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UCR-developed Virtual Library ReceivesGrant to Vastly Expand its Offerings

UCR-developed Virtual Library ReceivesGrant to Vastly Expand its Offerings

(May 11, 2000)

A virtual library called INFOMINE - founded at the University of California, Riverside on a shoestring budget just as the Internet was gaining wide use - has received a grant of nearly a half million dollars to vastly expand the number of Web-based academic resources it offers.

The Institute of Museum and Library Service, a federal agency, has awarded INFOMINE a grant of $498,700 from its National Leadership Grants fund, a program that supports leading-edge activities in the field of library and information science. With the grant and another received last year from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, UCR librarians and researchers in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering over the next two years will develop software that is expected to expand the virtual library from its current 20,000 resources to more than 100,000 and perhaps eventually to 1 million.

Developed at UCR in 1994, INFOMINE ( was one of the very first virtual libraries offered and one of the first World Wide Web-based library services of any type. For researchers using Internet information, INFOMINE may well be more useful and efficient than the typical commercial search engines, which can yield unwieldy numbers of "hits" on a single search.

The INFOMINE virtual library began in order to provide organized access to Internet resources for UCR library users. "It was driven by faculty and students wanting to find Internet resources. So we began finding and organizing them," said Steve Mitchell, a UCR librarian who co-founded INFOMINE with Margaret Mooney, head of government publications for the UCR library system. The service has grown with the participation of librarians throughout the University of California and California State University systems.

INFOMINE provides academic scholars and students links to Web sites that have been screened by librarians in much the same way that librarians evaluate new books and journals and select those that are appropriate for an academic clientele. The service, available to anybody who has a computer with access to the Internet, can link to some 20,000 academic resources from all fields of science, social science and humanities, as well as government information and instructional resources for teachers.

INFOMINE has also been widely recognized in the Internet and library communities and beyond as one of the most useful academic sites on the Web. During the past year, it has helped surfing researchers conduct more than 660,000 searches. In addition, an estimated 6,000 other Web sites have found INFOMINE so useful that they provide a link to the UCR site.

As part of the new project to enhance INFOMINE, computer scientists will develop a "smart crawler" that will automate the task of searching the Internet for resources to add to the virtual library.

"The web grows so quickly," said Dimitrios Gunopulos, UCR assistant professor of computer science and engineering. "It's very difficult to keep up without some sort of automatic resource discovery and indexing. Because INFOMINE indexes focused topics, we want to find sites that are important and relevant to those specific topics, and avoid brute force searches."

The approach of this new project will feature a combination of librarian expertise augmented by machine-assisted collecting and resource description techniques.

Computer scientists on the project will adapt some existing software techniques to retrieve sites appropriate to add to INFOMINE, and they will need to write from scratch software to automate the classifying of new sites, according to Johannes Ruscheinski, the lead computer programmer on the project. Assisting him on the project are three graduate students in computer science and engineering.

Users of INFOMINE should begin seeing some additional features by the end of this summer, when a new version is expected to be unveiled, Mitchell said.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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