FEDLINK Technical Notes

February 1997

Vol. 15 No. 2


FEDLINK Focuses On Future With Five-Year Business Plan

Tech News--Overview: Java and JavaScript

Staff Profile: FLICC Public Events Specialist Anna Bohlin


New Alix-FS Services for Dial-Up Access

Editorial Staff

FEDLINK Focuses On Future With Five-Year Business Plan

To prepare for the next five years, FEDLINK is developing its first ever formal business plan. There have been audits, white papers, member surveys, and annual performance plans, but this is the first time anyone can remember FEDLINK taking a comprehensive review of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats--SWOTs in planning jargon. The result of this process will be a multi-year action plan that will take FEDLINK in a direction that is fiscally sound and consistent with membership needs.

Strategic or business planning always begins with a hard look at the mission statement. The Federal Library and Information Center Committee's (FLICC) mission, as stated in its 1991 charter, is straightforward:

"Achieve better utilization of Federal library and information center resources and facilities...Provide the most cost-effective administrative mechanism for providing necessary services and materials to Federal libraries and information centers...Provide a forum for discussion of Federal library and information policies, programs, and procedures..."

As an adjunct to FLICC, FEDLINK certainly should be supportive of FLICCs overall goals. Article VII of the FLICC Bylaws outlines the main FEDLINK objectives:

  1. Obtain services, products, and systems to achieve more efficient and cost-effective utilization of Federal library and information resources.
  2. Provide for formal relationships between FEDLINK members and networks and bibliographic utilities.
  3. Represent the interests and concerns of member libraries and information centers.
  4. Provide training and demonstrations in network services and new library and information technology for the benefit of federal libraries and information centers.
  5. Engage in other related matters serving the member libraries and information centers.

Although it is preferable for all interested parties to agree to a concise, one-sentence mission statement, this one suffices as a starting point.

To initiate the process, FEDLINK needed someone with experience and expertise in strategic planning to guide the development of the five-year plan. With surplus FY96 funds, FEDLINK hired the consulting services of Abacus Technologies. Although they had only limited experience in the library/information environment, their strategic planning experience was extensive. To complement their in-house team, Abacus subcontracted with Barbara Robinson of Robinson and Associates, who was the former director of theMetropolitan Washington Library Council and a former adjunct professor at Catholic Universitys School of Library and Information Science. Robinson has been instrumental in leading focus groups of members, vendors, and staff, and will play a vital role in analyzing and proposing strategic options for FEDLINK.

The first step for the Abacus "team" was to study FLICCs extensive documentation: bylaws, regulations, annual reports, budgets, performance plans, Vision 2000 strategies, handbooks, registration packages, RFPs, education catalogs, among a host of others. Soon after the review process got underway, the Military Librarians held their November workshop in Annapolis. In conjunction with the event, the consulting team held a focus group session with military librarians from around the country. These librarians described FEDLINKs positive attributes:

They believed FEDLINKs opportunities lay in keeping up with changes in federal procurement rules and procedures and sharing this expertise with federal libraries, helping libraries make better use of year-end dollars, assisting vendors with providing electronic account information, and constructing partnerships to provide consortial licenses for electronic databases. The focus group also discussed a few FEDLINK weaknesses and threats that need to be addressed in the plan.

The FEDLINK Advisory Council (FAC) dedicated its December and January meetings to "SWOT" analysis, repeating and expanding upon many of the same themes of the focus groups. At the January meeting, FAC members used the SWOT results to conduct a "Match/Gap" analysis, which is designed to align strengths with opportunities and identify weaknesses and threats that could compete for limited resources. They identified the followingexamples:

Meeting in January, the national libraries and information centers' focus groups reiterated these ideas. Members Pam Andre (National Agricultural Library), Blane Dessy (National Library of Education), Kent Smith (National Library of Medicine), and Kurt Mulholm (Defense Technical Information Center) confirmed the need for a central information broker and activist for federal libraries and information centers and agreed that FLICC was the logical locus for this responsibility. The question of how FEDLINK relates to this policy role is a complex one. Nevertheless, all members acknowledged that it is appropriate to use some FEDLINK revenues to keep members well informed about policy issues that may have an impact on the quality of information services and to assist them in responding to these issues within their respective contexts.

By late January, the Abacus consulting team had already moved from FEDLINK research and begun to study FEDLINK competitors and assess FEDLINKs current and future environment. They will soon prepare a "scenarios" document, which will identify three to five possible directions for FEDLINKs next five years.

FEDLINK managers and the Abacus consulting team will be working closely with the FLICC and FEDLINK governing bodies, especially the FEDLINK Advisory Council (FAC) and the FLICC Executive Board (FEB), to evaluate these proposed scenarios. Based upon which scenarios are selected, FEDLINK will establish the focus of its five-year business plan.

This planning effort is acompact, six-month process that will climax in early April. Although it is impossible to ask all FEDLINK members their opinions about future directions for FEDLINK, the 1995 FAC survey has been an important complement to the current study. FEDLINK is particularly concerned about reflecting the interests of its substantial membership outside the DC metropolitan area. To share an opinion or any ideas, please email comments or recommendations to FLICC Executive Director Susan M. Tarr at suta@loc.gov or flicc@loc.gov.



Overview: Java and JavaScript

By Jessica Clark

The current Web culture thrives on speculation and glitz. New companies, software products, and programming languages are given names meant to snag the eye and spark new metaphors.

When Sun Microsystems released the Java programming language more than a year ago, it sounded like just another catchy contender, but now both it--and its distant cousin JavaScript--have become as ubiquitous as corner coffee shops.

What do librarians need to understand about these two programming tools? What distinguishes Java and JavaScript from other programming languages? How are they used? What, if anything, do Web users need to know about them?


Java is a language based on C++ and developed by Sun Microsystems. It is notable for allowing programmers to develop small applications, or "applets." Applets differ from traditional software programs because they can run independently and can be embedded to run within Web pages. In other words, they do not have to be downloaded to a user's hard drive, nor rewritten to conform to machines with different operating systems. This new capability has technology pundits predicting that large software programs will be replaced by applets and individually downloaded by users for specific tasks.

Applets are self-contained; Web pages contain references to specific applets, but the code is not written directly into the HTML document. The first applets to appear were small animations, but applets can perform many different tasks. To see such a variety of Java programs visit http://www.gamelan.com. These programs range from clickable maps which access GIS databases and tools for tracking the real-time movement of space shuttle Discovery to a variety of games and a cocktail database which matches available ingredients with a host of drink recipes.

Java is a complex programming language. Neither Web users nor librarians need to learn Java unless they plan to write applets. Both do need to know that not all browsers support Java. The Windows 95, NT, and UNIX versions of Netscape Navigator 2.0-2.02, all versions of Netscape Navigator and later, all versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 and later, and Sun's HotJava browser can use Java. Other browsers, such as Mosaic or text-based browsers, may freeze or look scrambled when they encounter a Web site with an embedded Java program.

Librarians should also know that applets take time to download and run; dial-up connections and older computers may not handle Java well. Finally, Java applets may pose yet another problem for catalogers of electronic documents. Because they are not platform-dependent and may reside on more than one Web site, applets will be difficult to track and to categorize.


JavaScript is a scripting language that is more limited than Java but somewhat similar in its syntax. Unlike Java, JavaScript is written directly into HTML documents. JavaScript allows interactive functions like hyperlinks and other actions to appear on Web pages. These functions include: forms with validation and dynamic calculations, text windows and images which appear when users erform specified actions, and messages which are displayed in the status bar of the browser window.

JavaScript is an object-based language, as opposed to a procedural one such as FORTRAN or C. This means that instead of running through a sequence of commands, JavaScript dictates certain reactions when users perform specified actions on pre-defined objects. JavaScript can then allow users to perform actions in different sequences or more than once.

JavaScript objects may include the current window, the current HTML document, a specified form, or a specified link. These objects have certain "properties"--such as color, size, or duration. They also have certain "methods," or tasks that may be performed--such as opening a window, or writing to a form. In addition, JavaScript can refer to a "math" object, which the user cannot see, but which performs trigonometric and mathematical functions, or a "date" object, which resides on the user's computer and is used to calculate date-based queries.

JavaScript is only supported by versions of Netscape Navigator 2.0 and later and Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 and later. Web users and librarians who are not Web administrators do not need to learn JavaScript. Librarians who are Webmasters may want to learn JavaScript to create catalog entry or user request forms.

Many forms found on the Web have an HTML-coded front end which interacts with a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) script residing on the host server. CGI scripts, often written in Perl or C, require the user to press the "Submit" button before his/her information is processed. The host server must then run the CGI script before it responds to the user. This can be slow for users and generates a lot of server traffic.

In contrast, forms created with JavaScript are executed within the user's browser. Thus the JavaScript programmer can create automatic responses, such as thank-you messages, interest calculations, or confirmation that crucial information has been provided, all without querying the host server. JavaScript forms do not store user information or query very large databases as these functions still require the use of a CGI script.

Library Webmasters may also find JavaScript useful for creating informational windows or animated GIFs which act as slide shows. For examples of JavaScript code, visit http://www.gamelan.com.

Java and JavaScript Resources

For more information on these programs, the following are quite helpful:


Staff Profile: FLICC Public Events Specialist Anna Bohlin

By Jessica Clark

Paleolithic pottery shards, contemporary paintings, and electronic journals are only a few of the cultural artifacts which Anna Bohlin has spent her career discovering, preserving, and publicizing.

Bohlin, FLICC Public Events Specialist, has spent the last five years coordinating programs to educate federal librarians and administrators about the changing information landscape. She has, however, not always focused on technology's cutting edge. Born and raised in Uppsala, Sweden, she earned a degree equivalent to an MA in archaeology, art history, and ethnography--a program designed to prepare her for a museum career.

While working at a major Viking excavation in Sweden, Bohlin met her future husband, an American anthropology student named Eugene Sterud. They married, and she returned with him to UCLA, where she studied anthropology and worked at the University's Museum of Ethnic Arts as he finished his doctorate.

Bohlin and Sterud spent a number of years excavating archaeological sites in Yugoslavia, Turkey, Greece, France, Sweden, and the US. Bohlin published sevral papers, alone and with Sterud, about the technical and theoretical aspects of archaeological excavation. "All of the sites were fascinating. It was a fascinating life," said Bohlin.

She decided to take time off from her archaeology career to raise two boys. During those years, she earned an MA in Art History at SUNY, Binghamton.

She then began a career in events planning when she accepted a two-year position to coordinate programs and exhibits for the Archaeological Institute of America's centennial celebration. This experience, along with her training in archaeology and anthropology, led Bohlin to a position as curator of the American Swedish Historical Museum and Foundation. Located in Philadelphia, the museum hosts programs and exhibits which explore the history of Scandinavians in the northeastern US, the lives of famous Swedish-Americans, and Swedish history and culture. Bohlin developed and planned festivals, workshops, and exhibits, including a traveling exhibit about L'Anse-aux-Meadows, the first Viking site discovered in the New World.

"I really enjoyed working with the permanent collection, putting together displays to interest Americans in the history of New Sweden. People always think of William Penn; they don't know about the Swedish population which first inhabited the area around Philadelphia in the 1600s."

After three years at the Swedish Museum, Bohlin was hired as Executive Director of the Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Located in Alexandria, VA, the Torpedo Factory is a gallery and teaching space established in 1976 to make artists' work accessible to the public.

Bohlin worked with the board and staff of the art center to coordinate a variety of educational programs, including outreach programs which sent artists to teach in schools, nursing homes, and community centers. She also helped organize exhibits such as "Young At Art," which displayed the work of lay artists over 65.

"All of our work--and even the layout of the building--was geared toward making art accessible and attractive to everyone," said Bohlin. In seven years as executive director, she raised over a quarter of a million dollars annually in donated services and funds by coordinating fund-raisers, writing grant proposals, and planning lecture series and programs.

"I've gotten to know the Alexandria art community, and really enjoyed meeting and working with people from all walks of life," said Bohlin. She finds that her job as Public Events Specialist at FLICC has given her similar opportunities.

"The bridge from the arts and humanities to the Library was an easy one to cross," said Bohlin. "Planning FLICC events involves working with the gamut of people. I always learn something when I interact with new people."

FLICC's signature educational event is its Annual Forum on Federal Information Policies. Bohlin has helped coordinate the last four fora, and is hard at work on the upcoming one, entitled "Clear Signals? Telecommunications, Convergence and the Quality of Information." (See pages 8-11 for more information on FLICC Forum 97.)

"The issues addressed at the fora are of great importance to the membership," said Bohlin. She noted that many distinguished speakers, including Al Gore, Alvin Toffler, Ralph Nader, and Mitchell Kapor had participated in previous fora. Featured speakers at this year's forum will be Senator Larry Pressler, author of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and Lawrence Grossman, former president of NBC News and PBS, and author of "The Electronic Republic: Reshaping Democracy in the Information Age."

"I think the quality of the education programs has been steadily improving," said Bohlin. "We get a lot of positive feedback that we're providing a service that's needed."

In 1996, Bohlin worked to further improve her skills by completing a certification course in the Events Management Program at George Washington University. Her extra curricular activities at the Library of Congress include helping coordinate the annual meeting of the International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO), and being involved in various activities of the Library of Congress Professional Association (LCPA).

To maintain her connection with the arts, Bohlin has also coordinated the last two receptions for the Library of Congress Profssional Association's Employee Art Show. She also entered works in both of those shows--a weaving in 1995, and a pair of oil paintings in 1996.



FEDLINK Member Logs 71 Millionth OCLC Interlibrary Loan Request

On November 29, OCLC staff noticed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York logged its 71st millionth ILL request. They requested a journal article from the Economic Bulletin published in Spanish by El Banco, Madrid, Spain. Jean Wooten, the banks chief librarian, told OCLC that staffers were so busy they did not notice the 71 million mark. OCLC had reached the 70 millionth ILL record only 38 days before. Libraries began using the system in 1979, but by the period of June 1995 to July 1996, approximately 5,500 libraries requested more than 7.9 million items through the system.

Congratulations to our friends in New York!

FEDLINK Members Use ILL ME for Windows

FEDLINK libraries have begun using the Interlibrary Loan MicroEnhancer for Windows. Users will find many improvements in ILL ME for Windows over the DOS version. Users can now

The Windows environment also allows point and click capabilities for faster and more accurate ways to enter record numbers for updating.

Libraries that have the DOS version will get a price break on the software upgrade through June 1997. Single station copies are now $79 each and the LAN upgrade is $349. The standard price for new users, per workstation, is $399. OCLC no longer sells the DOS version of the ILL ME, but will support it through November 1997. Users should plan to upgrade to Windows by then. Pentium class machines are also recommended.

ILL ME for Windows requires Microsoft Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups 3.11, or Windows 95. (Windows NT is compatible with ILL ME for Windows, but requires dial or Internet access, or TLP; Windows NT is not compatible with the OCLC multidrop dedicated lines.) For best performance, OCLC recommends computers with a 486 or higher microprocessor with at least 8 MB RAM and approximately 50 MB free disk space. The machine does not need Passport installed to run the MicroEnhancer.

OCLC has alerted networks that Windows NT does not run Passport for Windows with the multidrop lines, also known as "dedicated" or synchronous lines. Libraries using Windows NT will need to use dial or Internet access to run Passport for Windows or the Windows versions of the MicroEnhancer. OCLC is developing new telecommunications options that should accommodate Windows NT users also.

OCLC Plans for Telecommunications Changes

As part of OCLCs efforts to move toward using newer telecommunications technologies, they will look at use of the dedicated, multidrop lines. OCLC will spot low usage and the network will work with these libraries to find cheaper alternatives.

In addition, to help libraries wishing to move away from dedicated multidrop lines, OCLC has stopped charging for removal of these lines. Libraries with questions about their telecommunications options should contact FEDLINK for assistance.

OCLC Loads Vendor-Supplied CIP Upgrades

On January 7, 1997, OCLC loaded the first records in its new Vendor-Supplied Cataloging in Publication (CIP) Upgrade Project. This is the mot recent in OCLCs ongoing efforts to upgrade CIP records to full level as quickly and as accurately as possible. Yankee Book Peddler is the first batch participant. Their records will be loaded weekly. For over a year, OCLC staff has been working at Academic Book Center in Portland, Oregon, upgrading CIP records to full level.

If a record is altered or replaced incorrectly, report it to OCLC just like any other change in a record. For more information, look in the "news" function while logged into OCLC for cataloging or ILL. At the home position, type news and hit the send key.

OCLC Begins Electronic Archiving Pilot Project

Eleven institutions have agreed to collaborate with OCLC in a pilot project to test electronic archiving technology. The working prototype allows for input from users to study usage patterns and issues related to electronic archiving.

Information for the Electronic Archiving Pilot Project will include, among other collections, images from the Mathew B. Brady Collection of Civil War Photographs of the Library of Congress, and a U.S. Government Printing Office collection on permanent public access to government information via the Federal Depository Library Program.

"With current technologies, a collection of rare photographs or journals that once was available only in a single library through tightly controlled physical access can now be made accessible around the clock and around the world," said John A. Hearty, director, Business Development, OCLC. "By using low cost, low space intensive storage along with inexpensive telecommunications channels, including the Internet, and widely available software such as World Wide Web browsers, vast amounts of information now can be placed at the fingertips of an unlimited number of users," Hearty said.

For the Electronic Archiving Pilot Project, OCLC has digitized information from a variety of original media formats, including photographs, newspapers, books, journals, and sketches via an electronic scanning process that does not harm or alter the original media. The property also remains with the owners. Preservation Resources, an OCLC division in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and a partner in the project, has scanned and digitized several collections available in the pilot project.

Once digitized, OCLC indexes the information for storage in robotic automated cartridge systems that each can handle more than 2.9 terabytes of information (400 million typed pages). OCLC houses its storage systems at its Dublin, Ohio, headquarters.

Electronic archive materials will eventually be accessible through the OCLC FirstSearch service, which is available at more than 6,000 libraries worldwide.


New Alix-FS Services for Dial-Up Access

(i.e., Crosstalk, Passport and Procom Users)

To help manage funds, FEDLINK now provides three levels of electronic fiscal reporting on its ALIX-FS System: daily account balances, statement detail data (new!), and OCLC usage data. (Internet users may not be able to access certain ALIX-FS features. If your telnet software can perform a file transfer during a telnet session, you can download statement detail and OCLC usage just as dial access users can. Other Internet users can view only their daily account balances but will soon be able to access the other services as well.)

Daily Account Balances

All users can see a daily report of accounts for FY92 to date. The report gives account balances as of the previous statement, the sum of all posted transactions since the last statement, and new current balances for accounts. Users can view the balance on screen, print it, or save it to disk.

Statement Detail Data NEW!

Last October, FEDLINK introduced an electronic version of statement detail data to help users manage accounts and analyze spending patterns. FEDLINK will continue to mail printed statements and copies of paid invoices, but now users can download a data file that lists all of their delivery orders and invoice transactions. With this data in machine-readable form, users will be able to maniplate it to monitor available funds, make budget projections, charge back to library users, and more.

OCLC Usage Data

An electronic version of the line item detail of OCLC invoices makes it practical to perform other analyses that help improve library operations and quantify the benefits of information service to individual agencies. Member-specific OCLC usage data is available in ASCII comma-quote-delimited format. FEDLINK is working to get service usage data from additional vendors and will make special announcements when invoice detail for other services becomes available on ALIX-FS.

Future Upgrades for Internet Users

Soon, the FLICC/FEDLINK Web site will allow Internet users the same access to statement detail and OCLC usage data. Work is already underway on a revised site that will offer this service with the security of a password-protected area. Watch Technical Notes for updates!

Hotline Help Available

All Interagency Agreement Points of Contact receive a user name, password and instructions for accessing the system. For help with accessing the system, other ALIX-FS issues, or telecommunication problems, call FEDLINK Network Operations at (202) 707-4848. Detailed information on electronic fiscal reporting is also in the Member Handbook. Call the FEDLINK Fiscal Hotline at (202) 707-4900 with any questions about account balances, specific paid invoices, delivery orders, etc.


Editorial Staff

FEDLINK Technical Notes is published by the Federal Library and Information Center Committee.

Send suggestions of areas for FLICC attention or for inclusion in FEDLINK Technical Notes to:

FEDLINK Technical Notes Federal Library and Information Center Committee Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20540-4935

FLICC/FEDLINK: Phone (202) 707-4800 Fax (202) 707-4818

FEDLINK Fiscal Operations: Phone (202) 707-4900 Fax (202) 707-4999

Executive Director: Susan Tarr

Editor-In-Chief: Robin Hatziyannis

Contributing Writer: Jessica Clark

Editorial Assistant: Mitchell Harrison

FLICC was established in 1965 (as the Federal Library Committee) by the Library of Congress and the Bureau of the Budget for the purpose of concentrating the intellectual resources of the federal library and related information community. FLICC's goals are: To achieve better utilization of library and information center resources and facilities; to provide more effective planning, development, and operation of federal libraries and information centers; to promote an optimum exchange of experience, skill, and resources; to promote more effective service to the nation at large and to foster relevant educational opportunities.


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