The Electronic Documentation Project is funded by the HEFC (Wales) as part of funding for specialist research collections in the humanities. It is based in Thomas Parry Library (formerly the ILS library) which is closely associated with the internationally respected Department of Information and Library Studies, UWA. The broad purpose of the project is to ‘collect’ (in some sense) Internet Resources in our field; integrate them into the existing collection and promote their use. Our core users are the students and staff of DILS, but potentially our Internet collection is of interest to any librarian or information worker.
The rationale of the project is simple: given that the library collects LIS material in all formats from books to videos to slides it is bound to explore collecting material published on the Internet too. Much of the information available on the Internet is only available there. Some services, such as journal indexes complement our existing collection. At the moment most services are free. The Internet also has the advantage of offering 24 hour, remote access. So for our increasing population of distance learners part of our collection becomes accessible. This will be supplemented by more and more in house databases and publications that the library plans to put on the Web. In turn there are many gains to the project from being based in a specialist library: immediate access to the latest printed publications and detailed knowledge of the information needs of a specific user community (eg from CAS profiles).
The project’s first target was to produce a library homepage (URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/~tplwww). We then moved on to creating PICK, a gateway to quality Internet resources in library and information science (URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/~tplwww/e/). This is a subject directory rather in the style of SOSIG and OMNI, filtering for quality, organising resources by subject, highlighting the best resources.
Resource DiscoveryResource discovery is a long term, on-going enterprise. We have made some systematic searches (using Alta Vista and Lycos and the broad subject trees). We have looked at existing collections of LIS resources on the Internet. E-mail lists such as Web4lib, PACS, Nettrain and of course Lis-link are valuable for announcements of latest resources. The printed literature is also useful eg Computers in libraries, Electronic Libraries, Database; as well as Web based alerting services such as Herriot Watt’s Internet Resources Newsletter, and the Web version of IIS’ Inform.
SelectionThe dominant factor governing how we select resources is simply content. We are looking for substantial, current information. We naturally emphasise UK based resources, but draw on relevant services from any part of the World. Design of the resources for easy access eg availability of a site specific search engine is an important but secondary criterion in selecting material.
ScopeE-mail conferences, telnet access to library catalogues, BUBL are established and recognised Internet resources in the LIS field. But there are an impressive array of new resources. Some idea of the scope of the subjects covered by PICK is apparent from the contents displayed on the index page, for example:
- The Internet,
As well as introducing the Internet and basic search skills, this section points to on line tutorials about using the Internet. It also looks at resources for exploring issues raised by the Internet as a publishing medium such as freedom of speech and expression, information quality, computer mediated communication.
- Electronic journals and newsletters,
As well as some printed journals and newsletters offering a Web version published in parallel; there are quite a number of well established e-mail based journals, such as PACS Review, LIBRES, Associates and several Web based journals, including Katherine Sharp Review, Provenance, D-Lib. We maintain a pretty comprehensive, up-to-date directory of the dozens of newsletters and journals in our field. Access to a number of these has been further improved by Mr Serials Harvest a service allowing the user to search a number of journals and newsletters from one interface individually or collectively.
- Full text documents (such as conference proceedings, individual papers and reports),
- LIS Reference (databases, directories, thesauri),
This section covers OPACs and library Web pages, national and public libraries on the Web plus library policy documents plans and reports collection development policies.
Libraries have been in the forefront of using the Internet. National libraries for example have been very active in using the Web: the Library of Congress, National Library of Canada, National Library of Australia as well as the British Library all have outstanding servers with loads of full text information. Academic libraries have made wide use of the Web for library guides, and even bibliographic instruction. Library publications such as policy documents, collection development reports and annual reports are appearing in increasing numbers.
- Library related organisations (LIS education, UK and International and non UK bodies),
Many professional organisations such as ALA, IFLA and ARL are making much information available. Important initiatives such as ELib, Telematics for libraries programme, and the work of UKOLN can be best followed by students from their Web servers.
- Other topics and resources,
Our collection of literature from library automation suppliers is now supplemented by our own fairly comprehensive list of their Web sites. Our collection of book supplier catalogues by links publishers’ Web sites via AcqWeb, Sharp Web. Many job openings and recruitment agencies are advertised on the Web as well as training courses and conferences. We also make suggestions about good starting points for wider topics of interest such as CAL, management, business information, SGML.
We have tried to illustrate the depth of information available on some servers by outline reviews of some of the main servers, some National libraries, IFLA, NISS, BUBL. We have tried to put as much added value into our pages as possible, from annotating lists to producing in depth reviews of important resources.
OrganisationWe have divided the resources into broad recognisable subject areas, and all accessed from the main index page, rather than via a complex hierarchy; in addition there is a subject search capability (using Glimpse on a manually created index), a site map and a what’s new page.
Promotion and integrationMany of our pages are designed to be printed out so that the user can have a hard copy to read. They are in the style of library resource sheets, and are available in the library in printed form. We have always tried to integrate printed references with online resources, so stressing that the Internet is just one among a number of potential sources for a particular topic.
A series of library displays have explored different ways of promoting and integrating Internet resources with existing collections.
- Our first exhibition consisted of a foyer display of works from the library’s Horton Collection of early children’s printed books, with in parallel an electronic exhibition of text and images;
- Our second exhibition was on careers/ professional development, with books and material from the library’s collection, University careers service and some of the recruitment agencies; plus a web page linking to relevant Internet resources.
- A third exhibition, libraires on the Internet, highlighted the top twenty Web sites in our field; illustrated how libraries are using the Web, libraries and the Web; and displayed recent library journal articles exploring the use of the Web in libraries, now incorporated into a rolling bibliography.
Continuing issuesThe Internet is in a constant state of flux, new resources appearing, old resources moving, changing, disappearing, while the client software itself is continuously evolving. Part of producing a quality service is keeping our information current and accurate by continous checking.
Changes in the client software are both an opportunity and a problem for the Web designer. They are an opportunity to improve the visual appeal and functionality of Web pages. But they threaten also to obscure the message in glossy presentation, and to disenfranchise users with text only browsers or older versions of Netscape, say. The emphasis in the project has always been on promoting access to information, rather than producing glossy logos and images. Many of these site management issues will be relieved when we start using the software developed by ROADS, hopefully in the near future.
Work in handThe project has recently won funding for a second year, current work in hand includes:
- An 8 part e-mail course introducing the Internet, to be posted to the DILS student e-mail list at the beginning of the new academic year. It will cover basics of using Netscape, finding and evaluating resources, the information issues surrounding the Web, e-mail lists and creating a Web page.
- A ROADS database of full text papers and conferences proceedings available on the web, probably with a locally held copy to guarantee long term availability, and quicker access; probably also with full text searches of the archived documents. After that the whole service will be migrated to ROADS.
- Incorporation of students reviews and selections in areas marginal to our main areas of concentration, eg archives, business information - or giving an individual perspective on an important area, e.g. electronic journals.
- Publication of in house databases and material on the Web. We already provide background information on LIBEX the library exchange scheme that Thomas Parry runs in conjunction with the International Group of the Library Association with a full list of the posts currently available for exchange. A Web form allows users to request more information, and we have received a growing flow of such requests. We also put the library’s accessions list on the Web; and provide access to searchable/browsable databases of DILS theses and an in-house index of press cuttings relating to libraries, publishing etc. We plan to expand this lists of Web publications, perhaps to include Professional Calendar the library’s database of courses, conferences and meetings of interest to librarians and information workers.
- In the slightly longer run if the University invests in a webbed OPAC there will be a further leap towards integrating valuable Internet resources into the collection.
Andrew Cox firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas Parry Library
University of Wales