The Internet in Librarian Speak


Magazine (Serial)------------Web Site

Magazine Table of Contents (+welcome mat+front door to one's home or business)--------------------Home Page

Microfiche reader/printer for Web pages-------------Web Browser

Single piece of microfiche---Web Page (in general)

Rolodex (frequently needed addresses and phone numbers)---------------------Bookmarks

Keyword access (like EBSCO online magazine service)-----------------------AltaVista, Hotbot (robot search engines)

Subject access (like Readers Guide to Periodical Literature)------------------Yahoo!, Magellan(human organized categories directories)

Handbook/manual summary of facts known about subject--------------------FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Having article or book faxed from remote location-------------------------Ftp (file transfer protocol)

Utility co.(like phone co.,electric co.,cable co.)------------------------Internet Service Provider(ISP)

Closed Caption TV-----------Alt Tags (or picture captions for what you did not see, instead of what you did not hear)

Remote use of a computer via commands by user (distinguishing feature: computer prompt)-------------Telnet program

Librarians come to the World Wide Web with some advantages over the average new Web user. Librarians are used to doing reference interviews, thinking about which search tool or approach might yield the best information in the least amount of time, and are also familiar with how to organize information themselves (as with their rolodexes and in their vertical files).

In fact, librarians can be said to bring a unique perspective to the World Wide Web. Other Web users do depend on librarians to help organize the information on the World Wide Web. What I want to talk about now is how your experience as a librarian will carry over into your use of the World Wide Web and should, in fact, stand you in good stead.

Serials librarians are all too aware of the frequency with which serials (magazines, newspapers, other periodicals) start, stop, get bought/sold, change name, etc. Web sites are very similar in that they, too, may be "here today, gone tomorrow". Also, as with serials, you will need to pay attention to how recently any given Web page has been updated.

Librarians know all about how to use the table of contents of any magazine. A Web site's Home Page serves much the same function except that it also has to double for the glossy cover of the magazine!

This virtually never happens anymore but I still remember the days when I would get out a microfiche magazine for a patron and he (or she) would panic, thinking it would be impossible to make photocopies which he (or she) had counted on having available later for use when writing the actual research paper. The patron would then be SO relieved when I would then proceed to show him (or her) how to use the microfiche reader/printer to make copies of the needed article!

A Web browser, in a sense, is much like our microfiche reader/printer machines. You have to physically insert a particular piece of microfiche into the reader/printer before you can view it and decide to make copies.

Similarly, you must link to a Web page before you can view it and make printouts (or save to disk or whatever). Specifically, you have to go find the Web page you want (just as you searched for the particular piece of microfiche you needed.) There are thousands of microfiche cards at my branch. There are millions of Web pages. But no Web pages are going to appear in your browser unless you put them there!

Bookmarks, as we all know, save your place when you are doing research at the library and you use the bookmark to hold your place in the reference book until you can get it to the photocopier. In the same way, Web bookmarks "hold your place" by enabling you to immediately return to a favorite site (that is, one which has material you need frequently or lots of other good links on it which you need, too). Web bookmarks function both like the piece of paper which you stuck in the reference book on the way to the photocopier and like the librarian's good friend, the rolodex, which lists frequently needed addresses and telephone numbers.

There are two classes of search tools both at my branch and on the World Wide Web. One type (or class) is best for doing keyword searches. At my library, I generally turn to EBSCOhost (online periodical index with some fulltext articles included) first for keyword searching when I am searching for magazine articles for a patron. On the Web, I would use Altavista or HotBot for a keyword search.

The second type (or class) is by subject or categories. When I have a general subject, I normally prefer to start with the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. Especially when a student needs to do a paper about an abstract idea like "success" or a word that appears too frequently like "Olympics". On the Web, I would use Yahoo! or Magellan.

I also make heavy use of handbooks like the World Almanac and Book of Facts and manuals like how to start a small business at work. Handbooks have a lot in common with another Web acronym - the FAQ- which stands for Frequently Asked Questions. Allow me to explain what a FAQ is by imagining that you are having an interesting discussion with someone. Another person walks up and you have to stop and fill in the new person on the conversation thus far.

Ten minutes later, another new person walks up and again you have to stop and spend time bringing this additional new person up to speed. What it this happened every ten minutes for the next twenty years? You would never be able to finish your interesting conversation. Thus, the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) was invented.

Instead of expecting you to stop and bring the first new person up to speed on your conversation up to that point, the new person would know to read the FAQ. Having brought himself (or herself) up to speed on their own, the new person could start contributing relevant comments right away to the ongoing interesting conversation.

Another form of the FAQ is an old staple of branch library rolodexes - "What are the names of the Seven Dwarfs in the Disney movie Snow White?" or what is the recipe for homemade papier mache (or salt dough, for that matter)?

Combine these two aspects together and you will understand why I think a FAQ can be as useful for reference sometimes as the handbooks and manuals in your print reference collections right now! Where can you find FAQ's? Look for them on Web home pages and on Usenet discussion groups. You can also use search engines to find them!

I get requests from other branches from time to time to photocopy a magazine article from the microfiche or photocopy some pages out of a book and fax the needed pages to the requesting branch as an interlibrary loan. File transfer protocol(ftp) does much the same thing except that the transfer is between computers instead of between fax machines. Generally, the material transferred by ftp is too lengthy to be contained in email messages (which tend to be fairly short usually) or a few Web pages. That is why I compared it to having an entire magazine article or several pages in a book sent.

You may have heard a lot about Internet Service Providers (ISPs). They are the utility company on the Web. You pay your cable company for your cable TV. You pay your phone company for your telephone lines. You pay your electric company for your light bill. And you pay your Internet Service Provider for your Internet connection. Your cable company does not care which programs you watch (except for pay-per-view and the premium channels to which you subscribe, of course). Your telephone company has nothing to do with who you call. Similarly, your Internet Service Provider makes sure that you can get online and then you are on your own.

Alt tags require a bit of explanation if you have never heard of them before. First, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the alt key. I only mention them because you will see them when you use Lynx, the text-only browser. And, you would see them if you decide to turn off the "auto-load images" feature on Netscape in order to make Web pages load faster. (Graphics do take time to download and you do not really need to see them to find the information you wanted on the World Wide Web, most of the time. If you did, no one would ever use Lynx.)

The underlined words that you see after you:
1)stop right now
2)turn off your "auto-load images" feature (in Netscape, pull down the menu under "Options" and click on "auto-load images" to make the checkmark go away)
3)and load a new Web page which contains graphics such as this one
are the alt tags. I call them the closed captioning of the Web because they tell you what you did not see (instead of what you did not hear, the way closed captioning works on TV.

OK, now, last but not least, for telnet. You likely have been using telnet at work almost daily for years now. Only, it was never called that. Remember when we still had CARL and you'd see this phrase on the screen: "TRYING A CONNECTION"? Every time you saw that screen, you were using telnet.

We literally use telnet every day to bring up HARRY (Dynix library catalog) on our computers every day. You can tell you are using telnet (as opposed to, say the World Wide Web) because you have to login and give commands (that is, wait for the computer prompt) to interact with the computer.

Back to Quick Tips tutorial series

Back to the CyberLibrarian

This Page Under Construction
Last Modified: 8/2/98