|TS Librarians Building the Web||
Anna Belle Leiserson
This is a column in need of a columnist. While I can't resist the temptation to fill the gap, my hope is that one of you will volunteer to take this on. If you are interested, please contact the editors. A special thank you goes to Pam Perry of Boston University who wrote this column for several years, giving us great tips, helpful explanations and pointers to first-rate resources.
Meanwhile, I will take the opportunity to jump on my favorite soapbox of recent months. Like Hope Tillman (see What Librarians NEED to Learn About HTML (http://www.tiac.net/users/hope/cil98/libnhtml.html), I believe that technical services librarians are naturals for building Web sites. There are quite a number of reasons for this, but for the sake of brevity, I will confine myself to the three primary ones.
First, maintaining the Web is a mindbogglingly large task. The Web in its infancy has been the playing field of Ben-Franklin-like generalists (Super Webbies who do everything), but it's increasingly obvious that Web maintenance requires a wide variety of specialists. While still fluid, some of the more obvious areas of expertise include: content, programming, structure, layout, graphic art, marketing and organization. Structure and organization are areas where the knowledge and skills of technical services librarians are a clear match.
The second reason TS librarians have an obvious place on the Web is that the Web's foundation and its phenomenal success are predicated on standards. While the standards weren't formulated by NISO, nonetheless the reasoning behind and formulation of these standards is something we understand very well. In this case, the original standards were developed by Tim Berners-Lee and are continued (for the most part) by the World Wide Web Consortium (or W3C) that Berners-Lee now heads.
Third, HTML, the lingua franca of the Web, is a tagging language, just as MARC is a tagging language. In fact, of the two I have found HTML tagging considerably easier to master than MARC tagging. Perhaps this is because my background is in acquisitions rather than cataloging. However, it's certain that there are infinitely more ways to learn HTML than MARC, with a superabundance of books and Web sites to teach both the novice and the expert.
This brings me to recommended resources on how to create superlative Web sites. To learn the basics of markup, I would suggest browsing the shelves of your favorite local bookstore for a title on HTML. For those who want a specific recommendation, the favorite of many (including me) is HTML : The Definitive Guide by Chuck Musciano, Bill Kennedy, and Mike Loukides. It is regularly updated — now being in its third edition (O'Reilly & Associates, 1998; ISBN 1565924924). If you would prefer to learn on the Web itself, an excellent starting place is Writing for the Web: A Primer for Librarians by Eric H. Schnell of the Prior Health Sciences Library at Ohio State University (http://bones.med.ohio-state.edu/eric/papers/primer/toc.html).
Once comfortable with the rudiments, you can't do better than to go to the source, i.e. the W3C's Web site (http://www.w3.org). It has a 10-minute guide for newcomers to HTML, the complete and definitive specifications for HTML 4.0, an HTML validation service (to check the viability of any given Web page's encoding), specifications for XML (Extensible Markup Language — the current "killer app" according to the digerati) and, needless to say, much, much more.
For those interested in how to structure Web sites, the best resource is written by (drum roll) two librarians: Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville (O'Reilly & Associates, 1998. ISBN 1565922824). Not only is it authored by librarians, but it's also currently in the number two spot on Amazon.com's list of the 50 most popular web design titles. (Let's hear it for librarians in the Information Age!) To quote the publisher's blurb: it "shows how to apply principles of architecture and library science to design cohesive Web sites and intranets that are easy to use, manage, and expand." We hope many of you are at least a little curious about what it means to apply library science to Web site design, as Lou Rosenfeld will the featured speaker on this very topic at AALL in Washington, DC, this summer. It's an OBS sponsored program, also called Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. Mark your calendar for Program C-2 from 4:00 to 5:00 on Sunday, July 18.
Finally, for those with a touch of the Ben Franklin spirit, who want to make their Web sites more visually appealing, you can't do better than the books and Web site by color guru Lynda Weinman (http://www.lynda.com). I own and frequently refer to her Coloring Web Graphics (co-authored with Bruce Heavin, New Riders Publishing, 1997; ISBN 1562058185). However, she is best known for her Designing Web Graphics series. The third edition is due to be published soon (New Riders Publishing; ISBN 1562059491) and it's on my Christmas list. I hope Santa reads TSLL. And Santa would you please find a columnist too?
As I write this column, our fearless OBS Chair-Elect and Publications Publicist, Brian Striman, sends email highlighting the growing number of sites which organize the Web by various forms of library classification. The best known is Scout Report Signpost (http://www.signpost.org/signpost), which uses LC call number letters (e.g. KZ-KZD - Law of Nations. Law of the Sea. Space Law.). There are also several others which can be found on the Search page of AcqWeb at (http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu/law/acqs/search.html#classed). Brian suggests that someone volunteer to evaluate some or all of these sites from a classification/cataloger's point of view to assess their merit, based on accuracy of LCC topics and what kinds of links are made from the base call numbers. He thinks this would be an interesting article for a future TSLL, and your editors heartily concur.