VLoverview for Librarians

Library of Texas Virtual Library


LOT is an exciting project in part because it accomplishes several of the objectives of "The Big Project". What is "The Big Project"? As the following diagram will illustrate, "The Big Project" is a philosophical goal of librarians and information managers to connect all humanity with the total body of recorded knowledge. By comparison the goals of the Library of Texas project seem quite modest.

The Big Project

The Library of Texas Project

The Virtual Library promises to accomplish an achievable and significant portion of "The Big Project" using methods that are scaleable and reproducible. Some of the key methods that make this possible include:

  • Using the Internet and the Web to connect dispersed users with information resources and allow them to interactively review and select desired knowledge records.
  • Implementing standards like Z39.50 and Z Texas-compliant databases for seamless discovery of information managed in diverse collections by diverse organizations while anticipating the possibilities of the Circulation Interchange Protocol (CIP) for patron identification and ILL.
  • Relying on a mixture of electronic access, document delivery and Inter-Library Loan to deliver the full content of the knowledge records discovered and selected by a user.

The functional steps required for successful use of the Virtual Library include:

  1. User identification/validation
  2. Database availability
  3. Database selection
  4. Query formulation
  5. Results presentation
  6. Item selection
  7. Item retrieval

In addition to implementing these functions we will need to plan to inform and train both librarians and the public. We will also need to plan for evaluation of outcomes.

1. User Identification/Validation

While there are some resources we can make available to the typical anonymous Web user, identifying users as Texas residents or as patrons of a particular library will allow us to assist with database selection, customize search results, and provide more effective item retrieval. It is also essential in order to provide access to many commercial databases.

Issues:What mechanisms is TexShare using and/or planning?

Will CIP be feasible on a large scale? When?

What methods for access to patron data exist?

How will this be developed/implemented?

2. Database Availability

The Z Texas site currently lists 17 libraries with Z39.50 access. TRAIL is available and TRAIL-ARIS will be soon. Some commercial database vendors offer Z39.50 access. Is there enough "low hanging fruit" to get a viable project or prototype off the ground?

Issues:What set of libraries/collections is needed to make the Virtual Libretto a practical tool?

What collections/databases are currently Z39.50-compliant and/or Z Texas-compliant?

What resources are needed to bring additional libraries/collections into compliance?

How will this be developed/implemented/funded?

3. Database Selection or "What shape is your information neighborhood?"

Given the correct usage of standards, it would be possible to search the entire Virtual Library with a single query. Possible, but not necessarily useful. Searching a very large number of databases simultaneously has its drawbacks including long search times, multiple duplicate hits, multiple irrelevant hits and hits that are unavailable for retrieval. More often it will be beneficial to define a "neighborhood" or sub-set of the entire Virtual Library within which a search will be conducted. Some criteria for defining such a neighborhood might include physical distance from the user, subject area of the collection, availability of electronic retrieval and participation in various ILL systems. A central directory of records about available information collections might be one way to manage this kind of information so that users can self-define their neighborhoods before beginning to search. It is important to design a search interface that leads the end user effortlessly through a selection process.

Issues:What data elements are needed to define a neighborhood?

What kinds of user interaction are needed in the selection process?

How will we train/enable users to do this well?

How will this be developed/implemented?

This effort will need prototyping, focus groups and user-feedback. There are some precedents but much of this is new and we won�t know what works best until the complete process has been working for a while.

4. Query formulation

Z39.50 can potentially support a wide variety of search methods/criteria. Z Texas defines a small set of search methods but leaves user interface issues up to the implementor. The Virtual Library will need to reflect the best available research and best practices in designing an interface that allows users to express queries in a manner that is both comfortable and effective.

Issues:User validation of Z Texas profile? Are users happy with these capabilities?

User preferences for interface design?

How will we train/enable users to do this well?

How will this be developed/implemented?

5. Results presentation

Building on OPAC and TRAIL experience, we will need to design presentation formats that also include links for requesting electronic documents or for incorporating full citations into ILL requests.

Issues:MARC and non-MARC data

Links to on-line items or request forms

How will this be developed/implemented?


6. Item selection

Users performing multiple searches may want to select items for subsequent review before downloading/ordering.

Issues:Adequate information for decision making.

Shopping cart/book bag model?

How will this be developed/implemented?

7. Item retrieval

ILL will be a key factor here along with electronic access and document delivery. Appropriate methods need to be matched with identified users based on home library and target collection capabilities, memberships, costs, speed, etc. Process must be seamless and painless while providing full data to lending institutions.

Issues:Can we automate identification of the best source/format for an item?

What role will Net Library, e-text sites, and commercial full-text databases play?

What role will TexNet centers play in this process?

How will this be developed/implemented/funded?

Informing Users

We will need to build brand recognition through Web links, information to Texas librarians, public service TV/radio spots, etc.


The training component of the Library of Texas will provide training programs and technologies to help librarians and users become proficient in using the Virtual Library.


We need to quantify desired outcomes, select performance measures, and build a pre-implementation baseline to compare against. Then we can assess progress though all implementation phases.





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Page last modified: January 12, 2011