Academic library websites in Bangalore city, India: an evaluative study.

Author:Konnur, P.V.


The academic libraries in India, in particular the University Libraries of today, are improving their service base especially with application of Information technology for access and delivery of e-content to their clients. In this process they are also adapting to the change, altering their image, by executing new functions and providing varieties of services in an evolving continuum. The rapid developments in information technologies have already laid a solid foundation for a new innovative evolution of university in the on going digital era. Impacted by new advances in emerging and cutting-edge technologies, however, "academic libraries have already transformed their specific functions in today's changing world as; information center, learning center, training center, publication center" (Lilili, 2009). The World Wide Web (WWW), the invention of Tim Barnes Lee, has also created tremendous influence in the transformation of libraries as knowledge resource centres, rather than store house of print media. The impact of this change is all pervasive and affecting all the aspects of library operations, information resources and services, staff skills requirements and users expectations. The accelerating pace of technological developments has tremendously increased the ability to access, store, process, communicate and deliver information services to the desk-tops of the libraries' clients. The vast majority of library services are now Web-enabled and so attention is being focused on designing user-friendly and easily managed and maintained library websites. According to Diaz (1998), "a library website can play different roles; it can serve as a workstation where a user finds databases, electronic texts, and the online catalog. It is a way to make library-made products available, it is used as a window to the WWW by making Internet resources available on a selective basis, and it is a communication tool where information about services, people and facilities and collections can be found." Considering these face books as excellent user interfaces to provide access to vast knowledge resources and services offered by the Academic libraries, a review of some Websites of Academic Libraries are taken as cases for evaluation in this paper.

Review of Related Literature

It is now an accepted fact that Libraries have undergone a mini revolution in the way that they operate and provide information services to users. A vast amount of literature on various aspects of library websites is being generated and published in learned journals. A brief review of related literature is made here for a succinct factorization of evaluation process.

A comprehensive resourceful library website to provide access to the following: (i) orientation of the library resources, services and facilities; (ii) access to online databases and e-journals subscribed by the library; (iii) link to other open source databases and institutional repositories available in different subjects; (iv) access to a world of information from e-books, e-theses, e-dissertations, e-prints and web-based reference sources, etc; (v) computerized library housekeeping operations; and (vi) other resources and services.

In this context of change, the libraries have brought in revolutionary changes in the concept of organization/institution, functioning and management of library and information systems throughout the world (Houghton, 2000). The convenience and availability of e-information sources from the Web, have dramatically altered the information landscape and the functioning of libraries (Kuchi, 2006). Website serves as the primary tool in the delivery of services (Shropshire, 2003) to market the library (Balas, 1998)--a fact which needs to assess the quality of academic libraries on the web (Chao, 2002). The library's home page represents a new platform for the delivery of varieties of library services (Bao, 2000) and give academic libraries the leverage and ammunition they need to outperform competitor websites and regain the loyalty of students, teachers, and researchers alike (Detlor and Lewis, 2006).

On the evaluation of the website it is said that, "Evaluation is basically a worthy judgment of its utility with several of the component elements of a website, that facilitate, browsing, navigation and search and locate the desired information". In other words, It means an assessment of the worth or value of the unit to the people; it is a means of assessing of performance against users' expectations. It could also be interpreted in the narrower sense whether or not the output (the expectation) is commensurate with the input. In this context website as of a system of organized information, it is the degree of usefulness of the set-up in meeting various objectives of the system that has to be achieved. By and large, evaluation means testing the service or system for the effectiveness and efficiency. As the Web becomes increasingly prevalent as an information source and finding tool, evaluation of the content continues to be crucial (Notes, 2006). The evaluation criteria, namely the validity of information, coverage, currency, appropriateness, links and structure of the web site, and variations and so on, exist among the websites in terms of their structure and content (Sasikala, 2003; Sapa,2005). Accessibility and usability are the yardsticks to examine the inhibitors and methods of evaluating the sites (Yates, 2005; McGillis and Toms, 2001). The design, usability, and functionality of the website are critical if the libraries are to continue for providing essential services to the patrons in a timely and efficient manner (George, 2005). This also facilitates user access (Li, 1999). The most popular suggestion made by Macmillian and Toms (2001) based on usability study for improving the site was to reduce the amount of text and make links more significant since users do not want to spend the time in reading. According to Callicott (2002) the basic hierarchy of the library website is to bring about certain links closer to the homepage as well as rename and reorganize certain tags that make sense to all users, not just libraries. The descriptive account in short show a set of parameters that for basis for the evaluation of websites in general and libraries in particular.

Statement of the Problem

The library website continue to evolve as a gateway for providing web-based library services to the students and faculty members. In the transition, it has added the facilities of the Internet, providing remote access to information more easy and viable and is also becoming more economical and to keep it up-to-date. There is thus increasing demand for the web-enabled services to be provided by the libraries

Hence most of the academic libraries in India and elsewhere have designed and developed websites to present their resources and services.

Traditional evaluation criteria endorsed and applied by Librarians over the years are not sufficient for the evaluation of today's hypermedia website environment. There are many other criteria, which can be used to evaluate these. However, so far in-depth studies relating to evaluation of these websites have not been undertaken except rating the websites on the basis of number of hits only. In view of this, there is a necessity to take up the aspects of in-depth Evaluation of Select Academic Library Websites and an such attempt is made in this paper for a useful presentation and perusal of the concerned in the area. A a mechanism for the design and development of effective and efficient functionin of library websites of select academic library websites in Bangalore city (India) is attempted in this paper.

Objectives of the Study

The study aims at achieving the following objectives:

* To identify the academic library websites in Bangalore city;

* To know the different features in the Academic Library Websites in the geographical setting

* To identify criteria for the evaluation of academic library websites;

* to evaluate the academic library websites with the identified criteria for the verification of validity, reliability and usefulness ; and

* to rank the selected academic library websites based on the identified criteria.

Scope and Limitations

The study is limited to the five select academic library websites of Bangalore city and based on the evaluation criteria of the currency, accuracy, relevance, organization and structure, presentation, URL maintenance and features etc. and manual evaluation.

The evaluation of select academic library websites is carried with a purpose of verifying the validity, reliability and the usefulness of identified criteria. Which can be considered as broad-based criteria for evaluation of academic library websites in India. The following are the list of academic libraries selected for the study:

* Bangalore University (BU)

* Indian Institute of Science (MSc)

* Indian Statistical Institute (ISI)

* Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIITB)

* National Law School of India University (NLSIU)

Methodology and Evaluation Checklist

The study adopted evaluation methodology to bring-about the factors of usefulness on the basis of criteria identified for evaluation of academic library websites In this context the following particularly devised evaluation checklist is found to be suitable for this purpose.

The checklist inherently are closed questions (dichotomous type) relating to various evaluation aspects such as: currency, accuracy, relevance, organization and structure, presentation, URL maintenance and features etc. To gather more relevant data, however a few open ended questions were also included in order to have descriptive data and extra information / data relating to the subject...

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