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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

Creating A Searchable Film & Video Database On Library Homepage

Yaping Liu
Media & Microcomputer Librarian
University of Illinois Library
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Access to library film/video collections has always presented a challenge to media librarians. Most library online catalog systems or library automation search engines were primarily designed for retrieval of print materials. This paper discusses how media librarians can best utilize Web-based information and telecommunication technologies to improve access to traditional library media collecti ons at a large university library through the use of the Macintosh-based database package FileMaker Pro with the CGI search script on a library Web server. The development of the Web has created a major online resource, as well as an opportunity, for media librarians. Several important issues are also discussed including network bandwidth, interactivity and effective multimedia indexing.



Considering its comparatively small size among print collections, library audio-visual material is a relatively new but heavily used format for library users. The material also serves as an effective instructional resource in colleges and universities. In the past decade multimedia CD-ROM publications have become widely available and are steadily being added to traditional library media collect ions. Providing easy user-friendly access to growing audio-visual and multimedia collections has always been a challenge in todayís research libraries.

Understandably, most automated library online public access catalog systems (OPAC) are primarily designed for the storage and retrieval of print materials. In addition to using the OPAC as a basic electronic access point to audio-visual material in general and film/video in particular, many libraries have either a separate or an add-on media module (e.g. MediaNet) or offer local media database s by the employment of commercial database packages such as Access, Dbase or FileMaker Pro, which are available across multiple platforms.

Todayís library media collections reflect how information technologies have changed the library institution itself. Since the 1900ís there have been several major technological tools developed that have revolutionized library media collections. These include film-making, microfilm and microfiche, radio and television, VCR, OPAC, and recently the World Wide Web. Needless to say, library media c ollections and services which may be described as a window of information technologies, have also been undergoing a fundamental technological transformation. In 1990, Charles W. Bailey reviewed and summarized the research and development in those areas of multimedia computing systems and digital technologies which could have profound impact on library OPAC or similar information storage and retr ieval systems. He suggested a conceptual framework of a library multimedia computer system:

A few years later the Web presented itself as such a system with similar capabilities and great potential.

The Power of the World Wide Web

The World Wide Web is characterized as a HTML-based, hypertext-linked information-retrieval system which provides end-users an easy tool to access global information. Since the commencement of the University of Illinois NCSA Mosaic in 1993, the Web is rapidly emerging as one of the most popular, powerful, and information-rich Internet resources. Now it is possible to access library bibliographi c information in multimedia formats (e.g. audio, image data) previously not widely available to library users, by utilizing the Web-based client-server architecture.

The Web browser which is designed for discovery and retrieval proves to be a powerful and useful tool for bringing the most advanced multimedia networked information resources to any user's fingertips. For example, NCSA Mosaic provides a unified interface to the diverse protocols, data formats, and information archives used on the Internet. Because of its easy to use interface, interactive cap ability and hyperlinks, a Web browser (e.g. Netscape) enables library patrons to view and retrieve online multimedia resources, including full-color images and sounds embedded in HTML format, smoothly and effortlessly. It is likely to become the predominant interface of future library OPACís.

The Making Of A Web Based Library Film/Video Database

This paper intends to focus on practical considerations of utilizing the information and telecommunication technologies available to enhance access to existing research media collections. Based on our library experience, it is possible for the average computer-literate media librarian to set up a desktop pentium PC or PowerMac computer as a Web server, upload a new or existing database on the Web and provide much bibliographic information which may not be otherwise available, either due to technical or economic reasons. It is necessary to point out that there are many types of Web server systems on the market in the forms of freeware, shareware or commercial packages. Which packages to use or on what platform varies by user community, library convention, database size, financial reso urces, library OPAC module, local computing community and technical support, etc. In our case, a PowerMac is chosen as the server platform for its multimedia capabilities, and easy of use. It took us a month in October, 1995, to convert an existing local database from Dbase IV (dbf format) into a Mac FileMaker Pro 2.1 (bb format) and to test it on our Web Server running Webstar.

Hardware and Software of the Web Film/Video Database

Server: Macintosh PowerMac 7200 with CD-ROM drive, 15Ē Apple monitor
Apple Scanner; WebStar; FileMaker Pro 3.0; ROFM CGI; HTML programming;
a Web browser (Mosaic, Netscape, Internet Explorer, etc)
System Requirements: Macintosh Operating System 7, 4 MB RAM, AppleScript

Behind every library World Wide Web site, there is at least one Web server that delivers library information in HTML format to a library patron through a Web browser. A Web server is the computer that stores and retrieves HTML documents and other Internet or intranet resources using HTTP. On the Macintosh platform, the most popular HTTP server packages are WebSTAR and its shareware predecessor, MacHTTP both created by Chuck Shotton. Common Gateway Interface (CGI) is a standard that allows Web servers running external applications. ROFM CGI (formerly FileMaker Pro CGI) allows searching, adding, modifying and deleting records in FileMaker Pro databases via the World Wide Web. It requires a Macintosh running WebSTAR or a CGI-compatible WWW server.

It should take no more than a few days to learn the administration, planning and management of Web Sites on the Macintosh . The database comprises nearly 6,000 bibliographic records of video/film at the Media Center, University of Illinois Undergraduate Library. Records in the database have been created by using Dbase IV for DOS. Catalog records were created in accordance with Anglo-American Cat aloguing Rules, 2d ed., revised (AACR2R). Each record contains basic video or movie descriptive elements: title, director, format, year, cast, subject, length. Part of the records added picture/still image and audio fields converted into FileMaker Pro data. From the Centerís homepage, users can search the database, view retrieval lists, display records, and follow "hot links" to the described res ources. The project would not have been online without help from the University Computing and Communication Services Office and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois.

Additional information is available from the Media Center home page with
[URL: http://www.grainger.uiuc.edu/ugl/media.html.]

The use of the Web to disseminate library media information is still in its infancy. This project raised several issues on how to create an effective multimedia database on the Web.

Interactive Multimedia

An ideal film/movie database on the Web should be constructed with fully interactive multimedia components. Interactive multimedia refers to capabilities which provide an end user with real time control of time-based media in a stand-alone or networked setting. Examples of time-based media are videoconferencing, full-motion video, real time animation, and virtual reality, to name a few. Obviou sly, it is labor-intensive and technically challenging to change a text-only database into a multimedia or content indexing system covering video or audio signal capture and scanning, file compression, and text/graphics editing.


Another technical consideration is the network bandwidth. You may have noticed that the traffic on your library network is starting to get a bit crowded. There are a number of bandwidth-hungry network based applications on the Internet, from Web applications to multimedia databases. In order to deliver full-motion video signals using a videoconferencing tool (e.g. CU-Seeme) to achieve reasonab le system performance, the bandwidth is a big barrier to be overcome both now and in the future.

Image Indexing and Retrieval

Traditional library databases are indexed by text content. Currently most Searchable film/video databases are nothing more than organized raw text data or content descriptors such as subject, author, title, keyword, etc. Techniques for directly indexing and retrieving images by content, visual similarity or a combination of both are well on development. How to generate effective and accurate mu ltimedia indexing value remains to be seen.
* Reference available upon request due to space limitation.

April 11, 1996