Another Node On the interNet
Kresge Physical Sciences Library
6115 Fairchild Hall
Hanover, NH 03755
Managing Internet Resources
ALON (Another Librarian on the Internet)
SUBJECT: geology map-moon’s dark side
MESSAGE: I need a geologic map of the dark side of the moon in for my class, and I just wasted 45 minutes looking for it on the Web! But it must be there! I need it for tomorrow’s class.
How would you answer this question? It exemplifies many of the challenges for librarians trying to manage Internet resources. The amount and variety of information on the Internet, and its ease of access with the linking features of the World Wide Web, is a boon and a burden to librarians trying to connect the communities they serve with the best resources, regardless of format or origin. Before the Web, researchers and librarians used the Internet to access specialized databases. The Web broke down some of the access barriers and provided new ways to present information to anyone with a network connection, developing an expectation that everything is on the Web and is free. However, many scientific and technical databases and journals remain the domain of those institutions or individuals willing to pay. GeoRef, a fee based index, covers the literature of extraterrestrial geology, for example.
As many educators who have tried searching the Web for materials know, there is only a small amount of really useful, quality information among the millions of pages. Much of what is on the Web that is free is not well-documented, so it is difficult to determine the author or sponsor or date, important considerations in deciding on the authority and quality of the information. Studies vary in the details, but most report that only a small percent of what is on the Web is searched by a search engine at a given time. So finding what you really want, being able to assess the quality and depth of the resource, and not spending too much time doing this, can be a real challenge.
Librarians are taking a variety of approaches to managing Internet resources in order to meet the needs of their communities. Some of these approaches build on traditional library values and some are very new ways of dealing with information. A few examples follow.
oIndividual subject information specialists, such as bibliographers, research librarians, or reference librarians, identify and describe subsets of Internet materials to present to their communities through customized research guides. These guides often combine print and fee-based electronic and free Internet resources, and serve as portals for the beginning, rather than the end-point in the research process.
oA common complaint about Web resources is their fleeting nature. Even the good materials disappear or move around with their authors, since long-term archiving and refreshing of materials is not the main goal of most people who put their materials on the Web. Libraries are joining forces with funding agencies to commit the significant financial resources needed to address this problem for some types of material. An outstanding example is the JSTOR (Journal Storage, URL: http://www.jstor.org/) project to archive scholarly journals. Some organizations have funded projects to digitize items of historic value that are too fragile to handle in the original formats, or collections of material. This is one way to add high quality material to the Web. The geologic map of the dark side of the moon produced by the USGS are currently available from USGS or in libraries only in print form. (There are collections of wonderful digital images from the Clementine mission, but these are not maps with labeled features.) Maybe this map should be considered for a digitization project.
oTeaching students how to judge the quality and relevance of Web information should be part of an educational institution’s critical mission to develop an information literate population. There are check-lists and guides that every educator should share with their students as part of teaching them about the research process. An example is Susan E. Beck’s Evaluation Criteria at: http://lib.nmsu.edu/instruction/evalcrit.html An early but still useful overview is Alastair G. Smith’s "Testing the Surf: Criteria for Evaluating Internet Information Resources.", on the Web at:
http://info.lib.uh.edu/pr/v8/n3/smit8n3.html. His checklist is at: http://www.vuw.ac.nz/~agsmith/evaln/index.htm
For a bibliography on these checklists, see:
An associated issue is teaching students about the ethics of citing their sources, including anything they quote from the Internet. Dartmouth College distributes Sources in print and on the Web at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~sources/, which includes a section on citing Internet resources.
oIn order to bring the best information resources to their communities, libraries are starting to integrate print, fee-based electronic resources and free Internet resources into one search system for their communities by incorporating all kinds of resources into their online catalogs. Tools like Project CORK from OCLC make it easier for librarians to select and catalog content-rich, high-quality Internet resources.
oAmong libraries, inter-institutional cooperation to share materials for the benefit of the communities of users is well established. For fee-based digital materials, including most published scholarly research, this tradition has developed into library consortia which jointly purchase expensive products that just one institution could not afford. The publisher benefits greatly in an increased customer base and the institution saves money.
oExciting developments in the published, scholarly literature world include a variety of linking projects. These results in links from abstract and index services to full-text, links from references to references, and links from index services to library catalogs, as a few examples. GeoRef is indexing digital materials, and starting to provide live links through some vendors to the full-text of the content that is so well indexed there.
oLibrarians in the geosciences have augmented the personal connection and phone-based human networking which we have used in the past by creating an invaluable virtual network, GEONET-L (GEONET-L@LISTSERV.INDIANA.EDU), which is used to refer questions to each other, share materials, and lobby information providers in areas such as pricing, copyright and license restrictions, and product quality.
I have given some examples of what libraries are doing to better manage Internet resources, and to make the best information easier to find. What can information creators and managers do to improve the situation for the seeker of information?
oOrganizations need to make information management a higher priority, and provide the resources needed to organize materials in ways that make sense to potential users. Selection decisions regarding what to digitize should be a critical part of an organization’s information management strategy.
oIt is not enough to produce good quality material, put it on your Web site, and hope that someone will happen upon it. There are a few simple things anyone putting material on the Web can do to make sure it can be found.
1. Use HTML metadata tags for author, title and content to make searching and displaying of your site in a search engine’s result set more effective. A brief guide to HTML meta tags is at: http://www.frontiernet.net/~gene/html/ (use pull-down menu to get to meta (meta information)
2. Keep material up to date, and document changes with dates. Consider archiving valuable images, and noting when you have moved materials that others may have referenced or used in the past.
3. Make sure it is well-documented and well-referenced
4. Get your resource into a catalog or an index or a digital library; for the geosciences, consider contributing it to DLESE, the developing Digital Library for Earth System Education, as discussed by Manduca et al in this column.
5. Use a resources on good Web design such as Lynch and Horton’s Web Style Guide.
oA review process for information on the Web would be particularly valuable, since whether or not something has been reviewed is a long-standing mark of quality. Kim Kastens has an article forthcoming in this journal for a proposed review process for the Digital Library for Earth System Education.
So where do you find digital geological maps of the moon? Knowing that there are often several avenues to the right stuff, in this case I did a GeoRef search, identified the print items, and then did as thorough a Web search as possible using my current two favorite search engines, Google and Alta Vista, based on subject terms and knowledge of likely organizations (USGS, NASA) to offer this map. Some educators have posted variations on images of the dark side of the moon, sometimes with a few named features, but no real geologic map was found. In this case the quickest answer was to reach for the print USGS Publication series which has the authoritative geologic maps of the moon. This only partly fulfills the request, because unless the professor could digitize this large size map, he could not have it in electronic form.
There are many challenges in how to integrate digital and print resources and human and automated search help features, so that no matter what the format and the level of need for assistance, the information can be found.
Dartmouth College, Committee on Sources, 1998. Sources: Their Use and Acknowledgement, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH. Available at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~sources/ (7 September 1998).
Smith, Alastair G., 1997. Testing the Surf: Criteria for Evaluating Internet Information Resources. The Public-Access Computer Systems Review , 8 3, pp. 5-23.
Lynch, P. J., and Horton, S., 1999. Web Style Guide : Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites , Yale Univ Press, New Haven, CT.
Manduca, C. et al, 2000. Digital Library for Earth Science Education, Computers & Geosciences, 26 2, pp.?.
Stuart-Alexander, D. E., 1978. Geologic map of the central far side of the Moon, USGS Miscellaneous Investigations Series, I- 1047, (1 sheet), Reston, VA.
Shaded relief map of the lunar far side, 1980. USGS Miscellaneous Investigations Series, I- 1218-B, (1 sheet), Reston, VA.
Map showing relief and surface markings on the lunar far side, 1980. USGS Miscellaneous Investigations Series, I- 1218-A, (1 sheet), Reston, VA.