Thursday, October 16, 2008

DBC Online: what's with the search function?

I own the whole set of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and they make a handsome presence on my bookshelf. But in recent years, mostly I have turned to the Dictionary of Biography Online for quick reference.

At least I did until recently. DCB Online recently revamped its search function, and they have managed to make it remarkably unusable.

Say you need a little data about Wilfrid Laurier. Used to be, you typed "Laurier" in the DCBO search box, and up came all the biographies of anyone called Laurier. Other biographies that mention the name of Laurier will follow, but the guy you want is right there, one click away.

Now: type in Laurier, and you get a list of every biography that mentions Laurier -- in alphabetical order. All the "A's," all the "B's." In the case of Laurier, there are 372 entries to search -- fifteen screens -- before you will find the Laurier you want. Who is going to search through fifteen screens for what should be one-click info? (There's an Advanced Search function, but it requires a long array of entries and clicks, too.)

Or you can go to the "L" index. Laurier is #206 of 626 entries there -- as you can discover if you are willing to search through half a dozen screens.

Yesterday I gave up and went to the Canadian Encyclopedia Online instead. It's not as detailed, but at least it's searchable.

The new look DCB seems to date from June 2008. On the home page the editors wish us an "efficient and pleasant consultation." Like it used to be, you mean?
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