In February 1993 it occurred to me that the W&L Gopher would be an effective medium to present and deliver support materials for Bibliographic Instruction, and throughout the Spring of 1993 I developed the skills and gathered the materials to construct a Library partition for the W&L Gopher, based partly on links to useful remote resources and partly in locally-produced texts meant to solve specific information problems. This structure has been largely superseded by later evolution, but it did serve as the backbone of the introduction to the W&L community of Liberty-based Internet involvement during the 1993-1994 academic year. The present form of the W&L Gopher shows the framework; the "Libraries and Information Access" section is primarily my work. The W&L Gopher continues to draw more than 25,000 connections a day from thousands of remote Internet sites, and it was work in this area that attracted invitations to speak at Computers in Libraries (March 1994, in which I concentrated on instructional applications of the W&L Gopher, while John Doyle talked about technical aspects of its development) and to the VLA Library Instruction and Microcomputer Interest Forum (May 1994).
In April 1994 I started to work on the development of a WWW presence for W&L, building web pages upon the foundation of an httpd server set up by John Doyle. This "went public" as the Campus Information System in September 1994; its structure is my creation and, with the exception of the Social Science departments (managed by Dick Grefe) and the Registrar's corner (tended by Scott Dittman), it is in my keeping. Monitoring the WWW for new items and refining the structure of our web pages is an important part of my daily routine.
I would point to several areas within this WWW site as exemplifying the work I do within this medium and the trajectory of its development. My first use of the WWW medium to solve a public presentation problem was in planning for Psychology 395 (Spring 1994), followed in short order by David Parker's request for a class in access to Latin American Studies materials and the VLA presentation. Two of these three items still exist, though 11 months later they seem rather clumsy:
A case in point is the sound and video resources recently added to the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man database. These represent the tip of an information system iceberg that is clearly on the horizon, and several days of experimenting and collecting necessary software made it possible to demonstrate them in the final meeting of the Library portion of Biology 182, as examples in a series of current and future information access resources. No single source had all the necessary information to make the demonstration a success, and nobody at W&L had all the pieces. This sort of exploration is typical of a recurring process in my work --sometimes of immediate utility, sometimes with possible long-run application, and occasionally with no foreseeable use.
Another recent example of electronic solution to an information access problem followed a reference desk question from Gwyn Campbell about SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language, a text formatting protocol) sources --how to find the standards themselves and instructional materials on their use. A quick search located a great deal of material at various remote locations, but nothing in our library; the most efficient way to make this material accessible was to create a SGML weblet to provide her and other interested people with pointers to the required information.
The future development of W&L's website will involve many more people. Part of the process of stimulating discussion about possibilities is demonstrated in a recently constructed weblet that collects campus information presentations from a number of institutions. This was put together for a specific meeting, but it exemplifies the potential of WWW hypertext as a timely presentation medium, and illustrates a sort of activity that occupies much of my time. Other weblets constructed for similar short-term purposes are:
In addition to work in courses and formal workshops and on the website itself, I spend a significant amount of time on software consulting in person, by phone and e-mail, and via housecalls to labs and offices.