Vol. 15 No. 4
Tech News--Using Web Graphics
Inside the Internet
Choosing An Internet Service Provider
An Internet Guide To Mapping
Mark Your Calendar
Recent commercials mocking Internet surfers and chat rooms tell a story: the Web has become big business. What they do not reveal are the ways in which this sea of change may bring big challenges to educational, government, and non-profit information providers and their customers.
On March 6, over 100 library and information center professionals attended FLICCs annual Forum on Federal Information Policies, "Clear Signals? Telecommunications, Convergence, and the Quality of Information," to examine the intentions and implementation of the Telecommunications Act and its impact on universal service. Speakers also discussed strategies for providing reliable civic and educational information; filtering and evaluating existing online resources; and coordinating federal acquisition and management of information technology. Highlights of the event included the vision speaker and morning and afternoon keynote speakers.
Former Senator Larry Pressler (R -South Dakota), sponsor of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, described the struggle surrounding the laws passage and the competing interests which helped to shape it. This legislation dissolved regulations which, according to Pressler, created an "apartheid" between the long distance carriers, Bells, cable companies, broadcasters, and utility companies. "The Act has been a sweeping change and has been accepted internationally, but has gotten very bad press," said Pressler.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 assigned the FCC specific tasks and deadlines designed to ensure competition, incentives for investment, technological innovation, deregulation, and affordable access. These tasks addressed what Maxwell termed "The Competition Trilogy"--interconnection, universal service, and access reform.
"We had to remove the barriers to entry," said Maxwell, "take them out root and branch and move out of the way." Besides access, he discussed the controversies over which services should be "universally" provided. General guidelines suggest that all consumers, including low-income consumers, should have access to just, reasonable, affordable rates and advanced service.
The FCC must also ensure that telecommunications providers offer discounted services to elementary and secondary schools, and libraries. Discounts may range from 20 to 90 percent, depending on the location and resources of the school or library; this program will be subsidized up to $2.25 billion per year.
Finally, Maxwell sggested the FCC will have to grapple with policy questions raised by Internet growth. "Were seeing the evolution of data networks rather than voice networks--a very exciting process," he said. Issues of network congestion, reliability, service quality, and investment are, however, problematic, as are questions of universal service and controversies over Internet content.
Lawrence Grossman, former President of NBC News and PBS, discussed the role of broadcast and electronic media in informing and involving US citizens in politics. Grossman commented that in an environment where citizens can directly affect public policy, it is crucial that they have access to accurate, unbiased information about issues. He warned that current trends in Internet development are moving in the opposite direction, toward large commercial and entertainment sites hosted by media conglomerates which may have a vested interest in protecting certain products and companies.
He proposed that current public information centers--the Library of Congress, PBS, NPR, museums, and universities--be funded to operate a civic throughway by means of a tax on the sale of the public spectrum. "These organizations have a well-established reputation for impartiality and professionalism, and theyre all strapped for cash," Grossman said.
Is there an audience for the type of civic and educational information network that Grossman proposes? "Even if we have the highest disregard for the public, we have no choice," he answered "We have an obligation to provide civic information."
(For complete coverage of Forum 97, look for the Spring Issue of the FLICC Newsletter. Forum proceedings will be available later this year.)
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Visual appeal is now an important element of Web site design. Conservative or trendy, Web sites use color, graphics, and layout techniques to catch the users eye.
Federal libraries sites are no exception. A sampling of FLICC member home pages (see http://www.loc.gov/flicc/fliccmem.html for a linked list) reveals colored and graphical backgrounds, seals and logos, buttons and rules, and colorful "New" starbursts. The National Agricultural Library provides photos and images of botanical and agricultural subjects from its collections (http://www.nalusda.gov/speccoll/); the NASA Libraries offer color photos of aircraft (http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Photo/index.html), and the Library of Congress American Memory project (http://www.loc.gov/ammem/) serves up an array of historical prints, photos, and scanned documents.
With some basic software and a few hands-on tips, anyone can quickly add graphics, color, and visual motifs to the librarys Web pages. Lynda Weinmans Designing Web Graphics 2, published in 1996 by New Riders Publishing, is a great resource. Weinman maintains a site, http://www.lynda.com, which complements the book and provides examples and links to other online resources.
Although professional designers tend to prefer Macintosh, most design programs are now available for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. The most popular image creation and editing software for both platforms is Adobes Photoshop.
Extremely powerful and versatile, Photoshop is also expensive. Paint Shop Pro, available for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, offers many basic image-editing tools for less than $75. Users can download the program from http://www.jasc.com. Lview, a $30 program available at http://www.shareware.com, is helpful for converting images created in various programs to the Web-friendly GIF and JPEG formats. The GIF Construction Set, available from ftp://ftp.north.net/pub/alchemy/, allows users to create tranparent and animated GIFs.
Background graphics, buttons, and bars can be created in these programs or downloaded from the Web. Users may still need access to a scanner to post an agencys logo or make images from a collection available online. Because Web graphics are limited to the 72 dots per inch (dpi) resolution of computer screens, it is not necessary to use a high-end scanner. Once scanned, images can be color corrected and sized using the image-editing programs already listed.
If the library has a large number of photographs to convert, and no scanner, consider scanning them at a Kodak Photo CD service provider. For more information about this option, see http://www.kodak.com/productInfo/catalog/genInfor/aboutPCD.
Two image compression formats--GIF and JPEG--are currently supported by all graphical Web browsers. A third format, PGN, has been formally endorsed by the World Wide Web Consortium (http://www.w3.org/). This endorsement means that support for the format is likely to be standard in the next browser versions. For now, digital images must be in one of the first two formats to be included directly in a Web page.
GIF stands for "Graphic Interchange Format." Developed by CompuServe in the late 1980s, the GIF format is best for graphics or line drawings. GIF images contain a maximum of 256 colors. This limited palette is not recommended for photographs, but is ideal for illustrations made with solid colors. There are two different types of GIFs: GIF87a and GIF89a. The newer of the two, GIF89a supports:
GIFs can be saved at eight different "bit depths" (numbers of colors per image). An eight-bit image has a palette of 256 colors; a one-bit image is black and white. If loading a page quickly is important, reduce the bit depth of GIFs to speed downloading. Do make sure that reducing colors does not significantly affect the quality of the image.
JPEG stands for "Joint Photographic Experts Group." The JPEG format is more suitable for photographs because it allows for 24-bit information, or over 16 million colors. JPEG files do take longer to download than GIF files do, but to minimize delays, many sites provide small GIF "thumbnail" images which are linked to larger, higher-quality JPEG versions of the same image.
The Portable Network Graphic (PNG) format combines the best features of GIF and JPEG. PNG images can be stored at a variety of bit depths and transparency and masking features are more sophisticated. The format also retains more colors, making the interlacing processes smoother, and the gradations between the different levels of focus finer. For more information about the PNG format, see the format developers site at http://www.boutell.com/boutell/png.
When saving images, be sure to apply the correct three-letter extension: .gif, .jpg, or .png. Image names should be no longer than eight letters. Browsers are case-sensitive: if a file is named "picture.GIF" and then typed as "picture.gif" in HTML code, browsers will not find or display the image.
The standard gray Web page background is passe. There are two ways to change Web page backgrounds: assign a fixed color using a hexidecimal coding system or assign a repeating GIF or JPEG image. Both methods use the <BODY> tag, which appears near the top of each HTML document. Text color and link color may also be assigned within this tag.
Unfortunately, hexidecimal codes are complicated. Online color displays are expressed in RGB mode--a system of 256 colors created by projecting different levels of Red, Green, and Blue to a pixel. Hexidecimal, derived from base nine mathematics, is used to convert RGB colors to a six-digit code which can be read by browsers.
Fortunately, there are many tools which select colors and determine the appropriate code. Image-editing programs provide RGB numbers for specific colors. Inquisitor Mediaramas RGB-HEX Converter (http://www.echonyc.com/~xixax/Mediarama/hex.html) is one resource for conversions. Netscape also allows developers to use color names, but this feature is not necessarily supported by other browsers.
For those who would avoid conversions, Weinmans site (http://www.lynda.com/hexh.html) lists codes on the squares of the color they represent. All of the colors included in this chart are "browser-safe"--that is, colors which are shared by all of the major browsers. Using browser-safe colors eliminates worries about image tone inconsistencies.
After completing the color calculations, or referring to a chart, a sample body tag for color might look like this:
<BODY BGCOLOR="330066" TEXT="CCFFCC" LINK="FF6666" VLINK=""  ALINK="99FFFF">.
"BGCOLOR" refers to the background color,
"TEXT" to the regular text,
"LINK" to linked text,
"VLINK" to links that have already been visited,
and "ALINK" to links that are currently highlighted.
Remember to choose a text color which strongly contrasts with the background color, so users with low resolution or black-and-white monitors can see the difference.
Image-based backgrounds provide a page with dimensionality, but pose some problems. They take longer to load than solid-color backgrounds and the image, or "tile" which is repeated for the background, must have edges which match smoothly on all sides. If not, the page may appear misregistered or background patterns may interfere with text legibility.
Professionally designed background tiles can add style. Background images are also used to create the popular illusion of a column on the left-hand side of the page; this is achieved with a horizontal bi-color image sized to the width of a typical screen (640 pixels). Collections of background tiles are available for free on the Web; try Yahoos listings at http://www.yahoo.com/Computers_and Internet/Multimedia/Pictures/Clip_Art/.
The code for inserting images, buttons, and rules is:
<IMAGE SRC="image.gif" BORDER=0 ALIGN=TOP HSPACE=40 WIDTH=60 HEIGHT=50>, where:
"SRC" refers to the name of the image (GIF or JPEG);
"BORDER" (measured in pixels) defines a colored border, or, if set at zero, specifies that no border be used;
"ALIGN" (TOP, BOTTOM, MIDDLE, RIGHT, or LEFT) determines the relationship between the image and adjacent text;
"VSPACE" (measured in pixels) inserts empty space above and below the image;
"HSPACE" (measured in pixels) inserts empty space to the left and right of the image;
"HEIGHT" (measured in pixels) equals the height of the image;
"WIDTH" (measured in pixels) equals the width of the image.
SRC="image.gif" is the only required element in the image tag; other attributes control the layout and appearance of the image. Incorporating the height and width specifications for an image speeds page loading time, allowing text to load first and the image to slowly fill in the allotted space.
Another way to control the placement of images on a page is the "spacer" graphic, which blends into the pages background. Tables also create columns and shaded areas. Netscape offers a table creation tutorial at http://home.mcom.com/assist/net_sites/tables.html.
To test the page, place the HTML document in the same folder as the images, and open the document using a browser. Images must be loaded into the same directory so browsers can load them.
Sample code for such a page appears below:
< HEAD >
<TITLE>Your Librarys Name< /TITLE >
<BODY BGCOLOR=FFFFFF TEXT=0000FF>
< IMG SRC=logo.gif BORDER=0 ALIGN=LEFT WIDTH=50 HEIGHT=50>
<H1>Your Librarys Name </H1>
<IMG SC=rule.gif BORDER=0>
**Your text and images here**
With a basic knowledge of HTML and the above tools and tips, Web page designers can create a simple page with a white background, agencys logo, the name of the library, a decorative rule, and other graphical buttons or navigation elements. Graphics can enliven and direct users through a variety of information, links, and procedures. The smallest additions can make all the difference. Add a bit of color, and a web page can enhance a librarys image.
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A preview program of the OCLC FirstSearch Electronic Collections Online service is under way. Seventeen universities, university systems, and library consortia in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, as well as FEDLINK members, The National Agricultural Library, and the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, are participating.
The preview program allows access to a pre-production version of the service, including a Web interface and a subset of 62 journals from seven publishers. Users will be able to search and browse the journals and view abstracts and articles. The program will also provide usage statistics to preview participants. Preview sites will have access to the service through May 1997 and will give OCLC feedback. OCLC will make Electronic Collections Online generally available in June 1997, with an expected 350-500 journals from 12-15 publishers.
"Having electronic journals aggregated is very promising to us," said John Haar, assistant director for Collections, Central and Science and Engineering Libraries, Vanderbilt University. "Many of our users find articles for their research through abstracting and indexing databases, like those on FirstSearch; so being able to search those databases and access the full text of the article from the same workstation will be helpful to them."
Beyond using a standard Web interface, libraries can integrate Electronic Collections Online with their local systems, like the University of California System.
"Our participation in the Electronic Collections Online preview affords an ideal opportunity to explore a number of technical, design, and organizational issues involved in providing access to electronic journal content using the World Wide Web," said Gary S. Lawrence, coordinator, Libraries and Academic Computing, University of California, Office of the President. "For example, UC anticipates that a primary method of access to electronic journals for our library users will be through links from citations in licensed abstracting and indexing databases loaded on the nine-campus MELVYL system, resulting in direct display of the cited article," said Lawrence.
"Because at least five of the abstract and index databases that we currently license index titles included in the preview program, we expect to gain valuable experience with this approach, as well as having the chance to test and evaluate the features, functions, and technical characteristics of Electronic Collections Online."
Eight universities and university systems and nine library consortia are participating in the program. The universities and university systems include: the California State University System, Cornell University, the State University of New York, the University of California System, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Utah, the University of Washington and Vanderbilt University. The consortia participating in the program include: the Alliance (Colorado), the Boston Library Consortium, Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), the Combined Higher Education Software Team/National Information Services (CHEST/NISS--United Kingdom), Chesapeake Information and Research Library Alliance (CIRLA--Delaware, Maryland and District of Columbia), Georgia Library Learning Online (GALILEO), MINITEX Library Information Network, OhioLINK, and Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA).
"OCLC is excited about the diversity and quality of the sites that have agreed to participate in the preview," said John Barnes, director, Electronic Publishing, OCLC. "These institutions are in the vanguard of libraries adopting electronic journals, and their feedback will be importat for both our introduction of the service in June and its future development."
OCLC developed Electronic Collections Online to support the efforts of libraries and consortia to acquire, circulate, manage, and archive large collections of electronic academic and professional journals on the Web. The service allows libraries to subscribe to large collections of academic journals, from many publishers and disciplines, and access them remotely through a single Web interface that supports cross-journal searching and extensive browsing. Libraries choose the journals they want and subscribe to them through individual publishers or through participating subscription agents. Additionally, Electronic Collections Online provides usage statistics at the journal level to help with selection decisions and archiving solutions that ensure perpetual access to the collection of journals, even if the library discontinues its subscription for subsequent issues.
Electronic Collections Online is designed to accommodate access and storage of thousands of titles. In future releases, OCLC plans to fully integrate Electronic Collections Online with the OCLC FirstSearch service. More about Electronic Collections Online is available at http://www.oclc.org/oclc/menu/eco.htm.
OCLC will stop supporting the DOS version of Passport, the OCLC terminal emulation software, at the end of calendar year 1997. Users should prepare to use the Windows version by then.
The current version of Passport for Windows is available for $40 per copy (per machine license) or $800 for a site license. For an order form, call or email FEDLINK, or go to OCLCs home page (http://www.oclc.org). Select Support and User Documentation, then Forms.
To run Passport for Windows, Cataloging MicroEnhancer for Windows, or other software, as well as use OCLCs new telecommunications options, OCLC recommends a personal computer with a 32 bit processor. Slower machines may not be able to process future software or telecommunications services.
OCLC will expand its telecommunications channels by adding TCP/IP- based dial access early this summer. OCLC recommends at least a 28.8 bps modem for this Point-to-Point access mode. FEDLINK will have password and other information available for all current dial access users when OCLC implements the new mode. Not only is faster access more economical, users will also save the $210 annual fee for a traditional dial access account. Migration to the faster mode is optional.
Later this year, OCLC will also begin moving TLP and dedicated line users to a dedicated TCP/IP telecommunications protocol. They have advised FEDLINK that this new mode will be cost effective for libraries currently using three or more dedicated lines. Lower use sites should consider migrating to Internet or dial access modes, especially the faster TCP/IP dial mode.
OCLC projects it will take four years for all users to move to the dedicated line. Those remaining on the older dedicated line should plan to have a local (locally-owned) telecommunications router with one open ethernet port for OCLC to use. Since many libraries already have workstations on a LAN with a router, they will be able to switch sooner than those libraries needing to buy new hardware. For those libraries needing to upgrade their local configurations for the new technology, FEDLINK recommends they wait for further, more specific information from FEDLINK and OCLC.
OCLC will announce the charges for the new options soon, but intends to price them so that migration is an attractive and viable option.
More information will be available at and after the May 2 FEDLINK OCLC Users Group meeting.
MLC discontinued selling ILL coupons in July 1995, with all coupons set to expire on December 31, 1997. Please redeem old MLC ILL coupons as soon as possible by mailing them to Janet LaCross, Michigan Library Consortium, 6810 South Cedar Street Suite 8, Lansing, MI 48911.
When returning MLC ILL Coupons, please include the name and address of the library that should receive the check.
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Printed with permission from: AUTOMATION for LIBRARIES, A Quarterly Report of Joseph Ford and Associates, Inc., Volume 2, No. 1--January 1997
Internet connectivity continually increases in importance for libraries. Internet access from libraries is not only providing email and World Wide Web access, but libraries are now offering electronic versions of traditional library services and often from centralized, Internet-based providers. For many libraries, Internet-based distribution of third-party services will soon become, or already is, the most cost-effective method to deliver information to patrons.
Libraries have a host of options for connecting to the Internet, with costs and benefits in direct proportion to the expected amount of use and money available. For optimum Internet services, choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP) with these characteristics:
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Maps can be some of the most cumbersome holdings in a library, often requiring vertical file storage, and quickly outliving their usefulness. A number of Web offerings could solve this problem while offering greater flexibility and interactivity to map viewers. Most users needs can be met by one of three sites, but a quick trip through the Yahoo directory under "Regional" can help users with more specific map requests.
Users in need of direction can turn to Yahoo Maps (http://www.proximus.com/yahoo/) for U.S. regional, city, neighborhood and Point-to-Point mapping. When teamed up with the Yahoo Yellow Pages (http://yp.yahoo.com/vicinity/yp.html), the service can tell users where to go and how to get there. I tested these possibilities using Yahoo Yellow Pages and Maps. First I searched for business addresses in a Madison zip code (Figure 1). I selected the Madison Public Library and requested a map of my destination (Figure 2). The map offered a number of choices for zooming in and out, showing maps of the surrounding areas and giving detailed street names. From the Madison Public Library map, I requested "DriveIt" instructions from the library to 814 West Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee (the Milwaukee Public Library). The Yahoo service provided a general map showing the entire trip from city to city with written driving instructions below (Figure 3). Once again, it offered options for more detailed, smaller maps of the beginning and end-points of my journey, more detailed written instructions, and small maps all along the travel route. MapQuet (http://www.mapquest.com/) offers similar services, but with less success than the Yahoo site (Figure 4). While MapQuests TripQuest performed well for general searches, it failed to recognize addresses for either library and could not offer more approximate maps when its database offered no specific records.
For users more interested in mapping and census information, the U.S. Census Bureaus U.S. Gazetteer (http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/gazetteer) provides clear, detailed and free maps which link census data to the graphics. The census maps offer the same viewing flexibility as the Yahoo maps, but can add features including zip codes, county borders, census blocks, population density, and much more. Once the Gazetteer delivers a map, users may "redraw" it after selecting changes in location, color scheme, or included census information (Figure 5). Like the Yahoo service, however, the U.S. Gazetteer only offers U.S. maps.
Users interested in international information do not have the advantage of a single interactive database. For a list of active maps world-wide visit http://www.thesalmons.org/lynn/maps.html for Lynn Salmon's clearinghouse of international mapping sites. Few of these sites provide such detailed offerings as the two U.S. services, but pages for some individual countries can approach that detail and specificity, particularly for tourist centers. Users with interest in less-industrialized nations may have a more difficult search ahead of them.
This brief list of Web-based map services can provide only a small sample of the electronic mapping resources available both via Internet and through CD-ROM. As libraries increase their use of such resources, reference-based bookmark pages could replace some vertical file content.
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and call (202) 707-4800 for information on these upcoming FLICC/FEDLINK Institutes:
|Acquisitions and Collection Development||July 7-10|
|The Federal Library Paraprofessional||August 11-15|
FLICC is planning these multi-day, special focus workshops following the success of last years Institute on Descriptive Cataloging. Watch your mail for detailed program announcements.
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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
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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