World Biographical Information System (WBIS) Online
The microfiche edition of K. G. Saur's Biographical Archives has been digitized and issued as a group of databases known as the World Biographical Information System (WBIS) Online. Reference works including biographical lexicons, encyclopedias, and monographs dating from the 16th century through the 1990s are the sources of biographical entries and articles on more than five million people from various countries from the 4th millennium B.C. to the late 20th century.
CRL is working to gather additional information and critical assessment of this resource. We encourage our community to submit comments on their experiences with it.
This resource is currently offered to CRL libraries at favorable terms. Representatives at each library have been sent login access to view purchase or subscription offers.
Sources for this review include information publicly posted or obtained directly from the publisher, data collected by CRL staff and members, and examination of the digital collection when possible. Other sources are noted where cited.
The microfiche edition of K.G. Saur's Biographical Archives has been digitized and issued as a group of databases known as the World Biographical Information System (WBIS) Online. Reference works including biographical lexicons, encyclopedias, and monographs dating from the 16th century up through the 1990s are the sources of over seven million biographical entries and articles on more than five million people from various countries from the 4th millennium B.C. to the late 20th century.
Digitization of the microfiche, at least parts of which are held by many academic libraries, was completed in 2010. The publisher, Walter de Gruyter, reports the number of separate archival database groupings as 47 or 58, depending on how separate parts and supplements are counted. The archival databases groupings represent twenty-five different countries and regions (including Africa, America, Scandinavia, South East Asia, etc.). There are also five different thematic groupings: Arab Islamic; Christianity; Classical World; Middle Ages; and Jewish.
The entries in the thematic groupings supposedly do not significantly repeat the entries from the various country and regional archives. But, as demonstrated in examples from the publisher, the geographic divisions of the archives are actually based on the origin of the biographical reference sources, apparently not on the native origins of the persons chronicled. So entries on American author and humorist Mark Twain appear not only in the American archive volumes, but also in the Jewish, Turkish, and African database archives. Searching under the author’s birth name (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) cites entries in the American and British archives.
The great variety in types and dates of information sources, which shift perspectives over time, is touted as a strength. While some sources date back to the late 16th century, a great number of the reference sources date to the 19th and 20th centuries. The end dates for the databases vary, but none date after 2001. There are no plans at present for further supplements.
One can search across any group of archives purchased, but then must consult the individual articles and entries in each archive cited. Unfortunately no name authority control exists. Phrase searches provide the only control; users can also browse and select index terms for most search fields. Name searches are augmented by an occupation classification, and a bibliographic search
The basic K. G. Saur database platform is available in six languages.
Page images of biographical articles are presented as is from the original sources.
Strengths and weaknesses
The K. G. Saur microfiche set was an extremely ambitious project, covering a comprehensive range of basic biographical resources. For libraries that have found all or part of this set useful, having online text searching available within the entries and across the archives, plus digitized article sources, represents a tremendous improvement in access. Those undertaking extensive biographical groundwork for basic research or name authority consultation will find a wealth of materials, strong in contemporary sources but enriched by updated content through the 1990s.
At the same time, the cautious collections investor will be mindful that there is considerable overlap among the separately priced archives. First, content among various standard biographical reference sources has often been repeated. Furthermore, name entries can be cited in multiple country archives, according to wherever information was published, regardless of the person’s country of origin. Also, inclusion of some early materials that may not conform to current scholarly perspectives could be misleading for inexperienced undergraduate students.
Direct from Publisher
|Subjects covered||Biographical information on persons, families, and groups from all social and professional fields|
|Chronological coverage||4th millennium B.C.–21st century|
|Content types||Reference works|
|Total titles||9 million articles from almost 10,000 reference works|
|Digital collection launch date||2009|
|Available supplements||8 archival regions have supplement volumes|
|Major languages||Brief biographies are in English, but original sources are published in 44 languages|
|P||Browser compatibility||IE 8+, Safari, Chrome, Firefox|
|P||Authentication options||IP Authentication|
|Archiving solution – master files||NA|
|Archiving solution – derivative files||NA|
|Availability in web discovery tools||NA|
|Open URL target||NA|
|P||Local host option||N|
|Full text displayed||N|
|Search full text||Y|
|Search within results||N|
|Limit results by dates and/or document types||Y|
|Display highlighted search terms||N|
|P||Display snippet – search term in context||Y|
|Save searches||Y (with persistent URL)|
|Download PDF||Y; limit of 50 pp.|
|Print full document||N;limit of 50 pp.|
|Cross-product searching||Y - You are able to search through more than one Biographical Archive|
|P||Restrictions on use||Print material then send|
|Publisher / Distributor||De Gruyter|
|Address||Walter de Gruyter GmbH; Genthiner Strasse 13; D-10785 Berlin/Germany|
|Contact||http://www.degruyter.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; contact email@example.com|
|CRL Profile of Publisher|
|Subscription option||Access to digitized biographical articles is subscription-based|
|Purchase option||One-time purchase for Biographical Archive and for each supplement|
|Multiple year payments option||NA|
|Hosting charges||Annual access fee for Biographical Archive and for each supplement|
|List of purchasers available||N|
|Sample license available||y|
|MARC records purchase fee||NA|
|Price tier basis|