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EPA – can a database replace a library?

After the new budget effectively phased out the EPA’s library system and related resources, there is a new website, the National Environmental Publications Information System. Introduced with words like “exciting” and “terrific” the online database includes such features as highlighted search terms and proximity operators. A quick set of usability notes, using a search for the word “frogs”:

  • once you get a list of results clicking on the document title does nothing, you have to click on the little eye picture in order to see the document displayed
  • Tooltips? None. Clicking on the capital T which I am used to meaning “text” takes me to a zoomed in tiff file of the document I selected. Downloading the text from the documents is possible, just somewhat hidden and won’t work if you have pop-ups disabled.
  • No controlled vocabulary, or if there is any, it’s hidden from a casual user. The only searchable fields are publication number, title and number of pages.
  • Despite the fact that these PDF and TIFF documents are searchable at a keyword level [see attached file], there is no obvious way to get just the text from a PDF document
  • Fuzziness, is controllable at a 0-5 level. When fuzziness is at its highest level, searches for “frogs” returns words like “rods” and “free.” This may be by design, but the help file is mum on the ubsject stating only “If you want to activate fuzzy searching, you can specify the degree of fuzzy in the listbox Fuzzy.”
  • Typos. I know it’s petty but the word useful has one L.

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