CHAPTER - 6
POSSIBILITIES OF NETWORK BASED INFORMATION SERVICES IN INDIA
6.1 Monitoring Information Resources and Services on INTERNET
6.2 Creating an Electronic Discussion Forum for Library
and Information Science
6.3 Creating E-mail based Bibliographical Database Servers
6.4 Monitoring, Filtering and Re-distribution of Discussion Forum
Today with the emergence of global network infrastructure, wherein local networks (LANs), national and regional networks and international networks are rapidly getting interconnected, a host of networked information services have evolved over the years. Library and Information networks are designed to support basically library and information services.
Library networks offer these services :
- Union Catalogue
- Current awareness & SDI services
- Authority data
- Library automation-Acquisition and fund accounting, serials control, book and journals maintenance, user services, creation and maintenance of bibliographic databases, etc.
- Inter Library user services
- Document Transfer/copy
- Access to national/ international databases
The details of the above services have already been discussed in the context of Library Networks and their Services. The development of INTERNET has drastically changed the way communication among different libraries, professionals and users is taking place these days.
Communication services offered by computer-to-computer networks like INTERNET include electronic mail, file transfer and remote log-in. E-mail is a store-and-forward messaging facility available on all the networks. It is probably the most widespread of the three network services because it is often the only way to exchange information among the networks. Users on the networks can also invoke file transfer commands (ftp file transfer protocol on INTERNET) to copy computer files. Remote log-in is the most sophisticated service provided on the networks through programs like TELNET on INTERNET which allows a user at one site to work on a computer at another site.
Network information service applications are developed using these above communication services.
An important requirement for wider use of the services is the inter-connectivity, at least for e-mail, among the various networks in the country, including library specific networks like DELNET, CALIBNET, INFLIBNET, etc.
Possibilities of offering different network based information services are many; a few have been described below:1. Monitoring Information Resources and Services on INTERNET Top
There is urgent need for setting up a network information monitoring facility, consisting of a core group of two to three staff members and a suitable computer connected to ERNET (Education and Research Network which connects the major academic institutions in the country) or similar other networks connecting major library and information centers in the country. Main responsibility of this group should be to systematically scan and monitor information resources and services on INTERNET and provide relevant information to Indian users. Two interesting applications / services that can be offered from this facility are:
2. Creating an Electronic Discussion Forum for Library and Information Science Top
An electronic discussion forum is an e-mail based conferencing medium for a group of people, geographically far apart, to discuss issues related to their profession or discipline. A forum for library and information science can be established to discuss, for example, issues related to library practices and use of new information technologies in libraries and information centers. Such a forum can also act as an electronic news medium for sharing information pertaining to new initiatives, plans, projects, information sources and services, international development, etc.
While a few real-time electronic discussion forums (also called Bulletin Board, Computer conference, interest group, discussion group, discussion list, etc.) exist today, majority of them use e-mail to set up an informal discussion by interconnecting people of specific interest over a network. Members of such forums can exchange messages with others irrespective of the network they are on and their geographic location. The software used for setting up an electronic discussion forum is known as a mail server. Mail servers are electronic mail delivery systems, which when they receive a message can resend it to a group of users/subscribers whose e-mail addresses are maintained as a mailing list. Each subscriber sees all the mail forwarded by the server and if he/she wants to add his/her comments on the issue, sends in a message to the server. Many discussion forums also archive the messages and support batch search and retrieval from the archive. Several hundred such electronic discussion forums exist globally today. They are bringing radical changes in the conduct of research and scholarly communication. One example of a discussion forum for librarians and information specialists is the Public Access Computer Systems (PACS-L) forum, moderated from the University of Houston, USA. PACS-L participants discuss many topics ranging from specific hardware and software considerations to issues involving online catalogues, CD-ROMs, networking and locally mounted databases.
While such a forum will improve communication among the professionals in our country, it will also encourage librarians to develop more sophisticated network skills and to explore more fully the potentials of electronic communication.
3. Creating E-mail based Bibliographical Database Servers Top
While online, interactive searching of bibliographic databases is a desirable feature, e-mail based access is an interesting and less expensive solution considering the computing and network technologies currently used by our libraries and information centers. It is not difficult to create an e-mail based front-end to a bibliographic database, which will receive user queries, formulated in a specific syntax, by e-mail, carry out the search and the results to the user, by e-mail.
As already mentioned earlier, several hundred discussion forums exist today on INTERNET on a wide variety of topics. The messages posted on these forums are an important source of information, raw knowledge and often untried new ideas. There is a need to identify important forums, in the context of our research priorities, scan these regularly, extract significant postings, and re-distribute these among our researchers. Such messages could also be archived into a database.
Such a service will help our scientist to become part of the international network of scientists in their field of specialization and get to know the latest developments and research results, well before these appear in published form. This will have positive influence on ongoing research and stimulate new directions in research. Furthermore, such a service will relieve an individual researcher from the burden of getting to know what discussion lists exist, procedure for their subscription, usage, etc. Even if this were to be possible, this will result in ‘network flooding’ due to multiple subscribers to the same list and subscription of multiple lists by one person. The cumulative time saved by use of a single facility of this type will be enormous.
Thus we see that networks are radically changing the way information is disseminated. Several useful network information services can be provided to researchers in the country using just e-mail facility. More sophisticated network information services could be evolved as the time progresses. This would also give the Library/Information professionals the required time and experience to plan for better coordinated efforts.