Internet Resource Selection Criteria:
A Case Study at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Wan Jing
Nanjing University
P.R. China

ABSTRACT: With the advent of the information age, the exploitation of Internet resources has been on the agenda of university libraries. There are, however, many different opinions as to the criteria of selecting Internet resources. This article introduces the experience of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Library on selecting Internet resources, analyzes the Internet resources available on the Library webpage and summarizes the main criteria of selecting Internet resources at the HKUST Library.
Key words: Internet resource; digital document; information evaluation; library work

I. Overview

Regarding the selection and appraisal of print literature, the library and information community has a set of effective methods and standards. In contrast, there are no national or international standards yet for the selection and appraisal of Internet resources due to their evolving nature and complex characteristics.

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe proposed seven standards[1] for the selection and appraisal of Internet resources: format, content, relation with other information, authority, suitable audience, arrangement, and price.

Dong Xiaoying, a scholar in China, advocated nine standards[2]:

For libraries, when selecting Internet resources, they should not only take into account the serviceability and relevance of those resources to the library goals and missions, but also cost, technology, and compatibility to existent information resources[3].

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Library has gained some valuable experience in the selection of Internet resources, and attained primary achievement.

II. The "Internet resources selecting group" project

In May 1995, the HKUST Library established an "Internet resources selecting group". This group consisted of staff from the collection development department, the media department, the cataloging department, the reference department, etc. It was charged to select free Internet resources, formulate corresponding rules and procedures, and corporate with the "Internet resources cataloguing group".[4]

In general, all members of the Internet resources selecting group were engaged in selecting and appraising Internet resources. Different member might use different Internet tools, such as news tools (Scout Report, Internet Resources Newsletter, etc), subject and directory tools (Argus, Point, World Wide Web Virtual Library, Yahoo!), and/or retrieval tools (Alta Vista, Open Text Index, etc). The relevant information about selected resources like titles and URL addresses was shared via email to all members. One member was responsible for maintaining and updating the webpage which connected to all previous resources and current ones through hyperlinks. Other members needed to visit the page to check whether a specific resource is under consideration, already chosen or rejected. In other words, the initial appraisal of Internet resources was conducted individually by each member. When this kind of resources accumulates to certain point, the group members would meet to discuss and choose from those resources, and then add selected ones to the network server. The selected resources would be recommended to library users through various media like the library monthly news, reference consultation, or introductive sessions.

The criteria used in the selecting process by the "Internet resources selecting group" include:

  1. Types of information.
    The HKUST Library uses Netscape as the preferred library Internet browser. Since Web browsers like Netscape permit seamless access to FTP, Gopher, Telnet, and Usenet resources, the selected information resources do not limit to the World Wide Web resources. However, due to the characteristics of hypertext and multimedia, the Web resources are the primary consideration.

  2. Levels of information.
    The hypertext characteristic of Web allows people to choose a single resource or a batch of resources. If one batch of resources is selected, the user needs to distinguish useful resources by themselves; if it is a single resource, the work of resources selection and maintenance are largely completed by the group members. The group believes that the two kinds of resources, single or batch, have their respective advantages. The method of selecting electronic newspapers is a case in point: Local electronic newspapers and some popular foreign newspapers are treated as single resources while online newspaper websites include 1,500 newspapers around the world for users to navigate and browse.

  3. Software requirement.
    Some Internet resources need special software support. Otherwise, they cannot be used. Here comes the question whether a library should first select resources and then install special software, or first install software and then choose resources that it supports. The HKUST Library has decided that it will not choose resources that need special software support. The reason for doing so is that Internet resources are rich, but the technology upgrade often costs a lot. For example, the Library did not choose the electronic version of the "Guangzhou Daily" published in China until the software TwinBridge was installed on the campus network, because the "Guangzhou Daily" is coded in Guobiao or GB and displays the simplifies Chinese characters.

  4. Accessibility.
    Some Internet resources are difficult to access because they are used too frequently or the connection is too slow. In order to enhance the accessibility of Internet resources, the Library chooses the mirror sites that are easier to access. For example, "NetEc" of Manchester University, Britain provides a database containing 42,000 citations of economic papers. It has mirror servers both at Washington University in United States and Hitotsubashi University in Japan. The Library chooses the mirror site at Washington University, because Hong Kong has a faster Internet connection to America.

  5. Paid resources.
    Some good commercial resources will be turned over to the library collection development committee to consider whether they should be selected. Paid resources include CD-ROM. When the Library chooses paid Internet resources or CD-ROMs, besides their upfront costs, it considers the following factors:
  6. Other forms of resources the Library already owned.
    Some free Internet resources have a corresponding print or CD-ROM version already in the Library. Whether to choose these resources or not is mainly judged by the advantage of electronic format as compared with other formats.

  7. Temporary materials.
    During the 1996 Olympic Games period, the Library once gathered related information and websites about Olympic Games together for the inquiry of teachers and students. After the Olympic Games ended, those websites were also immediately removed.

The ultimate objectives of the "Internet resources selecting group" are:

  1. Integrating free Internet resources into the library collection.
  2. Developing guidelines for Internet resources selection.
  3. Cultivating Internet navigation skills of library staff.
  4. Selecting and organizing free Internet resources, thus enabling teachers and students at HKUST to access them through the Library catalog or networks.

III. HKUST Library’s Internet resources webpage

During my study period at HKUST as an exchange student in 2004, I reviewed the HKUST Library’s "Internet Resource" webpage. Judging by the criteria and objectives of the "Internet resources selecting group", the HKUST Library obtained remarkable achievements. The presentation and organization of Internet resources demonstrated a primary structure. The following analysis and description of the functions of the Library "Internet resource" webpage are to attest HKUST Library’s criteria for selecting Internet resources.

The HKUTS Library’s "Internet Resources" webpage is prominently on the Library’s homepage. The main function of the "Internet Resources" page is to provide Internet resources for the use of teachers and students. This page provides four ways for users to access information:

  1. Search Box Entrance
    The search box enables users to type in subjects they want to search for. Users may retrieve subjects as keyword or phrase. They may input many subjects at a time and connect them with the Boolean operators "AND" and/or "OR". They may choose the output result at 10, 25, 50 or 100. The searchable scope covers databases which are also included in the category search. Search Box Entrance is suitable for subject search.

  2. Category Search
    This method of search allows users to search for comprehensive information about certain discipline. Information resources are divided into 14 categories, some of which have subcategories. Each category has its own webpage.

The 14 categories are classifies either by content or the organizational form. The quantity of Internet resources each category includes is shown in the following tables:

Table One: The Quantity of Internet Resources Provided by Categories of Different Contents
Business and ManagementEngineeringHumanities and Social SciencesScienceAsiaReferenceNews on Internet

Table Two: The Quantity of Internet Resources Provided by Categories of Different Forms
Other Library CatalogsScholarly Communicat-
Table of Contents DatabasesOnline BookstoresE-books and E-textsOther Interesting SitesWeb Directories and Search Engines
Note: The statistics was collected in April, 2004.

There are two other ways to access information:

  1. What’s new/popular. It provides two links named "new" and "popular" respectively. The link "new" provides the latest added information resources while "popular" gathers information resources most frequently used.

  2. Featured sites. Currently it links to "the website of higher education reform and development in China" and " How to do business in Hong Kong ". However, the featured sites change from time to time.

IV. Criteria for selecting Internet resources

In practice, the HKUST Library selects Internet resources based on the following criteria:

Match with university organization and courses.
The categories of business and management, engineering, science, humanities and social sciences match with the four schools of HKUST: Business and Management School, Engineering School, Science School, and Humanity School. Similarly, the setting of subcategories matches with departments in the four schools. As a result, it is easy for teachers and students to search for information resources within their disciplines.

Emphasize on Business and Management, and Engineering.
The MBA program of HKUST ranks number one in Asia[5]. Its Engineering School is also among the best. To reflect the importance of these two disciplines at HKUST, the Library gives the corresponding two categories the most prominent positions on the webpage. In addition, one of the two sites recommended on the featured sites is usually a business site, which shows special emphasis on business and management. Moreover, the two categories offer links both to comprehensive websites and to subcategories. In other words, they provide information resources on two levels—not only single resource websites, but also navigational websites which contain many links to other information. As for the absolute quantity, the category of Humanities and Social Sciences contains 306 information sources, which is the most among all categories. However this category only provides subcategories, but not links to related categories or comprehensive websites. In this sense, the level of processing is far lower than that of the previous two categories.

Base in East Asia.
The Hong Kong academic community always puts emphasis on China research, especially the ancient Chinese literature research. One of 14 categories is Asia, including 234 information sources, merely less than those provided by Humanities and Social Sciences. Among all information resources in Asia, the greater China (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan) accounts for 94% of all subcategories.

Open to the outside world.
Hong Kong is an international metropolis, where the Chinese culture and foreign cultures merge. Both English and Chinese are official languages. And English is used widely in daily life. The characteristics of an open culture often manifests here. Each category of Internet resources contains both Chinese and English. The ratio of Chinese sites and overseas ones is approximately 1:2 in the categories of online bookstores and Web Directories and Search Engines. Altogether, of the over 1,360 sites, there are more than 210 Chinese sites. The ratio between Chinese and overseas sites is approximately 1:6.

Provide comprehensive contents in diverse formats.
The contents cover almost all human knowledge. The formats of Internet resources include e-books, periodicals, articles, meeting minutes, news, etc.

Prompt in maintenance and update.
The column "what’s new" lists the most recently added Internet resources. During the time I was writing this article, the newest sites added from March 22 to April 13, 2004 were as many as 33. Moreover, no dead hyperlinks were found, which shows a satisfactory maintenance work.

V. Conclusion

The HKUST Library’s experience of selecting Internet resources has attained obvious achievements, mainly due to the Library’s criteria of matching Internet resources with university organizations and reflecting Hong Kong's cultural characteristics. The success at the HKUST Library could be replicated at other university libraries. When selecting Internet resources, academic libraries should endeavor to support the teaching and research programs of their universities. They should also take into consideration their existing collections, technology requirement, costs, and other factors. As for organizing Internet resources, university libraries should strive to provide library users with easy and efficient ways to search for relevant information.


[1] Chen, Zhaozhen. "The Development and Maintenance of Library Collection in Academic Digital Library". The University Library (Taiwan), 1997, 1 (1):24-26.

[2] Dong, Xiaoying. The Management of Information Resource under Internet Environment. Doctoral dissertation of Beijing University, 1997.

[3] Gregory, Vicki L. Selecting and Managing Electronic Resources: a how-to-do-it manual for librarians. Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2000. pp.21-23.

[4] Yip, Kim Fung. "Selecting Internet Resources: experience at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Library". The Electronic Library, 1997, 15(2):91-98

[5] HKUST Business School: Ranking and Key Events. URL:

Copyright © 2004 Wan Jing.
Submitted to CLIEJ 27 October 2004.