Library DrawingThe CONNector

APRIL 2000Volume 2 Number 2

Special ReportOrganizing State Government Web Resources
The Cooperative Online Resource Catalog Pilot Project

Julie Schwartz and Stephen Slovasky, Information Services Unit Heads

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

F. Scott Fitzgerald

If we accept Fitzgerald's premise, then every Internet user must necessarily be a candidate for the Genius Award. For how often has one's search of a commercial Web engine led to not one, nor even two, but a myriad of opposing ideas, enough to disable the functionality of this or any planet's highest intelligence? The situation is familiar: you have identified your information need, and you know that the information you want is out there somewhere, but it can take hours to discover it. Even then, the information's reliability is frequently suspicious. It happens to you, and it happens to those of us at the State Library whose business it is to provide State Government information that is straightforwardly organized and coherently accessible.

Libraries have been exercising their traditional roles as evaluators, selectors, and organizers of information on the Web since its inception. Since January of 1999, they have been assisted by a new set of tools developed by OCLC (Online Computer Library Center). Instead of searching through hundreds or thousands of hits retrieved by a search engine, or even dozens of hits evaluated by a commercial directory service such as Yahoo, we can now search a database of Web sites evaluated and selected by Web specialists in over 200 libraries throughout the world. Moreover, these sites have been cataloged as well, and are retrievable using the same specific searches as in a library catalog: author, title, subject, keyword, and other fields.

Cooperative Online Resource Catalog (CORC) at the State Library
The Connecticut State Library is responsible, under the Connecticut General Statutes, for providing our citizens with access to state government information. The Library has been collecting and cataloging the printed reports of Connecticut government for almost 150 years; now a new set of tools is required for describing and retrieving Web publications. Any records created to describe Web publications must be transferable to our online catalog.

OCLC's CORC is a collaborative venture of 240 international libraries that are retrieving and describing outstanding Internet resources. By applying traditional library skills using new electronic means, these libraries are collectively improving access to and retrievability of Internet resources in ways not feasible with commercial search engines. In the first step a collection development librarian selects quality resources in his/her subject specialization. Then OCLC CORC software is used to "harvest" these selected Web sites, generating key metadata descriptors from information contained in the electronic document. Another librarian reviews and edits these automatically assigned descriptors. Last, a cataloger adds subject headings, authorizes name headings, and performs further bibliographic editing. OCLC has also developed software to streamline the creation of Pathfinders. Without knowing HTML, a librarian can quickly create annotated guides that describe both Web resources and items physically held by the library.

Most CORC resources are described using the Dublin Core metadata set. Dublin Core is a 15-element set of data descriptors, "MARC Lite." One of the key benefits to using CORC is that records created in Dublin Core can be expanded to MARC records and transferred to the library's online catalog. Because many of the elements can be assigned automatically by OCLC's software, it streamlines creation of descriptive records for Web resources. There is, for example, a Descriptor field used in the traditional role of an annotation. This Descriptor element can greatly enhance the chances of a Web site being retrieved.

CORC Implementation at the Connecticut State Library
The Connecticut State Library CORC team has recently completed a pilot project creating Dublin Core records for about 250 Web resources, primarily those produced by Connecticut State agencies. From these and other CORC-created records, seven Pathfinders on public policy topics (campaign finance reform, school readiness, asthma in children, etc.) were created.

These Pathfinders feature:

By using OCLC's CORC service, the cataloged Web publications are accessible in a database that contains only materials selected by libraries and which has all the specific searching capabilities of the library catalog. This enhances its usefulness far beyond that of a search engine. The door is also left open to the possibility of exporting these records into our online catalog. For the immediate future, CORC and the Dublin Core metadata set will not supplant the MARC-based OCLC WorldCat database; far faster and more reliable Internet connections in our libraries must come first. In the meantime, OCLC plans to implement a "production" version of CORC in July, 2000, thus providing libraries with a window looking out upon the descriptive cataloging environment of the future. Find out more about CORC and to look at the results of our pilot project.

Special thanks to the State Library CORC Team: Cheryl Fox, Indexer; Al Palko and Denise Jernigan, Resource Selectors; Lynne Newell, Director, Division of Information Services; and Chris Hickey, Webmaster
Editor's note: Occasionally, due to the importance of a CSL project, we will publish special reports

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