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


"All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."

-- George Orwell, _Animal Farm_, 1945

As you burrow through gopherspace, you are constantly presented with choices. You are given a menu of options, you make a selection, you are given a new set of options, you make another selection, and so on, until you come to the information you seek -- or something else that interests you.

There is a logic and organization to the way individual menus are structured in gopherspace and to the links that connect gophers and resources. However, not all gopherspace is equal. Some parts of it are better organized and more logical than others.


A number of gopher servers at various locations have been systematically structured in configurations closely resembling libraries. Folks at these gopher sites have worked very hard to organize information into logical subject categories, or subdivisions, that facilitate the linking of related information to a root "subject tree" menu, thus making it easier for the searcher to find resources on a specific topic.

Two of the first gopher sites to organize in the "subject tree" format were the Go M-Link gopher, pioneered by librarian Sue Davidsen at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (my undergraduate alma mater -- "Go BLUE!"), and the "Library without Walls" gopher, developed by librarian Eric Lease Morgan at North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

The University of Michigan's gopher was the first to employ the "top-down," tree-like, organizational structure in its menus, each succeeding layer spreading out like the branches of a tree. At NCSU, Morgan's library server was one of the first to use the library model, complete with its reference desk resources file and "study carrels" organized by discipline.

Here's a sampling of gophers with subject trees. You find these, and more, on gopher submenus available via the "Gopher Jewels" option which may be linked on your gopher root menu. "Gopher Jewels" is a mega-subject tree with a twist; it presents a *searchable* link to good subject tree collections gopher-wide. Gopher Jewels is accessible at cwis.usc.edu under "Other Gophers and Information Services" and via the WWW at gopher://cwis.usc.edu:70/11/Other_Gophers_and_Information_Resources/Gopher-Jewels

Gopher Subject Tree Collections:


In only a few short years, since 1991, the gopher client/server revolutionized the way people accessed information on the Net. Gopher subject trees refined the process even further by logically organizing much of the available information into "one-stop," easy-to-access menu formats. Today, gopher's strengths seem tame compared to the power and popularity of the tool that has come to be acknowledged as "the" Internet by most people: the World Wide Web.

Due to this trend, Gopher Jewels and many of the subject trees noted above are no longer being actively maintained (Gopher Jewels hasn't been updated since November of 1994!). Be prepared to encounter lots of empty gopher holes in your explorations, and always check for dates on available material! Because of the difficulty of maintaining two or more servers (gopher and Web), many hosts are electing to close down or at least cease to maintain information on their gopher servers and are moving much of the information previously stored there to their WWW Home Pages. However, there are still some excellent and well-maintained gopher sites on the Internet -- more than any of us reasonably could hope to explore completely in our "online" lives. And, in Lesson 16, I'll show you how to do keyword searches to locate your own personal information resource favorites in gopherspace.

So, get busy, and -- when you're gopherin', don't forget that most gopher clients display (somewhere on your screen) the name of the host you're pulling information from; if you find something neat, make a note of the location! Better yet, set a bookmark ...


When you are exploring gopherspace and you discover an interesting site to which you would like to return, set a bookmark. All gopher clients should give you this option. By setting a bookmark, you are creating a personal menu of gopher sites (or "gopher holes") you find interesting and useful. Your gopher client will also give you the option to list, or display, your gopher bookmarks; you can then go straight to the bookmark menu, select any item and make the connection directly!

Always set a bookmark! When you get deep into gopherspace, after having travelled through many layers of menus, it's almost impossible to retrace your steps a few days or weeks later, should you decide to return. Trust me, you won't remember exactly how you got there. So plan ahead; set a bookmark and you'll never regret it.


Provided you have diskspace on your system to stash copies, gopher clients give you the option of saving personal copies of any document you locate in gopherspace. Look for the SAVE option and use it to save to your local system whatever document is opened on your screen. Remember, there's no need to SAVE everything of interest that you find -- just set a Bookmark and go back later. In addition, some systems will allow you to email the file to yourself. However, you must be using a local client gopher to take advantage of these options. You will not be able to save, print, send or make a bookmark if you have telnetted into a public gopher server site. If you're accessing a gopher site from a WWW browser, you'll be able to save, print, set bookmarks, etc., but the procedures will vary; more details to follow in lessons 26-28.



If you have access to a web browser, you can go directly to the Big Ugly Smiley at this URL:

* "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.
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