A model and prototype for a community-related information retrieval system for public libraries in Brazil
This research was aimed towards the planning, design and evaluation of an experimental prototype for the systematic organisation, access and retrieval of community information and local studies, henceforth defined jointly as community-related information, for public libraries in Brazil. Community-related information services were identified as areas of modern public librarianship still to be developed in that country. To raise relevant theoretical issues that could be discussed in practice, applied prototyping was chosen as the core methodology for this project. The model proposed was built upon a software especially designed by Unesco for library applications available in Brazil called CDS/ISIS - Computerised Documentation System/Integrated Set of Information Systems. The resulting Automated Library and Community-Related Information System (ALTS) was designed based on a theoretical framework which suggested 1) information repackaging of community-related information concerns represented as A-Z listings with corresponding definitions aimed at encouraging public librarians to create their own community-related information systems; 2) a reference function implicit in the self-defining element of information repackaging and by referring the user to wider library resources to complement a community-related information query, thus encouraging the use of wider library resources, and 3) a referral function to direct users to resources external to the library capable of helping him/her with a community-related information concern and to encourage the inhouse creation of local resources files. This conceptual and practical framework was aimed at encouraging indigenous resources-building and a degree of autonomy for Brazilian public libraries to define and create their own community-related information systems based on their perceptions of community needs. ALTS prototype was made of six menu-driven modules or databases (CITYOR, AZHEAL, AZJOBS, AZLAW, LOCAL and LIBRY), related to one another in content and structure, accessed by a top menu via one-key options. Prototype specifications, database maps, data entry, master file maintenance, information retrieval services and user interfaces were described and illustrated with examples. System evaluation was carried out in Brazil in two selected public libraries which agreed to participate in the evaluation exercise. Evaluation consisted of individual interviews on perception of concepts, self-administered questionnaires on system use and implementation and data collection of real users' queries in Brazil to check whether ALTS could respond to present community-related information needs. Finally, the prototype was reviewed and discussed in the light of trends and developments for community-related information supply worldwide, validity of applied prototyping as the core methodology for this project and the setup of a national infrastructure for community-related information supply based on this research findings. Conclusions and recommendations were also drawn to encourage the development of community-related information activities in Brazil and further implementation of CDS/ISIS.