some newspapers in its own collection. According to Paschal, these will not go into the ReferenceLink service, but will require separate subscriptions to other Gale products. However, Gale will allow separate subscriptions to news content alone from ReferenceLink.

(Note: For some unknown reason, Dialog has chosen to refer to this less complete archive as the NewsRoom Library Edition. Librarians—the target consumers for ReferenceLink—might think the term "library" should indicate only a "top-of-the-line" archive, not less-than-best coverage. White water ahead?)

In addition to news, the multidisciplinary ReferenceLink covers the following wide range of topics:

  • Business and Industry
  • Education and Reference
  • Environment and Energy
  • Government
  • Health and Medicine
  • Import/Export Data
  • Patents and Copyrights
  • Science and Technology
  • Statistics
Other content feeding into the service includes chemical files, such as Analytical Abstracts, Chemical Safety NewsBase, and Drug Information Fulltext; government data from Federal Register and Commerce Business Daily; patents for the U.S., Europe, and the world; book citations from the Library of Congress and REMARC; social science files such as ERIC, Public Opinion Online, and Population Demographics; and sci-tech databases such as Georef, MEDLINE, Toxline, and Merck Index.

As a complement to Gale's InfoTrac periodical databases, Gale expects the new Canadian, Asia-Pacific, and Latin American content will greatly extend its geographic coverage. (For a full list of files and more explanatory material, check out http://www.galegroup.com/servlet/ItemDetailServlet? region=9&imprint=000&titleCode=GALEN6&type=4&id=185719.)

ReferenceLink replaces Dialog@CARL, an electronic resource that was popular in the late 1990s. Gale and Dialog will provide a transition path to ReferenceLink, which the companies feel is a superior product to Dialog@CARL.

Dialog will serve as the host and search engine developer for ReferenceLink, a situation that may be a selling point for some academic librarians. Loretta Spurling, data services coordinator at the University of Kansas' Anschutz Library, said that academic librarian listservs have begun to carry complaints about server brownouts for Gale products. She also expressed some dissatisfaction with the technical support and troubleshooting offered by Gale for its own products. However, Spurling did refer to Gale's marketing connections in the library arena as "awesome."

Spurling welcomed Dialog's return to the academic library market, as did Leslie Haas, head of the general reference department at the University of Utah's Marriott Library. Both had some cautions to offer, however. Haas hoped that ReferenceLink would guarantee the elimination of duplicates from multi-file searches. Spurling was more enthusiastic, but warned that success could hinge on pricing. She noted that, at present, LexisNexis Universe's prices have left many academic librarians looking for alternatives. With reasonable pricing and a strong collection of files, Spurling says Gale and Dialog may have a real window of opportunity to compete with a traditional search service already in place. (Note: LexisNexis has now dropped "Universe" from its branding.)

According to John Barnes, Gale's senior vice president of product development, pricing for ReferenceLink would follow the standard Gale formula: subscription only, with the amount determined by total user population or simultaneous users. Dialog's Colucci said that his company had no plans to market Dialog's full-service and pay-as-you-go pricing options to ReferenceLink subscribers at this time.


Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.


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