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Speedy Retrieval of Information on the Telephone

Objective

The aim of the SPRINTEL project is to develop a prototype audio-text information service in a library environment.

The project will seek to test the effectiveness of voice recognition technology in information searching in the public library environment. Four public library authorities from Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands will cooperate to perform this research and implement the prototype service.

The purpose of the SPRINTEL project is the general improvement of library services to the end-user. The SPRINTEL service will allow the diversion staff and other resources presently devoted to quick reference enquires to other areas providing users with better quality services in the library. In addition access to quick reference services will be enhanced both in terms of effectiveness and cost/benefit and in terms of increasing the user base to categories of user currently not serviced, the handicapped, for example.

The project aims to be language independent and replicable. Tools and methodologies will be developed to allow SPRINTEL type services to develop in public libraries in the E.U. This innovative exploitation of available low cost technology will ultimately enhance public access to libraries and add important value to existing public library resources.
Impact and expected results:

The project will result in a service providing product which is independent of language, speaker and telephone interface and which can be used by European libraries at low cost.
SPRINTEL has important implications for efficiency improvement and cost containment in public libraries, at a time when the general public's expectations of the service have risen and people are increasingly more critical consumers of information.
That public will have access to library information 24 hours per day and independent of location.
Library services will also be more available to customers liable to have access problems, such as the disabled, the housebound, people with limited mobility and those with reading difficulties.
The overall service will benefit from the release of skilled staff from mundane telephone duties to direct library activities.

Deliverables

The main outcome of SPRINTEL is a prototype system which proves the concept to be highly effective.
The primary publication, the Functional and Technical Systems Description is classified as confidential.
Information is available from the contact below and from:

+32 16 23 49 29
+49 2351 171 422
+353 1 676 77 39
+31 10 437 08 59
Technical approach:

The project had four phases:

Phase 1, the longest of the four, produced functional and technical designs of the entire system.

Phase 2 developed the designs into a prototype system, which included four database types:

local library services and activities;
community information and bibliographical references;
thematic information;
procedural data, help functions, call routing;

Phase 3 tested the prototype in three ways:

in-house technical testing and database optimisation;
by a controlled test group;
public testing;

Phase 4 prepared a marketing strategy prior to end-user release. It included a schedule of information dissemination.

The developed prototype handles enquiries using ICD (Input Controlled Dialogue) techniques.

The prototype will contain small easily accessible databases for quick reference type enquiries and for community information. The service and its information will be available on a 24 hour basis through normal telephone services from any phone equipped location.

The caller is guided to the required information by pre-recorded messages. The message path is invoked by machine-recognisable keywords elicited from the enquirer, who eventually receives factual information, or a reference, or is transferred either to an operator or to procedural help.

Key issues:

- the testing of voice recognition (VR) technology as an information retrieval tool in a library environment ;
- development of VR tools and technologies for libraries in the EC which are vendor/system independent;
- development of database management tools for non-expert library staff;
- investigation of improvements in library services .

Coordinator

Centrale Openbare Bibliotheek
Address
L. Vanderkelenstraat 28
3000 Leuven
Belgium

Participants (5)

Dublin Public Libraries
Ireland
Nederlands Bibliotheek & Leektuur Centrum (Bibliofoon)
Netherlands
Provincie Brabant
Belgium
Stadtbücherei Lüdenscheid
Germany
Address

Lüdenscheid
Stentor Speech Products
Belgium