Indexing eases Web searches

The GILS Maintenance Agency of the U.S. Geological Survey

Arizona is testing an online indexing system to enhance the quality of Web searches for public information.

Find-It! Arizona (www.findit.lib.az.us), the state's Government Information Locator Service pilot project, began last fall and will run through June. The pilot is being performed by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records agency in collaboration with six academic and public libraries

If successful, it will be expanded to include state agencies and possibly county and local government sites.

GILS would give the public "one-stop shopping" for more useful and accurate searches, said Janet Fisher, director of the agency's research division.

Like flipping through a library's card catalog, users search the bibliographic information of a tagged Web document in a GILS system rather than the full text of documents. Meta tags, which are essentially special HTML tags, are embedded within the documents and can include keywords, subject terms, descriptions, publication titles, authors, dates created and contact information.

"Meta tagging...increases the precision of the search because just getting a whole lot of hits doesn't do a whole lot of good," Fisher said. "[Meta tags] bring relevant materials up to the top."

Susan Alden, a library consultant with the agency, said the state based its design architecture on Washington state's GILS system. At least 20 other states have a GILS system.

Arizona is using Hiawatha Island Software Company Inc.'s TagGen metadata tagging software and MSFindIt as its search engine. MSFindIt is freeware originally developed by Microsoft Consulting to help Rhode Island deliver a GILS system.

Although state agencies are not yet participating, some are being trained in meta tagging, which she said is easy to learn and takes about five minutes per Web document.

The state received federal funding for the project but will need state funding to continue the program, Fisher said. Because the state legislature's session ends before the pilot does, Fisher said she was unsure where funding stood. But she said GILS would be a great benefit to a new portal the state is developing.

Libraries participating in the GILS pilot include the Phoenix Public Library, the Mesa Public Library and the Tucson-Pima Public Library as well as the libraries at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

GILS was originally a federal initiative as a networked information service across all federal agencies. However lack of commitment, oversight, guidelines and goals hampered the initiative.

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