Library Portal: Design And Impact
In this era of marketing, any product or service that needs to be brought to the front needs marketing. Marketing has become such a tool that even a non-purposeful commodity or service has found its takers. Technology accompanied with marketing strategy is the principle reason behind this impact. Simultaneously, gone are the days when libraries with loads of physical collections drew its potential users to itself. This is an era of information overload. It has hence become the biggest drawback for libraries to maintain its regular flow of clientèle. Consequently, libraries need to be marketed effectively to attract users towards its vast collections and information documents. Library portal is the new marketing strategy that has to be practiced by information professionals. The paper is an effort to project the process of creating a library portal and to bring out the substantial impact the libraries can bring through library portals.
Keywords: Library; Library portal; Technological know-how;
With the advent of Technological flooding, IT has brought about an ocean of opportunities with itself. One such field is the field of education. In the recent decades, education is the affected or rather positively upgraded field. We all can recall that until recently, an updating of knowledge or information required a vast effort by the information seeker, since they had to largely depend on physical documents or sources of documents to satisfy their requirement. But technological advancements have solved these problems in such a way that a click of a button can bring all the information, related as well as the source of information at their fingertips. The impact is such that the information seeker is in fact now in a position of utter discomfort or confusion in finalizing the information and its authenticity. But, positively taken, this technological advancement has indeed rescued the information seeker in seeking and gratifying his hunger for the required information.
Technological advancements in such a large role have had its own share of outcomes also. The demerits or merits, (as may be discerned or opined upon) depending on the situation of the information seekers, has ultimately led to the non- use or lessened use of physical sources of information. One such affected quarter is the library or libraries of institutions on a mega scale.
2. Library Portal: Why?
We all understand very well the importance of a library, not only in the educational institutions but also in the societal uplift. But, the recent ease of access to information via technological advancements has led to a complete no utilization of reliable physical sources of documents of information. A library, to be in its extreme glory has always been dependent upon the young generations. With the technological advancements, and the recent culture of social changes in the youth according to these technological innovations or boom, keeping pace has become one of the utmost important reasons and need of marketing of libraries to maintain its continuous flow of not only its patrons, but also to maintain the importance of information and the sources it stores. One such result is the upcoming of virtual libraries or e- libraries. The other effort by the librarians or library professionals, who sincerely want this system of circulation of information to continue its pace according to the technological advancements, has resulted in marketing the libraries or the information through the designing of library portals.
The goal or objective of any Library Portal should be in sync with the objectives of the parent library and its user achievements or requirements. Some of the basic requirements that any library portal with respect to its clientele includes:
- User friendliness
- Efficiency in searching and browsing technique applicability
- Meet the current needs of the user
- Flexibility to incorporate new technological advancements
- Effective database management
- Easy navigation through pages
- Provide linked sites and hyperlinked data wherever necessary and is required, etc.
2.2 Library Portal:
A library portal should be the face of the library that plans to market itself. It should be a single point access to the entire information requirement- be it the source or directory or database or the document itself, for the user.
Library portals have in them the ability to change the potential users and the usability of libraries as well as the profession of librarians. Library and information science portals based on systematically arranged databases and management systems create an environment for a strategic delivery of information to positive learners and stakeholders. They ensure a customer centered service inculcating the system of concentrating on content delivery and effective feedback mechanisms on the part of the library professionals and staffs. These portals can eventually change the concept of delivery of information, document and other services that a traditional library does and perhaps even more.
Interactive yet customizable and personalized library portals are the keywords in defining the utility of library portals. These portals allow users to customize their information and academic library portals, in such an environment helps to maintain links to local information or document sources thus providing its customers or users with more effective user experience, increasing their learning and teaching experiences and needs, thereby enabling the library in more effective, productive, responsive and responsible client services. Since these portals are becoming the main gateways or path-finders to information, it becomes more important that such portals be visible, accessible, interactive and reliable accordingly.
For an effective user experience in searching and browsing, creation of a healthy information environment  is of utmost importance. The information system, through which the information framework or context exists, is the information environment. Any dearth or imperfection in this environment has a direct impact on the functionality and form of any portal application and thus restrains the complete utility of the portal. Thus, it is very important to realize that though any library cannot control all aspects of its information environment, the library should be aware of the impact these have on its utility.
3. Designing a Library portal:
A Library portal is basically designed from or rather through the same guidelines and structural frameworks of a Web Portal. A basic understanding on any web portal will very well be the format according to which a library portal can be created.
3.1 WWW::Library Portal
WWW is a standard designed to access multimedia information over the net. It contains a set of protocols such as the FTP (File Transfer Protocol), Telnet, HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), etc. It is used to view the web documents that are written in a particular language supported by the WWW, known as the Hypertext Markup Language or the HTML, (Cluts, 2005).
Hosting of any web page or document requires- a host server, the WWW client and an Internet connection. URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the medium or means through which a page is accessed. In other words, URL forms the address of the documents that are sought. URL’s are of the following types: File URL’s, Gopher URL’s, News URL’s, HTTP URL’s and Partial URL’s.
A web document may contain any or each of the following: Hypertext, Hyperlink and Hypermedia. Any web document will need certain tools of designing. These steps include creating a document page, multimedia resources such as an audio, image, video, etc., formatting of texts, creating links, creating tables or menus, adding query boxes etc.
Creating a document page involves assigning a title page, contents and links to the data over related pages. The W3 consortium formalized in 1994, have made certain recommendations regarding the web content development. The W3C guidelines include suggestions not only for content development, but also with respect to its presentation over the web. These guidelines dealing basically with the accessibility issues makes the content available to all types of users irrespective of the browser or source they use to view these pages or contents. Site map, plug-ins, navigation bar, etc. are also some of the other pre-requisites of any web/library portal.
3.2 Theoretical approach:
The information environment includes many factors such as the information seeking behaviors, the information handling rules and routines ( Detlor, 2004, Davenport, 1997), the information collecting staff, etc. The information environment should support or provide the basis for searching and browsing in addition to directing towards the source of information.
A study of information seeking behaviors directs us to the study by Weick and Daff (1983) , according to which these can be categorized into four, that describes all the modes of activity engaged by individuals for information seeking. These are the conditioned viewing, undirected viewing, formal search and informal search.
Undirected viewing involves an un-aimed and broad scan whereby numerous sources of information and pieces of information are observed. Conditional viewing or formatted viewing on the other hand involves scanning of information and source of information typical to the user requirement. Conditional information thus involves a to the point approach for information as the user is interested in s quick and cost effective method to seek information.
Similarly related is the informal and formal searching techniques whereby, in the informal method a detailed scan to know the detailed aspects of any information or piece of knowledge is concerned utilizing a limited and unstructured effort. The formal search technique on the other hand involves a planned effort to retrieve specific information on a specific topic and necessitates a structured procedure.
3.3 Practical approach:
IOI or Intellectual Organization of Information forms the basis of any web content. According to Jhon Ziman, there are three concepts of this organization of knowledge or information: (a) Organization by creation, (b) Self- Organization and (c) Bibliographical Organization. Indexing and Abstracting activities comprise the bibliographical organization and the source of retrieval of information. Thus IOI becomes the ultimate services that provide the user with the required information in a specific time frame with speed, accuracy and ease.
As such an expert system is highly relevant which involves high intellectual capability for both designing and operating a library portal. An expert system must represent the domain-specific knowledge. In order to achieve this, an expert system- in the area of knowledge, idea on user requirement, ability to analyze documents and data chosen to represent the idea or concept or subject, sequential relationship between terms and concepts and documents, their broader and narrower relationships, etc, are of high relevance in designing the content. Thus, the primary implications of any IOI in any web utility must be to enhance user experience and help them to seek the required information effectively. Information seekers are generally in a state of uncertainty or lack of clarity on the information that they seek, and as such a bit of any sort of intellectual support in the form of hint or clue goes a long way in helping them seek the required information. This is where the IOI comes into action. Getting to know better the user behavior and their subject or area of expertise or interest and their current knowledge of subject plays a vital role in defining any web content of portal.
Any information retrieval process is highly dependent upon the indexing and storage facilities. In fact, these define the search strategy to a large extent in obtaining optimum results. People working within the retrieval processes are required to work closely with the users and understand their specific needs at every stage of development of the portal. Search facilities in the retrieval system should provide access to full texts through pre-assigned standard keywords. Some of the search facilities necessitate the following: entering search terms, help topics, combining search terms, syntactic and semantic terms, record display, interlinked and hyperlinked documents, words, pages and sources. Assigning key words involves the ability to assign terms in concordance to the concept of the document or idea of the data content in such a way that these terms entirely represent the parent document or concept.
A basic requirement of any integrated library system is the Online Public Access Catalogue or OPAC. Initially OPAC was used or limited to searching the availability or physical documents and at times digital copies, but it has since then evolved in its applicability. Institutional OPAC’s have now evolved into Web OPAC that enhances and improves the information retrieval links spreading from the institution to ever remote places of full text resource availability and inter-loan facilities, Apart from this, these OPAC’s have also become the gateway of different topics relevant or the particular information that the user seeks. A Library OPAC forms the basis of any e- catalogue of a library that it represents. It is so programmed to facilitate the user in identifying the documents based on various categories such as the author, the title, keyword, call number, book number, location, availability for loan, etc., thus typically representing a physical catalogue of the documents present in any library. Of the several advantages of OPAC, includes updating, worldwide accessibility, compilation of documents and their sources, assisting users to locate the relevant sources of information, helping in referral process, providing links to related documents, being user centric, etc. To sum it up, depending upon the activities or the user interests of a physical library, a library OPAC of any library will be designed to meet the specific or specialized portal services to cater to the specific purposes of the parent library.
5. Case Study:
A detailed study of various library portals- both institutional as well as open access portals reveal the latest trends in library and information science field.
In case of the DRDO lab, the library portal of each laboratory across the country is connected over the wide area intranet DRONA  (DRDO’s Rapid Online Network Access), so that each laboratory has access to entire DRDO’s library resources. It thus saves manpower, money and materials. Besides, resource sharing is done very quickly.
Cloud computing  has become the trend thereby raising the standards of a library portal to the Library 3.0 applications. Some of the advantages of cloud computing include sharing library data to file access over the net through services such as, Google doc, Flickr, dropbox and so on. These services basically become a platform for sharing of data or files o web anywhere and at anytime without any special software or hardware requirements. Some of the cloud service providers include OCLC, Library of Congress (LC), Ex-Libris, Polaris, etc.
Apart from the traditional services of a library, some library portals have included e-bibliographic and cataloguing services. Some of the terms associated with library portals include e- news clipping services, podcasting, blogs etc.
6. Challenges to Librarians:
With the role of librarians growing from mere book- keepers, in this era of information overload or info-glut , the library professionals have to learn about related subjects alongside the growing knowledge base. A highly professional approach with regards to information seekers, information seeking behaviors, technological knowhow, developments in the scientific as well as technological arena, is well needed. Using technology intelligently to enhance and broaden the services of the library through library portal requires a delivery of service- oriented and user-oriented instructors/instructions, programs, projects and applications. Highly talented and observant plus technologically or rather with IT knowledge are the primary requirements of any library service profession these days.
- a) Libraries need to take ample care in handling the complexity of information and information seekers in such a way the end user is able to gather the required information even without knowing the jargons or the physical aspects of the libraries involved.
- b) Easy navigation through the document or site pages, both within the site as well as interconnected pages must be taken care of.
- c) The library workmanship should make sincere efforts in maintaining the ease of access and delivery of information to the end user.
- d) The more the collection of databases, the more the end user is tempted to return back to the portal. This feature must be the backbone of any library portal.
- e) End users may not be aware of the library terminology. Hence maintain a simple and understandable language to every user must also be taken care of.
- f) Providing ample links, hyperlinks and interconnection between pages is a must since the end user may be tempted to continue a detailed research of interested topics.
- g) End user interests in designing the portal may be considered as it improves the efficiency and flexibility of the portal.
- h) Lastly but not the least, is the team work or the upper management support to the libraries and the library staff that enables the port to begin and continue its successful journey. The Library portal should be considered as a long term endeavor and hence continuous supply of resources should be maintained.
In today’s technological or era of information anxiety, library portal is an essential commodity. Every institution must provide an interface to showcase the information that it holds and the services that it renders by developing library portals. Many institutions that have implemented library portals have been successful in bringing their information collection to the forefront and have shown that library portal is the next step forward to any educational system. Librarians play unquestionably the most pivotal role in constructing this framework but keeping in mind that collaboration, personalization, adaptability, openness, user centricity, flexibility etc, are some of the golden words or unique features that make any library portal effective in rendering the services of an e-library successfully.
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