A Class on the Net for Librarians with Little or No Net Experience


"The best thing about animals is that they don't talk much."

-- Thornton Wilder, _The Skin of Our Teeth_, 1942


The first thing you'll encounter when you access a gopher site is a root menu. Following is a facsimile of the USC gopher server's root menu (gopher.sc.edu), as I see it using the gopher client on my USC CMS mainframe account:

   <menu>         About this gopher

   <menu>         Desktop Reference

   <menu>         Frequently asked questions

   <menu>         Guides to the Internet

   <menu>         Libraries & Electronic Books

   <menu>         Newspapers, Newsletters & Journals

   <menu>         Other gophers & information servers

   <menu>         Phone books and email addresses

   <menu>         Resources by subject

   <search>       Search for items on this gopher

   <menu>         WAIS Databases

   <menu>         Weather

(NOTE: USC no longer supports its gopher site.)While the design of gopher root menus will vary from server to server, many will contain similar pointers to information in gopherspace.

Let's take a moment to look at what some of these options contain:

Many gophers will also include a "What's New on this Gopher" link (or something similar) which points to recent changes and updates (since a lot of gophers are out-of-date, these days, if this option is offered, check it out for clues on how current the site is).

Having read all of this, it shouldn't take you long to realize the tremendous amount of information available via gopher; often links from "your own front door" or local gopher server will provide opportunities for useful information gathering. However, don't depend on the administrator of your local gopher server to include links to all that glitters on the Net! Take the plunge via "Other Gophers" (or a similar option from your root menu) to survey the Net on your own. You can spend hours navigating through multi-menus and finding wonderful gopher holes. And, you'll actually begin to enjoy yourself along the way -- the trip itself is half the fun!

Let's start right now. Open your gopher client and point it toward the "Mother Gopher" at the University of Minnesota. You'll find lots of interesting information linked from the original gopher hole! Here's how to get there:

From your root menu, select the "Other gophers ..." link. It's one that is displayed on most root menus and it points you out into gopherspace. Then follow the geographical path outlined for gopher servers:

-->region -->country -->state -->institution -->department

For example, from the USC gopher menu, I select the following sequence to arrive at the University of Minnesota's gopher:

   Other gophers and information servers

       --> North America

           --> USA

               --> Minnesota

                   --> University of Minnesota

This isn't the fastest or most direct route, for it takes me through a number of screens that aren't of particular interest to me... However, I'll only need to follow this path one time; when I reach my gopher destination, I'll be able to "snatch" the gopher hostname from my computer screen where it will be displayed. Most gopher clients display the name of the gopher host for each connection made, so that all of us can determine easily where menus and documents actually reside. As you explore gopherspace, make a note of the hostnames (or better yet, set a bookmark -- see lesson 14) you encounter (that seem especially interesting or appealing so that you can return to them later. Do the same when you arrive at the University of Minnesota (it's gopher.micro.umn.edu) and the next time you want to return, you'll be able to cut your travel time to seconds by making a direct connection.

My gopher client allows me to travel directly to a specific gopher hostname when I open gopher; yours should, too. For example, I can go directly to the University of Minnesota gopher root menu by using the command I use to open gopher and specifying the specific host. This is what I type:

gopher gopher.micro.umn.edu

The first "gopher" is the command I use to open my gopher "client" and the "gopher.micro.umn.edu" is the hostname of the University of Minnesota gopher server. If you have a graphic gopher client, check your pull-down menus for an "Open Gopher..." option or something like that.

In our next lesson we'll cover another gopher feature, called "bookmarks", which will make your gopher voyages even easier to retrace.


If, despite all your good intentions, you incorrectly enter an address or try to access a site that has moved, temporarily down, or defunct, you may be presented with one of the following error messages on your screen. In most instances, try again, later, to see if service has been restored.



If you have access to a web browser, the direct address for the "Gopherin'" workshop is: gopher://cwis.usc.edu:70/11/Other_Gophers_and_Information_Resources/Gopherin

* "BCK2SKOL" is a free electronic library classroom created by Ellen Chamberlain, Head Librarian, University of South Carolina Beaufort, and Miriam Mitchell, Sr. Systems Analyst, USC Columbia. Additional support is provided by the Division of Libraries & Information Systems, University of South Carolina Columbia.

Your feedback and support for BCK2SKOL are appreciated; please email link updates, suggestions and comments to: eechambe@gwm.sc.edu

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Links checked 6 January 1999. See the BCK2SKOL homepage for course update details.
Copyright © 2000, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
URL: http://www.sc.edu/bck2skol/fall/lesson13.html