DEVELOPING A LIBRARY HOMEPAGE: A LOW-COST SOLUTION*
by S.M.Pujar and G.K.Manjunath
Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research
Gen. A.K. Vaidya Marg, Film City Road, Goregaon (East)
[Abstract: In the internet era, for a library to be recognized and its services to be made available globally creation of a homepage is indispensable. This paper attempts to provide a low cost solution for developing a homepage. It also describes procedures with few tips for designing, registering, redirecting a homepage and its subsequent submission to search engines.]
Internet is bringing sweeping changes in most of our daily activities. It is offering access to news, banking services, business opportunities, mails, educational facilities and technology online at our desktops, laptops, and mobile phones. This has changed the overall ways and means, mode and methods of information dissemination. Here the only mantra is how fast the information can be sent to the end users. Like other fields, in the field of library and information science too it has made a great impact. It has changed the overall concept of libraries, role of librarians and has shown the library professionals how the information can be disseminated to their clientele at minimum cost, effort and time. With the fast growth and easy accessibility to internet, libraries either now or in the near future have to develop their own homepages to meet the wide information requirements of their clientele. Considering the huge costs involved in developing the necessary infrastructure such as owning and maintaining the webservers, high bandwidth internet connection, the required softwares, and the technical know-how many libraries, especially in developing countries like India, are finding it difficult to make a beginning in this direction. However, lack of funds or certain infrastructure will not be constraints for owning and designing homepages. With little knowledge of HTML, librarians can develop homepages utilizing the services of webspace providers like Geocities, Tripod, Xoom etc. In this paper, an attempt has been made to show how a homepage can be developed with minimum cost.
To start designing and developing a homepage, one must have the following hardware and software:
1. PC (Minimum 486/Pentium series)
3. Internet connection (Dialup/Leased line/VSAT)
4. Internet browser (Netscape/Internet Explorer)
5. Basic knowledge of HTML
6. Telephone connection
3. CREATION OF HOMEPAGE:
The creation of homepage/ website and its subsequent hosting involves certain major steps such as, signing with the webspace provider, creating contents, uploading the site by using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and so on. Each one of these has to be dealt carefully to make the website live and interesting.
3.1 FREE WEBSPACE PROVIDERS:
A good number of service providers available on the internet offer free webspace for developing homepages. The amount of space provided by them varies from each other. Most of these services are ad based, i.e., these are sponsored and therefore will have sponsor's advertisement on the site. The advertisement may be a banner or a pop-up. It is needless to say that the service providers earn revenue from these advertisements. Therefore, while seeking free service it becomes mandatory to accept certain conditions posed by the service providers. These ads really will not be distractions and make no much difference as these appear on top of the page or at a corner. However, there are some services without ads too. However, this should not be the sole criterion for selecting service providers. Main consideration should be the speed, i.e., how fast the service provider's site gets loaded on to the browser and how fast will be the subsequent retrieval.
The following table gives a comparative statement of some of the major service providers.
Free Space Per account
A detailed comparative study of various service providers can be had from the website http://www.freewebspace.net, which eases the selection process.
On signing the agreement with the service provider, one can get user name and a password of one's choice. This user name later becomes the web address of a site on the internet. It is also known as
URL (Uniform/Universal Resource Locator).
An URL may look like:
3.2 CONTENTS FOR THE WEBSITE:
After signing with the service provider, one has to create contents for library's homepage. However, people who are familiar with HTML can even keep the homepage ready before signing. There are certain tools, which can be had from the service providers if one is not acquainted with HTML.
Initially one gets puzzled what to put on it. It is better to do some homework before actually creating the contents. This can be done by going through webpages of other libraries, which are already available on the net. To start with, one can include the following information:
1. Brief introduction about library
2. Working hours
3. Details about Collection
4. List of Current journals
5. Journal Holdings list (Back volumes)
6. Monthly additions
9. Databases available etc.
10. Links to other sites (with a disclaimer)
To create a homepage with above-mentioned contents, one needs to have an HTML editor. This editor is basically a helper program that lets the developer to manipulate the codes. These editors are popularly called as WYSIWYG editors. The term WYSIWYG stands for 'What You See Is What You Get'. These editors basically hide HTML codes and make creation of HTML pages a simple process just like word processing documents. But there is a limitation with these editors as it is not possible to do everything with HTML. Most of the service providers provide these editors as web building tools. One can use these or the browser editors. Netscape composer or Front Page Express can also be used to create a HTML page. These come along with Netscape and Internet Explorer respectively. The HTML pages can also be created using MS-WORD. People who are familiar with HTML are recommended to use text editors such Norton Editor, EDIT or NOTEPAD and then insert the HTML commands to get the desired output.
To set up a good website/homepage, one need not be a good designer. One can start with a simple design, without harsh colours and graphics. Usually harsh colours and too much of graphics make the webpage unattractive and takes lot of time to get loaded. It is suggested not to put all the information on one page, instead try to make multiple pages and provide links to each other so that visitors can easily move from one page to another. Always it is desirable to name the first page as index.htm or index.html, as most of the webservers treat it as the first page. It is something like an index to the site. At the end of the first page, it is desirable to provide a link to the e-mail address, so that visitors can send their suggestions, comments or query instantly.
3.3 UPLOADING THE SITE:
After creating the pages, one has to verify the contents and design before finally putting these on the net. This can be done by loading the page(s) on the browser locally. It is necessary to check the results both on Netscape and Internet Explorer and on some other browser as pages may look differently on different browsers and even on different versions of the same browser.
After such verification, the contents need to be transferred to the service provider's web server. Transferring can be done using FTP programme. FTP stands for 'File Transfer Protocol' and is the way of transferring files to and from computers on the internet. This program should be available at the workstation, i.e., the user's PC. An FTP client program sends a request to an FTP server asking for exchange of information and transfer files. The server in turn verifies whether the user is authorised to send or receive files and responds accordingly. There are many graphical FTP client software's available on the net. Popular among them is WS_FTP. It can be downloaded from www.download.com or www.ftppro.com. This is some time available on the CD's coming along with popular computer magazines PC-Quest or Chip. It is possible on some sites, to transfer files online from their webpage.
Transferring of pages by using FTP client varies from one network to another depending on the network structure and server set-up. One need not panic if it does not work. It is always a good idea to consult the system administrator to learn about how to use a FTP client. After successful transferring of files to the webserver the site will be up with immediate effect. It can be checked by typing the URL address in the local browser window.
3.4 URL REDIRECTION SERVICE:
The URL assigned by the service providers will be usually either long or difficult to remember. For example, if registered with xoom.com, the address assigned will be http://www.geocities.com/yourname/index.htm. If one wants to get away with such addresses and wants a shorter or personal web address, then URL redirection services offered by various sites can be utilized. Some of these sites put pop-up ads on the site. Popular among those are:
The more detailed comparison of URL redirection services can be obtained from http://www.worldzone.net/ss/antelope/urlfrwrd.html.
3.5 SUBMISSION OF SITE TO SEARCH ENGINES:
To make the site known to all, it is necessary to submit the site to search engines. This will increase the hits to the site. The submission can be done either automatically or manually. To get best results, it is suggested that submission be done manually to each one of the search engines.
Automatic submission can be done by using the services of following sites:
Manual submission can be done individually by going to the respective sites of the search engines. The search engines index sites under various categories such as education, business, sports etc. To submit a site one has to click on the option 'Submit your site or Add URL', which in turn asks for URL, category, description and keywords. The category could be 'Education' and then 'Libraries' and all these information need to be typed manually. Some search engines do accept URL without asking for categories. Depending upon the keywords and description given, search engines themselves will put the submitted site under the appropriate category. Important search engines available on the net are:
Each search engine has its own rules for accepting the sites for indexing. All search engines may not accept sites of all categories. Therefore, one has to do some homework for knowing the policy and specificity. Search engines will take some time to index the submitted site. Hence, it may please be noted that results will not be immediate.
For further reading and help on HTML, webpage design, graphics etc, a list of internet resources has been given in APPENDIX-I.
Here an effort has been made to describe how a basic library homepage can be created at minimum cost without investing on webservers and related softwares. This may not be an exhaustive article where- in one may find every thing on web page development under one roof. Future development of homepage can be done by using other programming languages and software such as JAVA, PERL, WWWISIS, ISEARCH etc.
We thankfully acknowledge the computer staff of IGIDR for their suggestions.
1. Vaid, Neelima, Build your site at no cost, PC Quest, April, 2000. pp.47-52
2. Balas, Janet L, Doing it right: Web design for library types, Computers in libraries, V20(1),
3. Some of the websites listed in Appendix-I
* Presented at 'XIX IASLIC' Conference held at Bhopal between Nov 13-16, 2000