1. Introduction: The awareness service provides knowledge to the user regarding recent developments in the field of general interest. This type of service is directed towards all users of the services. It does not deal with the exact or specific requirement or interest of the user and is thus distinguished from Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) service.
2. Need: The Current Awareness Service (CAS) helps the user by keeping him up-to-date & well informed with the latest information on a particular field and also in the related field. It indicates what one should read and thereby it saves the time of the reader. It also serves as a rapid survey of retrospective literature. CAS helps the user in the following ways:
a) Keeps Well Informed: Due to great advances made in the field of knowledge, it is becoming more and more difficult for the users to keep themselves up-to-date and well informed in their field of specialization. CAS meets this end for the researcher and others. Otherwise, too much of information would make it difficult for them to use information effectively.
ii) Helps the User in Scanning the Literature: There may be users who do not possess the ability or willingness to do the literature scanning regularly on their own. CAS provides aid in such situation by widely and regularly scanning the literature and sending to the user the relevant topic of interest.
iii) Saves Time: The Library and Information Centres by scanning the sources of information and notifying the members of the community, saves their valuable time. Again, in case each user scans literature individually then this will lead to unnecessary duplication of effort. So, the CAS can help the user avoid this duplication.
iv) Promotes and Supports Library Service: All services of the library are not free nowadays. So, in this context, it is essential to promote and market library services. CAS is one of the ways to bring the resources of the library / information centre to the notice of the users. This will in turn lead to greater demand for the library service, giving opportunity to the library to prove its value and justification for the money spent on it.
3. Steps in CAS: The steps involved in CAS may be of the following types
a) Creation of User Profile: The profiles of the user, who are to be given CAS service, are prepared. A profile may consist of the following fields and can be noted down in a database or Microsoft Excel sheet.
iv) Keywords that collectively characterize the subject interest of an individual.
v) Email Id
vi) Mobile Number
viii) Complete postal address, etc
The first four fields will identify the person and the last four fields will be used to deliver the CAS to the user. The profile can be of a single user or a group working on the same project or some limited subject field. The profile obtained thus must be kept up-to-date. Therefore, if the topic of inertest changes then the corresponding profile must also be modified accordingly. In some organizations, the interest profile was much more than a simple list of keywords. Librarians or information professionals conducted extensive interviews with their clients to establish a fairly complex profile for each individual.
b) Acquisition of Resources: The different sources of information, periodicals, research papers, which are relevant to the parent body, must be selected and collected from different sources. In the next step, through rapid reading the resources are scanned by the LIS professionals to find out the key concepts.
c) Creation of Document Profile: The relevant and significant information is recorded in the form of content list for different contexts. The recorded information may be in the form of an abstract or an extract. Depending upon the significance of the document, the bibliographical details and indexing terms and the information itself are stored on the file / magnetic tape / computer document.
d) Matching Profile: In a regular interval, the user profile should be correlated or matched with the document profile. The computer compares the two inputs; the output is printed out in the form of two cards. One card is called information card that contain either the list of document or the information itself along with bibliographical details of document which also has a tear off strip request note. The other card is called response card.
e) Notification / Information Communication: If there exists any matching between the two profiles then the matching information is sent to the user or group of users, who may require it, through different means of communication in anticipation, like telephone calls, postal mail / email / SMS with a request to call at the reference desk to get the pertinent information. In case of postal communication, the two cards are sent to the user. The information can also be sent through a messenger.
f) Feedback Mechanism: The user keeps the information card for his use. In case he wants to consult the document, he tears off the request note strip and sends it to the library along with the response card, in which he indicates the degree of interest in the particular document.
g) Library Action: The library takes action on the request note strip to send the document(s) to the concerned user or to keep it in the library for him. The response card helps the library to know about the usefulness of the information provided as well as the shift in the information need. The library accordingly modifies the user profile page for improving performance.
4. Forms of CAS: CAS service may take the following forms-
a) Acquisition Bulletin: Acquisition bulletin is the list of newly purchase books or other reading materials. Public libraries in particular have used display boards and shelves to draw attention to recent additions.
b) Annotated Index: An abstract of the articles of the recent issues of the journals.
c) Conference Alert: A list of forthcoming seminars, conference that are released weekly or monthly.
5. Conclusion: Librarians have been providing the CAS service on manual basis for a long time. But nowadays computers are used to mechanize the procedure. The current awareness service through computer may be provided through E-List (a Web-enabled contemporary reference service offered to the registered members), online groups, blogs, RSS, E-Mail, Bulk SMS services, Community Opt SMS services, etc.
Revision: This article was last edited on 5/12/2014.