(April 2000 - August 2003)
ZLOT White Paper for Librarians



Communicating the Vision of The Library of Texas:

Terminology and Relationships



ZLOT White Paper #1





Prepared by



Z Texas Implementation Component of the Library of Texas Project


William E. Moen, Principal Investigator

Kathleen R. Murray, Project Manager



December 11, 2001





1. Introduction

2. The Framework for Discussion: The TSLAC Proposal to the TIF Board for the Library of Texas Project

3. Issues Related to Terminology

4. Issues Related to the Vision of the Library of Texas

5. Summary and Conclusion

Attachment A: Z39.50 Distributed Searching Model

Attachment B: Users and Services as Drivers in the Library

Attachment C: Web to Z39.50 Gateway Model

Attachment D: Candidate Functionality for LOT

Communicating the Vision of The Library of Texas:
Terminology and Relationships




1. Introduction

Discussions with librarians, with the TexShare Advisory Group, and others point to the challenges in communicating an accurate and compelling vision of the Library of Texas (LOT). The Z Texas Implementation Component of the Library of Texas Project (ZLOT) must be sensitive to the issues arising from misunderstandings of what the LOT is and can become. Some issues may affect our ability to successfully carry out our project responsibilities and accomplish the ZLOT project�s objectives.

The purpose of this paper is to frame issues related to the vision of LOT and to explore the terminology that the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) and the ZLOT staff may use to communicate clearly and consistently the vision of LOT and the ZLOT components. Two areas of specific concern are:

  1. Use of the term "virtual" in describing ZLOT or LOT components
  2. Relationship of LOT to existing organizational structures, arrangements, policies, and services (e.g., TexShare ILL protocol).

We have developed this paper as background for discussions with the TSLAC. As the ZLOT staff begin holding focus groups and discussing functional requirements, we need to be clear on appropriate terminology and clearly understand the TSLAC vision of the LOT in terms of existing organizations and resources.


2. The Framework for Discussion: The TSLAC Proposal to the TIF Board for the Library of Texas Project

We begin by reviewing the TSLAC proposal submitted to the Telecommunication Infrastructure Fund (TIF) Board for funding the LOT. The following appear to be key phrases and descriptions of the LOT that have particular relevance for this paper and ZLOT:

  • Build on previous TIF infrastructure grants by providing content
  • Reinforce TSLAC services such as TexShare, the premier example of statewide interlibrary collaboration in Texas
  • Deliver information when, where, and how Texans need it
  • Providing Texans with new ways to acquire and use information
  • Increasing the range of information resources available to Texans
  • Preparing Texas children for the future
  • Empower even the smallest, most rural libraries to serve as responsive, independent participants in a statewide Library of Texas
  • Since fully 90 percent of the state's academic and public libraries now have Internet connections, the basic building blocks are in place for a telecommunications infrastructure that benefits all Texans. Compelling content is the only element that's missing
  • Other key stakeholders who will be involved in this project include the state's ten regional library systems, in addition to the TexShare Advisory Board and its working groups
  • The Library of Texas, a.k.a. the "Anytime, Anywhere Library".


The TSLAC proposal describes four LOT components:

  1. Online databases, putting thousands of full-text books, reference materials and journals on desktops in libraries, homes and offices -- even in the most remote locales
  2. Current and retrospective electronic state government information
  3. A statewide catalog that allows customers to identify holdings in libraries statewide, determine their availability, and request those items -- in one search session
  4. Extensive training to help librarians and their customers gain full benefit from these rich information resources

For ZLOT, the TSLAC proposal describes the statewide catalog as follows:

The Library of Texas project's third component is a virtual statewide library catalog: a one-stop, Web-accessible window to holdings in libraries across Texas. In one session, Texans will be able to identify and locate holdings in libraries statewide, determine the availability of those items, and then request them via interlibrary loan. TSLAC proposes to use TIF monies to acquire the hardware, software, customized programming, and server co-location services necessary to make the catalog, government publications and subscription databases available anywhere in Texas, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In conjunction with the TExpress Courier Service, which provides 48-hour delivery to participating libraries statewide, customers can get these items promptly. TExpress currently services 140 libraries statewide, and is expected to expand to more than 200 sites by the conclusion of this project.

Later in the Work Plan section of the proposal, Table 5 includes the following:

  • Activity: Virtual Union Catalog: Buy hardware and software; customize user interface
  • Activity: Virtual Union Catalog: Continue configuring software; develop remote customer access authentication

In terms of collaboration with LOT stakeholders on this aspect of the ZLOT project, the TSLAC proposal states:

� the Virtual Union Catalog will be developed in collaboration with T-ZIG, the Texas Z39.50 Implementation Group. This committee includes 14 representatives from across Texas. T-ZIG has written the Texas Profile, a set of internationally recognized guidelines for implementing the Z39.50 online compatibility standard. The virtual union catalog will be based on this Z39.50 international standard.

Finally, regarding ZLOT�s proof of concept approach, the TSLAC proposal states:

Contract vendors. LRS will recruit contract vendors to complete selected project components, including specialized programming to support the depository, virtual union catalog, remote access and interlibrary loan services. The project budget also includes the costs of contracting with a host site for selected components, such as the virtual union catalog. LRS will contract with a vendor for delivering the extensive training services to support this project as well.


3. Issues Related to Terminology

From the vantage point of the ZLOT project, the TLSAC proposal uses three different phrases to label a capability that allows a user to search one or more library catalogs via Z39.50, the information retrieval protocol standard:

  1. Statewide catalog
  2. Virtual statewide library catalog
  3. Virtual union catalog.

In addition, in discussions with TSLAC staff, the term virtual library has also been used to describe the ZLOT components of LOT and/or the LOT itself. It behooves us to decide on consistent labels for the LOT and for the ZLOT components. Further, it would be beneficial to have a common meaning for each of the labels and to use these labels and their semantics in all our communications.


What Does the Term "Virtual" Imply?

The adjective "virtual" is applied to so many things that it is important to clarify its use in the context of the LOT and ZLOT. The overuse of the term "virtual" might reduce its value in communicating clearly the functionality of the LOT. Certainly one important feature of the LOT is that it extends the reach and range of individual Texans to library resources, both digital and analog. In this respect, using the term virtual is similar to its use when talking about a computer�s "virtual memory." Richard Wiggins has noted "virtual memory allows the user of a computer to pretend the machine has far more memory than is physically installed." In this sense, a virtual library provides the user with a sense of access to information that extends far beyond the resources housed within a single library�s collection.

Extending the reach and range of a user appears to be a focal feature of the emerging library. The term virtual can imply ephemeral, a sense of not really being there. Our assumption is that the emerging library will be an existing, tangible entity, with tangible, fixed media collections alongside the digital collections and robust online search and retrieval services. In this context, labeling a library as "virtual" need not jeopardize the important role of the library as a place, located within a community, supported by and serving members of its community. The LOT can be viewed as a broker to the state�s libraries and their resources as well as providing resources procured by the TSLAC.


Virtual Union Catalog, Virtual Catalog, or Something Else?

We think that the term virtual union catalog is particularly problematic. What does this term imply? The label uses "union catalog," a well�known concept in the library community. Most physical union catalogs are centralized either in printed format or as a database and have a defined scope and purpose. For example, the union catalog of one of the state�s public library regional systems would reflect the holdings of the libraries that are members of the system. As a component of LOT, a virtual union catalog should represent the holdings of all libraries in Texas, as would a physical statewide union catalog. We think this is neither an appropriate nor useful analogy.

Attachment A depicts how users might create their own "union catalog" by selecting two or more library catalogs to search concurrently. It is the choice of catalogs for a particular search that defines this dynamic "union" catalog. There is no persistent "union catalog" in this case. What is exciting is the control the user has to select which catalogs to search concurrently. It is the customized, dynamic nature of this distributed searching model that we want to communicate. Additionally, the choices of which catalogs to search can be based on geographic considerations (e.g., search catalogs in libraries within 50 miles of me), by type of library (e.g., search catalogs in public libraries only), and ultimately by collection strength (e.g., search catalogs in libraries that have extensive collections of materials on agriculture).

Less important is the notion of a "thing" called a virtual catalog than the notion of a service provided by the LOT (i.e., dynamic, user-controlled cross-catalog searching). This leads to the idea for describing the LOT in terms of services rather than resources. We discuss this idea in a following section.

In summary, it does appear that the term "virtual" may appropriate for the LOT project and we propose that the phrase "virtual library" is aptly used when referring to the LOT. Additionally, the term "union catalog", virtual or not, does not seem appropriately used when describing the LOT components being implemented in the ZLOT project. We propose that these components be referred to in terms of the services they provide.

4. Issues Related to the Vision of the Library of Texas

The vision for the LOT will inform the resulting LOT architecture. Architecture can address a number of components, and this section discusses three aspects of the LOT to provide a point of departure for discussion and clarification for the ZLOT project.

A Service-based Perspective on LOT

Existing libraries are generally a product of an intersection and an interaction of people, resources, and policies and procedures. Libraries have developed a range of services for internal and external consumption, and in fact, one might assert that the services define the library. The provision of services to patrons and other users, including library staff, utilizes a library�s collective assets (personnel, information, and technology).

A library does not collect books and other materials simply to have a collection but to provide a service (e.g., providing information and access services to users). Similarly, a library does not hire reference librarians to give directions to the bathroom but rather to enable services to patrons (e.g., ready reference services). Since the library, by its nature, is primarily a service institution, could we consider defining and presenting the LOT in terms of the services it intends to offer?

We might consider the following as basic components of a library:

  • Users
  • Services
  • Resources
  • Technology
  • Management
  • Policy
  • Funding.

If we consider services the essential output of the library, the other components serve as infrastructure for the creation and delivery of services. In the case of the LOT only some of the components listed above are under the control of the LOT. LOT can be considered a broker of the services, resources, technology, management, policy, and funding of libraries in the state.

Please refer to Attachment C, which depicts the role of users and services as drivers within the library. Library services respond to user needs, or rather user needs help define and design appropriate services. The services are based on available assets such as people and collections. Technology, in the form of many different tools, is used to support the delivery of services.

Part of the ZLOT project involves building consensus on LOT functionality. In our ZLOT proposal we included the list of candidate functions that emerged from a meeting of TSLAC staff with the Texas Z39.50 Implementors Group earlier this year. (See Attachment D.) Many of the functions listed can be viewed from the perspective of services.

Identifying functionality in terms of the "services" that the LOT could provide might be an appropriate strategy for ZLOT to pursue. A focus on services could possibly alleviate some terminology problems. For example, instead of talking about a virtual catalog, we could define a Resource Discovery Service. The following would be one way to discuss this service:

The Resource Discovery Service provides users with a variety of tools and approaches for discovering the existence of appropriate library resources. Typically, a user will search one or more databases to identify and select resources. Three alternatives for searching might be:

  • Single database searching, where users can search a single database at a time. The UNT Library, for example, offers its Electronic Library that is a collection of indexes and some full-text databases that users can access via the Internet through a web interface. Users choose a single resource to search.
  • Broadcast searching, where users can search two or more relatively similar databases concurrently. An example of this service is searching multiple library catalogs. Users select two or more library catalogs to search concurrently and create their own mini-union catalog at the time of query.
  • Integrative searching, which is similar to broadcast searching but instead of concurrent searching of relatively similar databases, searches go against databases whose content and structure are quite diverse (e.g., concurrently searching a library catalog, a museum collection management system, and archival finding aids). The objective of this search alternative is to provide users with a coherent view of disparate resources.

Whether or not the terms used in the above description are clearer than "virtual catalog" remains to be seen. We hope that through the focus groups, we can identify and define functionality for LOT and also develop labels for the services based on the words people in the focus groups use.

We would like TSLAC to consider framing the LOT in terms of services. This will allow ZLOT to pursue the development of a service-based architecture for LOT.

Centralized and Distributed Architectures for Z39.50 Services

One reading of the TSLAC proposal implies a centralized approach to implementing the cross-catalog searching capability as depicted in Appendix A. We raise this as an issue because it may be premature to assume a centralized architecture for the LOT or ZLOT components prior to our work in building consensus on functional requirements. It may be helpful in discussing the LOT to suggest possible architectures, a decision on which will emerge during the identification of functional requirements.

To give an example of both possible centralized and decentralized architectures, we discuss how Z39.50 can be implemented to support both options. A web�to�Z39.50 gateway server allows users access from a web browser to connect to the gateway, submit a search, and have the gateway send out the search to one or more library catalogs using Z39.50 (see Attachment C). This approach could be deployed in a centralized architecture where the Web/Z39.50 gateway was housed at the TSLAC and all transactions occurred through the gateway. In this centralized approach, the Z39.50 client can search one or more library catalogs concurrently. A distributed gateway variation of the centralized approach would involve multiple Web/Z39.50 gateways (e.g., hosted at the regional systems) to reduce the impact on TSLAC computing and network resources.

Alternately, Attachment A represents a model of distributed searching across one or more library catalogs in the absence of a Z39.50 gateway. A Z39.50 client installed on library patrons� and staff computers could send searches to one or more library catalogs that have Z39.50 servers installed. This can be considered a distributed search service provided through Z39.50.

By presenting the LOT in terms of services provided, we can communicate the vision of distributed searching without necessarily and prematurely discussing an underlying architecture. Terms such as a "statewide catalog" seem to imply a more centralized architecture.

The Relationship of LOT to Existing Organizations, Their Policies, and Services

At the TexShare Advisory Board meeting in November, some attendees expressed concern about LOT not taking into consideration some existing TexShare activities. For example, when discussing the virtual catalog component and its use for interlibrary loan (ILL), several attendees indicated that the TexShare ILL protocol prescribes the use OCLC or DOCLINE, the National Library of Medicine's automated interlibrary loan (ILL) request routing and referral system, for processing ILL requests.

ZLOT staff is reviewing background materials on organizations and services that appear to be important to the success of the LOT. We will need TSLAC assistance to ensure we do not overlook any pertinent organizations, policies, or services.

As ZLOT begins holding focus groups to identify functional requirements for the LOT, it is important that we understand TSLAC�s vision of how various organizations and services will integrate into LOT. The LOT proposal to TIF suggests opportunities for collaboration among existing organizations and services to make the LOT successful. ZLOT staff also needs to know the extent to which TSLAC wants to reshape existing policies in the context of LOT. The LOT architecture emerging from the ZLOT project will need to reflect both the existing organizational arrangements and their evolution.

ZLOT�s strategy at this point is to communicate with many of the TexShare working groups and other stakeholders to develop functional requirements for LOT. Yet the TexShare Advisory Board meeting indicated there are issues and concerns that could become barriers in getting consensus on basic functional requirements since those requirements (e.g., distributed searching across library catalogs) could be seen as the first step in challenging existing policies and services.


5. Summary and Conclusion

In this paper, we have identified two primary areas for discussion between ZLOT and TSLAC: LOT terminology and vision. The LOT should be described and explained consistently. We have highlighted some terminology that may confuse or obscure the LOT vision. Naming something is a powerful activity. A name can highlight salient features or scope. It can raise expectations. A name can be ambiguous allowing different people to have different interpretations or it can be based on jargon or technical terms leading to confusion and mistaken impressions. For discussion purposes, we offer the following description of the LOT:

The Library of Texas is an initiative of TSLAC and the TIF Board that uses current and emerging computer and Internet technologies and the expanding telecommunication infrastructure in Texas to offer a new level of library and information services to all Texans without regard to geographic location. The Library of Texas offers resources procured by TSLAC for the benefit and use of all Texans. The Library of Texas offers services to expand the reach and range of all Texans to the state�s libraries and their resources. In collaboration with the state�s public and academic libraries, LOT provides search services that enable a user to discover library resources by searching one or more library catalogs. LOT leverages existing document delivery services to get library materials into the hands of the users.

Lastly, we highlighted an area of concern related LOT�s relationship with existing organizations, policies, and services. This area may be much more complicated than trying to develop a consistent message to describe LOT. It is an area that needs attention because of the possibility that representatives of these organizations, policies, and services may think or feel that the LOT initiative threatens existing arrangement in which they have vested interests. The ZLOT staff looks forward to involving representatives of all stakeholder groups in the processes to identify functional requirements. We need to be clear on the extent to which TSLAC intends to leverage existing organizations, policies, and services in the LOT.

We look forward to working with the TSLAC staff to communicate the vision and details of what the LOT is and can become.



Z39.50 Distributed Searching Model







Users and Services as Drivers in the Library








Web to Z39.50 Gateway Model









Candidate Functionality for LOT

Listed below is a set of candidate functionality for the LOT based on TSLAC discussions with the Texas Z39.50 Implementors Group, June 29, 2001.


  • Access to all State Agencies and databases
  • Access to all TexShare databases
  • Will run against school libraries (TLC)
  • Allow libraries to access databases they purchase themselves
  • Free e journal locator and access points
  • Access to e journals statewide
  • E book access
  • Ask a reference librarian referral system
  • Virtual reference desk shared by various libraries
  • Access to national libraries - LC, NLM, NAL, NLC
  • List of museums with links to each
  • Tourist information esp. driving trails and day trips
  • Children's module, like Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) that includes crafts, story hours
  • Online computer programming tools
  • List of current highway construction sites
  • List of radio & TV stations across state & possibly beyond
  • Lists of Library Services and accesses with privileges and limitations
  • Readers' advisory service
  • Educational opportunities database with the different categories based on perceived needs
  • Online image database
  • MARC Records to share
  • Specialized collections identified: e.g. local history, genealogy, etc.


  • Standardized bar code authentication
  • Authentication with statewide id through library affiliation
  • State library card, usable throughout state
  • Provide without charge library service for the unserved by a public library
  • Voluntary participation in resource sharing
  • XML interface
  • TX Dublin-Core documents interface
  • ILL
  • Centralized ILL
  • Patron-initiated ILL
  • Quick response to fill ILL request (electronically, if possible)
  • ILL component takes request from user & sends it to institution document delivery service
  • ILL has option for library mediation
  • Ability to borrow from own library (self check-out)
  • Automatically directs ILLs to appropriate library according to each participating library's profile
  • Automatically finds out if in local holdings and if not automatically initiates an ILL request
  • Patron gets email verification after putting in a request
  • ILL integrates with OCLC
  • Point-to-point request/circulation
  • Ability to send ILL request from bibliographic data
  • Patron ability to check on ILL progress
  • Standards
  • Supports open URL standard
  • Allows libraries to come in at low or high Z39.50 profile levels (level 0 through level 5-6 of Bath)
  • Based on Z39.50
  • Based on NCIP


  • Same interface searches across all databases
  • Same interface searches across databases and catalogs
  • Same interface will include TRAIL in searches
  • Can be customized to search non-compliant systems
  • Customized "My VUC" - cookie-enabled
  • Allow libraries to customize interface
  • Can search by region, city, research institution, or other parameters
  • Patron can pick features by which to search libraries (geographic, library type, etc.)
  • Option to limit search to type of library - academic, special, public, medical, school, etc
  • Can limit by geographic regions
  • Limit search to reading level or special type of material - e.g. juvenile books
  • Option to limit search to local area or region
  • Ability to limit search by format - i.e. video, books on tape
  • Allow each library to set sort options on returned records (by distance or by library or by cost, etc.)
  • Hierarchical ability to "sort" availability (i.e. in building, within single library, within region, etc.)
  • Professionally-designed (and focus-group tested) interface
  • Support for English and Spanish displays and search terms
  • Links from titles in databases to catalogs in VUC
  • Results avoids long lists of repeated same title (dedups?)
  • Have option to use vendor's ILS interface
  • If a library's server is down, doesn't hold up or delay the multiple-catalog search


  • Decentralized Help Desk

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