I am not going to review here the historical role of librarians. Nor am I going to discuss how computers have changed the format of the materials we select and collect, or the methods we use to retrieve information. Rather, I shall focus on: 1) how we try to maintain our links to this ever-changing world of information sources; and 2) the kind and amount of instruction we must provide our users.
With the advent of the World Wide Web three years ago, establishing a home page became the means of organizing and maintaining one's (often tenuous) links to the ever-changing world of information sources available on the Internet (see Fig. 1). Note that by steering people towards the AstroWeb database, whose URLs are checked three times a day , I have limited the number of links that I need to include and keep up-to-date.
Figure 1: The World Wide Web
home page of the Astrophysics Library
at Princeton University.
It is not easy to decide what to include (and of equal importance, what not to include) on a Library's home page. I have chosen to highlight the types of information resources ( e.g. preprints, journal articles and books) that library users traditionally expect to find in a library. I have organized them in such a way that the users are led (via the hypertext links) to the electronic versions available on the World Wide Web. One of the problems of this organized approach is the difficulty of incorporating new types of information resources (such as those found in the Miscellaneous section), and thereby expanding the range of what people can reasonably expect to be available in a library.
To illustrate the kind and amount of instruction we provide our users, I shall use the example of the Tool Time tutorials. After many years of waiting for all the computerized information systems to settle down so that I could teach people how to use them most effectively, I finally realized that the systems were never going to settle down and I'd better get started! So, two months ago, I initiated a series of Tool Time tutorials -- 20-minute sessions held in the Library at 10 a.m. (repeated at 2 p.m.) on each Tuesday the Department schedules an Astronomy Colloquium (held later in the afternoon). The topics of the first ten Tool Times scheduled are given below:
1) Using the Library Gateway to Access Science Citation Index
2) Using the Library Gateway to Access INSPEC
3) Using the Online Catalog and/or RLIN to find Books
4) Using the NASA Astrophysics Data System via the Web
5) Using the Web to Find and Print Electronic astro-ph Preprints
6) What's Good and/or Useful on the Astronomy Web?
7) Using the RLIN Eureka Files to find Articles on many Subjects
8) The AAS and ADS Electronic Versions of ApJ Letters
9) Using SIMBAD to Find Literature about Specific Celestial Objects
10) Using SkyView to Get Great Data via the Web
I have prepared a one-page handout, complete with hints and step-by-step instructions, for each of the Tool Time topics (see Figure 2 as an example). I give a copy to each attendee and also keep a set in a binder next to the Library Gateway PC for those who prefer self-instruction. Focussing on one and only one topic each week, and preparing a one-page set of instructions and examples, seems to be about the right amount both for me, and for those who attend.