[Prev Page] [Next Page ] [Contents]

The impact of electronic publishing on library services and resources in the UK

2.9 Bulletin boards

The term 'bulletin board' has been in use for several years, and for much of this time has been associated with informal systems for electronic exchange of ideas and messages between workers with a common interest. Bulletin boards served as a kind of communal electronic mailbox. In recent years, as more and more LIS workers in the UK have obtained facilities for accessing remote computer services, interest in and use of bulletin boards has grown considerably. The Bulletin Board for Libraries (BUBL) run by the University of Strathclyde has been particularly successful.

At the same time, the definition of just what constitutes a bulletin board has become increasingly blurred, as the range of uses and of types of information carried has been extended. A classification of the categories of information carried on bulletin boards is suggested below:

(a) Archival

At one end of the spectrum, bulletin boards become indistinguishable from electronic journals, and can carry the full text of learned journals, with or without graphic images. This is material for which the act of publication is important in itself and the ability to cite it and locate it is vital to the user. For the purposes of bibliographic control, the key feature here is that the first appearance of a communication is not what counts; only the final refereed version has importance and archival value. This implies prior, limited distribution of drafts via E-mail to specific referees, modifications and amendments to the paper, and then the 'publication' on the bulletin board of the final version.

(b) Evolving works having a history

This category comprises works to which a group of people may contribute during an evolutionary phase, and which may not necessarily ever be formally complete. Examples might be the generation of a standard where reference to earlier versions was important; or designs, both for products and of an artistic nature. In such cases the current version may continuously evolve but individuals' contributions and previous versions would need to be recorded as a family. This could be important when claiming prior publication, as for instance in the case of a patent dispute.

(c) Correspondence

This includes correspondence between various parties where information may be pooled, but may continuously change and where items may be put on and taken off the network more or less at random. This sort of information is a form of electronic chatline.

(d) Information services

This category covers directory or other factual material which is essentially a collection and which will be constantly updated by the producer.

The present situation regarding archiving varies from one bulletin board to another. The NISS BB is not archived at all. BUBL, which started in 1989, still contains the last three years' information, but there is no archiving of material onto an independent medium. The same is true of MAILBASE. In the case of CompuServe, information is archived and available online but not on any other media.

[Prev Page] [Next Page ] [Contents]

[UKOLN Home Page] [Papers and Reports] [British Library Papers and Reports ]