Vol. 8 Issue 1 2001
Ann Farren retired from BIOSIS last year, ending a
41-year career that spanned the company's most
significant period of development. The achievements
of her career are, in short, a history of the company
for the past four decades.
When Ann started in 1959, scientific research was
growing at an exceptionally quick rate. Advances
in methodology and instrumentation opened up
new worlds of knowledge to scientists. Research,
technology, and engineering built upon itself, and
with it, the urgency to progress even further.
The Director of BIOSIS at the time, G. Miles
Conrad, realized the need to process more
information more efficiently. He hired Ann as the
Technical Assistant to the Director, a position with
wide-ranging responsibilities. "I was a jack-of-all-
trades," she said. "I wrote the company's technical
and general press releases, I served as a BIOSIS
representative on committees with other database
producers and scientific organizations on various
projects, and I represented BIOSIS at scientific and
library exhibits and conferences."
Ann began to develop working relationships
with BIOSIS' customers that became a defining
characteristic of her work. In the mid-60's, she
implemented training seminars to teach the
intricacies of BIOSIS indexing.
"This indexing system lets users be very specific in
their searches. We had meetings, conferences, and
international journal coverage that no one else had;
and, because it was all indexed, it was easy to find.
If you knew how to search for it.
"So we traveled all across the country and Canada,
to universities, companies, and government agencies,
demonstrating the broad spectrum of BIOSIS
coverage, and training librarians and researchers
on some of the new features of BIOSIS indexing."
This type of training is expected now; but, at the
time, it was uncommon. "We were one of the first
database producers to provide this type of training,"
The need was more pressing than ever. In the
mid-70s, BIOSIS made its main database, BIOSIS
, available for online searching through
Dialog, CANOLE (Canada Online Enquiry), and
SUNY Biomedical Information Network. The
universities and companies that used these systems
had trainers to teach their users, but the trainers
themselves were unfamiliar with the advantages
of BIOSIS indexing. "There wasn't any education
material available back then, even for the trainers,"
Ann explained. "So we prepared training-course
material for them, on our indexing and how to
search it, so that they could, in turn, train their users."
The benefit of this ground-up approach was twofold.
First, since she had no strict guidelines to follow,
Ann was able to tailor the training to the specific
needs of the end-users. Second, the feedback she
received from librarians and researchers provided
invaluable contributions to later enhancements of
the indexing system.
Ann Farren A Look Back
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