|1996 Conference: Year of the Electronic Author||
Information Technology Coordinator
Barclay Law Library, College of Law, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244
This paper provides a behind the scenes look at the
development of the H. Douglas Barclay Law Library Intranet at
the Syracuse University College of Law. The intranet applications
discussed here are in various stages of development. Intranet
development began at the Barclay Law Library in August of 1995
and is ongoing. This paper will examine the process of intranet
planning, the current state of development and plans for the future.
For more information see Highlights of the Barclay Law Library Intranet
In examining the highlights of the Barclay Law Library
Intranet, I will cover the areas below:
The Barclay Law Library began developing internet
resources in May of 1994. Using the internet as a medium for the
delivery of information resources fit within the library's goal
of using technology to enhance access to information. Initial
efforts focused on creating a basic website and placing some library
materials on the site. As the website grew through early 1995,
it became apparent that internet development required a serious
commitment of resources. Once information was identified for
addition to the website it needed to be marked up, integrated,
and maintained. Due to the time involved in setting up and maintaining
internet resources, it did not seem cost effective to allocate
the resources necessary to develop large web based collections.
However, the ability to use a web browser program to access a
diverse body of information seemed to show some promise if it
could be harnessed for internal purposes. Thus, the concept of
the Barclay Law Library Intranet was born in July of 1995.
The ability of the World Wide Web (WWW) to provide a common access point through a web browser to
information regardless of format is the thing that
makes intranet development worthwhile. Using the intranet capabilities
of the WWW, the paperless office suddenly becomes a possibility.
Putting all of the forms and manuals used everyday in the library
on-line and providing everyone easy access to the information
seemed worthwhile. The law library would use the skills and resources
developed in internet development to create an intranet, and internal
website that would provide the staff with access to local and
distant networked resources.
In developing intranet applications for the law library
the following goals were identified by the library administration:
The library staff makes extensive use of various procedure manuals that have been assembled in looseleaf binders. For example, the catalogers use a manual that guides them in cataloging resources.
Every staff position has a job manual that outlines the duties and responsibilities of the position. These include frequent cross reference to procedure manuals.
These include work related forms, such as a request for time off form and public service forms such as interlibrary loan (ILL) request forms.
This will allow all new documents to be quickly added to the intranet.
5. All employees will learn basic HTML to create web documents.
This will be done using MS Word and the Internet Assistant.
6. A mechanism will be created that will allow for 'user friendly' addition of documents to the site.
A system is under development that will allow users to save HTML documents to a specified directory on our Novell LAN and the files will then be added to the website automatically.
7. A 'discussion area' will be created to allow for staff discussion and announcements.
This is essentially a BBS style message area that will allow for threaded discussions and the posting of general information.
This system is in final beta test. Staff members have access to a web based calendar that displays all of the information that is usually written on the paper-based staff calendar such as vacation time, meeting times, etc.
These pages give each library department customized
access to the information and resources which they need.
The goals will be fully implemented by September
of 1997. The system is currently in a prototype stage. A new
web support position will be filled this summer and full scale
development will proceed in the fall. Staff service items such
as the calendar system and forms will be added first. Any new
documents created by the library staff will be added as created.
Legacy documents such as procedure manuals and job manuals will
be phased in over the next year. When fully implemented each
department in the library will be responsible for their own departmental
A key feature of the Law Library intranet is its
ability to determine which machine is requesting information and
then respond with a page designated for that machine. This is
accomplished by screening the IP addresses of clients requesting
http://www.law.syr.edu/index.html from the server. The
IP addresses of requesting clients are evaluated by select.pl,
a PERL script. Based upon the IP address, the server sends a
designated page which the client sees as the homepage.
Currently IP address evaluation enables the server
to match requesting clients with specific user groups (cluster
users, library staff, faculty, etc.) who were identified by examining
use of the College of Law LAN. This allows the site to serve
a homepage tailored to the specific group. The idea behind developing
this system is that is impossible to develop one page that will
server the needs of a highly diversified groups of users. The
following homepages are currently available.
Main Homepage ( default )
Law Library Bibliographic Services
College of Law Computer Cluster
The website for the Bibliographic Services Department
of the Law Library was the first part of the Law Library Intranet
to be developed. This site is currently under development. It
utilizes frames technology as implemented by Netscape 2.0 to provide
staff members with access to internet/intranet based resources
and networked applications. Users can surf the net in one frame
while the other provides continuous access to network applications.
The users of this site have provided considerable input about
its functionality, layout, and content.
The site also provides staff members with access
to a central core of information including employee directories,
useful forms, and other sites used in their daily work. Users
also have access to a 'surfboard', allowing them to access any
URL, and their own bookmarks. All of this occurs within the frames
W3launch is another a unique aspect of the site.
This program allows users to launch applications from with in
a web browser. It acts as a 'helper application', launching selected
applications via specially scripted commands.
As the intranet concept developed at the law library
one of the first possibilities explored was placing the staff
calendar on the Web. Like many other places, the library has
a large, paper, blotter-style calendar that is kept in a common
area. The calendar is used to record staff time off, who is out
sick, who is out of the building at meetings, etc. It is an effective
method for tracking this type of information. The problem is
that all employees go to the actual calendar to read or record
the information. Putting this information on a website seemed
like a good idea, if it could be done simply enough.
We started with a groupware calendar package developed
by Selena Sol. This package was modified to simplify it and
make it easier to use. As implemented, the calendar allows the
user to view a month, to get a detailed view of a specific day,
and to add and delete items. The law library's staff time off
form is integrated with the calendar package to allow for the
automatic posting of time off requests to the calendar. In using
this calendar, the aim is for simplicity. The system is not
designed to be a group scheduling calendar. The purpose of the
calendar is to provide an online equivalent of the blotter calendar.
The calendar is in final beta testing now.
Several of the identified goals of the Barclay Law
Library Intranet project deal with bringing web publishing into
the mainstream of the law library's work flow. All members of
the staff will learn basic HTML, all library documents will be
web ready when produced, and an automated system will add the
staff's work to the website. This will be accomplished using
off the shelf components such as MS Word and Internet Assistant,
Netscape Navigator 2.0, Novell Netware, and Linux.
When fully implemented the system will work as follows:
Early feedback on the Barclay Law Library Intranet indicates that it will be a useful tool in the library. A well designed intranet will increase a users access to useful and necessary information, increasing productivity. The law library has committed itself to following this path. The intranet will further the library's goal of using technology to enhance access to information . The technology developed for the site will be used to enhance access to information throughout the College of Law. Faculty and their secretaries will be given training in the use of the system that will allow them to place materials directly on the site, allowing students to have easier access to materials such as exams, syllabi, and course assignments. The future of intranets is bright at the Barclay Law Library and the Syracuse University College of Law.