Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Building an Internet Gateway

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Building an Internet Gateway

Article excerpt

The Library of the International Labour Organization created a gateway to Internet sites in the areas of work, employment, and social issues titled WorkGate. This article describes the design decisions that went into the project, such as the number of information resources that could feasibly be maintained and the selection criteria for including these resources. The actual development of the gateway involved the building of an underlying database and Web-based interfaces, the selection and description of Internet sites, and the creation of taxonomy to be used in classifying sites and browsing. While the gateway has been favorably received, ranking search results in a small database of brief records remains a problem. An unexpected benefit of the project was the opportunity staff had to share information about sites that would prove useful in their daily work.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the United Nations' specialized agency that seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights. The ILO's strategic objectives are to promote fundamental principles and rights at work, create greater opportunities for decent employment for women and men, enhance social protection, and strengthen social dialogue. The ILO Library supports the organization's mission by providing knowledge-sharing services in the areas of work and sustainable livelihoods and the work-related aspects of economic and social development and human rights. (1) Library clients include ILO constituents (the governments of 176 member states as well as employers' and workers' organizations); external clients, such as researchers in social and labor issues; and more than 1,900 ILO staff located at headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and in forty field offices around the world. In addition to providing reference and information consulting services, the library continues to develop and make available the Labordoc database (www.ilo.org/labordoc), a catalog of more than 350,000 bibliographic references, and the multilingual ILO Thesaurus of labor, employment, and training terminology. (2) In 2002 the ILO Library launched a new service, WorkGate (www.ilo.org/workgate), a gateway to Internet resources in the area of work, employment, and social issues.

* Design

What is an information gateway? Gateways are online services that provide references to selected, high-quality information resources on the Internet. However, in addition to providing links to networked resources, they also provide descriptions of those resources, including descriptive metadata, content descriptions, abstracts, subject keywords, and other controlled vocabulary. (3) A gateway allows users to quickly discover resources on a particular subject through searching resource descriptions or by browsing based on a classification system or taxonomy. (4) Although the development of an information gateway at the ILO was hardly an original idea, the process of creating a gateway for a specific subject area and the design decisions made in developing this resource may prove useful to organizations considering similar projects.

The idea of building a virtual library or gateway to Internet resources on the world of work had been independently suggested by several library staff members. They perceived that, in response to the growing volume of information on the Internet, ILO staff and stakeholders needed Internet resources that had been identified, evaluated, and selected for their high quality and relevance to ILO concerns. Users also needed a coherent, logical structure to easily access those sites and some assistance in using and navigating these resources in order to save their time and effort. After considerable discussion by professional staff, the decision was made in mid-2001 to proceed with the creation of an information gateway. Seven library staff members, primarily reference staff, agreed to undertake the selection and description of highquality Internet sites in addition to their regular workload; two library students who were completing a practical internship at the library also worked part-time on the project. …

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