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Access Innovations Taps LC Subject Headings
Posted On November 1, 2004
Access Innovations, Inc. ( is a small Albuquerque (N.M.)-based company with 26 years of experience in database design and construction, specializing in moving and converting electronic collections of text materials from one format or platform to another. I knew it as a solid provider of indexing services for publishers and database producers, and I had great respect for founder and chairman Marjorie M. K. Hlava, who has been a leading light in many industry organizations. (She's the immediate past president of NFAIS.) Recently, a press release from the company made me sit up and take a closer look when I realized that the markets for its indexing products were much broader than I had thought. 

Access Innovations announced that it had been granted a patent for its new MAI Lib product, which it developed in response to customers' needs. MAI Lib is based on its Machine Aided Indexer, or M.A.I., part of the company's Data Harmony line of software, which extracts words or phrases from text on the basis of programmatic rules. MAI Lib automates the process of adding Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to documents stored in electronic databases and archives, which, in turn, makes them easier to find. 

MAI Lib incorporates the entire 208,000-term set of LCSH with tools to combine headings and subheadings, following detailed standards set in MARC 21 and the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, Second Edition. With MAI Lib, users are able to speed and expand their cataloging using LCSH terms, exporting results in MARC (expanded or concise), XML, or other output formats. 

"We believe that our MAI Lib system is a significant step in the field of information management," said Hlava. "For the first time, we are giving managers of electronic information resources the ability to combine the precoordinate system of cataloging done by libraries with the indexing systems used in the electronic information arena. Our system gives a new power to information managers to leverage their information assets."

It's not just publishers and database producers that the product could aid, but also online and Web-based directory publishers, academic and corporate libraries, Web search engines, Web portals, and corporations and associations with large intranets. The new MAI Lib system adds a new level of sophistication to the process of turning unstructured data into structured information assets that can be used for any number of business or research purposes.

Here's an example of how MAI Lib works: It takes text such as, "Classic to ultramodern, Big Apple theaters showcase the full spectrum of designů," roots out the words and concepts represented in the LCSH, assigns headings and subheadings, and then links the components, constructing complete and valid precoordinated strings according to LCSH rules. The result: Theaters ? Decoration ? New York (N.Y.). 

By the way, Access Innovations claims its M.A.I. products offer 92 percent indexing accuracy, with a four-fold increase in productivity reported by its customers. The software is written in Java and is platform-independent. It can be used with other search software, such as Verity or FAST, to introduce precision with highly relevant recall. It can connect with other systems, such as content management systems (CMS), through an Application Programming Interface (API). 

When I talked recently with Hlava, she was in France at an international chemical conference showing the company's new MAI Chem offering, another specialized application of its M.A.I. system. This rulebase contains chemical names, popular names, brand names, and their variations. In addition to the large dictionary of terms included, there are four types of special algorithms added to the basic M.A.I. system for the semantic determination and extraction of chemical names. Currently, the system is being used to identify chemical and pharmaceutical topics in patents and full-text literature. Hlava said the company announced MAI Chem in June and was now beginning its marketing campaign. 

Hlava said both products have been well-received. She marveled a bit at how applicable the solid precoordinate LCSH system was in a Web-based world: "We've almost come full-circle. It's pretty wild." (At this, memories of library school came flooding back to me, with discussions of pre- and post-coordinate indexing systems.)

Access Innovations, founded in 1978, now has more than 30 employees and some 45 software customers, including CSA, American Society for Information Science and Technology, American National Standards Institute (ANSI), NERAC, SLA, and numerous universities. On the company's longevity, Hlava commented: "We've outlasted several rounds of competitors and survived through the dot-com crash and economic downturn. We know we have proven technology and we're seeing a lot of interest in our products." She said we could expect to see additional specialized applications of the M.A.I. system.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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