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DESIDOC Bulletin of Information Technology , Vol. 24, No.1, January

DESIDOC Bulletin of Information Technology , Vol. 24, No.1, January

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Published by: Nicole Martin on Dec 03, 2009
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12/07/2009

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Intranets: A New Dimension for Library Services
Bhojaraju GAbstract
This article is based on the some practical experiences of Indian RubberManufacturing Research Association (IRMRA). It gives brief introduction aboutthe intranet, controversies of an intranet, and its library applications. It also givesinformation about accessing management information, improving internalcommunications, e-mail, intra mail, collaborative working, communities ofinterests, discussion groups, electronic forms, internal newsletters, searchfacilities, training materials, and library applications/access. The use of intranet inproviding library services like SDI, CAS and other information management isexplained with a schematic diagram.
1.INTRODUCTION
Intranets are widely considered to besimply an internal version of the internet, asort of miniature version of the web runningon a company or institutional network. Theappeal of intranets is that they provide asingle central information store andencourage communication flows throughoutthe organisations. Information can be easilybe shared and disseminated to large groupsof people dispersed across different sites,even across national borders. There ispotential to link every desktop in theorganisation irrespective of which computingsystems are in use. A vast range of internalcompany information can be held on theintranet. At a basic level this could includeinternal telephone lists, procedures, manuals,organisational charts, personneldocumentation, and the type of information,which is almost impossible to keep up-to-dateusing hardcopy formats. More advancedinformation handling scenarios are alsofeasible.Internet is a communication network whichlinks all the small computer networksworldwide as one whole. Intranet is basedupon internet technology, in particular worldwide web (WWW), to build informationsystems within an organisation or enterpriseto accomplish standardization andautomation. Fundamentally, it meansnetwork-computing environments, which letthe users share the information through theinternet and web browsers. Ultimately, itallows a certain organisation to build agroupware within web environment at lowcost on top of existing network infrastructure.By doing this, closed organisation networkwould be interconnected with existingworldwide internet, which results in diverseinformation that strengthens competitiveadvantages of the organisation. Basically, itruns on top of TCP/IP and HTTP and filtersout any illegal access through firewall.In libraries, intranet can facilitate so manyservices. It helps in dissemination of storedinformation as well as allows to access toremote information. Through intranet, librariescan disseminate required information to itsusers in less time, with high effectiveness.Information professionals are becoming
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DESIDOC Bulletin of Information Technology 
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webmaster and intranet coordinators,combining technical expertise with informationmanagement ability. With increasingemphasis on resource sharing not onlybetween libraries but between differentbranches and departments of a library, theintranet offers the potential to be a veryimportant tool in libraries’ effort to make themost efficient use of their resources.In Steve Gilliland’s words, “The intranet isa very powerful paradigm for sharinginformation across the company. It works onserver centric computing. There’s a lower costof application development, a lower cost ofsoftware upgrades, and it gives youubiquitous access to information andapplications… There’s a browser deployed onevery desktop… it accesses everything andthere’s no need for training.”
2.CONTROVERSIES OF ANINTRANET
The most salient controversy is security.Security is an issue for the intranet and theinternet. Security issues have to beaddressed fully. Not all information can be putonline; payroll, personal employeeinformation, engineering prototypes, companysecrets, and so forth. However, in order forthe intranet to be fully functional, thisinformation needs to available online.Information like this needs to be securedbehind fire bridges (security that allowsaccess only by authorised members).The web does not handle login, security,access control, authorization, or replicationvery well yet. So, setting-up fire bridges likethis is challenging. Issues of directory andsecurity interoperability are significant hurdlesas well. With the introduction of directoryservers and new internet protocols for dealingwith directories and operating systemdifferences, this issue will be resolved.However, the maturation of the technologymust take place to handle these hurdles.
3. INTRANETS FOR LIBRARYSERVICES
The role of information officer or librarianin the facilitation of intranet and internetsolutions is a key one. This role brings thelibrarian into a regular contact and workingrelationships with the system staff andinformation suppliers. The librarian oftenremains the best judge of an informationsource and knows the information needs ofthe organisation within which he works. Thus,the librarian can provide an important liaisonin order to use the intranet as a platform todisseminate the library’s own materials andnewsletters or as a source to bring externalinformation into the organisation.The intranet is perhaps our bestopportunity to talk to the rest of ourorganisation, and provide the informationcentre with a valuable and effective tool fordissemination of information.A vast range of internal companyinformation can be held on the intranet. At thebasic level this could include internaltelephone directory, procedures, manuals,organisational charts, other personneldocumentation, and the type of informationwhich is almost impossible to keep up-to-dateusing hard-copy formats. More advancedinformation handling scenarios are alsofeasible.As the librarian moves into a moreproactive role, he offers a highly effective wayof pushing information at the user. Informationprofessionals are becoming webmaster andintranet co-ordinators, combining technicalexpertise with information managementability. For information services staff theintranet offers a wonderful range oftechnologies on which they can develop theirskills as information managers.The intranet is another step in the directionof becoming proactive as opposed tocustodians of dusty old cuttings and the lowstatus which accompanied such a role. It isnot insignificant that the intranet developmenthas been accomplished by redefining of theroles of staff and attempts to change theimage of information service provider awayfrom the passive librarian towards thedynamic research specialist.As use of internet and intranet grows, sotoo will the number and kinds of application
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software. Presently, most intranet web sitesare used for very basic information sharing,such as the posting of phone directories, joblistings or company documents. However,more sophisticated software allow for greaterlinkage between databases, remote sites andthe transfer of video and audio material,holding of virtual conferences around theworld, all of which may be applicable tolibraries.
3.1Library Applications
The primary benefit of an intranet in alibrary is the facilitation of information sharing.Various kinds of documents can be convertedinto HTML and made web-accessible.Policies, procedures, forms, annual reports,manuals, schedules, calendar of events,programmes, and anything on paper can betransferred onto an intranet. The intranet willthen serve as a quick and reliable source fororganisational information. In fact, anything ofinterest or use of the staff, eitherprofessionally or personally, may be put ontoit. In this way librarians and other employees,and for some information, the public can bemore aware of what is going on at the library.An intranet can also provide access toonline databases such as those of DIALOG.Here, the ability of an intranet to restrictaccess is important . Special interfaces will beneeded for Online Public Access Catalogues(OPACs) and Z39.50 gateways to accessother databases. The intranet is certainly astep towards a ‘virtual library’. In this contextCary Grrifiths says—“Think of an intranet asan organisation’s virtual library”.
3.2Specialised Library Services
There are number of obvious advantagesfor an information and library service whichhas access to the parent organisation’sintranet. It can publicize its services to its usercommunity through a variety of pages, someof them generally static (opening hours,details of key staff, etc.) and some of themupdated more frequently (new additions or journal alert listing service). Figure 1 showsservices given by IRMRA library over internet.An intranet can assist the informationprofessional to develop document deliveryservices. Documents can be delivered toremote printers alongside users’ workstations.
n
Network fax and e-mail offers thepossibility for externally sourced copies tobe delivered to the network
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SDI services can provide abstract andarticle summaries by e-mail, or orderbulletins to be printed at the users’terminal
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Intranet allows direct posting of theresults of research on electronicdatabases
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The library can give access to itscatalogues (OPAC) or other bibliographicdatabase will be connected directly to thenetwork
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Library and information services are oftenresponsible for arranging the supply ofexternal news feeds and otherinformation resources on intranets.
3.2.1Accessing ManagemenInformation 
The library typically provides access to alarge number of resources. These resourcesinclude books, journals, CD-ROM databases,online services and even the library OPAC.Usage information is an example ofmanagement information. Other examples ofmanagement information are reports andreviews written by members of staff.Management information is something thatcan be relatively easily delivered to librarian’sdesktops using off the shelf products and/or afew inhouse developed programs.For example, one can provide access to anumber of CD-ROMs over the campusnetwork. In order to use one of theseCD-ROMs, users must supply a user nameand password which is validated against theusers’ data on the computing services centralcomputing resources.A webserver can be loaded on to thelibrary OPAC machine in order to prototypethe webOPAC.
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