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New old(1)

  1. 1. The New/Old World Wide Web Order: The Application of "Neo-Conventional" Functionality to Facilitate Access and Use of a.WWW Database of Scienceand Technology Internet Resources Gerry McKiernan 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~:/,,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 ( 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.
  2. 2. 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" Background 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:// -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- tional framework. Philosophy 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
  3. 3. source, accuracy of the information, clarity of presentation, uniqueness within the context of the total collection, recency or timeliness, favorable reviews, and community needs. Organization 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
  4. 4. 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 Cross-Classification Index. 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. Selection 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
  5. 5. Gerry McKiernm 51 careful selection of resources is the touchstone o'f the electronic library6 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 publication types. Subsequently, the local OPAC is searched to identify similar works of the same form. Candidate classification numbers are noted, and later final-
  6. 6. 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.
  7. 7. Gerry McKiernan 'Hyper-Thesaurus' 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. Presenting 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
  8. 8. 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 potential usefulness. Icons 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. Nomination 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 consult. Conclusion 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.
  9. 9. Gerry McKiernan Disclaimers 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. NOTES 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: < 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).