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Author: Keith Cassidy
Title: Library Master 4.01
Publication Info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
April 2000
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Source: Library Master 4.01
Keith Cassidy


vol. 3, no. 1, April 2000
Article Type: Software Review
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.3310410.0003.113

Library Master 4.01

Library Master for Windows 2000, version 4.01B, by Balboa Software

Single computer use, regular price:$249.95 U.S./$349.95 Cnd.; educational price:$199.95 U.S./ $279.95 Cnd ; student price: $124.95 U.S./$174.95 Cnd. A free demonstration program is available at the company's Web site. The network version, for five users, regular price, is $749.49 U.S./$1049.95 Cnd; educational price is $599.95 U.S./$839.95 Cnd. The ten user version, regular price, is $1374.95 U.S./$1924 Cnd. The educational price is $1099.95 U.S/$1539.95 Cnd..

This is a successor to the DOS version (which is still available), and can run on Windows 95, 98, NT, or 2000. A Macintosh version is not available. It requires 8MB of RAM (16 MB on Windows NT or 2000), and 10 MB of free disk space. Each database can hold up to 2 million records, with a maximum data file size of 2 GB. Each database can hold up to 50 record types, with a maximum of 65 fields, 20 of them indexed fields. The maximum length of a field is 65000 bytes (variable length), and the maximum length of a record is 65000 bytes (variable length).

The considerable strengths and ease of use of this program will prove very attractive to a user new to bibliographic software or to those who may have limited computer skills. It also has numerous possibilities for enhancements and alterations by the more adept or adventurous. Installation is easy, and the two supplied pieces of documentation do a good job of explaining how to operate it. Getting Started is a 126 page quick guide to installing and using the program; the Reference Manual is 374 pages and covers much the same material in more depth. As well there is an online Help function. At points these could be clearer, but their deficiencies are made up by the help available from the company, both by telephone and email. As well there is a Listserv group which deals with Library Master issues.

Five templates are offered for the construction of databases. Two are bibliographic types, one is for a catalog, another for a mailing list, and one is for note taking. Creation of any of these is quick and painless, and the new user can begin almost immediately to add records and use them to generate bibliographies and citations. As well, databases can be constructed from scratch, and existing templates modified. It is not likely, however, that most users will need anything more than the templates already available.

The first bibliographic form is standard, with the usual author, title, publisher, etc. fields. It has thirty-one record types - from books and journal articles to online sources - to choose from, and it can take pages of notes in the description field. The latter field is handy when you want to run off annotated bibliographies. The subjects field permits the entry of numerous terms for each item. Users can either enter them from the keyboard, or can use the mouse to select one from a drop down menu showing those already part of the database, to insert it into a new record.

The second bibliographic template offers all the features of the first, and an intriguing addition: a "scripture" field, specifically designed for Biblical scholars, but adaptable to other literature, religious or not. This "literature reference field", can be used to catalog any works that discuss portions of literature cited in a standardized format, such as the Bible or Shakespeare.

Once a bibliographic database has been created data entry is easy. A drop- down menu lists the thirty-one record types, and for each a somewhat different set of fields opens up, though all include a standard set, such as author and title. One field is "abbreviation": when using Library Master to format citations in an article, the abbreviation - typically the author's name with a date - is used as a citation marker in square brackets where the reference goes. When Library Master runs through your work to format citations it replaces the abbreviation with the appropriate reference, in any of the major (and most of the minor) humanities, social science and natural science reference styles. In-text citations can be formatted without difficulty, but footnotes and endnotes require the text of the article to be changed to Rich Text format for Microsoft Word users, and to Word Perfect 5.1 files for those using higher versions of Word Perfect. This is a small inconvenience, but it is to be hoped that the program will be modified to deal with it.

The abbreviation information for citation markers can be entered manually in your documents, but Library Master also permits you to create citation markers by clicking on the record, and using the "create citation marker" command from a drop-down menu. This automatically adds the abbreviation to the Windows clipboard, and it can then be pasted into the appropriate part of the text being created. Where the user has not created an abbreviation, Library Master helpfully substitutes the record number when creating citation markers, and this works perfectly well. The program's search function is powerful, and simple searches are done with ease. It is also easy to search multiple fields using Boolean operators. There is a global search function, which permits all fields to be searched for a word or phrase. Literature reference fields - such as a scripture field - can be searched for items that cover a range of chapters and verses. The results of searches can be saved as subsets. Reports can be generated in a wide variety of formats. While the options offered by the program met most needs, the format files (which determine such characteristics as margins, fonts, etc.) and the style sheets (which set the arrangement of fields , punctuation, etc.) can be edited fairly easily.

The program is able to import from a wide variety of sources, such as other bibliographic programs, and CD-ROMs, but it is weakest when it comes to importing from Web based databases. For the technically competent the Reference Manual offers instruction on how to create or modify import filters to handle these problems. Fortunately the most recent edition has a new set of filters for the Web version ABC-CLIO, (America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts) which work quite well.

This program is extremely good for the creation of databases - most notably, but not exclusively, bibliographies - and strong on such tasks as finding records, editing and modifying them, and printing them in reports. It is easy to use in creating citations, both in-text and as footnotes and endnotes. While it is weak when it comes to importing from on-line sources, in fairness it appears that given the profusion of such sources and the frequent changes in their formats, that some other programs have problems as well. In an evaluation of research software down by the Yale History Department in October 1998 it was noted that "Importing on-line records is the bibliography programs' most complex feature, the hardest to evaluate comparatively, and the one most likely to change as the characteristics of on-line catalogs change." (http://www.yale.edu/history/DATABASE.HTM)

Improvements are of course possible. To take a small example, it would be nice if another record type were added, for the entry of legal cases. What is encouraging is that the company seems to be committed to the constant improvement of this product, and posts updates on its Web site for easy downloading. Problems are handled courteously, often immediately, and usually within a day.

This review has focused on the uses that an historian might make of the program, particularly creating bibliographies and simplifying the process of citation. As well, its note taking program, though simple, seems useful. The "catalog" template allows the creation of library catalogs, and small companies, departments and museums might find this a useful product to evaluate if they need such software. Library Master for Windows is recommended, but before purchasing it those interested should visit the company's Web site, which has a full description of the program and its possible uses, and download the free demonstration program. http://www.balboa-software.com.

Keith Cassidy kcassidy@arts.uoguelph.ca

Department of History
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario, Canada