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ED 403 897 

IR 056 270 





McKiernan, Gerry 

Casting the Net: The Development of a Resource 
Collection for an Internet Database. 


8p. ; A downloaded version of one of 29 conference 
papers (for those in ERIC, see IR 056 258~274) placed 
on the Internet under the following overall title: 
"Untangling the Web. Proceedings of the Conference 
Sponsored by the Librarians Association of the 
University of California, Santa Barbara, and Friends 
of the UCSB Library" (Santa Barbara, CA, April 26, 
1996) . 

Electronic version: 

ht tp : //www. 1 ibrary . ucsb . edu/ untangle/ 

Reports “ Evaluative/Feasibility (142) — 
Speeches/Conference Papers (150) 



MF01/PC01 Plus Postage. 

Academic Libraries; ^Access to Information; 
Cataloging; ^Computer Software Development; 
Databases; ^Electronic Libraries; Higher Education; 
Information Technology; ^Internet; Research Tools; 
^Scientific and Technical Information; Search 
Strategies; World Wide Web 

Barriers to Information; Iowa State University; 
Library of Congress Classification; Prototypes 


CyberStacks (sm) , a demonstration prototype World Wide 
Web information service, was established on the home page server at 
Iowa State University with the intent of facilitating identification 
and use of significant Internet resources in science and technology. 
CyberStacks (sm) was created in response to perceived deficiencies in 
early efforts to organize access to Internet resources and the 
inherent inadequacies of original and current Internet directories 
and search services. It has adapted the Library of Congress 
classification scheme and "neo-convent ional " functionality as 
mechanisms for managing access to the growing number of information 
sources made available over the Internet in recent years. This paper 
reviews the general features of CyberStacks (sm) , analyzes the 
decision processes behind its creation, describes the use of 
conventional and innovative information management tools and 
techniques that were employed in developing a preview set of 
candidate titles for potential incorporation within its collection, 
and discusses the associated impact on the future enhancement of the 
service. (Contains 17 references.) (Author) 

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* Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made K 

* from the original document. * 

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Office of Educational Research and Improvement 


□ This document has been reproduced as 
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Gerry McKiernan 









Casting the Net: The Development of a Resource 
Collection for an Internet Database 

Gerry McKiernan 

Coordinator, Science and Technology Section 
Iowa State University, Ames 

Copyright 1996, Gerry McKiernan. Used with permission. 

"We need to develop services that provide 
information conveniently and quickly with a 
minimal investment of users' time -and to 
reduce the quantity of that information to 
manageable portions ... Dougherty (1991)." 


CyberStacks(sm) - a demonstration prototype world wide web (WWW) information service, was 
formally established in November 1995 on the home page server at Iowa State University with the intent 
of facilitating identification and use of significant Internet resources in science and technology. 
CyberStacks(sm) was created in response to perceived deficiencies in early efforts to organize access to 
Net resources and the inherent inadequacies of original and current Internet directories and search 
services. It has adapted the Library of Congress classification scheme and 'neo-conventional' 
functionality ( McKiernan 1996a ) as mechanisms for managing access to the growing number of 
information sources made available over the Net in recent years. 

This paper reviews the general features of CyberStacks(sm), analyzes the decision processes behind its 
creation, and describes the use of conventional and innovative information management tools and 
techniques that were employed in developing a preview set of candidate titles for potential incorporation 
within its collection, and discusses the associated impact on the future enhancement of the service. 


Information Overload is not unique to Internet users. It is a condition that has plagued the Information Society for 
more than a generation ( Klapp 1986) and has led, at least according to some authorities, to feelings of frustration, 
lectedness, boredom and anxiety ( Wurman 1989 '). 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 which have become commonplace in libraries throughout the world over the years. 

. A recent review article provides a concise characterization of the Information Overload phenomenon as well as 
succinct profiles of a number of the methods that traditionally have been used in countering this problem ( Hopkins 
1995V Among the conventional tools that librarians and others have created to assist users manage information are 
guides, handbooks, review articles, literature reviews, abridgments and rankings, as well as indexes, digests and 
abstracts, among other similar services. 

In Fall 1995, CyberStacks(sm), URL= a demonstration prototype 
database of selected Internet resources in science, technology and related areas, was formally established on the 
home page server at Iowa State University as a model for managing access to and use of an increasing number of 
Internet resources (McKieman 1995 V CyberStacks(sm) was created in response to perceived deficiencies in early 
efforts to organize access to Net resources and the inherent inadequacies in original and current Internet directories 
and search services, and has adapted the Library of Congress classification scheme and 'neo-conventional' 
functionality ( McKieman 1996a - ) as mechanisms for providing enhanced organization and access to significant 
resources available over the Net. 


CyberStacks(sm) is a centralized, integrated, and unified collection of significant world wide web (WWW) and other 
Internet resources categorized using the Library of Congress classification schedules. CyberStacks(sm) uses an 
abridged Library of Congress call number, that allows users to browse through a virtual library stacks to identify 
potentially relevant information resources. Resources are categorized first within a broad classification, then within 
narrower subclasses, and then finally listed under a specific classification range and associated subject description 
that best characterize the content and coverage of the resource (McKieman 1996b V The majority of resources 
incorporated within its collection are monographic or serial works, files, databases or search services. All of the 
selected resources in CyberStacks(sm) are full-text, hypertext, or hypermedia, and of a research or scholarly nature. 


During the early phases of the implementation of CyberStacks(sm), it became obvious that any effort to manage 
Information Overload could itself become easily overloaded, if it were not appropriately and adequately defined. 

Thus, in order to manage a collection of relevant Internet resources, it was essential that its nature be clearly defined 
and that the criteria used for inclusion of a resource be established ( McKieman 1996b V 

After reviewing a number of existing efforts, we decided that the creation of a collection of significant resources in 
science and technology could serve the information needs of specialists within the Science and Technology Section 
of the Reference and Instructional Services Department at Iowa State University, as well as those of its clientele. 

Since the Section provided reference, as well as instructional service, it was decided to establish CyberStacks(sm) 
initially as a collection of significant world wide web (WWW) and other Net resources in selected fields of science, 
technology and related areas with reference value ( McKieman 1996b V 

Selection Guidelines 

Although we recognize that the Net offers a variety of resources of potential value to many clientele and 
communities for a variety of uses, we do not believe that one should suspend critical judgment in evaluating quality 
or significance of sources available from this new medium. In considering the general principles which would guide 
the selection of world wide web (WWW) and other Internet resources for CyberStacks(sm), we decided to adopt the 
same philosophy and general criteria used by libraries in the selection of non-Internet Reference resources ( American 
Librar y Association. Reference Collection Development and Evaluation Committee 1992 ). These principles, noted 



below, offered an operational framework in which resources would be considered as candidate titles for the 

1 . Authority of the source 

2. Accuracy of information 

3. Clarity of presentation 

4. Uniqueness within the total collection 

5. Recency or timeliness 

6. Favorable reviews 

7. Community needs. 

Reference Works 

As we wished to create a true 'virtual' reference collection - an electronic counterpart to our physical collection - only 
resources that were the equivalent, or an analog, to a print or other electronic reference work ( Reference and 
Information Services: An Introduction. 1995 ) were initially considered for potential inclusion within the defined 
collection . In the latter stages of our review, we modified our concept of candidate reference works to include 
resources that could be considered similar in function to any of those delineated in our defined list ( List of Reference 
Resource Types 1996 1. 

These included compilations of acronyms, abstracting and indexing services, bibliographies, biographical sources, 
databases and data files, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, handbooks and manuals, guides to the literature, 
indexes, maps, standards, statistical sources, and other types of reference works which historically have served to 
assist users in accessing primary and secondary information sources. 

First Steps 

While we recognized that the limited breadth of CyberStacks(sm) could hamper its immediate practical usefulness, 
we believed that its defined scope provided a manageable collection of resources suitable for an experimental 
prototype. While we had not surveyed selected sites to determine the potential number of resources on the web that 
might meet the criteria for inclusion within the CyberStacks(sm) collection, from general searching we believed that 
the number would not exceed several dozen items. Indeed, in response to a preliminary proposal for creating an 
organized collection of science and technology reference resources posted to various listservs and newsgroups in 
Spring 1995, one respected science and technology reference specialist commented that he believed that there were 
not a sufficient quantity of resources to organize within our proposed scheme! 

Initially, resources were identified in an ad hoc manner; any which could be considered a conventional reference 
work were considered acceptable, including those which would likely be of limited reference value to our local 
clientele or specialists. As we did not physically acquire such works nor did such works compete for shelf space with 
publications of greater relevance to our local programs, all potentially relevant Net resources which met the general 
criteria were selected for preliminary consideration for inclusion in the CyberStacks(sm) collection. By realizing that 
we need not only focus on local needs, we recognized the potential of creating a model for a centralized, 
universally-available virtual Reference collection. 

As potential candidates were identified, the home page was either directly printed, or e-mailed and then printed, for 
further review. As time permitted, candidate sites were revisited and re-evaluated and assigned to one of the broad 
classifications established for the initial CyberStacks(sm) collection (Q, R, S, T, U, V). As opportunities were 
presented, those resources considered of greatest potential value were assigned a more specific Library of Congress 
class number based on their content and format. As those assigned to the Science (Q) class included a range of 
subjects for which there were quality resources and as Science (Q) was the first class in the CyberStacks(sm) 

sequence, we decided to build the prototype beginning with resources in this broad subject area ( Under Construction 


We quickly realized, however, that there were more resources than originally estimated and that managing them by 
conventional means was both time-consuming, inappropriate and paradoxical. It soon became apparent that it made 
little sense to attempt to organize a collection of electronic resources using a paper-based approach; available 
hardware and software needed to be used more effectively, or better hardware and systems needed to be adopted. 
After a systematic review, it became evident that the DOS and Windows-based hardware and systems available 
within the university Library were inherently limited for a project of this nature and scope and that a more versatile 
and powerful system was required. 

Although the initial and current CyberStacks(sm) collection was created directly on the university's computation 
center UNIX home page server, and all editing was performed using a UNIX-based editing system, access and 
editing of directory files were performed over the campus network on Windows-based PCs from within the Library. 
Not only was editing tedious, but the hardware environment prevented full multi-tasking operations that could 
expedite the identification, editing and subsequent incorporation of significant resources within the CyberStacks(sm) 
scheme. Ironically, a project that had sought to mitigate Information Overload was itself on the verge of becoming 
unmanageable due to the limitations of established information management practices and technologies. 

Enter UNIX 

With research funding made available in December 1995 to support a graduate student assistant, and scheduled 
holiday vacation approaching, we decided to investigate the features and functionality of DEC 3000 Unix-based 
terminals located in a remote public classroom at the university's computation center. Through a series of tests and 
trials, and with the assistance of computation center support staff, we gradually developed a working knowledge and 
understanding of these units and their operating environment. The UNIX platform with its ability to establish several 
separate sessions, to copy and paste text and graphics, to establish multiple Netscape sessions, and to process data 
more readily, would prove to be ideal for the next phase of our project. 


Although CyberStacks(sm) has been initially established as a collection of significant Internet resources with 
reference value in the fields of science, technology and related areas, other types of resources could also be 
appropriately incorporated within its collection to create a more complete reference collection, or, a more 
comprehensive virtual library. In anticipating the need to manage an increasing number of resources, we recognized 
the benefit of a workform for expediting the development of the CyberStacks (sm) collection. 

While the university's server did not permit the processing of CGI scripts for forms, a basic template could be created 
in HTML to facilitate the selection and preliminary incorporation of candidate resources. As we seek not to analyze a 
resource but to characterize it in a manner that permits the user to judge its potential usefulness ( McKieman and 
Ames 1996 1. the template format was simple, consisting of three major divisions - a resource title and URL field, a 
Summary section and a To Search section. The Summary section consists of three duplicate HTML blockquote 
fields, while the To Search section consists of two. Although we have not sought to standardize the format of the data 
provided for each selected resource within CyberStacks(sm), an effort has been made to include excerpted 
information from the source itself that describes its subject coverage, scope, size and/or record structure, as well as 
available special features or functions ( Record Format 1996 s ) . 

Underlying our selection of resources for the CyberStacks(sm) collection is a general collection development 
philosophy that considers discrete Internet resources as the units to be identified and described within a virtual 
collection. Unlike many efforts that seek to organize web resources, CyberStacks(sm) intentionally seeks to identify 
and describe primarily discrete resources, be they unique or part of a larger site. Indeed, as we searched for candidate 
titles for possible inclusion within its collection, we realized that access to highly significant yet elusive resources 

within sites could become one of the more important benefits offered CyberStacks(sm) users. 


Copy and Paste 

To expedite the incorporation of resources within the template, multiple copies of the template form were created in a 
running numerical sequence (e.g. newl.htm, new2.htm, new3.htm, etc.). With the template series established, a 
systematic review was undertaken of all potentially-relevant Net sites which included resources in the defined fields 
of Science (Q) in the Library of Congress classification scheme ( LC Classification Outline 1990 ). Candidate sites 
were identified through available search engines (e.g. Yahoo, Lycos, Alta Vista, etc.) and from appropriate sites (e.g. 
WWW Virtual Library). Where appropriate, sites within sites were visited and although sometimes previously 
reviewed, were revisited again within the context of a current site. 

As a relevant resource was identified, its title was copied and pasted into the title field within a new, numbered 
template file along with its associated URL; any and all potentially- relevant text that could be used to characterize 
the resource was similarly copied and pasted into appropriate blockquotes of the Summary section of the template 
file. If available, text that described procedures for searching or using the candidate resource was copied and pasted 
in the To Search division. After reviewing the content of the current template, it was subsequently saved and the next 
template in the numbered series opened. Procedures that would require half-an-hour on PC Windows computers to 
manipulate were completed in minutes on the large-screen, DEC 3000 workstations. 

For much of the remainder of December 1995, and early January, any and all Internet sites that included resources in 
the fields of medicine, agriculture, technology, and military and naval science, were visited, reviewed, and revisited, 
and data on each candidate resource incorporated into a temporary template record. In the course of this intensive and 
comprehensive systematic survey, over 500 candidate resources were identified and saved for future review. 

Title Index 

Although we had previously attempted to fully incorporate resources into the CyberStacks(sm) scheme after 
identification, in response to preliminary user feedback, we decided to incorporate each into a newly-created Title 
Index (Title Index 1996 1 before full incorporation. In response to user expectations and desires, we considered it 
more important to provide some level of access to identified and relevant resources than to wait until funding and 
time permitted the preparation of a complete resource profile ( McKiernan 1996a ). 

Cooperative Collection Development 

From the inception of CyberStacks(sm), we recognized the need and benefit of providing an opportunity for users to 
assist in its development and refinement and formally provided opportunities for users to participate in the 
development of its collection through a nominating process ( Nominations 1996 ). 

The creation of a separate Title Index has not only provided enhanced access to selective Net resources, but has also 
provided a mechanism by which users of the CyberStacks(sm) collection can more directly participate in its further 
development. At a formal level, we have established four 'virtual' advisory boards ( Virtual Advisory Boards 1996 ) to 
assist in the development of CyberStacks(sm), including one to coordinate the overall selection of candidate 
resources for its collection. A coordinator for medical resources (R) has been appointed and she and her colleagues 
will assist in the selection of titles for priority description and incorporation beginning in April 1996. Likewise, a 
specialist with professional responsibility for identifying Internet resources in the field of military science has agreed 
to assist in the evaluation of candidate resources in Military Science (U) for CyberStacks(sm). 

As an alternative to focused, coordinated collection development, potential users will be invited in Spring 1996, 
through a series of listserv and newsgroup postings, to view a subset of the Technology (T) resources in the Title 
Index and asked to rate these for priority incorporation within the CyberStacks(sm) collection. 

^ ir elusion 

In an effort to facilitate access and use of Internet resources, we have adapted established practices and procedures 
for managing Information Overload and information resources that have served librarians for generations. While the 
process of adaptation was at times frustrating and distressing, each challenge presented an opportunity to rethink the 
efficiency and effectiveness of conventional methods and techniques, and provided an impetus to seek a more 
effective management approach to the task at hand. 

The alternative approaches that emerged in the process not only offered more efficient methods for developing a 
collection of web resources, but have created an opportunity for users to directly assist in defining the scope and 
depth of this collection in latter phases of the project. 


American Library Association. Reference Collection Development and Evaluation Committee. 1 992. Reference 
Collection Development: A Manual. American Library Association, Reference and Adult Services, Chicago, 111. 

Dougherty, R M. 1991. Editorial: Balancing Access and Overload. Journal of Academic Librarianship 16 (6):339. 

Hopkins, R. L. 1995. Countering Information Overload: The Role of the Librarian. Reference Librarian 

Klapp, O. E. 1986. Overload and Boredom: Essays on the Quality of Life in the Information Society. Greenwood 
Press, Westport, Conn. 

LC Classification Outline. 1990. Library of Congress, Washington. D.C. 

"List of Reference Resource Types.” F book.htm 1. 17 March 

McKiernan, G. "CyberStacks(sm): A 'Library-Organized' Virtual Science and Technology Reference Collection." In 
D-Lib Magazine r 2cyber.html ]. December 1995. 

McKiernan, G. 1996a. Build It and They Will Come: A Case Study of the Creation, Development and Refinement 
of an Organized Database of Internet Resources in Science and Technology. Paper prepared for The Digital 
Revolution: Assessing the Impact on Business, Education and Social Structures. The 1996 Mid-Year Meeting of the 
American Society for Information Science, May 18-22, 1996, San Diego, California. 

McKiernan, G. 1996b. The New/Old World Wide Web Order: The Application of 'Neo-Conventional' Functionality 
to Facilitate Access and Use of a WWW Database of Science and Technology Resources. Submitted to Journal of 
Internet Cataloging April 1996. 

McKiernan, G. and A. Ames, "two-dimensional limitations / 3-D Possibilities - CyberStacks(sm): An Alternative 
Model for Selecting I Organizing I Presenting 1 Accessing WWW Resources: A Position Paper Prepared for the 
OCLC Internet Cataloging Project Colloquium, f 1. 2 
February 1996 

" Nominations ." r ]. 17 March 1996 

"Record Format." rhttp://www.public. 1. 17 March 1996 


Reference and Information Services: An Introduction. 1995. Edited by Richard E. Bopp and Linda C. Smith. 
Libraries Unlimited, Englewood, Colo. 

"Title Index.” r lst.htm 1. 17 March 1996 
"Under Construction." r 1. 17 March 1996 
"Virtual Advisory Boards." l 1. 17 March 1996 
Wurman, R. S. 1989. Information Anxiety. Doubleday, New York, N.Y. 

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Title: Casting the Net: The Development of A Resource Collection for an Internet Database 

Author: Gerry McKiernan 

Corporate Source: Iowa State University, Reference and Instructional Services Department 

Parks Library 

Publication Date: 

May 1996 


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rri 9^ed Name: Gerry McKiernan \ 

Position: Coordinator, Science and Technologj 

Section, Reference and Instructional Services 
Organization: Iowa State University Library 

Address: 152 Parks Library 

Telephone Number: (515) 294-9886 

Date: Augsut 23, 1996 


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