U.C. Berkeley Library Web

Charge to the Committee on Public Electronic Access Systems

Jerry Lowell, University Librarian, August 3, 2000

The Library's public electronic access systems are of critical importance to our users. These systems describe library services and allow users to discover materials held in Berkeley's rich print and digital collections, as well as those held by other UC Libraries. The Library Web, the Gladis OPAC, Pathfinder, Melvyl, MelWeb, the CDL Directory, Searchlight and the many abstract and indexing databases available locally and through the CDL are examples of these systems.

Not surprisingly, the recently released Digital Library Advisory Group (DLAC) Report identified this proliferation of independently evolving access systems as a major source of confusion for our patrons. That is, it is difficult for a person to determine which system to use first and what combination of systems should be examined. In order to begin addressing these problems, Cabinet would like to create the Library Public Electronic Access Systems Committee. This Committee's charge is to:

  1. Recommend a set of public access system development principles that will enable the Library to create systems that meet our users' information needs, whether they are for a comprehensive literature search or to find an introductory book on a particular topic. When developing these principles, please:
    1. Review public access system development principles created by others, including research libraries, non-profit groups and commercial organizations.
    2. Identify the users of our public access systems, their information needs and propose principles that can be used to develop services that will meet these needs (e.g., do we need multiple portals to support different levels of users, or user needs?).
    3. Investigate the challenges facing our users in navigating the library's multiple systems and recommend principles that can improve this situation.
    4. Discuss the organizational view we wish to project to our users through these public access systems (e.g., are we a single library, a federation of subject specialty libraries, etc.) and recommend principles that could promote this view. In this discussion, please consider the CDL and how it fits into the "brand" we're trying to establish.
    5. Consider how the Library's public access systems could relate to other electronic systems being developed by the campus (e.g., the e-Berkeley Initiatives) and the CDL.
    A preliminary effort to list development principles was being prepared for the Improve the Library Web Committee at the time it was disbanded. If you wish, you may use this draft work (attached) as a starting point for your discussions. Finally, please ensure that library staff has the opportunity to provide input into your work.

  2. Investigate organizational models that can be used by the Library to implement and maintain user interfaces and systems that are under our control and that meet your recommended principles. For example, should we have one person responsible for overseeing our user interfaces and systems and deciding how these principles are implemented? One person with an advisory group? A standing committee? Can we organizationally separate policy responsibilities (i.e., the principles) from the responsibility to implement the policies in our systems? For each model you analyze, please identify the advantages and drawbacks of the model. Finally, please recommend the organizational model you think is most desirable for the Library.

  3. Identify specific public access systems' problems that you feel are causing our users the greatest amount of frustration. Your recommendations on organizational models will lead us to determine what people or groups will be responsible for designing and implementing our public electronic access system principles. Any major problem areas that you can identify, as this part of the charge, will provide important guidance to those entrusted with this responsibility. Therefore, I am asking that you formalize your discussion under 1.c to create this list of major problem areas.

Ellen Meltzer and a faculty member will be co-chairs for your committee and will organize your first meeting. Please have your final recommendations to me by the end of December. Your final report will be discussed at Roundtable and then sent to Cabinet for final review, amendment (if needed) and approval. Finally, let me thank you for agreeing to participate in this important work, from which our users will be the greatest beneficiaries.

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