Collaborative Design of World Wide Web Pages: A Case Study

Article excerpt

This paper describes the experience of two librarians who were approached by a departmental Webmaster to assist in taking what he had already created as his department's Web page and making it more useful to its intended audiences. The article documents the steps the librarians took to turn a miscellaneous list of Web sites from around the world into a more coherent and useful package of information. The result shows why librarians remain the most qualified individuals to turn to when there is a need to organize large amounts of information.

Librarians have been building expertise in organizing and maintaining information for centuries. Now we have the opportunity to move these skills from the world of paper and other physical formats to the electronic world. This paper describes the experience of two librarians who were approached by a departmental "Webmaster" to assist in taking what he had already created as his department's Web page and making it more useful to its intended audiences. It documents the steps the librarians took to turn a miscellaneous list of Web sites from around the world into a more coherent and useful package of information. The result shows why librarians remain the most qualified individuals to turn to when someone needs to organize large amounts of information.

The College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State, like many other organizations, maintains a Web site[1] (see figure 1). This site provides information about the programs and people of the college and acts as a gateway to specialized resources of the college. In addition, it provides links to other Web sites that are relevant to the college's areas of interest such as geography, geosciences, meteorology, oceanography, materials sciences, mining, and mineral economics. This area of the Web site is titled "Related Web Sites"[2] and is the area we were asked to assist in redesigning.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Description of Original Web Site

In the spring of 1995 the Related Web Sites page contained links to more than 140 sites on the World Wide Web, primarily in the area of earth sciences. Although the page had achieved some recognition as a notable site for earth sciences, its size and organization made it unwieldy.[3] General sites such as Yahoo and Carrie's Crazy Quilt were included, as were other miscellaneous resources, including Voice of America News.

The page was organized as a list of sites grouped by type of access--FTP, telnet, gopher, and so on (see figure 2). There was little annotation, and some dead sites were listed. The Web builder had reached a point where he recognized that he needed a new and more useable organization for the page. This prompted him to approach the special librarian for the College about assisting in the redesign of the page.

Some On-line Earth System Science Education Resources
Earth & Mineral Sciences' own Earth Science Multimedia Resources
Earth & Mineral Sciences' own Weather Pages
Email lists/Discussion groups
  * Science teachers/Lesson plan swaps
Anonymous ftp (file tranfer protocol)
  * Science Lesson Plans
  * Ocean color data
  * TOMS ozone data
  * Earth, space science data
  * Hand-held photos of Earth
User ID: photos
PassWord: photos
  * GOES and GMS images
Telnet services
  * nssdca.gsfc.nasa.gov       login: nssdc NSSDC          Global Change Master
                                                         Directory
  * spacelink.msfc.nasa.gov    login: follow instructions  NASA Spacelink
                                                         educational materials
  * glis.usgs.gov              login: follow instructions  Geographic Land Info
                                                         System
  * fedworld.gov               login: follow instructions  Federal Information
                                                         from STIS
  * fedix.fie.com              login: follow instructions  Federal Information
                                                         exchange
  * madlab. …