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Crisis on the World Wide Web: A Library Website Model
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD, Steve Stilson, Michael McMillan, Neil Dunlop and Alexandra Andrews
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The 20th century crusade to conquer cancer has brought many new advances in technology, research, new therapies, and to lesser extent supportive care. Based on the premise, worldwide Internet cancer supportive care offers pertinent information tailored to the unique needs and benefits of the seeker, www.cancersupportivecare.com was created in May of 1999. In our knowledge seeking society, the ability to use a personal computer is essential in both the professional and private lives of millions of people around the world.
Today the Internet is a major source of information worldwide known as the largest library in the world. A website can be considered a section in that library.
Because of its rapid expansion there is a crisis in presentation of information. As websites become larger they become more and more difficult to navigate. There is no standard for naming web pages. How you name a page is not necessarily how another would name it. This is similar to the color aqua some call it blue others green.
There is also no standard for how web pages are organized. Some sites use directories with various names sorting the web pages into the directory structure according to how the web person feels is right.
What this means is for every new website you the user enter, you may need to learn an entirely new interface or navigational system. Many times users whether neophyte or experienced get lost and give up leaving the site probably never to return.
Conscientious web managers create a site map. But when the site map covers more than 15 website pages it becomes confusing and unwieldy. Pages cluttered with graphics and links or maps with you are here are other navigational attempts.
Using site search engines has been proposed and tried, but do not always give the users the information they want. What is important to remember is informational websites are not search engines. When you the user are looking for specific cancer information for instance Post Breast Therapy Pain Syndrome you do not want to get more than 100 pages because the search function finds the word pain in all of the pages displayed.
How many times have you heard these quotes, "Is the information on this web page credible? Who wrote it? When was it written? Has the information been revised?" Current information is imperative in medical articles.
When the Cancer Supportive Care website began in May 1999 we had 15 pages, hundreds of hits, and visitors from 7 countries. As of October 2004 we have 35 portals, hundreds of pages, millions of hits and visitors from 134 countries worldwide. We have several conventional ways of website navigation but our users still get lost.
Library Website Model
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A small website with a few pages is similar to a small home library. Now imagine your public library with books shelved in any order on any floor - Chaos!
Cancer Supportive Care is proposing a new way of organizing web pages to address the above problems. The Internet is the largest library in the world. Why not adopt Library of Congress Classification standards for organizing websites? Think of web pages as books. Create a website library.
This is what we have done for www.cancersupportivecare.com We have each web page numbered and organized according to LOC categories. For the cutter number we are using the last initial and author number for the first author of the article. The second cutter number is to separate web pages with the same author and category. The majority of our site visitors know how to use a library. By adhering to Library Of Congress Classification standards our website is organized on a familiar system.
We have written a searchable database using, SuSE9.1 linux, the MySQL Open Source database and the PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor general scripting language. This database backed search will display the web page, the title, authors, date the page appeared and date the page was updated. Our site map is a flat HTML page organized using LOC classification with descriptions similar to the card catalog model.
Access to our website is available to all: disabled, bedridden, impaired vision, low bandwidth, older computers, browser, or country. The Cancer Supportive Care website and mission is educating patients, supporters and health care providers worldwide. Many locations accessing the information provided are without specialized cancer care centers. This Internet-based approach facilitates interactions between patients and specialists in a non-threatening and anonymous forum, encouraging a strong culture of support and reciprocity.
November 6, 2007
Computer Science and Library Science Departments worldwide are including the library schema in their class instructions.
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