AF research lab creates virtual library as technical data resource

Using a hybrid of commercial and government-developed products, the Air Force Research
Laboratory has built a virtual library Web site.

Users must have an AFRL domain name and either Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mosaic or
Netscape Navigator installed to reach the graphics and text databases, said Kandy L.
Thorn, technical information specialist in AFRL’s Technical Library at the Phillips
Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

Authorized users of the Web site at
can do keyword searches on databases, cut and paste text files to their word processors
and print documents locally.

They receive technical support not only from Phillips Laboratory but also from NASA,
Thorn said. AFRL users someday might also have access to reports from the Los Alamos
National Laboratory and Naval Research Laboratory.

AFRL, part of the Air Force Materiel Command, develops missile- and space-related and
directed-energy weapons technologies. The Web site lets researchers work without having to
travel to the Technical Library, Thorn said.

In addition to keyword searches, users can do Boolean, concept and pattern searches via
retrieval products from Excalibur Technologies Corp. of Vienna, Va. They view documents in
Adobe Portable Document Format and TIFF form.

The document images reside on an optical jukebox from Philips Laser Magnetic Storage of
Colorado Springs, Colo., which has 15 12-inch write-once optical platters. AFRL officials
want to install magnetic tape RAID drives to store more data in a smaller area without the
need to change platters, Thorn said.

The system architects are considering an IBM Corp. Fibre Channel Serial Storage
Architecture RAID unit to replace or augment the jukebox and anticipate growing to a
terabyte of storage by mixing in magnetic hard drives storing 4G to 18G.

Two IBM RS/6000 970 servers run Excalibur’s Electronic File System and
RetrievalWare full-text search and image retrieval software. The servers also run the
Scientific Technical Integrated Library Automation System (STILAS) from Sirsi Corp. of
Huntsville, Ala. STILAS is an online catalog for bibliographic searches.

A separate server running Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 houses Ascent queue-handling
software from Kofax Image Products Inc. of Irvine, Calif. Ascent creates an ASCII text
file for optical character recognition of each image, Thorn said.

Users can also consult the Science Citation Index 1.3, developed by Los Alamos National
Laboratory, plus electronic journals, library forms and full-text documents from the
Defense Technical Information Center.

Through fiscal 1998, AFRL has spent about $2 million on the three-and-a-half-year
project, Thorn said. Phillips Laboratory, which launched the project, became part of AFRL
last year.

So far, about 2.6 million pages representing 36,000 documents have been scanned in. By
2006, the virtual library could hold as many as 20 million pages occupying 1 terabyte of
optical storage. About 3,000 users consult the system monthly, Thorn said.

The Air Force Materiel Command’s inspector general at Wright-Patterson Air Force
Base, Ohio, is reviewing the library as a “best practice” that could serve as a
model for other organizations in the command, Thorn said.  

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