Law Library Provides Universal Access to Research CD-ROMs

At the end of each school year at University of California Davis, second-year law students set off for summer internships in their chosen profession. While interning, these students discover the ease and speed of researching legal documents on CD-ROMs. Used to laboriously poring over stacks of books while doing research, when they return for their last year of school, they clamor for access to CD-ROM databases, resisting any return to flipping through page after page after page.

Choosing Correct Capabilities

One of the top 25 in the nation, the UC Davis law school has achieved the highest bar passage rate among California schools, with students and faculty depending heavily upon the law school library's excellent resources. Steve Langford, an information technologist at the library's computer research lab, was assigned the job of setting up a viable system that would enable students and faculty to do research simultaneously, while maintaining the library's reputation for excellent resources.

Langford's experience in maintaining a fleet of microcomputers, an online catalog, two commercial services and Internet access served him well when investigating his options. When the school was ready to implement his plans, Langford chose Procom Technology's 21-drive tower for networking CD-ROMs.

Established in 1987, Irvine, Calif.-based Procom Technology is a leading supplier of mass storage and multimedia products for the PC and Macintosh markets. The company manufactures CD towers and servers, RAID high-capacity storage subsystems, hard drives, CD recorders, tape backup systems and removable media drives to offer customers storage solutions for virtually every network and desktop regardless of size.

How It All Works

Housed in the research lab, the CD tower is linked through an Ethernet network to 486 and Pentium terminals running Windows for Workgroups in the library. It is supported by the Windows NT 3.5 operating system, a SCSI card, a Pentium 100 server, a 1GB hard drive, 32MB of RAM and a 2GB DAT (digital audio tape) backup system.

With all of that computing power, students can quickly and effortlessly access the collection of CD-ROMs loaded in the tower's quad-speed drives from any computer in the library. Due to the increasing use of CD-ROMs in education and the business world, and their low cost to produce, many case reporters, codes and popular loose-leaf services traditionally issued in print are now being made available on CD-ROM.

Now UC Davis law students have vast amounts of legal information bundled with a search engine at their fingertips. When they need to look up a case history or other related material, instead of amassing a huge pile of books and continuously having to cross-reference between volumes, they can simply type a few words into the search engine and await the results. This makes the entire process of research obviously much less time consuming than when using traditional methods, although print will never be obsolete.

Future Plans to Include...

As the system's administrator, Langford is most pleased with the tower's ability to map seven drives to one SCSI ID. "This leaves plenty of room to add drives and other peripherals without purchasing another server," he explains.

Down the road, Langford sees access terminals spanning the entire library and, eventually, access into the CD-ROM tower with portable computers. Though for now access is limited to computers in the library, plans are underway to allow faculty to reach the CD-ROMs from the comfort and convenience of their offices.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.