Designing Internet Services for a Consortium: The NOBLE Experience

By Saunders, Laverna | Computers in Libraries, October 1995 | Go to article overview

Designing Internet Services for a Consortium: The NOBLE Experience


Saunders, Laverna, Computers in Libraries


One person's Internet gems may be trivia to another individual who has radically different interests. Likewise the needs of academic and public libraries vary. Elizabeth B. Thomsen, member services manager for the North of Boston Library Exchange (NOBLE) has had the rare experience of selecting Internet resources for a consortium. I interviewed Elizabeth recently to discover the criteria she used and challenges she found in setting up NOBLE's gopher

Q Please begin by describing NOBLE and its member libraries.

A Begun in 1980 by five public libraries sharing a circulation system, NOBLE now has 24 full members, one affiliate, and one dial-up member. The network serves 522,000 residents and 32,000 college students in the North Shore region. NOBLE maintains a database of over 2.3 million items and regularly upgrades its systems to provide state-of-the-art technology for members. In the past five years, it has coordinated the loan of two million books, magazines, and other items between member libraries with both fax and van delivery services. The full-time staff operating the network includes an executive director, Ronald A. Gagnon; a systems manager, Martha J. Driscoll; a technical assistant; and myself as member services manager. We also have part-time database and technical staff who assist with the work.

The member libraries share in network expenses for personnel, telecommunications, supplies, computer maintenance, database management tools, and professional and administrative support services. Each local library pays for acquisition and maintenance of its remote equipment. The academic, public, and special libraries of NOBLE are unified by common bylaws, governing bodies, standing committees, and network staff. The Users' Council consists of the directors of the member libraries, each with one vote, and a non-voting representative of the Board of Library Commissioners and the Eastern Regional Administrator. The Users' Council authorizes the annual budget and schedule of fees, establishes priorities for the network, determines policies, and elects officers.

Q How long have you worked for NOBLE, and what is your library background?

A I've been with NOBLE more than seven years, and my primary responsibility is providing training for the staff of member libraries. I have about 20 years experience as a librarian, having served in a variety of positions in the public libraries of Salem, Hamilton, Revere, and Wakefield, Massachusetts. My orientation as a reference librarian has been useful as I design training sessions and maintain the NOBLE gopher (gopher.noble.mass.edu).

Q Who is the NOBLE gopher for?

A The primary clientele is the library staff of NOBLE member libraries, with local patrons at home as next in importance. Although anyone in the world with Internet access can look at our site, we had local needs at heart as we set up the gopher. During the time that we didn't have our own gopher server running, we had librarians exploring the Internet and comparing what they had found. The fact that there was no common starting point made it very confusing for librarians. There are innumerable paths to take to get to the same resources. With the gopher, our discussions always start from that same point, and nobody needs to remember the real address of anything, just where it is on our gopher. Library staff members who have found other useful resources may suggest that they be added to the NOBLE gopher.

Gopher users anywhere may find us either by searching for us directly by name or geographically by state. As an official, registered gopher, all of the menus are indexed by VERONICA and World Wide Web indexing programs. A searcher can come across various individual files from our gopher without having come through our main menu. This is one reason that we include a footer on all the original files that NOBLE creates and adds to the gopher.

Patrons in NOBLE member libraries have access to the gopher through the public access terminals. …

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