The New/Old World Wide Web Order:
of "Neo-Conventional" Functionality
to Facilitate Access and Use
of a.WWW Database
of Scienceand Technology
ABSTRACT. While there are numerous information sources that
are available on the World Wide Web (W),the identification of
significant Net resources is often not as efficient nor as effective as
many desire. In 1995, a demonstration prototype sewicdyber-
Stacks(sm) <h~:/h.pblic.iaFtaie.edu/-CYBE~CXS/,,was for-
mally established at lowa State University with the intent of enhancing
access and use of selected Internet resources in science, technology
and related areas through the application of the Library of Congress
classification system as an o anizational framework. As the proto-
type was refined, other metho% for identifying and selecting relevant
resources were subsequently incorporated withii its scheme.
This paper reviews the creation of the CyberStacks(sm) prototype,
describes the develo~mentand ~otentialusefulness of its matrix of
access options, and driscussesthe' applicability of traditional and con-
ventional library selection and organizational philosophies, practices,
Geny McKieman, AB, MS, is Coordinator, Scienceand Technology Section,
Reference and Instructional Services Department, Iowa State University, 152
Parks Library,Ames, IA 50011 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The author gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by the
Travel and Research Funds Committee of the lowa State University Library for
enhancementof the CyberStacks(sm)prototype.
Journal of Internet Cataloging,Vol. l(1) 1997
O 1997by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
48 JOURNAL OF INTERNET CATALOGING
methods and techniques for facilitating access to Web resources.
[Article copies available for a fie fmm me Haworth Document Delivery
Service: 1-800-342-9678.E-mail address:getinfo@hawrth.~
KEYWORDS. CyberStacks, Internet organization and access, sci-
ence and technology Internet resources
"EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN"
The Library of Congress classification system is a well-established
scheme that has been used for generations by libraries worldwide for
organizing a variety of publications and media. Within its schedules, this
classification system not only denotes subject coverage and content, but
information format and conceptual relationships as well. It is believed that
a classification system with the features found within the Library of Con-
gress scheme offers appropriate context and structure that can facili-
tatelidentification of relevant WWW and other Internet resources.'
In Fall 1995, CyberStacks(sm), ~hfrp://www.public.iastare.edu/
-CYBEkW4CKW a demonstration prototype database of selected Internet
resources, was established on the home page server at Iowa State Univer-
sity using the Library of Congress Classification schedules as an organiza-
Underlying the overall CyberStacks(sm) approach is the philosophy
that effective management of WWW and other Internet resources is best
achieved by establishing a defined collection of selected resources. While
thc CyberStacks(sm)model can be applied to any and all subjects, for any
and all media, we have sought to develop and refine its functionality by
defining it as a collection of significant Internet resources in science,
technology and related areas with Reference value. In associated docu-
ments linked to the CyberStacks(sm) home page, we have concisely artic-
ulated our views on each of these component features.
In general, we have applied the same philosophy and general criteria
commonly used in the selection of non-Internet Reference resources2 to
the selection of World Wide Web (WWW) and other appropriate Net
resources for the CyberStacks(sm) collection. These include authority of
source, accuracy of the information, clarity of presentation, uniqueness
within the context of the total collection, recency or timeliness, favorable
reviews, and community needs.
At the core of the CyberStacks(sm) scheme is a hypertext-enhanced
outline of the Library of Congress Classification ~chedules.~It is our
belief that the inherent structure, organization, context and level of speci-
ficity and description provided by this established classification system
can enhance the overall efficiency and effectiveness of using Web and
other Internet resources.
Unlike many current efforts that merely list resources alphabetically
within broad classes, CyberStacks(sm) has applied the Library of Con-
gress scheme to a far deeper level of specificity and provides a more
detailed description of incorporated resources than is commonly provided.
Through a series of broad, less broad and more specific categories, users
are presented with a series of options, which not only suggest search
topics, but, we believe, through the process, reduce the cognitive-load
often associated with command-based, direct searching.
The benefit of using a browsable scheme of categorized resources
within CyberStacks(sm) is well-supported by the observations of Chang
and Rice in their excellent review article on browsing as a significant
information seeking strategy. Particularly supportive of the Cyber-
Stacks(sm) approach is their clear articulation of the uncertainty that some
users experience in the conventional search process:
. . . [Ulsers are often in an anomalous state of knowledge as they
initiate a search . . . do not have predefined search criteria .. .and
may alter their interests during a ~earch.~
In citing the work of Hemer, Bates and others, they recognize the
importance of browsing in human information seeking and highlight the
need for information scientists to incorporate this approach into their
system designs. Their summary of critiques of 'specific, direct searching'
supports the need for browsable interfaces:
[There are] some unrealistic assumptions ab.out users and the nature
of information seeking-e.g., that users have unbounded rationality,
have static and well-defined information needs, know what they
want and are output driven ....5
50 JOURNAL OFINTERNET CATALOGING
Within CyberStacks(sm), users can not only browse from general to
other general categories (e.g., Science (Q) to Medicine (R) to Agriculture
(S)), they can also browse from general to specific categories (e.g., Sci-
ence (Q) to Mathematics (QA)) or from within a specific category to a
related subcategory (e.g., Natural History (General) (QH 1-74)to Nature
Conservation (QH 75-77). Within subcategories, users also have the abil-
ity to select and browse related subject subclasses (e.g., QA, QB, QC, QD,
QE, QH, QK. QL, QM, QP, QR).
Through any of these browsable schemes, users can scan broader or
narrower subject categories at will, and then if desired, connect directly to
a selected resource. Thus CyberStacks(sm) seeks not to be a digital library
per se, but a 'virtual' library where like materials metaphorically 'stand
together' in the stacks.
The capability to browse from broad to less broad categories and from
within these to related categories is complemented by an alphabetical
This index offers the user direct access to a separate, combined collec-
tion of more specific subject categories that are to be found elsewhere
under relevant broad and less broad classifications within the general
CyberStacks(sm) scheme along with the call number range associated
with each subcategory. With a duplicate, reconfigured set of subcategories,
users are presented with additional, more specific search topics for consid-
eration. Upon selection, they are linked to the broader class that includes
the specific subcategory selected. Here, they have the option of reviewing
conceptually-related subcategories or can link to resources assigned to
their originally selected subcategory.
The foundation of the CyberStacks(sm) approach is a collection devel-
opment practice that seeks to identify, isolate, and select Net resources that
are discrete document-like objects. The philosophy of selection of
resources for inclusion within the CyberStacks(sm) scheme is well-articu-
lated by Dernas, McDonald and Lawrence in a recent article:
. . . [Tlitle by title selection of high quality resources is one of the
most important values librarians can add in providing access to
information resources, including those accessible via the Internet. A
Gerry McKiernm 51
careful selection of resources is the touchstone o'f the electronic
To facilitate the selection of such resourcesin this phase of the project,
we have intentionally sought to locate Internet resources that are the elec-
tronic equivalent or analog of standard Reference works, as well as
resources that may be so considered. Abstracting and indexing services,
bibliographies, biographical sources, dictionaries, directories, handbooks,
guides to the literature,maps, and standards,are but a few of these publica-
tion types. These may take the form of monographic or serial works, files,
databases, or search services, or other conventional information formats.
While CyberStacks(sm)does include entire Web sites within its scheme,
only those that are considered well-organized collections of significant
Internet resources are selected for incorporation. In general such sites are
viewed as either directories or encyclopedias, depending on their struc-
ture, organization and content, and are categorized and classified as such.
Over the years, to assist users in managing the ever-increasing volume
of information, librarians and others have developed or applied a variety
of selection and organizational tools and techniques. In a recent review
article, Hopkins provides a concise summary of the issue of information
overload and succinctly profiles a number of the methods used in counter-
ing the problem.' Among the conventional tools that librarians have
created to assist users in managing information overload have been guides,
handbooks, review articles, literature reviews, abridgments and rankings,
as well as indexes, digests, abstracts, and other similar services.
The intentional selection of sources of a Reference nature that serve to
index, abstract, guide or review significant and relevant information
sources for inclusion in the initial phase of the CyberStacks(sm) collection
is particularly appropriate in view of the historical role that such works
have played in assisting users to manage information.
When and where possible, resources are assigned the identical basic
classification number of their print or other electronic equivalent or ana-
log. If a resource does not have a counterpart, its general and specific
subject coverage is determined by a detailed examination of the resource.
If the reference nature of a specific resource is not indicated in its title, it is
assigned the most appropriate form from a listing of standard reference
Subsequently, the local OPAC is searched to identify similar works of
the same form. Candidate classification numbers are noted, and later final-
52 JOURNAL OF INTERNET CATALOGING
ized after reviewing the appropriate printed Library of Congress classifi-
cation schedules. If the local OPAC does not provide a candidate classifi-
cation number, the OCLC Online Union Catalog, or LOCIS, the Library of
Congress online catalog, is also searched.
After a majority of the resources identified to date are fully incorpo-
rated within CyberStacks(sm), we plan to refine the classification of
resources through a participatory resource database development project.
As out~ined,~this initiative will ask users to suggest the most appropriate
category or categories where an incorporated resource should be classified
or may also be classified. The intent of this project is to classify resources
in categories where users themselves would expect to find them, in addi-
tion to placing them in categories where librarians believe resources
should be classified according to professional practice, preference or tradi-
tion. It is believed that such user-assisted categorization will hrther facili-
tate identification and use of selected resources.
While its primary approach to providing access to World Wide Web and
other Internet resources is from within a hypertext-enhanced classification
system, CyberStacks(sm) has complemented this approach with a brows-
able index of selected or candidate titles.
Within this Etle Index, users may either browse an entire alphabetical
listing of titles, or select from an alphabetical group. From this index, users
may either connect directly to a listed resource, or if they desire, link to an
available profile of the resource within the CyberStacks(sm) collection to
review the resource's structure, content and coverage first. Titles fully
incorporated within CyberStacks(sm) are indicated with an 'information'
icon to the right of an entry. Selection of this latter option provides the user
with appropriate and sufficient information that we believe can facilitate
more efficient searching of the Internet. By providing users with a sum-
mary of the resource, as well as succinct instruction on access and use,
users know in advance the nature of the resource and how it may effec-
tively be navigated.
Selection of a resource profile will concurrently place the user within a
specific location within the CyberStacks(sm) outline in which resources of
a similar nature may be found, or access provided to a related resource.
The selection of a known itcm from the ?FtleIndexnot only offers the user
direct access to a specific potentially relevant resource, but through the
structure of the CyberStacks(sm) scheme, presents to users, either directly
or indirectly, related resources for consideration.
A proposed 'hyper-thesaurus' of assigned Library of Congress Subject
Headings (LCSH) would provide access to more specific subject topics.
As envisioned, such a thesaurus, created as an additional access function,
would outline all the entries assigned to resources within the Cyber-
Stacks(sm) database, indicate the broader, narrower or related relation-
ships between assigned subject headings, and provide a hypertext link
directly to those records assigned a specific subject heading.
In cases where a given subject heading has been assigned to more than
one resource, users would be provided with a menu of options, including
an alphabetical listing of all resource titles assigned a specific heading.
From this listine. a selection would link users directlv to the associated
profile within ~Gber~tacks(sm).Research on the designof next generation
online public access catalogs as it relates to such value-added functional-
ity, notably that of ~icco?;s currently being reviewed.
In current Internet catalogs, it is not uncommon for record data to be
displayed in a labelled format or a MARC format. While the latter format
primarily serves the needs and interests of catalogers and other librarians,
and the former is intended to serve the needs of the user as well as the
librarian, end-users may not necessarily require all of the data provided in
either of these standard records formats to determine the relevance or
significance of a given Net resource.1°
While all fields and their associated data are necessary to uniquely
identify a resource or required for record manipulation within standard
information storage and retrieval systems, all fields and all data need not
be fully displayed as the primaly presentation format for a collection of
Internet resources. As clearly articulated by Hildreth:
System designers, especially designers of user interfaces must take
into account the primary tasks to be performed with the system and
the characteristics brought to the tasks by users of the system. An
understanding of these tasks and characteristics will inform the
design of appropriate information scarch, presentation, review,
selection, and related decision making facilities.''
We strongly endorse this viewpoint and believe that in the Age of
HyperText, catalogers and other librarians need to consider more fully the
54 JOURNAL OF INTERNET CATALOGING
'presentation form' of a resource as well as the formats needed for high-
quality, consistent bibliographical control. Within CyberStacks(sm), we
do not delineate all relevant elements in describing a resource, but seek to
characterizeit suficiently so that users can judge its potential usefulness
and to simultaneously integrate the resource within an appropriate frame-
work that offers a context in which the relationship to other resources in its
collection is indicated.'=
Within the hyper-environmentof the Web, efforts to catalog Net resources
must consider the Foreground as well as the Background. In Cyber-
Stacks(sm), we seek to synthesize available information about a selected
resource and to present the equivalent of a descriptive annotation that
provides users with sufficient information about the subject coverage, size,
record structure, special features and origin to enable users to judge its
Likewise, the use of appropriate icons within CyberStacks(sm) in associa-
tion with broad and general subjects, at primary and secondary levels, is
intended to offer users visual clues that can facilitate access to categories
of resources of potential relevance within its collection.
Through a variety of links, users themselves have thc option of nomi-
nating resources for inclusion within CyberStacks(sm), or to request that a
specific type of publication be made available as a Web publication within
it. Thus, as with other proactive collection development policies, users
themselves are involved with the enhancement of a collection they use and
In its effort to manage and enhance access to Internet resources, CyberS-
tacks(sm) has employed traditional libraryphilosophies, practices, methods,
techniques and structures for selection, organization and access. These
approaches have been implemented in both conventionaland conventional-
like ways by utilizing the inherent versatility of HTML-the HyperText
Markup Language, and the Web browser environment,more fblly.
We believe that familiar structures, access features, as well as enhance-
ments to familiar functions found integrated within CyberStacks(sm) can
greatly facilitateeffective and efficient use of lntemet resources.
CyberStacks(sm) is an ongoing personal research project and its avail-
ability does not constitute an endorsement by Iowa State University, the
Iowa State University Computation Center, nor the Iowa State University
Library or Library of Congress.
I. McKieman,Gerry, "CyberStacks(sm): A 'Library-Organized' Virtual Sci-
ence and Technology Reference Collection, D-Lib Magazine, December (1995).
Internet WWW Page, at URL: <http://www.dlib.org/dlib/decernber95/briefingsl
IZcyber.html> (version current at 10 February 1996).
2. American Library Association. Reference Collection Development and
Evaluation Committee, Reference Collection Development: A Manual (Chicago:
American Library Association, Referenceand Adult Services, 1992).
3. LC Classification Outline (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1990).
4. Chang, San-Ju and Ronald E. Rice, "Browsing: A Multidimensional Frame-
work," Annual Reviov of Information Science and Technology28 (1993): 233.
5. Ibid., 233.
6. Demas, Samuel G., Peter McDonald, and Gregory Lawrence, "The lnternet
and Collection Development: Mainstreaming Selection of lntemet Resources,"
Library Resourcesand Technical Services 39, no. 3 (July 1995):280.
7. Hopkins, Richard L., Countering Information Overload: The Role of the
Librarian," Reference Librarian 49/50 (1995): 305-333.
8. McKieman, Gerry. "Participatory WWW Database Development and
Resource Classification," bit.listserv.asis-l (13 December 1995).
9. Micco. Mary, "The Next Generation of Online Public Access Catalogs: A
New Look at Subject Access Using Hypermedia, Cataloging & Clussijication
Quarterly 13. nos. 3 4 (1991): 103-129.
10. McKieman, Gerry, "two-dimensional limitationd3-D Possibilitiedyber-
Stacks(sm): An Alternative Model for Selecting(Organizing(PresentinglAccessing
WWW Resources: A Position Paper Prepared for the OCLC Internet Cataloging
Project Colloquium." Intemet WWW Page, at URL: <http://www.public.iastate.
edul-CYBERSTACKSIOCLC-P.htm>(versioncurrent at 2 February 1996).
I I. Hildreth, Charles R., "The GUI OPAC: Approach with Caution," m e
Public-Access Computer Systems Review 6, no. 5 (1995):Z.O.
12. McKieman,Gerry, "two-dimensional limitations/3-DPossibilities," lnternet
WWW Page, at URL: <http://www.public.iastate.eddCYBERSTACKS/WLC-
P.htm>(version current at 2 February 1996).