By Rossana Morriello, Research Support LIbrarian, Politecnico di Torino, Italy
Alphabetica was launched on December 16, 2021, the new portal for bibliographic services [https://alphabetica.it/] created by ICCU (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico delle biblioteche italiane), the central service for the union catalog of Italian libraries of the Ministry of Culture. Alphabetica is the portal to the new digital ecosystem of national bibliographic services, which includes millions of bibliographic notices and digital materials from the collections held by over 6.500 libraries, which have been participating to the National Library Service SBN (Servizio Bibliotecario Nazionale) for over 30 years now. The portal allows simultaneous search in many databases managed by ICCU and now connected in the ecosystem, among which there are:
· SBN OPAC [https://opac.sbn.it/], the national union catalog containing over 18.5 million bibliographic notices. The network SBN includes 6,535 libraries and 103 library hubs.
· Manus Online [https://manus.iccu.sbn.it], the catalog of manuscripts with almost 300,000 records, 40,815 images and over 300,000 names related to manuscripts.
· EDIT16 [https://edit16.iccu.sbn.it/en-US/], the national census of Italian editions of the XVI century, with 69,367 bibliographic notices, 25,736 notices about authors, and 5,794 notices about publishers.
· Aggregatore digitale e SBNTeca, containing over 17 million digital objects digitized by 280 libraries participating to the project Internet Culturale [http://www.internetculturale.it/].
· Anagrafe delle Biblioteche Italiane, the registry of Italian libraries with information on 12.649 libraries.
Moreover, by using open standards, Alphabetica is connected to external databases like MOVIO (Mostre Digitali Online), a tool collecting digital exhibitions organized by many cultural and educational institutions, and 14-18: Documenti e immagini dalla Grande Guerra, a portal of documentation related to World War I.
Alphabetica allows users to freely search into those resources, either with a free search in all collections or by selecting one of the nine paths proposed, organized by context like Protagonists, Libraries, Places, and by kind of resources like Music materials, Books, Manuscripts, Audio and Video, Cartography, Periodicals, Graphics. The results of the free text search in the whole system are shown and organized according to the nine paths, and presented in separate boxes, which let underlying correlations emerge, facilitating further discovery.
The interface is very user friendly and allows easy browsing among the different databases connected through API (Application Programming Interface) and linked open data, and based on IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) standard for images, and on the visualization tool Mirador. Users can share the results of searches externally, and explore them in more detail, even in connections to external platforms, like Youtube. After registering and creating a free account into Alphabetica, users can organize materials in a personal virtual space and create personal collections; they can also save preferred materials and searches in virtual shelves.
This is an important realization that shows how libraries have the possibility to offer to readers and web users a more sophisticated and reliable amount of resources than any web service. Libraries are more powerful and trustful than any search engine, in both quantity and quality of resources. Library resources are assessed for quality and have a major advantage over Google and other web platforms because they can offer access to print materials, as well as digital resources, and to print materials from the beginning of the history of the book and beyond, all over the centuries, with their collections of manuscripts too. Moreover, library resources are verified resources, because they have been selected and cataloged by information professionals, that is by librarians, and as such they are reliable sources, especially as compared to the increasing spread of materials circulating on the web, that may prove, in many cases, fake and of poor quality.
Alphabetica has been constructed on a flexible architecture with open standards, which will allow it to be interoperable with other databases of other state, public, academic libraries and of other kinds of cultural institutions, so that it will hopefully grow more and more in the future.
· Simonetta Buttò, Alphabetica, il nuovo portale per la ricerca integrata: un salto di qualità per le biblioteche italiane, “Digitalia” 2-2020, DOI: 10.36181/digitalia-00010
· ICCU, Alphabetica e il nuovo portale dei servizi bibliografici nazionali, official presentation on 16 December 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6TGNQ_eFNo
· ICCU, Alphabetica Informazioni, https://alphabetica.it/web/alphabetica/informazioni
About the Author: Rossana Morriello is a research support librarian at Politecnico di Torino, Italy. She is originally from Torino but she lived for many years in Venice and worked at Università Ca’ Foscari as a digital resources librarian. Her research interests focus on scholarly communication, digital culture, library collection development and the dynamics of the publishing industry referred to libraries, sustainable development. She received a master’s degree in English and French literature from the University of Torino and a second master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Venice Ca’ Foscari. She holds a PhD in Sciences of Books and Documents from the University of Rome Sapienza.