ISSN 1524-363X 
 LEAF-VN Newsletter
the newsletter of  the Library and Education Assistance Foundation for Vietnam
           Bản Tin LEAF-VN
Bản tin của Hội Hỗ Trợ Thư Viện và Giáo Dục Việt Nam

Volume 3, Issue 1 
Tập 3, số 1 
        Spring 2001
Xuân 2001

Editor's Note: The Vietnamese fonts in this newsletter were created using Unicode Fonts.

Leaf-VN Officers
President's Message: A Cooperative and Busy Year: LEAF-VN's Millenium Start
Lien-Huong Fiedler, LEAF-VN President
Secretary's Report
Le-Huong Pham, LEAF-VN Secretary
Members in the News
LEAF-VN Instructional Series in Librarianship
Editorial Information

Ms. Lien-Huong Fiedler,
(Huyen Ton-Nu Lien-Huong)
703-288-1919 (FAX)
Mr. Hoang Ngoc Huu,
Vice President 
Ms. Le-Huong Pham,
209-575-6669 (FAX) or 
Mr. Thanh Pham,
Ms. Ngoc My Guidarelli,
Project Director 
804-828-0151(FAX) or 
Mr. Vinh-The Lam,
Project Director 
306-966-5919 (FAX) or (home) 
Dr. Hoang-Lan Thi Nguyen,
Fundraising Director 
Ms. Nga Nguyen,
Fundraising Director 
520-626-2922 (FAX)
Ms. Sharon E. Hunt,
Newsletter Editor 
520-760-4941 (FAX) 

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President's Message
Lien-Huong Fiedler, LEAF-VN President

When we recounted the history of LEAF-VN two years ago (Collective Intelligence and Teamwork is the Name of the Game) we spoke about creating a bridge to connect Vietnamese expatriates from the United States, Canada, and Australia to work with library leaders in Vietnam. As the Millennium began we cooperated and interacted with Vietnamese librarians in a true spirit of teamwork.

NLV Director Pham The Khang &
LEAF-VN President LienHuong Fiedler

It has been quite a few months since the two translators of The Concise AACR-2, LEAF-VN Project Director Mr. Lam Vinh-The and LEAF-VN Secretary Ms. Pham Thi Le-Huong have conferred and reconciled differences with the Review Staff of the National Library of Vietnam (NLV) headed by Ms. Tran Kim Thu. These careful steps to review the translated manuscript "Bộ Quy Tắc Biên Mục Anh-Mỹ Rút Gọn" will hopefully ensure that this first international standard complying library textbook will be the most popular manual for Vietnamese librarians!

Dr. Patricia Oyler of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, who has helped provide educational opportunity for some twenty Vietnamese librarians, shared her concern about the outcome of this review process.

The NLV Director Pham The Khang enthusiastically offered a Foreword for the manuscript. He wrote:

"This is the cataloging code about which most Vietnamese librarians for the past several years have only heard but have not had the opportunity to have direct contact with. Now we have it in our hands. For this we would like to thank the Library
LH Fiedler & a library volunteer
(a retired doctor)
and Education Assistance Foundation for Vietnam (LEAF-VN), LEAF-VN’s President Mrs. Huyen Ton Nu Lien-Huong (Lien-Huong Fiedler), the two translators, Mr. Vinh-The Lam and Miss Le-Huong Pham, and especially Mr. Michael Gorman, author of the Consise AACR2, 1988 revision, who has created favorable conditions so that this publication can reach the readers soon enough."

To gain momentum for our efforts after making the acquaintance of many library and education leaders from Vietnam at the 1999 IFLA Conference in Bangkok followed by my trips to Ha Noi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City, I traveled to Vietnam in August, 2000 to work out the details of LEAF-VN’s joint projects with NLV Director Pham The Khang and his able staff.

Having just arrived in Ha Noi on the evening of August 22nd, I found myself the next morning attending a most spectacular show of the Vietnam National
National Children Books Promotion
Event - Aug. 23rd, 2000,
Ha Noi, Vietnam.
Youth Reading Promotion Program at Ha Noi City Hall! This event was organized by the Library Department under the leadership of its newly promoted Director Tran Thi Ngoc-Thuan, whom I had met the year before. I could not stay all morning for this wonderful show, however, since I was so anxious to visit the National Library of Vietnam. Ms. Tran Ngoc-Dan, the NLV’s Finance Officer and I politely headed off to the 31 Trang Thi Street. At the NLV, the International Relations Officer Ms. Tran Ngoc-Le gave me a tour of the old NLV building, a deep yellow colored structure built during the French colonial time. We passed the Reading Room, which was filled with patrons, and went into the technical services and storage areas where piles of magazines and books were laid on the floors, ready to be moved to the new building. This new, magnificent NLV building stands tall and modern. Immediately, I thought about asking Director Khang for space for LEAF-VN’s Ha Noi office!!

It was an incredibly busy time for the National Library staff.
National Children Books Promotion
Event - Aug. 23rd, 2000,
Ha Noi, Vietnam.
As the leader of all library systems, especially public libraries, they had a key role together with the Library Department for the upcoming events surrounding Vietnam’s Independence Day. Nevertheless, Director Pham The Khang did his best to squeeze a meeting about joint actitivities with LEAF-VN into his busy schedule.

The next day First Deputy Director Mr. Kieu Van Hot joined Director Pham The Khang and me for our first official meeting. Mr. Tran Anh Dung, the Second Deputy Director, unfortunately was busy with an important meeting with building contractors. We talked about the Dewey Decimal Classification Translation Project. I had a chance to browse through a DDC translation by a Vietnamese Australian expatriate. Director Khang and Deputy Director Hot welcomed the chance for their staff to review the manuscript of "Bộ Quy Tắc Biên Mục Anh-Mỹ Rút Gọn" to ensure that it is updated with
National Children Books Promotion
Event - Aug. 23rd, 2000,
Ha Noi, Vietnam.
the most current Vietnamese library terminology. And, Director Khang agreed to write the Preface for this manuscript. We then discussed at length the details of future NLV/LEAF-VN library workshops to be held in Ha Noi.

The most exciting time of my trip was our visit to a village reading room in the Soc Son District on the outskirts of Ha Noi. We all piled into a small NLV car early Saturday morning driven by the NLV chauffer Mr. Hung. Two hours later we arrived and toured the province library (Thu-Vien Huyen). Joined by four more librarians who accompanied us on their motorbikes, we drove on to the Soc Son District Cultural House. The Director of the Soc Son District Library and his three staff members welcomed us with watermelon and cold bottled water.

I was introduced to Ms. Mai, a part-time librarian who works three afternoons a week in exchange for a monthly supply of rice from the villagers. The library is about the size of an office with three small tables, several stools, and five bookshelves packed with paperbacks of short stories, popular fictions, school textbooks, and government publications. Ms. Mai told me that she never had problems with stolen books or pages being torn out. The villagers, she said, respect these books
Soc Son Provincial Library
and magazines as treasures of culture, adding "This library is a very special place in our village Cultural House where our villagers come to borrow wonderful and imaginative story books to spend evening hours with after a hard day in the rice fields. I truly love to work here.!!"

The growing number of "Village Post Offices," I was told by these public library colleagues as we drove back to Hanoi, are the other part of the spread of communication and information technology. In bigger towns, these "Post Offices" are equipped with personal computers with Internet access. As time goes on, these villages will also have Internet access added to their "Post Offices."

Returning home I received the wonderful news that NLV Director Khang had been invited, along with other world library leaders, to attend the Library of Congress Bicentennial Symposium "National Libraries of the World: Interpreting the Past, Shaping the Future, October 23-26,2000." Unfortunately, the conference took place when Director Khang and the Minister of Education and Information were surveying libraries destroyed by floods in the Mekong Delta.

During October members of our Board of Directors received, all of a sudden, emails from our colleagues from the Medical Library of the University of Medicine and Pharmacology in Ho Chi Minh City. Dr. Do Dinh Cong and his staff had met the goal they had told me about when we met in the summer of 1999 to automate their library services! Indeed, later we received the most
Village Librarian Ms. Mai
works three afternoons a week
beautiful electronic Tet greeting card from Dr. Cong. Ms. Nguyen Nga, a "LEAFer" from Arizona University’s Medical Library, no longer has to suffer from "snail mail" in communicating with her colleagues in Vietnam.

Although all of LEAF-VN’s directors and advisors are volunteers their contributions to library development in Vietnam are ever increasing. Our website is constantly updated and improved by Vice President Mr. Hoang Ngoc Huu. We correspond on a weekly, if not daily, basis with librarians in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hue. In late March, Mr. Le P. Binh, Associate Librarian at Penn State, joined me to attend the Washington, D.C. April Event 2000 of "The Twenty-Fifth Year of Peace between Vietnam and the U.S." organized by the Fund for Reconciliation and Development for Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In May, Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoang-Lan accompanied me to a reception for business students from Ha Noi and Plymouth University sponsored by the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council in Washington, DC.

This past year has been one of greatly expanded participation as demonstrated by the many contributions of articles for our newsletter. Many thanks to our LEAF-VN Editor, Ms. Sharon Hunt for her perseverance, and to our contributors, especially Mr. John Dean of the Conservation and Preservation Department of Cornell University, who contacted us and offered to contribute an article at our first conversation.

Our efforts are gaining momentum, and our relationships with Vietnamese library leaders are deepening based on real friendship and respect. Together will continue working toward our mutual goal of developing joint projects to further library development in Vietnam.

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Secretary's Report
Le-Huong Pham, LEAF-VN Secretary

In November 2000, the revision of the Vietnamese edition of The Concise AACR2 (CAACR2), translated by Lam Vinh-The and Pham Thi Le-Huong, was changed by a special event. Ms. Lien-Huong Fiedler, President of LEAF-VN, during her trip back to Vietnam in the Summer, enlisted the cooperation of colleagues in Vietnam, especially Mr. Pham The Khang, Director of the National Library of Vietnam (NLV).

Early in the year, Mr. Pham The Khang took over the directorship of the Vietnam National Library. He immediately agreed to cooperate with LEAF-VN in order to improve the library system and practices in Vietnam. He not only agreed to write a foreword for the CAACR2 but also formed a group of experts at the NLV to work with LEAF-VN translators on the issue of Vietnamese library terms to be used in the book. The exchange of ideas and terminology between NLV experts and LEAF-VN translators occurred between November 2000 and April 2001. During this period of time, Dr. Patricia Oyler, Professor of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science also shared her ideas with the two translators, trying to make CAACR2 as a valuable tool for Vietnamese libraries in the future. Mr. Vu Van Son, former Vice-Director of the NACESTID's Library in Hanoi provided his clarification on the terms written in his valuable book Giáo Trình Biên Mục Mô Tả. Hà Nội: Nhà Xuất Bản Đại Học Quốc Gia, c2001 (Descriptive Cataloging Textbook) from which Ms. Pham and Mr. Lam are now in the process of incorporating the acceptable terms into the translation of the CAACR2. Even though LEAF-VN still does not have enough funding to publish this book yet, it will be made available to the public by the end of the year of 2001.

The LEAF-VN Secretary continued to give her assistance to the Vietnamese librarians in Vietnam and to other readers, who asked us for help, by providing up-to-date information taken from workshops, the Internet, or from other databases which are related to the library field or the education system in Vietnam. In these activities, she received help from Mr. Do Thong Minh, a Vietnamese scholar from Japan, Dr. Tran Huy Bich from UCLA, and the late Dr. Nguyen Dinh Hoa, former President of the Viet Hoc Institute in Orange County, California, regarding the usage of the Sino-Vietnamese terminology in order to accurately translate Vietnamese words and apply them to the CAACR2 translation.

Mr. Hoang Ngoc Huu, LEAF-VN Vice-President, represented LEAF-VN at the book signing event by Mr. Do Thong Minh in San Jose, California. He also had a meeting with Mr. Howie Phan, a new LEAF-VN friend, who just moved from Los Angeles to work for a computer firm in Mountain View, California.

LEAF-VN appreciates all kinds of assistance and ideas it has received not only from Vietnamese scholars but also from all readers. Our goal is simple: we want to help Vietnam improve its library and education system.

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Members in the News

In July 1999, Vinh-The Lam, LEAF-VN Project Director, was promoted to the position of Head, Technical Services Division of the University of Saskatchewan Libraries. As Division Head, he also became a member of the Library Management Committee, which oversees the administration of the whole University of Saskatchewan library system. His paper based on his presentation at the ASIS Annual Conference of 1999 in Washington, D.C. is now published: Organizational and Technical Issues in Providing Access to Electronic Journals," The Serials Librarian, v. 39, no. 3 (2001), p. 25-34. A short article by him in Vietnamese on Subject Headings was published in the Ho Chi Minh City Library Society’s electronic newsletter, issue of Mar. 2001. Mr. Lam also has two articles accepted for publication: 1) "Outsourcing Authority Control : Experience of The University of Saskatchewan Libraries," to be published in the Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, in either vol. 32 or 33; 2) "A National Library Association for Vietnam," to be published in the New Library World, issue for July 2001. As Convenor of the Serials Interest Group of the Canadian Library Association, he has put together a program called: "Electronic Journals : National Licensing and Local Impact," for the CLA Annual Conference to be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, June 13-17, 2001.

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LEAF-VN Instructional Series in Librarianship

Producing the American Memory Historical Collections: Some Pointers
Thomas Bramel

On February 5, 1996, I entered an exciting new world. I became a staff member of The National Digital Library Program (NDLP). The NDLP was charged by Congress with providing online access to five million items drawn from the collections of the Library of Congress. A major component of the NDLP is the American Memory Historical Collections web site. My assignment was to help the American Folklife Center at the Library put their audio-intense, multimedia ethnographic collections on the Internet through American Memory. In this article, I'll tell you a little about how the NDLP accomplished its goal and point you to some technical documents that explain some of our processes in greater detail.

Few, if any, people knew everything there was to know about converting analog materials to digital format and controlling access to the digital items. So, a group of specialists was assembled. The original NDLP American Memory conversion team consisted of web designers, SGML text specialists, computer programmers, a cataloger, a copyright lawyer, a database specialist, an editor, an expert on microfilm, a photographer, a video specialist, and an audio specialist (myself). This corp team collaborated with language experts, historians, folklorists, recording and video engineers, music specialists, cartographers, archivists, librarians, curators, conservation specialists, and many other people employed throughout the Library to make available online more than ninety multimedia collections. In addition, several contractors were employed to digitize text, photographs, microfilm, audio, and video. (Most American Memory collections have an acknowledgments page, which can be reached from an individual collection's home page. Go to and scroll down to see a list of all American Memory collections.)

In the early days of the NDLP, our approach to putting collections online was referred to as the "plain vanilla" approach. Our plan was to put online what the researcher would get if they came to the Library. Often, what the researcher would get is a box of stuff (i.e., archival materials) and a finding aid or folder title list. We quickly realized this was not going to work in an online environment, which was already confusing and difficult to navigate. Good access to digital items requires greater granularity than a folder title can provide. Each item within the folder needs to be described. Metadata (i.e., cataloging) for materials that normally would not be described needed to be created. An in-depth description of the Library's most recent efforts at standardizing a core set of metadata elements can be found at:

Our "vanilla" approach was not going to work for another reason. With finer granularity, it became even more difficult to see a coherent whole. Material had to be written that "framed" the collection (i.e., put into historical and social context). Explanations of how to access different parts of the collection were needed. And so the "hot-fudge sundae" approach was born. The "vanilla" ice cream was still there but now it was enhanced with "hot-fudge." The collection remained the central feature but value was added in the form of framing essays and other explanatory documents.

The process of making large, multimedia collections accessible on the World Wide Web is many faceted. More than 100 steps have been identified in the production process. You can read about many American Memory workflow, production, and quality review practices. A list of tasks for digitizing a collection, a guide to writing framework materials for American Memory collections, and a quality review guide for reviewing scanned images and SGML-encoded texts are all available at: .

To avoid possible damage to original source materials, conservation specialists inspected archival collections and gave advice on the need for pre-digitization protective measures and proper digitizing equipment for fragile items. A discussion of roles of the conservator in NDLP digital image conversion projects can be found at: . At this site you will also find a discussion of safe handling of library materials.

Digitization specifications had to be developed. Best practices were studied, industry experts were consulted, and Requests for Proposals were sent out. Information on conversion specifications that were used early in the life of NDLP for scanning and text conversion of original paper documents, microfilm, and pictorial materials is available at: . A description of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) Document Type Definition (DTD) that was developed for American Memory historical texts is at: .

Over time, technical practices were developed to solve digitizing, access, and quality challenges. Many of the methods and processes used have been documented and are available online at: . At this site you can find information on how individual American Memory collections were digitized and what software and hardware was used.

Turning pages within a digital reproduction is a problem found in many digitization projects. One way to present a sequence of images considered a single item (e.g., pages in a book) is to create a "page turner." Our page-turning solution (and there are many others) is discussed at: .

As many readers know, the Library of Congress is the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. The NDLP takes a conservative approach to providing access to copyrighted materials. We obtain permission to use copyright materials before they are made available on our site. As you might imagine, this is a time consuming, but necessary, part of our activities. Each American Memory collection home page has a link to a rights and restrictions statement specific to the collection.

Privacy and publicity rights issues that may arise when anyone contemplates the use of materials found in Library collections is discussed at: .

The National Digital Library Program has recently successfully completed its five-year mission. The Library is now planning its "digital future." On-going activities include studies of the preservation of digital content. Current practices by the Library to ensure the long-term retention of digital resources are discussed at: . Plans for a digital repository for audio-visual materials with new approaches toward the access, storage, and preservation of digital recorded sound and moving image collections are discussed at:

For those needing to know more about building American Memory digital collections there are many technical information and background papers available at:

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"Vietnam" in Library of Congress Subject Headings
Thomas Mann, Library of Congress

The virtues of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) over simple keyword searching are several. These search advantages are well exemplified in regard to "Vietnam" as a topic of investigation. Unlike keyword searching, which simply gives the reader "something," LCSH provides a structured overview of a wide range of options relevant to the topic. It does this through collocation of terms within the basic LCSH list itself (often referred to as "the red books"), through cross-referencing, and through browse displays within online catalogs. The formal headings and cross-references starting with the terms Vietnam or Vietnamese extend over three full pages in the LCSH list. A searcher interested in the history of Vietnam, for example, would find Vietnam--History listed as a category, of course; but she would also be enabled to notice a wide range of other headings that are also relevant, but that do not include the word "History," such as the following:


--Buddhist influence
--Chinese influence
--European influence
--Indic influence
--Western influence
--Description and travel
--Intellectual life
--Politics and government
--20th century
--Vietnamese conflict, 1961-1975
--Vietnamese diaries
--Vietnamese literature
--Vietnamese reunification question (1954-1976)

All of these aspects of Vietnam's history would be missed by a keyword search of "Vietnam" AND "History."

Even within the category Vietnam--History, LCSH displays a structured overview of options that would not be apparent to a keyword searcher:


--To 939
--Ba To Uprising, 1945
--Trung Sisters--Rebellion, 39-43
--Dinh dynasty, 968-980
--Early Le dynasty, 980-1009
--Ly dynasty, 1010-1225
--Tran dynasty, 1225-1400
--Ho dynasty, 1400-1407
--Lam Son Uprising, 1418-1428
--Later Le dynasty, 1428-1787
--Mac dynasty, 1527-1592
--Insurrection, 1771-1802
--Tay Son dynasty, 1788-1802
--19th century
--Nguyen dynasty, 1802-1945
--Le Van Khoi's Rebellion, 1833-1835
--Truong Dinh Uprising, 1862-1864
--Bay Thua Uprising, 1867-1873
--Yen The Uprising, 1884-1913
--20th century
--August revolution, 1945

The amplitude of such an array serves to bring to researchers' attention whole arrays of options that they probably will not know, in advance, to exist; it will also enable researchers to focus their inquiries, quickly, on only topics relevant to their particular interest within the history of Vietnam, without having to wade through mountains of more general, or simply irrelevant, sources. Readers are enabled to simply recognize relevant search options that they could never specify in advance in keyword searching. They are also enabled to see, even before retrieving any individual books, a kind of structural overview of the main aspects of Vietnam's history. (Just from the number of uprisings and rebellions listed, a researcher could readily conclude right off the bat that the Vietnamese people will not long tolerate unjust oppressions.)

The amplitude of this initial structured display of research options is greatly extended by an extensive network of cross-references to other relevant headings that do not even mention, or include, the keyword "Vietnam--." For example, under the heading Vietnam--Languages the researcher would be led to many more specific topics that he or she could probably not specify in advance:


--NT Bahnaric languages
--Biat language
--Bru language
--Central Muong language
--Chamic languages
--Eastern Mnong language
--Hre language
--Kadai languages
--Koho languages
--Laha language (Vietnam)
--Laqua language
--Maa dialect (Vietnam)
--Maa language (Southeastern Asia)
--Nguon language
--Northern Roglai dialect
--Puoc language
--Rade language
--Rengao language
--Roglai language
--Ruc language
--Sre dialect
--Yay language

Again, just from an initial look at the list of these languages and dialects, and before retrieving even a single actual book, a researcher could readily conclude that Vietnamese culture is more diverse than monolithic. And, again, these terms do not generally include the word "Vietnam," and so would be overlooked by a keyword search of "Vietnam" AND "Language--." The Library of Congress Subject Headings list, however, brings these options to people's attention even when the researchers were not asking for them. This is something that scholars always greatly appreciate: a mechanism that prevents them from overlooking important options because they didn't know which questions to ask in the first place.

The important overview provided by LCSH is further extended, beyond the "red books" list itself,
Photo by Lien-Huong Fiedler
by browse displays in online computer catalogs. The LCSH list itself, for example, records Vietnam--Antiquities as a heading, but gives no further search options within that category. The online catalog, however--depending on the holdings of the particular library--provides an even more extensive overview:


In fact, most of the subdivisions of a topic that are spelled out in an online catalog's browse display are not recorded within the LCSH thesaurus itself. This is because most subdivisions are "free floaters"--which means that they can be assigned as needed by catalogers, but without the attachment being recorded in the LCSH list itself. In other words, the range of category options possible within the LCSH system is not exhausted only by the "red books" thesaurus alone; the online catalog that uses LCSH will inevitably show researchers even more possibilities.

Most researchers who approach a new topic do not already know in advance exactly what they want or need to find; nor do they know in advance the extent of the vocabulary appropriate to a new subject area. The virtue of the Library of Congress Subject Headings system is that it solves just these problems. It lays out structured displays of options that show people more than they are capable of asking for. It provides scholars with a large range of options available to be searched within a topic, so that beginning inquirers can simply recognize relevant possibilities that they could never specify beforehand in keyword searching. Such a structured search enables researchers to be more systematic, extensive, and focused in their initial, exploratory inquiries, without having to have prior subject expertise in the area of their investigation. Those who learn how to use the LCSH subject heading system will be much more efficient researchers than those who simply rely on keyword searching.

Thomas Mann is a reference librarian in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress.  He is the author of The Oxford Guide to Library Research (Oxford U. Press, 1998) and Library Research Models (Oxford, 1992).

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Online Catalogs--User Interface
Vinh-The Lam, Head, Technical Services Division, University of Saskatchewan Libraries, Canada; Project Director, LEAF-VN

Online catalogs (OPACs) have recently been introduced to Vietnamese academic libraries to replace the traditional card catalogs. This is a very important step in the library development in Vietnam. The main objective of this paper is to provide some useful guidelines for those Vietnameselibrarians responsible for the design of the OPAC-user interface.

Differences Between Online Catalogs and Card Catalogs

A commonly used comment or observation about the OPAC that should be definitely rejected is: the OPAC is merely a machine-readable card catalog. In fact, there are many big differences between the OPAC and the card catalog:

i. Author
ii. Title
iii. Author/title
iv. Subject heading
v. LC call numbers
vi. Dewey call numbers
vii. Local call numbers
viii. ISBN
ix. ISSN
x. Keywords

A number of academic library OPACs also provide other access points, e.g., government document numbers, music numbers, reserved book lists by courses or by instructors, etc.

Users can broaden up or narrow down their search through use of Boolean operators OR, AND, AND NOT. They also can limit search results by language, date of publication and type of document.  Users can choose the way data are displayed, e.g., LC OPAC now offers the following display formats:

Brief Record Display:
Title:  The Impact of online catalogs / edited by Joseph R. Matthews
Published: New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers, c1986.
LC Call No.: Z699.3. I 48 1986
Labeled Display (Full Record Display):

Title:   The Impact of online catalogs / edited by Joseph R. Matthews.
Published: New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers, c1986.
Description: vìii, 146 p. ; 23 cm.
LC Call No.: Z699.3. I 48 1986
Dewey No.: 025.3/13 19
ISBN: 0918212847 (pbk.)
Notes: Includes bibliographies and index.
Subjects: Online library catalogs
Machine-readable bibliographic data
Online bibliographic searching
Library catalogs and readers
Libraries -- Automation
Other authors: Matthews, Joseph R.
Control No.: 1444039

Tagged Display (MARC Record Display):

001 1444039
005 20000323163122.0
008 860102s1986 nyu b 001 0 eng
035 $9(DLC) 85032014
906 $a7$bcbc$corignew$d1$eocip$f19$gy-gencatlg
010 $a 85032014
020 $a0918212847 (pbk.)
040 $aDLC$cDLC$dDLC$dOCoLC
050 00$aZ699.3$b.I48 1986
082 00$a025.3/13$219
245 04$aThe Impact of online catalogs /$cedited by Joseph R. Matthews.
260 $aNew York :$bNeal-Schuman Publishers,$cc1986.
300 $aviii, 146 p. ;$c23 cm.
504 $aIncludes bibliographies and index.
650 0$aOnline library catalogs.
650 0$aMachine-readable bibliographic data.
650 0$aOnline bibliographic searching.
650 0$aLibrary catalogs and readers.
650 0$aLibraries$xAutomation.
700 1 $aMatthews, Joseph R.
991 $bc-GenColl$hZ699.3$i.I48 1986$tCopy 1$wBOOK

i.    Graphical user interface (or GUI)
ii.    Use of HTML links to navigate through bibliographic records; thus enabling users to browse by authors, by call numbers, by subject headings, etc.
iii.    Emulation of appearance and search features similar to those of Internet's search engines
iv.    Linking to full text when available (e.g., most recently, full-text electronic journal articles)
v.    Possible convergence of searching all electronic information available through one interface, e.g., catalogues,CD-ROMs, Internet sources, etc.1

In brief, OPACs provide users with many more means of searching and accessing information in various formats than the traditional card catalogs. With OPACs, for the first time in the history of libraries, users can interact with the catalogs, alter search methods and information displays in order to optimize search results, based on their own information needs. The OPAC-user interface design is of utmost importance since it can have a decisive influence on the relationships between the OPAC and its users.

OPAC-User Interface

The interface is defined as "The point or process which joins two or more system components"2. In this case, the two system components are: the OPAC and the users.

Lying beneath the OPAC-user interface and serving as its foundation is a specially written software to facilitate the data communication between the OPAC and its users. This software is independent and installed in front and outside the basic structure of the whole system, and, therefore, cannot do any harm to the system (because of this characteristic, many authors use the term front-end software as interchangeable with the term user interface).

There is now some consensus that a good OPAC-user interface should include the following basic characteristics:

OPAC-User Interface Design

The design of OPAC-user interface is a complex activity requiring several different skills and knowledge, which, in the final analysis, boil down to two things: operational functions of the computer, and the users' information seeking behavior. In North America, at the beginning, the interface design was almost the exclusive domain of the computer scientists. Of course, they knew the operational functions of the computer very well, but, without library science training, they could not master the information needs as well as the information seeking behavior of the users. During a relatively long period of time, therefore, most OPACs were considered rather non user-friendly or non user-oriented. Micheline Hancock-Beaulieu has made the following highly critical comment: "The online catalogue was a spin-off which did not stem from any desire to serve the user better"3. This comment was not really surprising since OPACs were created first of all to satisfy library administrators' goals of obtaining a better tool, which could help them manage library operations more efficiently. Among these library operations, technical services, i.e., acquisitions, cataloging, and physical processing, required a very high level of resources, and thus, were most expensive. In the initial period of the OPAC development history, therefore, all efforts were focused on resolving difficulties in library technical services. Thomas A. Peters has observed: "Effficient production and maintenance was the chief attraction of online catalogs, not enhanced access"4. From the 1980s onward, researchers started to pay a lot more attention to user behavior. In July 1980, the OCLC in cooperation with the Research Libraries Group, with a grant from the Council on Library Resources, organized a conference at the Dartmouth Minary Conference Center (Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, (USA) with participants coming from institutions that had installed OPACs. The primary recommendation from the Dartmouth Conference was: "Analyze user requirements and behavior"5. After that, there were more and more research studies focusing on users' information seeking behavior.

In recent research studies, users are considered under specific characteristics such as culture, personality, technological skills, point of access to OPAC6. They are grouped into simple users, sophisticated users, on-site users, remote users. This classification of users is helpful for the designing of OPAC-user interface because it can help the designer understand the user requirements and behavior.

In most general terms, the designer's goal is to create an OPAC having all above-mentioned basic characteristics and at the same time satisfying all user requirements and behavior. Specifically, for "high effectiveness" for example, a simple user can be satisfied with an OPAC providing standard access points like author, title, subject headings, ISBN, ISSN and keywords but for a sophisticated user that is not enough; he/she might require additional capabilities like Boolean operators, word proximity operators, word adjacency operators, word truncation, wildcards, combined search like author/title, author/keyword, limit/sort search results by language, publication date, type of document, and ranking output by relevance. For this same characteristic, but instead of simple user vs sophisticated user, what should the interface be to satisfy both on-site and remote users ? First of all, we can see that the most obvious difference between these two types of users is: the on-site users use terminals located in the library while the remote users may use school terminals (but from locations other than the library, e.g., from dormitories, or from other offices on campus) or their own computers at home. In terms of "ease of access", the on-site users do not encounter any difficulties since the library terminals are already configured to access the library's OPAC, but the remote users may encounter all kinds of difficulty because their computers may be incompatible with the library systems or not properly configured to access the library's OPAC. In case of access to electronic journals, a proxy server should be utilized to verify the users' ID before granting them access. The on-site users do not have to go through this authentication process because they use library terminals whose IP addresses have already been submitted to the journal vendors. This is one of the standard clause in the license that libraries sign with the vendors and thus have to comply with: only legitimate users (in the academic environment they are: faculty, students, and staff) are granted right of access The remote users are then instructed to reconfigure their computers so that they can access to the journal files. In general, there should be separate instructions for each version of browsers, e.g., Netscape 3.x or 4.x, or Internet Explorer 4.x or 5.x, etc. In addition to these kinds of specific instructions, a good OPAC-user interface should include other general instructions in order to help the users obtain optimal search results without assistance from library staff. (See Appendix for a complete listing of Webpac interfaces; the Appendix is reproduced from pages 323-324 of the article entitled Web OPAC Interfaces : An Overview, cited in Note 1).


The designing of OPAC-user interface is a very important activity requiring active participation of librarians, who master user requirements and behavior. With the personal computers being used more and more from home, the remote users are becoming an important factor that needs to be seriously considered in the interface designing. In general, all efforts should be focused on creating an OPAC that is both user-friendly and capable of satisfying all user requirements and behavior.


1. Babu, B. Ramesh & Ann O 'Brien. "Web OPAC Interfaces : An Overview", The Electronic Library, v. 18, no. 5 (2000). p. 316-317. 2. Hildreth, Charles R. Online Public Access Catalogs : The User Interface. Dublin, Ohio : OCLC, 1982. p. 34.
3. Hancock-Beaulieu, Micheline M. 'Online Catalogues : A Case for the User.' In: Online Catalog Research : Developments and Directions', ed., Charles R. Hildreth. London : Library Association, 1989. p. 26.
4. Peters, Thomas A. The Online Catalog : A Critical Examination of Public Use. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, 1991. p. 13.
5. Hildreth, sđd, p. xi. 6.López de Prado, Rosario. "Do users dream of electronic libraries ?", The Electronic Library, v. 18, no. 3 (2000). p. 203.


Checklist of Web OPAC Interfaces

Characteristics  T   I   W  V   G   A 
Requires log on/user ID/password, if desired    x        
Customisation of the features as per the library requirements  x  x  x  x  x  x
Has time out feature, if desired      x    x  
Facility for updating or adopting later versions  x  x  x  x  x  x
Explains the contents and coverage in the OPAC  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provides log off instruction, if desired      x      
Types of searches            
Offers several types of searches such as simple, complex or advanced      x  x  x  x
Has full search capability on conventional access points, such as keyword/author/subject heading/class number/ISBN/ISSN, etc  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision of browsing capabilities  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision for phrase searching      x      x
Provision for Boolean search  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision for truncation  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision for word adjacency or word proximity operators            x
Hypertext links in full bibliographic record display    x  x  x  x  x
Access points            
Author (personal name/corporate name)  x  x  x  x  x  x
Title  x  x  x  x  x  x
Keyword  x  x  x  x  x  x
Subject heading  x  x  x  x  x  x
Keyword in title  x  x  x  x  x  x
Keyword in subject  x  x  x  x  x  x
Combined search such as author/title, author/keyword  x  x  x      
Class number  x  x  x  x  x  x
ISBN  x  x  x  x  x  x
ISSN  x  x  x  x  x  x
Series      x  x  x  x
Barcode number            x
Provides name authority control  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provides subject authority control    x  x  x  x  x
Supports cross-references  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision for the copy location  x  x  x  x  x  x
Search strategy            
Displays search strategy  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provides examples under each type of search  x  x  x  x  x  x
Option for search history    x    x  x  x
Search limits/search refinement features            
Provision for comprehensive search limits such as year, language, type of publication, location, publication status, etc.  x  x  x  x  x  x
Facility for sorting records    x  x    x  
Ranks output by relevance        x    
Provision for brief / long bibliographic displays or both  x  x  x  x  x  x
Display levels (customisable display screens)  x  x  x  x  x  x
Limiting the number for the display of records (output control)      x  x  x  
Entry structure            
Support for MARC formats  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision for library structured entry format  x  x  x  x  x  x
Both MARC format and library structured format  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision for exporting/downloading of retrieved records    x  x  x  x  x
Provision for the transmission of retrieved records through e-mail    x  x  x  x  x
Provision for sorting retrieved records    x  x  x  x  x
External links            
Links to electronic sources  x  x  x  x  x  x
Access to Z39.50    x  x  x  x  x
Links to external sources    x  x  x  x  x
Services / facilites            
Interface with the circulation system  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision for options such as ILL, renewal, reservations, etc.    x  x  x  x  x
Provision of online mailboxes for user comments or suggestions    x  x  x  x  x
Linguistic capabilities            
Facility to accommodate multilingual libraries, if desired        x  x  x
Provision to accommodate non-Roman scripts, if desired        x  x  x
User assistance            
Provision of contextual help message  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision for procedural learning / training  x  x  x  x  x  x
Requires little intervention by the staff  x  x  x  x  x  x
Simple layout  x  x  x  x  x  x
Instructions on the screen are simple, clear and inviting  x  x  x  x  x  x
Use of less technical jargon and codes            
Physical features            
Frames version  x  x  x  x  x  x
Non-frames version  x  x        
Both frames and non-frames versions  x  x        
High graphic version  x  x  x  x  x  
Low graphic version  x  x  x      x
Both high and low graphic versions  x          
Provision for drop-down or pull-down menues  x  x  x  x  x  x
Provision for shadow catalogues, if desired      x      

Key: T = Talis; I = INNOPAC; W = WebCat; V = Voyager; G = GeoWeb; A = ALEPH


1. Talis is Webpac developed by Talis Information Ltd. (Brimingham, U.K.).
2. INNOPAC is Webpac developed by Innovative Interfaces Inc. (California, USA).
3. Webcat is Opac developed by SIRSI Corporation (Alabama, USA).
4. Voyager is Webpac developed by Endeavor Information Systems, Inc. (Illinois, USA).
5. GeoWeb is Webpac developed by Geac Computer Corporation, Ltd. (Ontario, Canada).
6. ALEPH, acronym for Automated Library Expandable Program Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is Webpac developed by Hebrew University (Israel).

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Last modified: 23 May 2001
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