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Global aspects of resource sharing: The library's vital role of information transmission

Shih-Hsion Huang
Tarnkang University, Taiwan
Not a single library can satisfy all its readers' needs with its physical collections and services, increased emphasis is placed on cooperation or resource sharing among libraries. In addition, more and more information are being produced and distributed, not only in print forms, but in electronic formats as well, with multiple paths of access to this information. The increasing creation, storage, and transmission of information in electronic formats will enlarge and transform the library services nowadays. Facing this challenges, libraries in the 21st century should be able to serve as a gateway to national and international inforrnation resources.

The paper discusses several aspects of resource sharing: its development, types, participants and current development in Taiwan. The emphasis is placed on the computerised resource sharing through information network. The four channels of resource sharing: interactive message, E-mail, file transfer and remote login, are also briefly mentioned. Six reasons for library to provide access to academic networks are justified. Besides, the paper explores the prospects and directions of resource sharing activity thoroughly.

Three stages in resource sharing

The processing development of resource sharing can be described in three stages, these include:

Manual operation system

At this stage, the primary activities of resource sharing, mainly with library collections, include interlibrary lending, copying of periodical articles, referral services, etc. To facilitate such services, libraries should compile union list of collections, conduct cooperative acquisition, and set up reciprocal rules to be used.

Traditional information network

Traditional information network indicates that users of the same mainframe can communicate with each other. Nowadays, most libraries use the library cooperative systems, known as bibliographic utilities, such as OCLC, RLIN, WLN and UTLAS, to facilitate the processes of interlibrary lending, and cooperative cataloguing. The resources sharing in this stage are not only the library collection but also human resource in cataloguing practices.

Open information network

Open information network indicates that users of different computer networks linked by the telecommunications channels can communicate and exchange information one another.

The most renowned open information network in the library services is the Linked System Project (LSP). This project first united the Library of Congress, RLIN, WLN and OCLC to develop and exchange authority file records. As of Sept. 1989, there are twenty two bibliographical systems in the United State joined in this online project. (Note 1).

In 1969, ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) developed by the US Department of Defence, started to operate experimentally and successfully connected computer systems in various organisations, including military, universities and research units. This experience led to the booming of open information network. By the 1990s, libraries not only continued their traditional networking services, but also became highly dependent on the open information networks.

Academic network, an open system, is the mainframe to mainframe connection among institutions, government agencies and private research sectors, and this enablesusers or participants to use the network to access the online services. The network configuration includes from the small scale local area network to the large scale national or international network. To use gateway functions, users of different networks can also communicate with others.

Current resource sharing in Taiwan

The current status of resources sharing in Taiwan remains in the manual operated system stage. As to the traditional information network, started its operational within the recent few years, can be discussed in domestic and international terms. Domestically, there are two recently developed small scale systems: TALIS (Tamkang Automated Library Integrated System) developed by Tamkang University, and Chinese CATSS (Cataloguing Support Service) by National Central Library. TALIS began its operation in 1986, and went online with the Taipei City Council Library and the Ministry of Communication Library in 1989 and 1991 respectively. Chinese CATSS was implemented in 1990, joined by several National University Libraries (including Taiwan, Chengchi, Chunghsin, and Chengkung), and later by private university libraries as well.

Internationally, libraries of Tamkang University, Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology, National Central Library, National Taiwan University are using OCLC's services. However, limited by the costly charge of international telecommunications link, libraries in Taiwan use OCLC chicfly as a problem solving aid, not as a primary cataloguing tool.

In 1987, The Ministry of Education introduced BITNET (Because It's Time Network), one of the international academic networks, to the academic and research institutions in Taiwan. Through BITNET, they are able to connect their mainframes with computers worldwide. In 1988, Tamkang University library linked BITNET, and from then on it was playing an important role in the library services. This article is mainly to describe, upon three year's experiences and observations, the impact of the BITNET performance on information resource sharing, especially for the following three areas: participants, types and avenues of resource sharing.

Participants of resource sharing

Prior to the pervasiveness of academic networks, activities of resource sharing were mainly implemented by libraries and information centres. Now whoever connecting to the networks, be it individuals or institutions, can share in others' resources and problem solving techniques. There are three types of participants:
  1. Libraries and information agencies;

  2. Computer networks and their nodes; and

  3. Users of the computer networks.
Except the first group, the rest are all newly added ones.

Because of the broad scope the network covers, there are no accurate statistics on its membership so far. Up to now there are about 2,000 networks that can be communicate to one another, (Note 2) and hundreds of thousands of nodes within each network; e.g., BITNET has now over 3,000 nodes. (Note 3) There is also no comprehensive directory of participants available for public use. The information Centre of the U.S. Department of Defence (NIC.DDN.MIL) has established a database, a list of the related information network participants, to provide the public for online search.(Note 4) To locate the nodes included in each network can be found out in network directories. Nodes covered in BITNET, for instance, are stored in the BITEARN database.

Types of resource sharing

Resource sharing could be divided into three types: Traditional library materials, human resources and computerised resources.

Traditional library materials, indicating non computerised resources, such as monographs and periodicals, still constitute the majority of the interlibrary loan workloads, processed through manual operated and traditional information networks. However, nowadays, academic networks have already been one of the best channels for acquiring library materials, as well as for human resource sharing. The electronic forums, providing groups discussions about the transactions of interlibrary loan such as ILL-L in BITNET, and LIS-ILL in JANET Join Academic Network, UK), are good examples.

From the contents of the lists of library oriented discussion groups on BITNET, JANET and Internet the discussion of human resources sharing has gone beyond the cataloguing area to include other operational personnel as well. Among them are: NOTISACQ on acquisition; AUTOCAT on cataloguing; LIBREF-L on reference service; ILL-L on interlibrary loan; BI-L on bibliographic instruction; CIRCPLUS on circulation; GOVDOC-L on government publications; CDROM-L on CD-ROM and PACS-L on public access computer systems. Topics related to various types of libraries include: ARLIS-L on art libraries; BUSLIB-L on business libraries; MLA-L on music libraries and LAW-L on law libraries. Furthermore, there are several topics mainly discussed on the library automated systems, such as ATLAS-L, INNOPAC, NOTIS-L, GEAC-L, BRS, etc.

Computerized information resources are probably the richest resources the academic networks can possibly provide, namely, online catalogue, information retrieval (JR) system, bulletin board system, electronic text, computer software and others, which are provided mostly by the research libraries and institutions.

1. Online Catalogue

Many libraries and research institutions allow users with individual terminals access, via academic networks, to their library catalogues without charge. Usually, users can reach the remote library online catalogues by using, TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol) remote login protocol, i.e., TELNET, which is implemented on most networks of dedicated links. The login and operation instructions and the IP addresses of systems available are listed in detail in the following directories:
  1. Internet Library: Compiled by University of New Mexico. It covers online catalogues, campus information systems, and other IR systems from hundreds of libraries in U.S., Mexico, Australia, Germany, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Switzerland, etc.(Note 5)

  2. UNT's Accessing Online Bibliographic Databases: Compiled by Northern Texas University. It covers a list of the U.S. and British libraries' online catalogues. (Note 6)

  3. OPACs in the UK: Compiled by Sussex University. It covers the catalogues of sixty-one British libraries and the application instructions of JANET, DG (International X.25 Infrastructure) and Internet.(Note 7)

2. Information Retrieval (IR) System

An information retrieval system is a system in which information is retrieved electronically via the network by the user on demand. Many university libraries offer such systems through academic networks to their primary users, and even to the remote clients. The Internet Library data file lists not only the online catalogues of major libraries in the United States and in other countries, but also the IR systems offered from these libraries. Institutions other than libraries have also provided a wide variety of IR systems. Some of them are referred to as the servers of the network, and some are used independently as the database retrieval system. BITNET List servers, for instance, provide excellent database retrieval functions; and ASTRA (Application System and Technical Report for Academia), a joint project of IBM and Italian National Research Council, aims to design a free service for the distribution of information about academic projects in education and research. Unfortunately, there is no one comprehensive directory for this system as yet. Some useful sources are: the file "BITNET Servers" lists those databases available from BITNET; (Note S) PEERS database covers a name catalogue of nodes to which BITNET List servers are provided; (Note 9) Internet Resource Guide, compiled by NSF (National Science Foundation) Network Service Centre (NNSC) is an indispensable tool to search the catalogue of public information systems in each network.(Note 10)

3. Bulletin Board System

Bulletin Board system in academic networks, usually used for posting messages, is also used for discussions within continuous topics in the recent. Some bulletin board systems, mostly provided by institutions other than libraries and information units can even store messages and texts class)fied by subjects, and allow keywords search with boolean logic functions. One example is ISAAC (the Information System for Advanced Academic Computing) of Washington University, which is sponsored by IBM to facilitate the use of IBM and compatible machines as the aid to instruction and research in higher education. ISSAC is open to all faculty, students at institution of higher education to members of participating professional societies.

4. Electronic Text

Any computer generated monographs, periodicals, articles, reports, or manuals, known as electronic texts, to which users in the networks can have free access without any restrictions of copyright or useright. The providers of electronic text are usually the information centres of networks or nodes, or individual users; e.g., the nodes in BITNET implementing List server, or the sites providing anonymous FTP (File Transfer Protocol) function are good sources to acquire this kind of data. (Note 11) In addition, the Information Centre of the Department of Defence (NIC.DDN.MIL) as well as National Science Foundation (NIS.NSF.NET), keeps a record of RFC (Request for Comments) documents, which are important literature regarding the use of computer networks. The large amount of electronic texts offered are worthy resources to be shared and collected.

5. Computer Software

Computer software is one of the important and easily available resources in academic networks. It ranges from electronic spreadsheets, simple IR systems, communication softwares, and application softwares of various subjects, to complicated systems; such as, the software for running BITNET List Server, and Netnews software for UNIX system and VM/CMS system. Some software packages have thousands of users. Netnews software, for instance, has its users of more than 6,000 in 1989.(Note 12)

6. Others

(1) Shared Online Channel

The charge items for a fee based information system consist of a communication fee and a database search fee. In order to reduce the cost of communication channel, some systems including bibliographic utilities started to provide remote login functions, via academic networks, for users to go online. Those systems include RLIN (IP address, RLG.STANFORD.EDU), (Note 13) OCLC EPIC (IP address, EPIC.PROD.OCLC.ORG), (Note 14) and the law database, LE)US. (Note 15) Users can save a considerable amount of communication fees by going online via academic networks, and that is also a breakthrough for the information retrieval service that libraries can provide.

(2) Integrated Service in Hardware, Software and Peopleware

One of the most important advantages of academic networks is that users can get together exploring answers for the problems or questions they meet. For example, many networks use functions of anonymous FTP to provide electronic texts and programs for users without charge. Since there is no password restriction for using anonymous FTP, it is actually open to everybody. Many valuable research reports and literature can be acquired by anonymous FTP. At the present stage, however, users of BITNET cannot execute the FTP function, thus, these free information resources are really unaccessable for them. In view of this situation, Princeton University took action in developing a mail interface to allow BITNET users to FTP files from sites on the Internet. The address is <BITFTP@PUCC>. Users can send email containing their commands to that address to acquire the documents they need.

(3) Redistributed Service

For those networks that are not able to connect to each other, there is a redistributing service for them. A newsgroup, on the USENET, called SCC (Soc.culture.China), for instance, has been established as an effort to promote communications and understandings among Chinese students and scholars who are interested in China affairs and problems, a voluntary redistributing service now stationed in Waterloo University, which is one of the BITNET sites that carries USENET newsgroups. Waterloo loads news from USENET and stores them in files and sends them to the users at BITNET. In this case, users at BITNET can also share resources available in USENET.

Avenues of resource sharing

The availability of academic networks has expanded the channels of resources sharing for library cooperating systems. Traditional library cooperating system is still the main channel for providing interlibrary lending and copying of materials as well as cooperative acquisitions and cataloguing. Mailing is still the primary method of document delivery, sometimes it is aided by FAX according to services needed. The newly added types of resource sharing channels include interactive message, electronic mail, file transfer, and remote login, which will be described briefly.

  1. Interactive message
  2. Interactive message, a simultaneous correspondence among the computer networks located in geographically distant sites, is the easiest way for issuing command to acquire electronic texts programs.

  3. Electronic mail (or E-mail)
  4. E-mail is widely used in transferring and processing large amount of message fast once the mailing list is set up. Currently E-mail is highly used for transmitting not only messages but also electronic documents.

  5. File transfer
  6. It functions similarly to e-mail, but it is used mainly in transferring electronic documents, programs, etc.

  7. Remote login
  8. Remote login can be used in searching databases or files, as well as executing the various software packages from the computers located in the distant sites. The recently opened online catalogues, IR systems or other files provided by major libraries are done through this channel. The major communication protocol now available is TCP/IP, which provides two important functions of remote login for telnet and file transfer for FTP.

Reasons for library connecting to academic networks

Under the environment of academic networks, users can access to the rich variety of resources mentioned above independently and directly through terminals located at home, in the office, in a laboratory or other location. How can a library justify the primary reason for its existence - to provide access to academic network resources? Authors think that libraries can provide user access to academic networks resources for the same reason that libraries have provided users physical access to books and periodicals. The reasons for library systems connecting to the academic networks are:
  1. Centralising of resources enable the users to save time. Data of academic networks are scatteringly stored among their nodes. The user has to find out their locations before he/she can use it. The library can save users a considerable amount of time by acquiring these resources and putting them in one place.

  2. Simplifying information retrieval methods. Different application software used in the network require different commands to retrieve information, which usually causes confusion to users in communication with the systems. To simplify the processing of searching information from the networks, a practice could be carried out by library to collect those electronic documents and provide utilisation in one system. The following are four examples of commands in e-mail to retrieve information from different networks:

    Example 1. To get data file from <Listserv@BITNIC> in BITNET

    get listdb memo

    where (get ) is the command in retrieving file, (listdb) is the file name and (memo) is the file type.

    Example 2. To get data file from <info-server@SH.CS.NET> in CSNET

    REQUEST: NSFNET (Preceded by <REQUEST:> specifying directory name.)


    TOPIC: LINK-LETTER-15 .(Preceded by <TOPIC:> specifying file name)

    TOPIC: REPORT-8908

    Example 3. To get data file from cmailbase@NEWCASTLE.AC.UK> in JANET.

    get lis-info internet-opacs.intro

    where (get) is the command in retrieving file. (lis-info) is the directory name. (internet-opacs.intro) is the file name.

    Example 4. To get data file in <>

    send USENET/news.announce.newusers/answer-to-frequently-asked-questions

    where (send) is the command in retrieving file, (USENET/news.announce.newusers) is the directory name, (answer-to-frequently-asked-questions) is the file name.

  3. Enabling users to utilise the resources fully. Usually the academic networks do not charge to users. However, each network has set up its own rules to eliminate the searching traffic. For example, in BITNET Listserv, each node will limit remote users to 256k bytes per day in retrieving information, which apparently are inconvenient for users doing research work. Libraries therefore, should collect those materials systematically and periodically for as a part of library collections from the networks and provide easily access and utilise the resources to their patrons.

  4. Effective use of academic network resources. Computer networks are an efficient communication channel open to individuals. However, they still need to be planned effectively in order to make the most use of it. For instance, on one occasion when it was introduced in a seminar that there are over a thousand RFC files can be retrieved from <NIS.NSF.NET>, too many users in the Taiwan area linked these files at the same time, causing the network to be jammed, and even affecting the operations of other functions. the Computer Centre of the Ministry of Education has to announce that RFC data files are stored in the Listserv, and that user should avoid searching directly from abroad.

  5. Some resources in the academic networks are no longer published in print format. Because of convenience of the academic networks in publishing and transferring information, many documents are now published electronically via the networks, and are no longer available in print format. For example, materials from the forums or discussion groups, or even some periodicals, such as PACS Review (Public Access Computer Systems Review); PACS News; Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues; and Netmonth are all in electronic forms. Therefore, any library aimed at providing comprehensive information services can not afford to ignore these electronic materials.

  6. Academic networks are one of the most speedy ways of transferring messages. Academic networks can pass messages so quickly and conveniently, many announcements of conferences and new publications, new products are made through them. Libraries, therefore can provide the most up to date information via academic networks.
As a summary, it is necessary for libraries to provide to access to academic networks, and integrate them into their collection and services.


There are totally nineteen nodes of thirteen institutions of higher learning and research units in Taiwan, see Appendix 1, joining BITNET, and making available for domestic and international communications, after it was introduced in 1987.

The establishment of TANET (Taiwan Academic Networks) was accomplished in 1990, which will substantially enhance the functions of the academic networks within the island. See Appendix 2. TANET adopts TCP/IP communication protocol to provide FTP and TELNET functions for transactions of online file transfer and for remote login, which BITNET lacks. TANET really forms an infrastructure for the communication among nodes, intercollegiate and universities networks.

The project of connecting academic networks worldwide using TCP/IP protocol is undertaken, scheduled to be completed in this year. Once the project is completed, the abilities in connecting academic institutions of other countries will be greatly enhanced. Together with this new communication channel, resource sharing activity should be planned in the following directions:

  1. Cooperative acquisitions of networks resources. In recent years, the number of academic networks have grown rapidly all over the world. The networks resources flourish, libraries should plan to apply the networks resources in the most effective ways by cooperative acquisitions, which could be shared among the libraries according to the participating network, area, or related subjects.

  2. Bibliographic control for electronic documents. For effective use of the materials being acquired, they should be organised systematically, i.e. be catalogued. Current cataloguing rules do not totally cover electronic texts. It should be the first priority for libraries to draft cataloguing rules for this new type of materials. Special attention should be considered in the rules for the characteristics of this type of materials, such as file name, file type and kinds of typesetting.

  3. Design the best way to provide services in electronic documents. Electronic documents have their own characteristics, such as, they are mostly generated and circulated through computer network. Therefore, libraries should explore currently available softwares when providing such services. For example, the file transfer function in BITNET List servers have gained recognition, e.g., its AFD (Automatic File Distribution), FUI (File Update Information) and Sendme or Get (commands for file transmission) are all good examples for handling automated request for documents.

  4. Use it correctly and efficiently. After the establishment of an academic network in Taiwan, each node began collecting large amounts of electronic documents. However, because of the lack of bibliographic control, many domestic users do not realise their existence, and often search individually and directly via international channel. Therefore, users should get information from resources available channels and should be educated for the correct way to use this service.

  5. Facilitate the sharing of traditional library materials. Monographs and periodicals are still major collections for libraries and are still highly demanded in interlibrary loan. The e-mail function in academic networks can facilitate and simplify interlibrary loan operations. A name-address directory should be issued first before e-mail can be used effectively in processing interlibrary loan.

  6. Use academic network to form library network. A pilot project of online cataloguing sharing system in Taiwan, conducted by the National Central Library, started in 1990. Some libraries even reclined their memberships from this cooperating system, because of the expensive communication fees. Now that TANET is established, it can very well be used as a base for the development of more convenient and efficient library cooperative programs.

  7. Encourage to form discussion groups for better human resource sharing. The widely used of academic networks should be taken into account in the design of human resource sharing. Libraries should be encouraged to form or to participate the discussion groups of the library related topics which will enhance the effectiveness of library services.
The utilisation of academic networks is becoming increasingly important in day to day operations. Within the library environment, the academic networks can be used to support a variety applications of management, including information transmission and documents or file transferring. The creative use of such networks will facilitate the activities of resource sharing thereby benefiting the library and its patrons.


  1. NACO LSP Libraries Now Number 22 LC Information Bulletin vol. 48 no. 48, Nov 27, 1989, p.418.

  2. Tracy LaQuey The User's Directory of Computer Networks. Bedford, MA: Digital Press, 1990, p.194.

  3. "BITNET overview" Dec. 18,1990. This file could be obtained from <Listserv@BITNIC>; public use area of TWNMOE10 node; etc.

  4. NIC.DDN.MIL provides a /who is system for this purpose.

  5. "Internet Library" file could be obtained from <Listserv@UNMVM>, using the command, "get internet library". The latest version of this file is separated into 4 volumes, i.e., catalogue textl, catalogue text2, catalogue text3 and catalogue text4. They all could be obtained using the command, "get library package", in <Listserv@UNMVM>.

  6. UNT's Accessing Bibliographic Databases is maintained by the University of North Texas. The file could be obtained in anonymous FTP at the node <> Since FTP function is not available now in BITNET, users in BITNET can get this file via <BITh l l)@PUCC> by using the commands listed below in e-mail.

    FTP user anonymous get libraries.txt quit

  7. OPACs in the UK could be obtained from <mailbase@NEWCASTLE.AC.UK> via e-mail, the command is "get list-info Janetopacs"; or from <info-server@NSFNETRELAY.AC.UK> via e-mail, the commands are listed below:



  8. "BITNET SERVERS" could be obtained from <Listserv@BITNIC> by the command, "get bitnet servers".

  9. The list of Listserv, system name of List Server, in BITNET could be obtained by searching the PEERS database. Connect to the nodes which provide PEERS database, then using the commands listed below:

    search * in peers index

  10. Internet Resource Guide could be obtained from <NNSC.NSF.NET> via anonymous FTP in directory resource-guide or send a request message by e-mail to <resource-guiderequest@NNSC,NSF.NET>.

  11. The list of anonymous FTP is posted to <comp.misc>, <comp.sources.wanted>, and <alt.sources.wanted> on USENET and is distributed via anonymous FTP from <> as well as being available from several other FTP sites. On BITNET sites this list could be obtained from <Listserv at UTORONTO> by using the command "get ftp sites", or from <Listserv at MARIST> by using the command "get bitnet ftplist", or send an e-mail to <bitftp at PUCC> by using the command FTPLIST, etc.

  12. NETNEWS User's Guide for NETNEWS Version 2.3 revised Mar. 1990 p.1. This file could be obtained from public disk area in TWNMOE10. Its identification, file-name file-type, filemode, is <NETNEWS LISTING E>.

  13. RLIN's IP address could be found in the files ''Internet Library", UNT's accessing On-Line Bibliographic Database, or Internet Resource Guide, etc.

  14. C'CLC EPIC's IP address could be found in UNT's Accessing On-Line Bibliographic!-Database, or in "The Internet" OCLC Reference News No2, Jan/Feb 1991, p.5.

  15. Law-lib discussion group <message on 8 Apr. 1991>.

Appendix 1: BITNET Nodes in Taiwan

Ref#ConnNodeidSite name

255589/05TWNAS886 Academic Sinica Computing Center VAX8530
255688/10TWNCTUCS National Chiao-Tung University Computer Science and Information Engineering
255788/09TWNCTU01 National Chiao-Tung University Computer Center VAX1
255891/02TWNCTU02 National Chiao-Tung University-Computer Center VAX2
255990/03TWNCU865 National Central University - Computer Center
256091/02TWNFCUC1 Feng Chia University - Information Center
256190/03TWNIAMS Academia Sinica - Institute of Atomic and Molecular Sciences
256290/07TWNIII1 Institute for Information Industry - Computer Center
256389/03TWNITRI1 Industrial Technology Research Institute
256491/02TWNMOCTL Telecommunication Laboratory - Computer Center
256587/06TWNMOE10 Ministry of Education Taiwan
256688/08TWNMOE20 Ministry of Education Taiwan
256789/01TWNNTIT National Taiwan Institute of Technology Compter Center
256887/09TWNSCU10 Soochow University
256989/11TWNSRRC1 Soochow University
257090/11TWNTKU10 Tamkang University - Information Center
257189/07TWNTTIT Tatung Institute of Technology
257289/01TWNTUCC1 National Taiwan University Computer Center VAX2
257389/01TWNTUCC2 National Taiwan University Computer Center CYBER 825

Appendix 2: TANET Backbone and national Network Centers

Map of TANET
Taken from Yen Chiu Fu Wu Chien Hsiun (Newsletter of Research Service), Computer Center, Ministry of Education, No. 8002, Feb. 1991, p.12.
Author: Shih-Hsion Huang is Professor in the Graduate Institute of Educational Media and Library Science, Tamkang University, Tamsui, TAIWAN

Please cite as: Huang, S. (1992). Global aspects of resource sharing: The library's vital role of information transmission. In J. G. Hedberg and J. Steele (eds), Educational Technology for the Clever Country: Selected papers from EdTech'92, 224-235. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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