Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Help Wanted: Webmasters: Most Libraries Feel Compelled to Put Up a Web Page - but Few Have the Money to Hire a Webmaster

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Help Wanted: Webmasters: Most Libraries Feel Compelled to Put Up a Web Page - but Few Have the Money to Hire a Webmaster

Article excerpt

The ad might read like this: "Webmaster position open at a major U.S. library. Must have a thorough knowledge of the World Wide Web, its resources, and electronic resources in general. Must be able to program using HyperText Markup Language and Java. Must also have a good working knowledge of graphic design and formatting information for ease of access and use. Salary $28,000 to $36,000, depending on experience."

When it comes to offering electronic resources to the public, some of the larger, more well-funded libraries in the country seem to have the advantage. Today, most libraries, large or small, feel compelled to offer a home page on the World Wide Web. But the ability to hire a person to set it up, maintain current library information, and provide links to the Web's vast amount of information is limited to a relative few. Even mounting the home page on an in-house Internet server is something that not all libraries can afford to do. The downside, however, is that if libraries don't provide Web access to their library catalogs, programs, and other services, they are missing an opportunity to market themselves and to advertise their offerings to an increasingly computer-literate public that would be only too happy to fill their information needs elsewhere on the Net.

As a result, libraries are looking at a variety of innovative in-house and outside options to get their Web sites up and to keep them running. In a recent survey I conducted on several listservs, I found people from libraries around the country eager to discuss their approaches and experiences in trying to stay on the cutting edge of Web service technology and to give their public the service they want and have come to expect.

Rochester Web Team Wins Award

Establishing a presence on the Web can take varying amounts of time depending on how complex or simple a library wants its home page to be. At the Rochester Hills Public Library in Rochester, Michigan, a team was named to set up and maintain the home page (http://metronet.lib.mi.us/ROCH/rhpl.html). Team members spend anywhere from one to four or more hours per week on the project. "As the Internet coordinator for our library, I gathered a team of five people from our staff;' wrote Sharon Campbell. The team began working on the page about five months before it became a reality.

The Rochester Hills team consists of four librarians and one technical specialist. The team meets biweekly and has divided responsibilities among its members. As team leader, Campbell is the overall editor of the Web site, organizes maintenance, assigns tasks, and works with community nonprofit organizations and service clubs to create links.

"Offering the Web site has been a wonderful experience," said Campbell. "Right from the start we received feedback from staff, the public, and from other librarians."

The Rochester Hills Public Library Web site received the 1996 Gale Research Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Services. The award is sponsored by the American Library Association and funded by Gale Research. It was given to Rochester Hills Public Library because it "serves as a source for community and library information and as a basis for learning about the Internet and other electronic resources," according to Beth Dempsey, spokesperson for Gale Research.

Do What You Know

Other libraries maintain their sites using only one or two staff members. Sara Weissman indicated that at the Morris County Library in Whippany, New Jersey, two employees spent four to six hours creating a simple page with local information (http://www.gti.net/mocolibl/MCL.html). The same two people spend two to four hours a week of their own time keeping the page up-to-date. "We worked with the public and their Internet use for two years before we wrote our site," said Weissman. "It began with a very solid sense of how people use the Net and what they most need from it. …

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