News Library News Online
Vol. 23, No. 4/Summer 2001

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Intranet Q&A...
By Jalyn Kelly
With Sarah Gehring, Research Librarian/Intranet Webmaster at the Baltimore Sun


See images of the loop:
Loop library page
Loop main home page
Loop fast facts page
Loop department page

How and when was the intranet launched?

The intranet, named "the loop", was launched in 1998. The library included information in the company’s internal newsletter about the loop, including the top ten reasons to use it. In 1998, we also gave a presentation to the management committee to get upper level support and flyers were posted around the company. Their support is critical in order to maintain a corporate intranet.

Is the intranet a newsroom-only intranet or part of a corporate intranet?

The loop is a corporate intranet. Its major focus is on the newsroom, providing value-added information. It includes "fast facts" about Baltimore and Maryland, census databases and a Governor’s Race page that contains all of the candidates’ bios, profiles, issue information and news. Other value-added pages include famous Marylanders, elected Maryland officials and county profiles. The library has created most of these pages. The loop also has pages for different departments, including Human Resources and Marketing/Communication. Finally, through the loop, employees can access company forms, the cafeteria menu and the catering menu.

Describe the news library’s role in the development and maintenance of the intranet.

The library took on the intranet project from the outset. Initial duties included asking for a dedicated server, developing the logo and colors, and deciding what should be included. A committee of people representing the entire company completed these tasks. The structure for the loop was defined by an Information Audit completed in 1998. Additional input was obtained through a focus group effort that included members of various departments to determine their information needs.

The library maintains the entire intranet. There are select individuals in various departments - Circulation, Human Resources and Events – who are in charge of maintaining their departmental pages. However, due to turnover, the library also maintains many of these pages.

What areas of the intranet do reporters and editors find most useful?

At the moment, the library is compiling results from a recently completed survey to determine this answer. However, from conversations and observations, it appears reporters believe the subscription products are the most useful tools. These include Lexis-Nexis, Associations Unlimited and the Oxford English Dictionary. They also find the court record examples, which were created by the library, very useful – especially because they are interactive and allow reporters to correctly interpret records. The pages with links for specific areas – sports/basketball for example - are also very popular. Overall, it appears the more general the page the less a reporter is apt to use it.

How has the intranet changed the way people in your newsroom perform their daily jobs?

This is the first year that the entire newsroom has had access to PCs. In the past, there was only a kiosk where reporters could access the intranet. Since this transition, the library has seen an increase in its research requests. Reporters can now find the ready reference information first hand without having to call the research desk. However, the research desk now has more complex searches and long-term projects than in the past.

What areas of the intranet do news researchers find most useful?

The researchers find the value-added information – county profiles, court record examples, census and demographic information - very useful. The pages by beat where the library lists internet sites are also used frequently. Researchers also use the loop’s search engine.

Has the intranet gone through any major redesigns? If yes, please describe.

At the moment, the intranet is going through a major redesign. In the past year, we have changed the loop’s home page to provide a more corporate focus. The library is now creating a new home page that will be only for the newsroom. The library is also going to be adding a search box on each page. That way no matter where a user is on the loop they will immediately find a navigation tool.

What insights would you share with someone developing an intranet?

There are a couple of things that one must keep in mind when developing an intranet.

1. Understand who your audience is and what type of information they need.

2. Understand that there are technical issues in getting all of the pieces to work together – different operating systems and browsers in use, etc. Most importantly, make sure you have the technical support you need.

3. The intranet is always changing and growing. It is a living object.

4. It will be frustrating. In the end, however seeing employees use the loop is well worth the effort.

If you would like to spotlight your newsroom's intranet in the next News Library News, please contact Jalyn Kelley at Jalyn Kelley is a researcher at CSC Consulting.