Components of Information System

Components of Information System: Information System consists of a number of organs or components. These organs or components work in harmony to achieve the define purposes. The main components of Information Systems are

i) Libraries

ii) Documentation Centres

iii) Information Centres

iv) Data Banks

v) Data Centres

vi) Information Analysis Centres

vii) Referral Centres

viii) Clearing  Houses

ix) Translation Centres, etc.

1. Libraries: Libraries are by far the oldest institutions charged with the responsibility of collecting, storing and disseminating of information. Library is a collection of books or other written or printed materials, as well as the facility in which they are housed and served the reader within an institution that is responsible for their maintenance. According to Ranganathan, the father of library science in India “a library is a public institution or establishment charged with the care of collection of books, the duty of making them accessible to those who require the use of them and the task of converting every person in its neighborhood into a habitual library goers and reader of books.”

Libraries are established by the government, academic institutions or by some other special organizations. Libraries can be grouped into three major divisions i.e Public (State Central Library, District Library, Sub divisional Library, Rural Library), Academic (University Library, College Library), School and Special (Libraries attached to industries, Doordarshan Kendra, All India Radio, etc).

a) Collections: In ancient day libraries gathered huge collection of manuscripts and preserved them most efficiently for the posterity. Modern libraries may contain a wide range of materials, including manuscripts and pamphlets, posters, photographs, motion pictures, and videotapes, sound recordings, and computer databases in various forms.

b) Services: Libraries are the carriers of information from one generation to the next generation. Most of the new technology based information businesses are still largely dependent on the library for their survival which includes information broker, consultants, referral centre. In the days of IT also libraries continue to serve millions of grateful users in new and improved ways and it is hoped that in neat future also it will be the only affordable source of information.

The change in structure of libraries comes as an information system that consists of a number of organs or components. These organs or components work in harmony to achieve the define purposes. It is advantageous to discuss the changing role of library and information centers on the basis of such information unit or change in structure of the libraries.

2. Documentation Centres: ASLIB adopted the definition of the term documentation for the Journal of Documentation in 1945 as “recording, organization and dissemination of specialized knowledge”. Late Dr. S. C. Bradford defines it as “the art of documentation is the art of collecting, classifying and making readily accessible the records of all kinds of intellectual activities”.

a) Origin of Documentation Centres: Books were not able to communicate latest scientific thought as a result importance of scientific periodicals had increased. With the acceleration of research scientific periodicals gained further importance. Along with the scientific periodicals new kind of literature like conference proceedings, annual reviews, patents, standards and specification, theses, secondary periodicals like indexing and abstracting journals, directories, research reports, etc. started appearing in big way. Further these paper based information sources are supplemented by CD, DVD, etc. As a result libraries started acquiring all these materials along with books. To have a comprehensive term for all these media of communication “Documentation” was brought into vogue. The reader for this kind of new literature steadily increases but the nature of complexity of information sources led to the demand of services that are outside the domain of traditional libraries and the traditional library techniques were found to be unsuitable hence, a new breed of organization known as documentation centres paved the way.

b) Services: Documentation centres find out new vistas in serving the need of the user. It gives emphasis towards provision of information contained in document rather than serving the document themselves. It analyses the content of the documentation in finer details, provide indexing, abstracting, union catalogue, translation, etc. services to meet the need of the specialist users. Another basic function of any documentation centres is that it brings to the notice of specialist user, current and recent literature of value to them. Services of documentation centres are designed to satisfy the existing and anticipated needs of its users. The main purposes served by these units are

- To answer the queries;

- To help in finding the primary document;

- To identify as accurately as possible all information of potential interest to users;

- To see that the user receive the information.

3. Information Centres: An information centre can be defined as “an organization that

a) Select, acquire stores and retrieve specific information in response to requests.

b) Announces, abstract, extract and indexes information and

c) Disseminate information in response to requests from documents or in anticipation”.

Meltzer defines the information centre as “The Special library with added functions of analyzing and synthesizing information needed by management, staff and the technical personnel of the organization”. Thus information centres gives emphasis towards the provision of information contained in the document rather than document themselves which is the main consideration of traditional libraries.

A library handles and provides address of a document containing information but an information centre gives information that is inside the document and also processes and disseminates it. The information centre differs from the library in following main areas

i) Degree of delegation by the user i.e. the task of searching and evaluating information is dome by the staff

ii) Exercise of judgment and evaluation as to the importance of the retrieved material in relation to the client’s request

iii) The giving of information itself rather than document.

iv) The processing of search input into a variety of search products

v) Provides information to not only user of parent organization but also outside the organization too.

vi) Not only acquire, process, store and retrieve information (the library function) but also reduce analyse and present information / data.

4. Data Banks: Data Banks are usually concerned with a broader field. They are very precise grids to extract the raw data from data collection and the relevant literature which they arrange in structured files so as to be ready for subsequent processing to answer user queries. The essential characteristic of data bank is storing information in a form (so data should be in a machine readable files i.e. for storing and retrieving of data computer should be used) which will allow continuous updating, augmentation and approach from different points of view and which has the capacity of supporting simultaneously a number of user at remote locations. To use the analogy of a bank, a user can deposit or withdraw from several branches.

Satmana defines a data bank as an open information system with sets of data known as files. It is composed of the following elements

i) The basic files known as data base.

ii) A filing system that makes to integrate data from different files, relative to the same entities

iii) A data processing system that allows users to extract relevant information from the files adopted to their needs and in a form suited to their decision pattern.

Data centre and data banks are dissimilar only regarding the subjects they deals and type of data they handle. Simply stated data centres handle only numerical data and mostly for science and technology. Data banks are multidisciplinary and deal with all types of data particularly administrative, statistical, techno-economics, census and survey, and similar other that are produced by several institutions. Data banks handle data only while data centres handle data themselves or literature about data.

5. Data Centres: According to UNESCO a data centre “constitutes an organization handling quantitative numerical data” Such centers take the primary function of collecting, organizing, and disseminating data (mainly numerical) and also provide a measurement service and are in a position to advance relevant measurement techniques. They store data on a narrow field of specification. Data centres try to collect arrange and store numerical data pertaining to a specific subject field or to answer specific queries. Data centre activities are anticipatory operations planned keeping in view the requirements of its user. It also checks systematically all available data and organizes them into a number of categories for the purpose of showing the current state of knowledge together with comments on the precision or reliability of the data in regard to the various aspects of a product or phenomena. It may be stated here that the activities of a data centre may comprise of the following

i) Data Collection

ii) Data Control

iii) Data Codification

iv) Data Organization ans structuring into a database

v) Data Retrieval

Example of data centre include National Data Centre for Crystallography, University of Madras, India.

6. Information Analysis Centres: The COSATI standing panel wrote the following comprehensive definition of Information Analysis Centre (IAC) “An information analysis centre is a formally structured organizational unit, specifically (but not necessarily exclusively) established for the purpose of acquiring, selecting, storing, retrieving, evaluating, analyzing an synthesizing a body of information and / or data in a clearly defined specialized field or pertaining to a specified mission with intent of compiling, digesting, repackaging or otherwise organizing and presenting pertinent information and / or data in a form most authoritative, timely and useful to a society of peers and management”.

The key activities of IAC s are analysis, interpretation, synthesis, evaluation and repackaging of information carried out by subject specialists, resulting in the production of new, evaluated information in the form of critical reviews, state of art, monographs or data compilation as well as substantive, evaluated responses to queries for the purpose of assisting a community of users more broadly representative than the staff of the parent institutes of laboratories.

These centres have to closely monitor the literature produced in the field, evaluate the utility of each piece of information so gathered and the information are communicate to the users in a directly usable form. The results of analysis are communicated either through a regular publication or by way of sporadic reports. It is very much essential that these centres should verify the information so gathered with regard to the validity, reliability and accuracy before dissemination.

7. Referral Centres: These do not provide the user with the documents. Instead it refers or directs them to the source from where they can get the data or the documents. Mostly to secondary publication, information centres, professional organizations, research institutions, clearing houses and individual scientist, etc. They maintain files of sources, directories, etc. The referral centre may even bring out such documents. So, in simple referral centre provide switching mechanism among different types of information institutions. The referral service may be one of the activities of a documentation centre and it is difficult to find units performing this function exclusively. To achieve its objectives a referral centre has to perform certain basic operations. These includes

i) A referral centre possesses an inventory of all significant information resources in different disciplines.

ii) It compiles and publishes directories of scientific and technical information resources.

iii) It analyzes the operating relationships that exist in the scientific information.

The function of referral centres includes

i) Collect information about information sources within the range of scope of either the subject or activity of the referral centre.

ii) Prepares comprehensive inventory of types of information services available from these sources with a detailed subject index to facilitate access.

iii) Functions as an intermediary between inquirers and the organization or individuals who possess specialized information of the subject of enquiry;

iv) Guides users to appropriate sources where from the required information may be obtaining.

The Examples of referral center includes

a) British Library Lending Division (BLLD), UK.

b) National Referral Centre, Library of Congress.

8. Clearing Houses: A clearing house is a central agency for collection, classification and distribution of information. It may include specialized information centres as well as conventional libraries. It represents a depository for document with the additional objectives of servicing as a central agency engaged in the distribution of information. It also includes such functions as collecting and maintaining records of research and development.

Clearing houses provide a single point of access to documents originating from a number of sources from different places, in different languages. The producers of the documents inform the clearing house about the bibliographical details of the document and usually send them a copy. The clearing houses circulate the description of the documents to the organization that are interested in the field and to the participating organizations. They may provide a copy of these documents as well on request if available. These units are organized either on a cooperative basis or by an international or national agency.

Most of the clearing houses have specialized as well as they developed collections. They have information gathering network to acquire documents in their subject areas. They also provide specialized information services in some selected areas. They answer specific and general type of questions and may act as central searching places for enquiry especially for research and development areas.

            The difference between a documentation center and a clearing house is that the documentation centre deals with conventional documents, whereas the clearing house deals with the non-conventional documents like conference proceedings, scientific reports, document of limited circulation, etc.

9. Translation Centres: In modern times in any discipline literature are published in many languages as a result, scientist in need of particular information find it difficult to be able to understand the contents of the documents. To solve the problem, some national and international level organization comes forward to help the scientist in this regard. They translate the content of the documents from one language to another to meet the needs of the user. In the field of science and technology following centre provides translation services.

a) National Translation Centre, Chicago, America

b) International Translation Centre, Delft, Netherlands

c) British Library Lending Division, Boston

10. Data Consolidation and Evaluation Centre: It is an advance form of information units which check systematically all available data and organize them into a number of categories for the purpose of showing the current state of knowledge together with comments on the precision or reliability of the data in regard to the various aspects of a product or phenomenon.

11. Let Us Sum Up: In practical life each of the information unit performs more or less the same function, at least to a certain extent making it difficult to make a distinction between different components of information system. So it will not be correct to go by the name of the information unit. However Claire Guinchat and Michel Menou say that the most important criterion for distinguishing the information unit is the kind of information activity (or the primary function) they perform.