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BobCatPlus: The Design, Implementation and Introduction of a Z39.50 Web Catalog at New York University




BobCatPlus went live in October 1996 on public and staff workstations in New York University's Bobst Library and on the web at BobCatPlus allows “interactive, controlled access to and dissemination of information in all forms to classrooms, laboratories, libraries, dormitories and to remote locations through out the scholarly community.” (Jones, 1997). Initially introduced as a pilot project developed by NYU Libraries, the web-based system offered users the following:

  • Graphic user interface, compatible with most browsers, including Netscape, Microsoft Explorer and Lynx
  • Access to BobCat, the online catalog for the NYU Libraries that includes the collections of Bobst Library; the libraries at NYU's Institute of Fine Arts, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and the Real Estate Institute; the New-York Historical Society Library; and the libraries of the New School for Social Research, Parsons College of Art and Design, Mannes College of Music and Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science
  • Links to Internet resources directly through the 856 USMARC field in their catalog records in BobCat
  • Access to Z39.50 compatible catalogs and databases, e.g. Melvyl (University of California), RLIN CitaDel databases
  • Consistent user interface across Z39.50 compliant catalogs and databases
  • Ability to mark records for downloading, printing or email
  • Ability to send comments directly to NYU Libraries regarding design, content, and functionality of the system
  • Access to NYU Libraries' and the University's website

BobCatPlus was further enhanced in November 1997. The new version included an upgrade of the software, reconfiguration of the server, a redesigned user interface and new search features including holdings verification and interactive forms for interlibrary loan and catalog maintenance. With the new version, public workstations in Bobst Library now open to the recently redesigned Bobst Library homepage to facilitate user access to a range of library services, including databases, e-texts, BobCatPlus and various catalogs.


Automation at New York University Libraries

NYU Libraries has a lengthy library automation history, beginning in the 70's when it introduced a shared circulation system for itself and the Research Library Association of South Manhattan that now includes the New School for Social Research, Parsons College of Art and Design, Mannes College of Music and the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science. It moved to the Geac circulation system in the late 70's and began co-development with Geac for an online public catalog. That effort resulted in the 1983 introduction of BobCat (online catalog), based on Geac GLIS (Geac Library Information System). From 1983 to 1992 additional non-integrated modules were added to the NYU implementation of Geac GLIS. In 1994, NYU implemented ADVANCE, a UNIX-based integrated system that included acquisitions and cataloging modules as well as the OPAC, serials, circulation and reserves modules.


With the advent of Gophers and the WWW and the corresponding explosion of information resources NYU librarians quickly became involved in reviewing, evaluating and selecting Internet resources for their scholarly and research value. The immediate solution for user access was to create subject-oriented homepages on the Libraries' website that highlighted resources to support the NYU curriculum. As the subject pages and their resources proliferated, librarians began to seek another approach to facilitate user identification and access. Rather than abandon the traditional classification and cataloging systems that had served so well with print resources, NYU Libraries began creating full catalog records for selected Internet resources. URLs, telnet and ftp addresses were located in the 856 USMARC field. Collection development at NYU became both format-blind and location oblivious -- adding items to its collection that were no longer necessarily owned in-house - or even owned - for that matter. Although the items were added to the catalog, there was still no direct link from the telnet-based BobCat to the item itself. Web technology, however, presented itself as a possible solution to this problem. In other words, with the web NYU Libraries could move from a system that simply identified sources to a system that offered a direct link to the content through the catalog record.

BobCatPlus presented itself as an opportunity to deliver content direct and online to users. It was adapted to “provide extensive connectivity to local and remote bibliographic, textual, sound and image databases utilizing a client/server architecture, which is based on the connectivity provided by the Internet.” (Jones, 1997). It is a Z39.50 system based on the Geac GeoWeb system and further customized by NYU Libraries. Geac GeoWeb is a licensed version of OCLC's WebZ system. BobCatPlus provides search access to BobCat and other Z39.50 compliant library catalogs and databases. The Z39.50 protocol allows users to employ BobCatPlus search methods for the querying of other databases and catalogs, thereby simplifying the process for users so they need not learn new techniques for every database the library chooses to offer. Its web interface facilitates links directly to URLs in the catalog records. It also has an IP authentication feature that limits access by IP address to selective Z39.50 databases in order to observe commercial subscription user restrictions.

BobCatPlus was introduced to users in two phases. Phase I, which was really quite experimental, was rolled out in October 1996. During the Phase I year, modifications and enhancements were made to the system to include circulation status for NYU materials. User input was requested and received. Based on the Phase I implementation experience as well as changes to GeoWeb and WebZ, Phase II of BobCatPlus was introduced in Fall 1997.


The OCLC WebZ system, on which GeoWeb and BobCatPlus are based “is designed to provide fully-customizable, graphical access to local and remote data resources. The system functions as an enhanced HTTP server as well as a gateway to Z39.50 servers, allowing searchers to query remote and local Z39.50 servers in a stateful environment.” (OCLC, p. 1:2).

The WebZ system consists of the following components:

  • httpman -- performs basic HTTP server functions and manages the interactions between HTTP clients and the httpgate component C httpgate -- provides a gateway to local or remote Z39.50 servers
  • proserv (“profile server”) -- controls user access to the WebZ system through the use of passwords and user profiles
  • Out-of-the-Box Interface (OBI) -- a fully functional user interface designed by OCLC to get users started with the WebZ system (OCLC, p. 1:3)

WebZ OBI is a set of HTML and FCL files that together provide the means for a user to interact with the WebZ system and its data resources (local and remote). It serves two purposes: 1) a fully functional, ready-to-use interface to the WebZ system and 2) a resource for use in developing or customizing the WebZ interface. (OCLC, p. 1:4).

Geac GeoWeb

The Geac Corporation currently offers GeoWeb; GeoPAC, a Z39.50 OPAC client; and GeoCAT, a Z39.50 cataloging client. BobCatPlus is NYU's implementation of GeoWeb, a server software that functions as a gateway between the HTTP used on the WWW and the Z39.50 search and retrieval protocol. GeoWeb is Geac's licensed version of the OCLC WebZ product. Along with the Los Alamos Laboratory (, NYU was an “early adaptor” of GeoWeb, introducing it to users in its very infant stages. Both Los Alamos and NYU have added further modifications and features appropriate for their respective institutions. In addition to the record's bibliographic data, the circulation status for items is included. The GeoWeb server software operates on Sun, IBM or Motorola PowerPC UNIX based processors. It also requires a TCP/IP network connection.

Library Multi-Media Information System

In October 1994 the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded NYU Libraries $650,000 to develop a fully integrated library multimedia information system, that includes BobCatPlus. The goal of the project is to provide users with logical, cost-effective access to a broad array of information resources from their local workstations. The 3-year proposal includes the following: 1) hierarchical linked catalog and menu system to guide users to and between in-house and remote information resources; 2) development of image, sound and video databases; 3) creation of multimedia tutorials; and 4)an evaluation component for the entire project that focuses on both economic and content value. In many ways, BobCatPlus is simply the vehicle for serving the databases and resources developed as part of this Mellon grant.

Screen Design / User Interface

Building on the Libraries' previous experience while developing online catalog screens for the Geac ADVANCE system, a working group was created to redesign the search and display screens that came with the OCLC WebZ product adapted by Geac for its client. The committee took into consideration three main library design issues: 1) original screens and functionality as provided in OCLC WebZ; 2) user interface in a web environment; and 3) OPAC records and displays in a web environment. Recommendations included renaming navigation and search buttons for better user clarity and decisions regarding the amount of information to be displayed at various stages of the search. The committee's design recommendations were ready for implementation in mid-August 1996, just as OCLC introduced a revised and noticeably changed version of WebZ. This had major implications in regard to functionality, general screen layout, design and presentation of data and these changes sent the committee back to the drawing board. In order to meet the October ‘96 public introduction deadline for BobCatPlus, the committee reviewed and revised much of its earlier work in order to accommodate the new search features.

Unlike a text-based online public catalog, movement into the web world required a greater nod to graphic design, including logos, buttons, screen layout and user interface. Although the OCLC WebZ system provided buttons and screen layout, it was not aesthetically satisfactory. The complexity of the system and its broad functionality were difficult to portray in a user friendly and intuitive manner. NYU Libraries also wanted to brand the product with its own design to give users a sense of local identity when using the system. While library staff had previous experience and little difficulty in determining bibliographic record formats, venturing into graphic design for the web was more problematic. NYU Libraries already had a web presence in the University and its creation had been entirely an in-house effort. BobCatPlus Phase I demonstrated a limited attempt to modify the WebZ design into a more pleasing visual experience.

User and staff comments made it abundantly clear that the user interface left much to be desired, so BobCatPlus Phase II was put out to bid with several web design firms. To continue the branding idea, the Bobst Library website and BobCatPlus were bundled in one design package to create a unified, pleasing and easily recognizable NYU identity. Proposals were received and reviewed and we began to work closely with Indigo Information Designers ( to create the new look. Based on the Libraries' specifications and a corresponding proposal from Indigo Information Designers, a contract that detailed the number and type of screens, the number of “draft” designs, the budget and a time line, among other things, was developed. The relationship was a learning experience, requiring much give and take, email and meetings on both party's parts. While Indigo Information Designers was an experienced web design firm, their knowledge of library catalogs, USMARC records, Z39.50 interfaces, and other library lingo was not part of their standard repertoire. Library staff had to learn to give up its jargon, organizational boundaries and hierarchies and think like a user -- no small task.

The NYU Libraries website and BobCatPlus were redesigned in conjunction with Indigo Information Designers. In both cases the Libraries had an established structure and hierarchy that had to be maintained and yet it wanted a graphic identity that would link to two together, establish a sense of place for the user and facilitate access to and use of the information. Working with two in-house teams, the Web Oversight Committee and BobCatPlus Design Team, the Libraries went through a lengthy design process that included the following:

  • Website and BobCatPlus specs developed by the Libraries that included multi-platform compatibility; Netscape, Microsoft Explorer and Lynx browser compatibility; and a non-graphic ability for disabled users
  • Range of design/screen possibilities developed by Indigo Information Design, reviewed and approved by the two teams
  • HTML markup by Indigo Information Design of the final approved screens
  • Implementation of the HTML by Bobst Library staff
  • Creation of a design manual by Indigo Information Design

The final step was extremely important for the Libraries as the design manual serves to make the whole process independent of the design firm once the initial pages are up and in place. The manual provides NYU Libraries with the detail regarding fonts, colors, etc. in order to modify buttons, change lay-out or wording without losing the basic integrity of the original design.

Technical Implementation


BobCatPlus runs on a Motorola Series E Power PC with 20GB of disk storage that is used as an image server. WebZ software, modified by Geac, was installed as the Web/Z39.50 client interface. Server software was also installed on the Pyramid Nile 100 machine that contains the Library's bibliographic files.

Public workstation introduction was conservative. After one year, there are approximately 20 BobCatPlus workstations, placed primarily in Bobst Library reference centers and other public service points with heavy BobCat usage. The BobCatPlus workstations throughout the building are a minimum of 66 MHZ 486 pcs.

At this time, NYU lacks an adequate user authentication system to facilitate the anonymous access that occurs in our library environment. Therefore, all public BobCatPlus pcs were configured with the Netscape web browser modified to conform to Internet security standards. Known as “Notscape” the BobCatPlus workstations were configured to restrict anonymous user access to email, entry of an individual URL and telnet connections. In addition to the Netscape 3.1 browser, Phase II BobCatPlus pcs include the following: fonts for Cyrillic and other non-Roman languages; LP (Large Print) for Windows; sound cards and headphones; helper apps including Adobe Acrobat, Real player, Shockwave; Quick time for Windows; and Microsoft Excel, Power point and Word plug-ins. While some of the software is installed on all BobCatPlus pcs, other applications have been selectively placed on specific workstations to accomodate certain users. At this time only one public BobCatPlus pc is enabled for printing. A network printing solution will be installed in January 1988, at which time all BobCatPlus pcs will offer that capability.


NYU staff received training at OCLC that included the basics of implementing the WebZ product, explanation of the WebZ language and an understanding of how to use the FCL (Format Control Language) to convert the data from USMARC records to HTML markup on-the-fly. Although the Z39.50 standard relates bibliographic data and indexes, each database and catalog required review in order to map its indexing to those fields available via Z39.50, and to obtain as much consistency among them as possible. We quickly learned that this was an extremely time consuming process. Staff reviewed every database and catalog individually, made changes in coding when needed, and modified the overall record display to accommodate the differences between library catalog records and periodical database records.

Z39.50 played an important role in allowing users to link directly from database and non-BobCat library catalogs back into the BobCat database to check library holdings. Links were made directly from the ISBN or ISSN USMARC fields. It also revealed that standards easily assumed in regard to USMARC fields in library catalogs did not always exist in periodical databases. As Lynch states, “Z39.50 implementations vary widely, and it is difficult to make any general statement other than to observe that Z39.50 attribute sets are not defined in terms of database indexing.” (p. 455), which we found to be quite true. USMARC coding, however, was not available in some databases and therefore the link to BobCat holdings is not uniform throughout all BobCatPlus databases.

HTML and FCL Programming

Due to their experience in creating webpages the NYU librarians and staff have developed a basic proficiency in HTML. The level of sophistication and the intensity of effort, however, in regard to the creation of screens, buttons, logos, links, etc. for BobCatPlus surpassed the time and proficiency available with in-house staff. While Library staff did a certain amount of the basic HTML programming, it was also necessary to work with outside programmers in this regard. The more sophisticated Common Gateway Interface (CGI) programming and Perl or other scripting languages needed to create interactive forms also required assistance from experts outside the Library. We utilized the Indigo Information Designers for that activity as well.

Once the HTML and GIF files were available, the next step was to integrate the Indigo Information Designers' HTML coding with WebZ's HTML and the FCL files. The WebZ OBI consists of a set of HTML and FCL files that “allow the user to access the WebZ system, search databases, retrieve records, and use the features of the system in general.” (OCLC, p. 1:4). The “files are standard HTML files with an additional section, , which precedes the header. The section contains code written in OCLC WebZ Entity Language (WEZL). WEZL is interpreted by the WebZ system and allows the interface to perform its various functions within a stateful session.” (OCLC, p. 1:4). FCL (Format Control Language) files are used “to populate system entities, format database records, output HTML, code for display in the WebZ OBI, and more. (OCLC, p. 1:4).

This final step, the merger of the Indigo HTML with WebZ and FCL was the responsibility of the NYU Libraries staff, but it required a tremendous amount of collaborative effort with the Indigo staff. Nothing is ever as simple or straightforward as one would wish and the NYU and Indigo staff FTPed files and worked together online to try new approaches, drop them into the WebZ HTML and FCL files and then modify the original HTML once again to reach a successful output. This step in the design/implementation process took much longer than anticipated and public implementation deadlines had to be pushed back.

Staff Introduction

BobCatPlus News

As the deadline for the introduction of BobCatPlus approached, we produced a weekly publication, BobCatPlus News, that included updates on BobCatPlus features, schedules for training sessions, and answers to staff questions and comments regarding the system. It was distributed electronically to all librarians and administrative staff and in print to all other Library staff. It is an ongoing publication, but now issued on an intermittent basis.


Three weeks prior to the 1996 introduction of BobCatPlus, we began training staff. Sessions were a combination of demonstration and questions and answers, as staff had many questions about the new system. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in these sessions for both the trainers and the attendees was the fact that the system was in transition, i.e., the database was still being tweaked, buttons and banners were begin redesigned, and functionality was being changed. The sessions were an opportunity to stress that the system would stabilize once introduced publicly in October but for the short-term, people had to cope with the changes. Introducing such uncertainty to a staff who would be expected to assist users and appear as “experts” was not well-received. Training sessions became an opportunity to allow staff to express their fears and complaints about the new system. Feedback was requested and ideas and recommendations were implemented whenever possible.

Staff training for Phase II is both demonstration and hands-on and after the system was completely in place, both in terms of functionality and design. Demonstrations for all Libraries staff to show the new interface, search features, and Z39.50 functionality. Hands-on sessions will be held for all public services staff who will need to be proficient in assisting users.


Publicity planning was divided into two stages: 1) BobCatPlus introduction in October 1996 and 2) BobCatPlus introduction in November 1997. Phase I publicity included press releases to the university community; modification of the BobCat banner that hangs in the Bobst Library atrium; electronic announcements on a variety of university and library listservs; and a video that ran on NYU-TV. Phase II publicity includes all of the above, but will add a broader press release component; an opening event in Bobst Library; distribution of BobCatPlus promotional items; a BobCatPlus/BobCat bookmark; and a BobCatPlus postcard.

User Training / Instruction

Two special guides were developed: Introduction to BobCatPlus and Remote Access to BobCat and BobCatPlus. These guides were posted at all BobCatPlus workstations, made available in paper format in all Bobst Library reference and information centers, and posted electronically to the NYU Libraries website. As the system has grown in acceptance and use, users are requesting BobCatPlus training. With the Phase II introduction there will be hands-on demos set for pre-scheduled times in the catalog area that houses the greatest cluster of workstations. This has been implemented specifically in regard to user requests. In addition, to distinguish them from other computers in Bobst Library, all BobCatPlus workstations were identified by color-coded signage that explained their features and use.

Help screens were rewritten for both Phase I and Phase II of the implementation. Although the product came with minimal help screens in place, the fact that NYU Libraries changed the names of navigation buttons and added special features has necessitated a rewrite of the existing HTML help screen text. Help screens have been modified throughout the BobCatPlus implementation in response to user comments and to clarify common questions and confusions. NYU Libraries also added text, when possible, to system error and time-out messages in order to clarify vague or unclear wording that was automatically generated. For example, rather than just leave the user with the message that the session was inactive, text was added as follows to give the user a more detailed explanation: “Your session has ended, possibly due to a long period of search inactivity.” It then explains the time-out feature and how it applies to various search functions. A BobCatPlus FAQ is planned as well to explain the basic principles of the system and answer commonly asked user questions.

User Evaluation

A user comments option is available on the BobCatPlus welcome screen, all informational screens and the closing logoff screen. It has been quite revealing. Users have expressed their joy, displeasure, dismay, hostility and delight with BobCatPlus. Since introducing Phase II the user comments have generally been fewer and more favorable. The user comments section has been one of the more beneficial aspects of the pilot project.

While one user was “excited beyond belief” at the “amazing project” another simply wrote “flambee it frapee it, stick it in some bread crumbs!!!!”. Comments came from within Bobst Library, from the NYU.EDU IP and from a range of other non-NYU IP addresses. The general areas addressed and some sample comments follows:

  • Database/catalog availability and access to telnet, email and URLs
    • Why can't I log onto Alta Vista on this computer?
    • Will you ever have psychlit as part of BobCatPlus?
    • Why isn't there telnet?
  • User interface and screen design
    • Cut out the graphics. The last thing someone who is searching for a Dewey decimal number wants to see is a churning browser logo downloading a bunch of useless graphics.
    • Can you fix the program so that we are given a choice of the extended-brief citation (which includes all that is necessary to locate the article, or the full citation with summary and corollary information?
    • Where is the icon for tagging results? I wanted to tag a result but was unable to because I couldn't find the icon to tag it.
  • Downloading/printing/emailing -- procedures
    • More terminals should be hooked up to printers. The e-mail function to send tagged records to your e-mail account doesn't work.
    • Error messages received from the system
    • Just tried a browse search in Melvyl (both author & title search): none of the searches worked. Got an error message.
  • Help screens
    • You should have a simple, step-by-step, procedure. When I went to “Help” I found only definitions C Library services
    • Why not make the ILL request forms available within BobCatPlus?
  • Status/call number confusion
    • Cannot figure the obvious way to get a call number.
  • Response time
    • I think this is a good idea, but it's way too slow.
  • System (dys)functionality
    • Excellent links provided under book titles so that you can find book related to the subject. Unfortunately, some of them don't work.
    • The BobCatPlus system is a great tool to search the various databases...BUT is it extremely slow AND (of the four times that I have used the system) I have been unable to download my searches (45 minutes work) due to system errors.
  • Every attempt was made to respond to users who could be identified by the message's originating email address. Messages coming from public workstations in Bobst were not user IP specific. Through email responses, NYU Libraries staff attempted to help users with their search problems, resolve questions and clarify misconceptions. In general, the email response opened up a very positive form of 2-way communication with our users. It quickly became obvious that a more specific “comments” form on BobCatPlus would be useful, to help users (and ourselves) clarify questions, especially in regard to databases, search steps, etc.

    One of the very first things we heard from users is that they absolutely hated the trackpoint keyboards installed with the public BobCatPlus workstations. Trackpoint keyboards had been chosen due to fear of mouse theft. In response to user comments we installed a mouse on each public pc, while leaving the trackpoint intact. To date no mouse has disappeared. Positive and negative feedback was shared with staff, especially those most involved with the BobCatPlus design and implementation. Comments regarding search interface were taken into account in regard to the redesign. NYU Libraries is “gaining” on the various user requests to add specific databases, and there will be both a brief and full record display in Phase II. Slow response time was rectified with the installation of the Phase II upgrade. Some of the questions/comments indicated a general lack of knowledge about library services in general. These were passed on to library departments and staff to extend our informational outreach. User comments continue to be monitored, shared, responded to and incorporated in future BobCatPlus improvements.

    The comments option has also been used for more than just BobCatPlus. We've heard from users in regard to facilities issues, reference/research questions, library hours and database searching questions. It has been a way to hear from and respond to users who ordinarily might never come forward in person.

    Phase I -- Or What we Learned

    What's in a name?

    BobCatPlus continues to be a difficult concept to define. Is it a catalog? Is it a workstation? Is it a location for electronic resources? Is it a web interface? Is it an environment for accessing information? Neither staff nor users seem entirely clear on the concept. And lively debates on the topic continue. Early schematics of the system when it was still just a dream consider BobCatPlus an environment in which to search and retrieve a range of electronic resources. William Jones (1997) referred to it as a “tool” to access a library information system. Just as BobCatPlus is still evolving so is its meaning and definition and it will prove interesting to document where it began and how we ultimately define it.


    The level of technostress induced by BobCatPlus within many Libraries staff cannot be denied. Virginia Bartlett defines technostress as “the physical, mental or emotional strain felt by people faced with rapidly changing technology in the workplace.” (p. 226). Consider the following time line:

    • late 70's -- CLSI followed by Geac circulation systems
    • 1983-1993 -- BobCat and Geac GLIS introduced and used
    • 1993 -- Geac ADVANCE introduced
    • 1996 -- BobCatPlus introduced

    In other words, NYU Libraries had about 10 fairly stable years with the GLIS system prior to a rapid introduction of a new integrated system followed quickly by a web OPAC, not to mention the intervening introductions of a CD-ROM network in 1992, an NYU Libraries Gopher in 1994, the NYU Libraries website in 1995 and numerous new online and remote databases appearing every semester since 1992. The staff has certainly not been standing still but is feeling a bit technology-struck. While efforts were made to involve all staff in the BobCatPlus development, through training, newsletters, demonstrations, and the formation of small teams, full acceptance and buy-in of the new system has not been achieved. Sidney Verba, director of Harvard University Libraries stated, “The issues are not technological but human and organizational. We are continually being required to attend to the needs of our staff members and user communities while responding to pressures to develop and use new technologies.” (Clark & Kalin, p. 30). The development demands of BobCatPlus have been so great when coupled with the additional technological, economic and philosophical changes affecting our libraries and our staff that greater efforts need to be placed on helping people deal with change in general.

    Version, version -- Who's got the right version?

    The decision to use off the shelf components, e.g., WebZ and GeoWeb, has been a trade-off in regard to convenience, autonomy and customizability. While it gave NYU Libraries the luxury of a base system from which to depart, rather than completely reinventing the wheel, it also gave us the headaches of trying to match various development versions of the ready-made components with the browsers, university standards, hardware and software that we currently had in-house or were able to offer. For example, the version of WebZ implemented in Phase II was designed for a later version of Netscape than the Libraries was using. Therefore a work-around to enable downloading with the earlier browser had to be implemented. OCLC WebZ is planning to include JAVA in its next version. NYU, however, has refrained from any JAVA implementation due to security concerns. How we will deal with a JAVA enabled product in a university environment that does not encourage its use is still an issue to be dealt with.

    NYU Libraries's decision to customize the system and apply its own user interface will also continue to make it more labor-intensive than if we just accepted the out-of-box version. All plans at this moment indicate that will continue to be policy.


    Communication with users has been a major advantage to BobCatPlus. Whether they loved it or hated it, the fact that Libraries staff responded to comments whenever possible has been a major public relations benefit. It also enabled us to hear from users, in yet another medium, about library services, and user needs and respond to their comments.

    Communication with NYU Libraries staff has been mixed in regard to full acceptance of the new product. Experience has indicated the need to fully communicate, both in terms of electronic announcements, the BobCatPlus News, as well as with training, training, and more training. Listening to and addressing staff concerns about BobCatPlus still merits attention as it is a constantly evolving system.

    Phase II -- New Features

    Interactive forms were introduced for users in Phase II. This included a catalog maintenance form as well as an interlibrary loan form. The ILL form appears once users have searched a non-BobCat database or catalog, clicked on BobCat holdings and learned that the Libraries do not own the item. At that point an ILL option appears and the user can place a request. The special feature of the form is that the full bibliographic citation for the item is pasted directly into the ILL request form without the user having to rekey the information. This cuts down on user time and helps to avoid incomplete or erroneous citations. The catalog maintenance form is an attempt to identify and clean up BobCat database records as they are found in the system.

    The Future

    BobCatPlus is an evolving system. Future GeoWeb implementations will include serial issue check-in status, reserve collection information and access to patron circulation data. Future enhancements that will be implemented locally by NYU Libraries include hyperlinks to library directories, e.g., locations, hours, explanation of circulation statuses, and forms for submitting book and periodical order requests.

    “As more electronic resources are identified, produced and cataloged, the need for additional support of various formats will require software and hardware upgrades to library provided workstations to permit access to a wide range of multimedia resources” (Jones). Resolving implementation issues such as JAVA and continuing to customize and brand new version of WebZ/GeoWeb will also present continuing challenges to the NYU Libraries staff.

    Continuing to work with Z39.50 issues, comply with standards and deal with discrepancies in bibliographic and fulltext databases will also remain an issue. Lynch writes that “while key standards (such as the revised 1996 version of Z39.56, the Serial Item and Contribution Identifier or SICI) to support linkages from abstracting and indexing databases to primary content are not coming into place, actual implementation of such linkages is relative new....” (p. 458). Although NYU Libraries has yet to see much of the SICI, it must remain aware of the standards and work with both database producers and vendors regarding implementation.


    The introduction of a web-based catalog and search and retrieval system that also relies on Z39.50 is not as straightforward as the move to a new OPAC. Due to the graphic nature and flexibility of a web interface, skills and sensibilities not normally found in a standard library staff configuration were required. Designers, advanced HTML programmers, and web masters were all new territory for human resources. The complexities of utilizing and designing for Z39.50 and even locating other Z39.50 compliant library catalogs was problematic. For example, neither the NYU Medical School Library nor the NYU Law School Library catalog is Z39.50 compliant and therefore neither are available as a BobCatPlus option, while catalogs from institutions far from New York may be searched through this interface. Users (and even staff) do not always understand the distinction.

    Another complexity of the system is the collaboration with not one, but two vendors. Working with OCLC's WebZ OBI as the base that must then be massaged by Geac to accommodate the Libraries' ADVANCE database injects an additional level of issues and possible problems to diagnose. It also means two different sets of implementation/upgrade schedules (OCLC and Geac), and the introduction of new browsers and web technologies that the University itself may not be ready to implement. In other words, it adds another level of uncertainty in library planning.

    In regard to the users, maintaining two versions of our catalog is both a plus and a minus. The positive side is that we can now accommodate both types of users, i.e., those who are familiar with and prefer a graphic user interface as well as those who are used to the non-graphic world of a text-based system. It also presents a benefit for our younger users who are already familiar with a web environment and view the text-based version as “old hat”. On the other hand, we now maintain two sets of user documentation and address two types of user interface in instructional sessions. And of course, our staff must be equally conversant in both systems. Finally, the major advantages, as far as most users are concerned, are the ability to access a range of resources using the exact same search protocol, the ability to link from bibliographic citation databases directly to BobCatPlus holdings or an interlibrary loan form, and the ability to go out on the Internet to reach a variety of resources. The decision to select and catalog Internet resources and link directly to them through BobCatPlus has opened an electronic world to our users and given some structure to the vast unorganized Internet. This, perhaps, is the largest benefit for introducing BobCatPlus.


    1) NYU Libraries includes the following libraries: Elmer Holmes Bobst Library and Study Center, Stephen Chan Library (Institute of Fine Arts), Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences Library, Jack Brause Library (Real Estate Institute) and the Conservation Center Library (Institute of Fine Arts). The libraries of the NYU Law School, NYU Medical School and NYU Dental School are independent administrative units and not included in either BobCat or the BobCatPlus development.

    2) BobCatPlus is available at:

    3) Bobst Library web is available at:

    4) BobCatPlus sample screens that reflect the evolution and redesign of the system may be viewed at:

    5) Link to other web catalogs, samples of GeoWeb and OCLC WebZ implementation are available at:


    Bartlett, Virginia. (1995). Technostress and librarians.

    Library Administration and Management, 9(4), 226-30.

    Clark, K., & Kalin, S. (1996). Technostressed out?: How to cope in the digital age. Library Journal, 121(13), 30-4.

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    View Citation
    Publication Year:1997
    Type of Material:Article
    Language English
    Place of Publication:New York, NY
    Notes:This paper was presented at the 1997 CAUSE annual conference and is part of the conference proceedings, "The Information Profession and the Information Professional," published online by CAUSE. The paper content is the intellectual property of the author. Permission to print out copies of this paper is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage and the source is acknowledged. To copy or disseminate otherwise, or to republish in any form, print or electronic, requires written permission from the author and CAUSE. For further information, contact CAUSE at 303-449-4430 or send e-mail to presented in Library Technology Guides with the permission of EDUCAUSE and with permission of the author.
    Company: Geac
    Products: Advance
    Libraries: New York University
    Subject: Z39.50
    Online catalogs -- Web based
    Online access:
    Record Number:9187
    Last Update:2024-05-27 00:04:34
    Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00