Spring 2004


  TOOT Makes University of Haifa No. 1
in Library Digitization

There is no substitute for seeing a painting or a building or a landscape in person.  What, though, is the art, archeology, or Land of Israel Studies student to do when these objects are not in easy commuting distance?  Slides projected by the instructor during the class or viewed by the first-come, first-served students in the library provided a solution, though ultimately an unsatisfactory one.  There was no way for the Israeli student or researcher to view the object at 11:30 at night.

        Now there is.  Thanks to TOOT.  

        “TOOT” is the Hebrew acronym for the Electronic Offprints and Images Database developed by the University of Haifa Library, specifically three of its departments—Media, Reserves, and Library Information Systems—in conjunction with IFN Systems, a private software firm.  It is the most advanced digitized library system in Israel, and ranks among the most sophisticated bibliographic components of its kind anywhere.

        Ora Zahavi, who heads the Library’s Media section, described the workings of the unique system for Focus.

        The uniqueness of the system, Zahavi explained, lies in the various possibilities offered the viewer.  One can view pictures as images and, at the same time, read the bibliographic material connected with the digitized image.  The viewer can carry out a search for material related to the image. 

        The instructor, she continued, can make a collection of pictures for classroom presentation, whether as a slide show or in some other form, or for initial research purposes.  In the latter case, they may be dropped into a “basket” for further classification. The pictures themselves can be enlarged to observe details.

        Comprising the database for the project are the Library’s approximately 100,000 slides and photos that the Media people are scanning.  At the time of the interview, they had completed some 20,000 scans for digitization. 

        Writing the bibliographic text for each picture is what takes time, she noted. The “full record,” as this text is termed, has a list of set fields that must be filled in, not least of which is “subject” and an “abstract.”  These allow viewers to call up all pictures illustrating a specific topic.

        Lecturers can “publish” a basket or a collection of pictures for a specific course they are offering.  Students taking that course then have a bibliography of offprints and an image collection that they can enter. 

        The entire TOOT program was actually built on the basis of the courses taught here, at this University, Zahavi said.  Furthermore, only registered students can enter the program through a password they are assigned.  Unlike the first online courses that the University developed in the mid-90s, TOOT is copyrighted and permission is required to enter such an online course bibliography. 

IFN, the firm that provided the basic software, is planning to sell the system as a platform for building and presenting visual material.  Its advertising calls it in computerese a “digital contents management system.”  The University, Zahavi remarked, receives a royalty on these sales. 

The Media director pointed out that databases of images do exist around the world,  that there is nothing new about them. But they are used mostly for cultural and preservation purposes, such by museums.  The University of Haifa has done something different, she commented, by making it available to library users.  The objective, she stressed, is to give access to material for learning purposes, just as a library does.   

Library Director Prof. Baruch Kipnis proudly states that the University of Haifa leads the field in the area of e-learning in Israel.  Other Israeli universities and colleges have called his office to inquire about TOOT. 

Ora Zahavi refers to today’s trend in education as “visual aid-supported teaching.”  She admits that not all lecturers are comfortable with the new system, and they must undergo a period of learning how to use it.  Up to now, the departments that are exploiting the technology are Art, Archeology, Geography, Land of Israel Studies, and East Asia Studies.  The Dept. of Occupational Therapy has made inquiries, and this shows that the system can have broad appeal.

Zahavi would like to scan maps, but the University does not possess large enough equipment to enable this.  Audio is another feature that she wants to introduce in the future.

It was with a mixture of embarrassment and pride that the librarian/media specialist mentioned in passing that other university libraries have already expressed envy at Haifa’s advanced Electronic Offprints and Images Database system.  TOOT entered into operation only this academic year, she noted, though scanning had begun years ago.  She could have added that with only a fifth of the job done so far with the limited personnel available to handle the project, it will be some years ahead before TOOT will be able to resonate fully. 

For a slide show of how the system works, enter the site below (at this stage, explanations are only in Hebrew):

Courses Presently Using TOOT
Department of Art:
Introduction to Islamic Art
Introduction to Ancient Art
Introduction to Renaissance Art (in preparation)
Department of Archeology
Introduction to Pre-History
Department of East Asia Studies
Modern China
Dept. of Land of Israel Studies
Popular Culture in Israel
Haifa—Past, Present, and Future

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