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Hypertext interfaces to library information systems

Objective

The project aims to improve access to the online services of a major university library by implementation of hypertext interfaces to a variety of information resources including the OPAC (online public access catalogue).

A number of groups of specific users are to be identified and for each a detailed user requirement specification, based on information needs in relation to use of online resources, is to be formulated. Hypertext interfaces to suit these specifications are to be designed and developed. Issues such as language independence, the move to PC type environments for library end-users, graphic user interfaces (GUIs) versus VT100 type interfaces and standards for data markup and hypertext are to be examined and evaluated.
Impact and results:

The PC based interfaces will be widely applicable given both the increase in use of PCs in place of dedicated terminals and the increase in remote users of OPACs. HYPERLIB enjoys a considerable reputation both for making library information significantly more accessible without heavy cost implications and for the way it went beyond its project parameters to implement an acclaimed OPAC on the World Wide Web. Furthermore, the non-graphic interfaces developed using the VT100 subset can easily be implemented on existing systems.

Deliverables

The following are public issue:

Surveys of OPAC usage;
Survey of library systems usage by library staff;
User interfaces specification;
Icons in a multilingual OPAC interface;
Design of Document Type Defi-nitions for manuals and user guides;
SGML to HTML conversion;
The suitability of linking existing controlled subject systems to the HYPERLIB prototype interface;
Merging hypertext navigation with thesaurus technology.
Technical approach:

The project was structured into four, broadly consecutive, main stages:

User requirements

Surveying about 1,700 people, including a large sample of library staff, via an on-line trilingual (Dutch, French, English) questionnaire and telephone. The survey examined experience in IT and frequency of library utilisation by:

- expert, frequent users;
- expert, infrequent users;
- novice, frequent users;
- novice, infrequent users.

A smaller sample was examined in depth for OPAC usage.

Prototyping of Interfaces

The project focused on providing graphical interfaces (both VT100 and HTML versions) in two areas:

- guides for users and manuals for library staff;
- database related resources (an academic bibliography and a navigation tool for subject classification).

Implementation of Interfaces

Document Type Definitions and parsers for each interface were constructed as SGML (Standard Generalised Markup Language) instances and converted to HTML (HyperText Markup Language) for the World Wide Web.

Evaluation of Interfaces

Comparisons of automatically collected usage data, plus interviews and observations, with 1993 user studies.

Key issues:

The main technical issues explored were:

evaluation of searching behaviour and information needs of a specific number of key groups of library users;
prototyping and testing of hypertext interfaces including graphical and pictorial user interfaces for library systems;
SGML markup of library catalogue and other records for use with hypertext.

Documentation is available from the contacts below and from http://www.ua.ac.be/MAN/man.html.

Coordinator

Loughborough University
Address
The Elms Elm Grove
LE11 1RG Loughborough
United Kingdom

Participants (1)

Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen
Belgium