Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 9, no. 3, March 1998

Edited by Teri Andrews Rinne

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356  -

Contributors: Christof Galli, Kirk Hastings, Terry Huwe, Margaret Phillips, Richard Rinehart, Jim Ronningen, Roy Tennant, Lisa Yesson

[ Electronic Publishing ] [ Information Technology and Society ] [ Networks & Networking ]

Electronic Publishing

Guernsey, Lisa. "Company Offers Free Access to a Big Database, if Libraries Give it $400,000" Chronicle of Higher Education 64(28) (March 30, 1998):A30. -- Guernsey describes an unusual marketing move by Chadwyck-Healey, a database publisher. The firm has pledged to make ArhivesUSA searchable on the Web by anyone in the United States and Canada, if it can raise $400,000 in funds from libraries by the end of Apri l. While this ultimately may be seen as an innovative strategy to increase access, it is a tale with many strange elements. The database, which was built from information that was given freely by libraries to the publisher, would be given to the general c itizenry--but only if libraries will now pay a "fee" for value added to their original "gift." The article is well-balanced, and quotes both critics and supporters. Critics suggest that Chadwyck-Healey might consider using profits from the database to gi ve access to libraries, instead of charging libraries. The scenario of cash-strapped non-profits giving scarce funds to a profit-making business must surely suggest that we are entering a brave new world of information pricing. Perhaps we would be well-a dvised to check our looking glasses lest we fall into them. Without doubt, it's an experimental project, and one worth following, because it may indicate the shape of future pricing strategies in the era of the net. -- TH

Pack, Thomas. "Visualizing Information: Visualization Systems Data Management" Database 21(1)(February/March 1998): 47-49 -- This article is a gentle reminder for informati on professionals about the importance of information visualization, a relatively new technique for analyzing search results from large, multivariate data sets. Information visualization transforms data into graphic representations to help viewers use thei r natural tools of observation and processing to extract knowledge more efficiently. Traditionally used in engineering and medicine, information visualization systems are becoming increasingly popular in areas such as financial services where they help d ecision makers interpret large, complex data sets. Pack notes that there are still limitations for bringing effective visualization systems to the Web, but believes this will likely change with improvements in Web-based technologies and increased bandwidt h. -- LY

Information Technology and Society

Agre, Phil. "The Internet and Public Discourse" First Monday 3(3) (March 2, 1998). -- Agre argues that the confusion about how to manag e legal and political expectations in cyberspace is rooted in a lack of comprehension of the new medium. It's too easy to mistake communication on the net with telephony, newspapers etc--therein lies the problem. The medium is actually a "meta-medium": a set of layered services that is built from flexible elements, and its properties change to meet the desires of the author. To properly map legal and political concerns to harness the power of the new beast, we need to start anew and map the meta-medium t o legal theories and social conventions that capture its modus vivendi. If we do not, we risk falling into the profitless trap of imposing the wrong conceptual framework from other media. -- TH

Networks & Networking

Beall, Jeffrey "Guaranteed Hits" College & Research Libraries News 59(3)(March 1998):160-162. This practical article provides tips on how index your site for Search engines to ensure tha t it will be retrieved by a greater number of Web searchers. Among the strategies are 1) visit the major search engines and look for the "Add URL" button or it's equivalent (there are even Web sites that bring together all the "Add URL" pages of the major search engines (, 2) design your site in such a way to increase the likelihood of its being indexed accurately: don't include vital information exclusively in graphics as these will not be read by search engines and place vital information in larger font towards the top of the page, 3) use the Dublin Core, a block of data in standard form that provides information about your site in a way that is recognized by search engines; as a standard for metadata, the Dublin Core is big in the library community (for more information, see and, 4) catalog your site not only for your own online catalog but in one of the major bibliographic utilities as well, 5) seek out specialized search engines that focus on a particular discipline and then look for the "Add URL" button. - MP

Jayne, Elaine and Patricia Vander Meer. "The Library's Role in Academic Instructional Use of the World Wide Web" Research Strategies (15)3 (Fall 1997):123-150. -- As academic librarians become experts in doing more with less, they will nee d these skills in yet another area critical to their mission: supporting the use of the Web in teaching and learning. The authors argue that students and faculty will need adequate training and guidance to take advantage of the instructional benefits of t he Web. They propose a collaborative approach between academic libraries and computing centers to facilitate a Web instructional program. While their collaborative program suggestions may be fairly basic for institutions that have already initiated effort s in this area, they do also provide valuable criteria for demonstrating and constructing instructional Web sites and an illustrative list of library-related and subject specific Web sites. -- LY

Jones, Martha. "Online Resources for Writers" LJ Digital (April 1, 1998), Berinstein, Paula. "The Numbers Game: The Top 10 Sources for Statistics" Online 22(2) (March 1998) -- Many writers, interested in the fine art of verbal nuance, cringe at th e idea of crude statistics. It's precisely because most writers don't consider themselves "numbers people" that I offer the second citation paired with the first, just to encourage a little horizon broadening. Berinstein's ranking of statistical sites st arts with the single most useful source for residents of the U.S., the Statistical Abstract of the United States, and continues with other sources which are rich in domestic and foreign figures. She also offers strategies for navigating this quantitative sea. Jones has reviewed Web sites which can help with the craft of writing and with getting published, and may create a sense of community for lonely scribes. Her top pick is Inkspot, for its breadth and organization. Zuzu's Petals Literary Resource Homepage is singled out as particularly good for poets. So visit each other's web pages, and maybe you counters and co njurers will understand each other a little better. Okay? Big hug. -- JR

Mace, Scott, "Weaving a Better Web" BYTE 23(3)(March 1998):58-68. -- The Extensible Markup Language (XML) is likely to revolutionize the Web . That's a big claim, but I'm not the only one who thinks that. For example, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, and Netscape are all lining up behind it. John Bosak from Sun is the father of XML, Microsoft is pushing it like crack, and Netscape recently announc ed support for it in their upcoming 5.0 version of their browser. This feature article in BYTE and its accompanying sidebars is an excellent introduction to XML as well as related draft standards and software. XML provides an infrastructure to solve many of the current problems with the Web, from better linking methods to powerful data structures. Web managers who ignore XML will do so at their peril. -- RT

Nims, Julia K. and Linda Rich. "How Successfully Do Users Search the Web?" College & Research Libraries News, 59(3)(March 1998):155-158. -- Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall to observe how people search for information the Web? That's just want Nims and Rich from Bowling Green State University did with the help of the McKinley Search Voyeur Web site. Although their goa l was to find out the common pitfalls of searchers in their institution so that they could adjust their Web instruction accordingly, spying on their own users was neither technically possible nor ethically appropriate. It is perhaps no surprise that a lar ge number of the searches they spied on were sex-related; it is also no surprise that many of the searches seemed poorly planned. Among the types of "mistakes" they encountered were: one-word searches (e.g. "women" or "computer"); inclusion of stop words; typing errors (the frightening thing is that users who mispelled words often retrieved large search results!); entire or partial URLs (what seemed to be happening was that users who wanted to go to a specific site were doing a search on the URL rather th an just entering it into the location box); exclusion of Magellan search suggestions (very few of the searches seemed to take advantage of certain Magellan features such as using operators like "not" or "or" or placing quotes around a certain phrase; this indicates that users do not seem to be reading the help documentation before doing their searches). Obviously there are limitations to a study like this because a voyeur cannot really know what the the intent of the searcher is or whether or not the sear cher is satisfied with the results. The mistakes observed here are many of the same mistakes that patrons have always been making on online systems; the difference is that the problems are magnified within the Web environment. -- MP

Rosenfeld, Louis and Peter Morville. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web Cambridge, MA: O'Reilly & Associates, 1998. - We've al l seen the problem -- Web sites with no discernible organizational paradigm, uses of technology that border on a federal offense, and just plain bad site design. Now those site designers have no excuse. If they don't know what they're doing, here's the bo ok to tell them how. In under 200 pages, Rosenfeld and Morville (columnists for Web Review and principals with Argus Associates) cover such essential concepts a s organization, navigation, searching, and labeling systems as well as much more. There is enough here to help all Web managers, no matter if we already believe ourselves to be competent in creating and managing our sites. Because mostly we aren't as good as we may think. If you manage a Web site, you owe it to your users to study this book. And some of you should be shackled to your servers until it sinks in. Still need convincing? See the sample chapter ( for a taste. - RT

Summers, Ed. "Gateways to Social Work/Welfare on the Net" College & Research Libraries News, 59(3) (March 1998):163- 167. -- This month's C&RL News list of Internet resources is a selecte d list that introduces gateways to social work information on the net as well as provides links to social work organizations, e-journals, and education/employment resources. -- MP

Watters, Carolyn, Marshall Conley and Cynthia Alexander. "The Digital Agora: Using Technology for Learning in the Social Sciences" Communications of the ACM 41(1)(January 1998):50-57. -- The "digital agora" at Acadia University is a Web-based system which, according to the authors, encourage s collaborative analysis of social problems. Students enrolled in introductory political science, peace studies and international politics courses work through Web pages to read, write responses, pull together research and reach consensus after negotiatio n on group efforts. The focus of the article is on the interweaving of curriculum with site organization and functions; do not look here for much criticism of the effectiveness of Web-based learning systems. The authors do allow that Web resources may be "only rudimentary as tools for facilitating the understanding of the complexity of issues, the formulation of strategies dealing with these issues, and finally, the communication of ideas," which are some pretty serious reservations. But that topic is dro pped like a hot potato, and the emphasis remains on implementation issues. The first line of the article states proudly that "Acadia University is the first laptop university in Canada," and this is recommended reading for anyone pondering programs for an equally fortunate student body. It's helpful to read it in the context of the January issue, themed "Computers Across Campus," which has several pieces about programs which require students to explore the possibilities of info tech. -- JR

Current Cites 9(3) (March 1998) ISSN: 1060-2356 Copyright © 1998 by the Library, Univer sity of California, Berkeley. All rights reserved.

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