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66th IFLA Council and General
|State||State Library Development||Parent Agency Development||Parent Agency
|Colorado||X (password protected)|
|Ohio||X (password protected)|
|Utah||X (password protected)|
Table 1 shows that, of the six state libraries whose Web sites were reviewed, three had Intranets and five had Extranets. All three of the Intranets were password protected in whole or part. All of the Extranets had open URLs that were not publicized to the public but rather to the targeted population. Some had specific, services that were password protected.
The Ohio State Library's Intranet was devoted entirely to information of use to State Library employees. In Colorado, the only information on the parent agency's web site was an Interlibrary Loan form. In Utah, the information was designed for parent agency employees about the services available from the State Library.
Table 2: Comparison of Intranet Content
|Information on State Library move to a new location||An FAQ on a move to a new building, message from the State Librarian; street map; staff concerns; crime reports from new area; time line; rumors, myths, and hoaxes;|
|Job openings at the State Library||professional and non-professional|
|On-line help for computer system||including access, e-mail, and printing of the local area network|
|Information on OPAC||Link to state network||Back-up, problems, patron authentication,|
|Benefits and employee policies||x|
|Business Information and Research Services||On Intranet and available on Internet site|
|Utah Facts Book||On Intranet and available on Internet site|
|IAC Search Bank||Magazines, reference books, and newspapers available on line|
|Selected Internet Resources||x|
|State Library basic services||x|
|News Articles||Media articles about the parent organization|
To access the services, a state employee must submit his/her password on the electronic request forms.
The Extranet for the library community is also accessible from the State Library's Web site. Most of this information is available free to the public although it is of most interest to the library community. The two password protected services are e-mail/Internet service and access to commercial databases paid for with state funds. The e-mail and First Search services include information on how librarians can set up an account. The other commercial databases included a search box. No password was required, but attempts to do a search were not successful.
A primary distinction between the two Extranets is that one offers services that the State Library will perform for government employees while the other describes services and resources that the Library community can use themselves.
One of the most unique resources available is speech preparation assistance to state government employees.
A unique feature of this Web site is the emphasis on school library services and their contribution to student achievement and the public library establishment documents, that indicate when each public library was first established.
The Oregon site was one of the most comprehensive, easy to navigate sites reviewed. The information provided was extensive, thorough, and useful . While designed for government employees, the information would be useful to anyone. Detailed directions on search engines were particularly unique.
Information for the library profession includes:
Information for state government employees includes a listing of services with very brief descriptions and a link back to the home page. This is followed by a search request form that allows state employees to indicate which service is requested. While not password protected, the form does ask for the state agency identification, allowing state library staff to limit service to eligible users. There is also a link to four major Internet resources:
The most interesting and unique Web sites in Rhode Island were the Special Interest Discussion Groups and the Planning Resources on the Web
The Extranet includes the following links/services:
Utah had several unique databases: the annotated list of professional resources; the list of Spanish language materials; and a children's book review database.
In general, on each Web site, there is a mix of state library developed materials and links to other Web sites.
Table 3: Comparison of Content on Extranets
|Target Audience||State Government (Gov) Lib. Community (Lib)||Library Community||Government Employees||State Government Library community (password protected)||Library community|
|Reference and research services||Description of service and form to request assistance (Gov)||Provided to government employees, (password protected)||For state government, request form available||Request form available|
|Tracking of federal legislation||Description of service; how to register Gov)||Password protected access|
|Online computer searching||Description of service and form to request assistance (Gov)||Access to indexes for direct searching
Password protected access
|For state government||Request form available|
|Publications||Publications available (Gov)||Description of publications available||Description of publications available|
|Material for speeches||Description of service (Gov)|
|Current Awareness service||Including Table of Contents service for 230 periodicals (Gov)||Password protected access|
|Collections||Catalog, databases, magazines, photographs (Gov)||Access to online library catalogs of other libraries||Access to online library catalogs of other libraries||Access to online library catalogs of other states||Access to the online library catalogs of other libraries|
|Description of service and how to register for an e-mail account (lib)||E-mail lists for state employees to subscribe to||Available for the library community (password protected) with extensive information on how to use||E-mail list serve available for subscription|
|Commercial databases||Description of service and form for searching, includes FirstSearch||Description of 9 databases. Password protected,||Only First Search, available by password|
|Specific resources for school libraries||Information literacy guidelines, impact of school libraries on student achievement.||Description of graduate media programs|
|Advisory groups||Membership, mission, and activities of 3 main advisory groups|
|Dictionaries||Sign language, foreign language, acronyms, searchable on-line||For state government under general reference|
|Quick Reference||Biographies, encyclopedias, associations, world leaders, historic events, grammar, maps, currency exchange, quotations, telephone books, state government travel information, weather|
|Government Web sites||Links to State Government, state publications||Links to state government, state publications||Links to national, state, and local for both librarians and government workers||Links to state and federal resources|
|Subject access to the Web||List of 26 topics and links to Web sites in these topics|
|Search engines and directories||Lists all the major search engines with instructions on how to search them||Lists major search engines with links to them|
|ILL||Rules for reimbursement for net lenders||Form for submitting reque4sts||For librarians||Both request from and status reporting form|
|Purchase materials||Form to suggest materials for purchase|
|E-rate information||Colorado information links to federal site||Rhode Island land and links to federal information||Information about Utah and links to federal information|
|Calendar of events, Con't Education||CE calendar with form for submission||CE calendar with form for submission and registration||When reports are due as well ac CE opportunities|
|Job line||Information about Colorado jobs for librarians||Information about Rhode Island jobs for librarians|
|Special interest discussion groups||Archived by topic and date, for librarians|
|Resources for planning||For government staff|
|Library statistics||Both Colorado and other states statistics plus reports of research, all types of libraries||Both Utah and other states statistics for public libraries|
|Collections||Books on tape, Spanish materials, videos|
|Reciprocal Borrowing||Instructions for applying for the Colorado Library Card program and current participants|
|Grant program||Rules and instructions for state equalization program,federal program guidelines||Information about federal grant programs|
|Youth services||Children's book review database|
The Alaska State Library's Web site for state government employees could be entered either through the Web site the Department of Education and Early Development or through the State Library's public Internet Web page. When entering from the Alaska State Library's public Web site, (which has a "text only" option at the very top) the heading reads:
This was a highly inviting introduction to the Web site. The Alaska State Library's Extranet Web site for state government employees was easy to use and follow. Graphics were clear and consistent throughout the Web site. Top menus were usually followed by a repeat of the headings with textual information scrolled below it. Information in the top menus could be accessed by selecting and clicking or by scrolling. This saved the time of user because the user did not have to click back to a top menu after reading just one paragraph of description. I always knew exactly where I was in the Web site. The information was complete and seemed to be have information that would be very useful to state government officials. There were no frames disturbing the presentation of the information.
The Extranet for the library community used the same primary graphic as that for state government employees. The State Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) does have a different logo, but connecting to it was relatively easy. Other special programs had clear names rather than logos (except for SLED, below). "Muskox, the Internet Server for Libraries in Alaska" and "Databases for Alaskans" are examples. The lettering is big but the meaning is clear.
What Needs Improvement
I made the incorrect assumption that "Around the Clock Reference" meant staff available to help around the clock. Not so, and probably not really expected. The phrase really meant around the clock resources available electronically.
When entering the Services to State Government section from the Department's Web site, the selections under the main title read:
When clicking on the main Services to State Government title, or when entering Services to State Government from the Alaska State Library public Web site, the selections are different. SLED is not an immediate selection. Electronic Periodical Indexes isn't listed but two new selections are: Electronic Publications On-going Service and Electronic Table of Contents Service. SLED is at the very bottom of the page as a selection.
These are really minor concerns in a very good, clear Web site.
Colorado's Web site is currently being redesigned to create an Extranet for the library community imbedded in the Colorado Department of Education's public Web site. The State Library's information is easy to find. It is listed as a primary button on the Department of Education's main menu. The link is to the State Library Office where information for both the general public and the library community is included. Previous to this revision, information for the library community was partly housed on the State Library's Web page and partly housed on the state network ACLIN. This revision focus ACLIN only on links to library resources and information databases designed for the general public. All information and resources specifically for the library community will now be on the State Library's Web site. The ultimate usefulness of this arrangement is unknown at this time but the concept will be tested in the coming months.
What Needs Improvement
Currently the primary design on the State Library's Web site is a set of colorful crayons. This may be appropriate for the Colorado Department of Education of which the State Library is a part, but it is not relevant to the State Library's work. Also, in the transition of information and design from the state network ACLIN to the State Library's Web site, librarians may get confused and be unable to find information they need.
The Oregon State Library's Intranet for state government was the best Web site I reviewed. There was no "text only" selection but there were no graphics or icons used that would have been difficult for visually handicapped to read. The main selections were in a frame down the left side of the page and were clear and explanatory about the content included with scroll down access to items in the main menu.
Two other logos were used. The TrackSmart logo was very similar in design to WorkSmart and clearly gave the impression that it was for tracking information on behalf of state employees.
Article Retriever was a different s its meaning. The other logo is for a service called Article Retriever. Again the meaning of the logo, combined with the explanatory words was very clear.
I felt the need for an introductory screen that explained something about WorkSmart. Instead, the first screen launches immediately into databases. It is relatively clear that the buttons on the top and along the left side lead to other information resources, but some explanation of the State Library's role, the target audience, etc. on the first screen would have been helpful.
There was no "home" button that took you back to the beginning. The frame along the left side was stationary and most of the choices a state employee might want were there. However, when I was looked for TrackSmart, it was not immediately apparent where to find it. It was not in the left side frame, rather under "services" in the top buttons which are not visible on all the screens. Presumably, frequent users would know where items were. Still, a home button taking one back to the opening page would have been useful.
The Rhode Island State Library's main Web page is part of the Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS) state agency (where the State Librarian is also the Department Director). The first words on this page are for "text version of this page", although there is only one icon so the page would be easily accessible for the visually handicapped even without this notice. Other pages do not have this message at the top, but again, there are few icons and none that contain critical information, thus the site is easy to use for the visually handicapped.
From the OLIS home page there are links to LoriPro for library staff (which is password protected) and to State Government Information as well as to public Internet sites describing OLIS library resources, the Library of Rhode Island (state and national library catalogs). These sites are rich in information.
The primary LoriPro menu includes QUICK links to key information, subject groupings of the same information, and a "what's new" section. It includes a "Search THIS Site: Keyword searching of the LoriPro site" to further assist users in finding information they need. Navigation was straightforward and usually successful.
The primary menu for "Information Research Services for State Government" was also informative. It outlines the scope of the services and the library's service commitment: "Experienced information specialists are available to help locate information and provide resources on a wide variety of subjects that are of concern to state government." It also outlines the primary services provided and then links to brief descriptions of the various services. A "Search Request Form" is the primary mechanism for state government employees to request services, materials, or information. Again, the information provided is rich and uniquely helpful to state government workers.
What Needs Improvement
The primary problem with this collection of Web sites was the extensive use of unexplained acronyms. LORI, used extensively, was not explained although I soon deduced it stood for Library Of Rhode Island. The "PRO" in LORI PRO is never explained but presumably is stands for "professional" for library staff. RHILINET is also used in several places and never spelled out. Rhode Island Information LIbrary Network? It is not clear. The SIGS (Special Interest GroupS) discussion groups include acronyms for the groups that are not immediately clear without reading the descriptions. In same cases not even then, i.e.: "LTA Discussion, Use this area for discussion and information for LTAs."
The word "LORI" is used to designated different pieces of information. It is used as a heading to group numerous kinds of information. At one point it is also used with the subheading "connections & directions to RI's libraries." There is also a link to CLAN in several places that I eventually discovered meant "Cooperating Libraries Automated Network" but this is not explained in the menu structure.
On the State Government Information Web site, the main menu clearly explains the services available, however, links to explanations are treated as individual Web pages. Clicking through provides only a few sentences each on: introduction, interlibrary loan services, location and staff, online access to R. I. libraries, online databases services, reference and referral services, and research assistance. In each case, a user must click on the heading, read the short paragraph (in one case only two sentences) and then there is a link to the request form. With the brief amount of information on each topic, it would be more user friendly to have the list of headings and then scroll through the various brief descriptions, ending with the search form.
When entering this web site through the Utah State Library Division, the graphics are clear and clean and load quickly. The primary graphic is carried over from page to page with the links shown above on the left carried over from page to page, as are the links at the top. The site is relatively easy to navigate with easy return to the main menu page. The State Library is currently revising the site to improve it.
What Needs Improvement
When entering the State Library's Web site from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the State Library's information is all contained in a frame. Most of the screen real estate is taken up by DCED information surrounding the State Library's information and almost one/fourth of the screen on the left has only one word on it, "home". This is obviously not the fault of the Utah State Library but the Utah Department would be well to consider a redesign of this feature. The frames are better designed on the State Library's site and move with the information. However, not all of the words on the left are true links, particularly "Site Search" and What's New". It's not clear why these are not activated.
Some of the titles on the main menu are also somewhat misleading. For example, on the main menu there is a link to "Interlibrary Loan". When clicked through, however, the title reads "Material Requests (Interlibrary Loan) and includes links to well-developed resources lists of books on tape, Spanish language information, and videos. One would never know this from the title on the main menu. In another example, the title on the main page is "Annual Report" but the title on the page linked to is "Public Library Statistics". This may be part of what the State Library intends to revise.
Finally, some of the links lead to a totally different graphic:
This seems to be used primarily with links to publications but not all publications have this graphic. It includes most of the same words that are links down the left hand side of the page on the main graphic but these circles are not interactive. It is only a graphic. Attempting to click on a circle leads nowhere.
Ease of navigation is critical in the ultimate use of any site. I got lost in the Web sites of two of the states. Despite the wealth of information available, I could not find my way back to some of these resources once I left them. The main menus were not always clear as to what resources lie beneath them and in some cases the sub-menus were totally different, including the title, from what was indicated on the main menu. State libraries would be well advised to test new Web site designs with novices in the library or public community and redesign based on their use of (or inability to use) the site.
A confusing aspect of several of the sites were different names, and sometimes logos, for different aspects of the library information. For example, some state libraries had one name for their State Library Web site, another for a network of library resources, yet another for an Extranet for the library community or for government workers. The links between these were not always clear. Presumably with use, it becomes clear, but the new user could easily get confused. Consistency of names, graphics, and linkages of major programs needs to be considered. Utah did this well with its consistent links to major sites along the left side of the page (except for the links that should have been but were not activated.)
None of the sites presented any problems to the visually impaired. There was minimal use of icons and even when there were icons, clear wording was included. There was also a minimal use of frames that took screen real estate from content. The major problem was the link from the Department's Web page in Utah to the State Library's information. That was an excellent example of what NOT to design.
Different methods were also used to distinguish between what was clickable and what was not. It was not always clear what led to additional information and what did not. This sometimes resulted in confusion about how to reach resources. In some cases the non-clickable heading had subheadings shown that could be accessed. In other cases, for example Utah's "What's New" clearly should have led somewhere. If the link is not activated, it ought not to be shown.
One clear opening screen that gives the scope of services would also be helpful, with clear links between major information Web sites maintained by the State Library. Rhode Island's opening menu for government employees is a good example of this. Oregon, otherwise an excellent site, needed this introduction.