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an aid to enhance the turn-around time for end users


									PROSPERO: the magic potion to enhance the turn-around time for end users
                                                        Marié Roux
                                                          University of Stellenbosch

1. Introduction

“Thou shalt be as free
as mountain winds: but then exactly do
all points of my command”

Let’s first look at a bit of magic. Where does the name Prospero come from? Like Ariel,
Prospero is a character in Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”. Prospero and his daughter
end up on a magical island. Prospero uses this to learn magic and one of his acts on the
island is then to set Ariel free, who was imprisoned in a tree. Ariel can be seen only by
Prospero and carries out tasks for him.

The program Prospero uses programming magic to set Ariel documents free – from paper.
The library user can decide to keep the document free or imprison it back on paper. Ariel is
hidden from the patron and can only be seen by Prospero...

It is always good to see future possibilities becoming a reality. At the previous Liasa
Conference’s Interlending breakaway session, I talked about our electronic policy and the
impact it should and will have on Interlending. One of the things we looked at was desk top
delivery to end users. Now a year later we are in a process of starting delivering directly to
user’s desktops. After a long wait for new computers, the installation of two Ariel stations,
and the implementation of ReQuest, we are ready to take the next step towards achieving
this goal. Along with the new user interface on Magnet, we just think the time is right to jump
in and deliver to their desktops. This would mean that users could request from their
computers, see themselves what is going on with the request and receive articles – without
going out of the office. Prospero makes this last part possible...

Prospero is a web-based document delivery system and designed to work with Ariel. It
captures and converts Ariel files (TIFF images) to Web accessible documents (PDF files).
These files are then posted on a Web server which allow users to retrieve their documents
from the Web. Prospero manages user information and automatically sends email to the

2. Open Source projects and libraries

Open source projects or free software are programs developed and improved by the
international programming community for free. It has the following characteristics:

   -   the freedom to run the program, for any purpose
   -   the freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it
   -   the freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others
   -   the freedom to improve the program and share those improvements with the whole

The “open source for libraries” movement promotes the continued development of open
source projects such as Prospero to support the unique needs of libraries. Libraries rely on
only a few software developers to help them with new library products and their needs are
often so specific that few vendors will bother to develop them. With the open source system,
Prospero, many libraries benefit from the Prior Health Sciences Library’s experience,
resources and expertise.

3. History of Prospero

Eric Schnell is an Assistant Professor and Head of Information Services at the Prior Health
Sciences Library, Ohio State University. He and his team developed this program as an
Open Source product. With Ariel you can send articles as an attached file to users, but
because of the TIFF images(Tag image file format), the user will not always have the
appropriate viewer to read the document. The PDF files (Portable document format) is a bit
more useful because it uses Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is easy to install from any Web
browser. Eric Schnell and his team began in March 1999 looking at existing systems to see
what is already available in terms of electronic document delivery systems. They looked at
National Library of Medicine’s DocView and DocMorph, and Marshall University’s Web-EDD.
In April 1999 they decided to create their own system and then discovered Yale University’s
EDD which built on the concept of WebEDD. It delivers ILL documents to the patron using
the web. While Web-EDD was created for a specific community, EDD was designed with the
intention that other libraries would use it. It is free to download and install and other libraries
are welcome to develop it. Prospero is derived from this original EDD source code and
released in May 1999. A new version 1.35 was released in April 2000.

Modifications were made in Prospero to reduce the cost of implementation and to make it
more user-friendly. The purchase of Adobe Capture was not nessecary as in EDD, only
Adobe Acrobat Reader have to be downloaded for free from the Internet. Prospero was
rewritten in PERL, which use simple text files. You only need an Ariel workstation and a Web
server to install Prospero and no additional applications. The decision to create and distribute
Prospero as an open-source product was in part due to the EDD project. Instead of
developing a system from scratch, the Prior Library was able to build upon what Yale already

On the Web Site of Prospero ( you will find all the
information you need to install and there is a Web discussion board, where everybody helps
one another with questions and suggestions. Then there is also the ILL-Listserve where
discussions about Prospero are regularly found.

4. The two modules of Prospero
Prospero consists of two separate software modules. The first is a staff module that captures
and converts Ariel files into PDF files and then they are saved to a directory on a local Web
server. The second module consists of the Web server / User interface where the users
retrieve their documents.

4.1 Staff Module

Some of the tabs within the Prospero Staff module contain the same information as in the
Ariel directories. Documents received by Ariel are viewed in Prospero’s ARIEL IN directory,
while documents sent by Ariel are kept in the ARIEL OUT directory. When you click on each
tab you are given the documents Ariel currently has in those folders. These tabs can be
sorted by clicking on the column headers, e.g. Date, User. The QUEUED tab keeps track of
items that are currently queued in Prospero for processing. The USERS tab gives you the
database of all Prospero users, which includes all the basic information about the patron:
email address, PIN number, and the last activity. This indicates who have not used the
system. recently.

When you add a user to the userlist, Prospero automatically generates a patron PIN number
for secure access. You fill in the user’s email address, first name, middle initial, last name
and press “Exit and Save”. Then you go to the ARIEL IN directory, select the document you
want to send, click on right button of mouse. It gives you the options of “Send to Web Queue”
and “Send via Email Attachment”. After selecting one option, a screen appears where you
select a user from user list. You can enter text in the Item description box which is advisable,
otherwise the patron only receives the Ariel ID (Sabinet nr). We would put in the title of the
periodical at this point. Selecting OK places the document in Queue for processing. After
selecting and sending to users all the articles you want to process, click on Queue Menu,
then Process Queue. All the items will be processed as a batch. You may first view the
queue to make sure everything is correct. From the queue menu you may also “delete from
queue”. These are all the steps on the staff side. Prospero sends an automatic e-mail
message, which staff may modify as they like.

4.2 Web Server / Patron Interface

After receiving the notification e-mail, the user logs into the Prospero system using their
email address and the PIN number. A Web page will open containing a list of all their Ariel /
Prospero documents. This page is completely customizable by each library. The user
download the document by selecting the text message of each document. The files can be
removed from the system after a specific number of times viewed or a certain number
of days on the system, which is also customizable by each library.

5. Learning from others’ experiences

On the Ariel and ILL listservers other libraries have shared some of their experiences with
Prospero during the past year or two. Following is a summary of what I have learned
regarding Prospero from our own experience and the experience of others:
   Prepare a manual for the users which contains instructions how to download Adobe
    Acrobat Reader and how to retrieve the document from the Web.
   It could be difficult explaining to the users that some articles are electronic and others
    not. One library said they scan all articles that come by post also into Prospero.
   When entering users, Prospero doesn’t put them in any order. You have to click on
    Last Name every time you view the list to see it in an alphabetic order.
   The same happens in the ARIEL IN queue in Prospero. You have to click each time
    on Date/Time to set documents in the same order as documents received in Ariel.
   Some users could be hesitant to receive articles electronically because they do not
    have fast computers or good printers available to them.
   MANY users are very excited about electronic delivery.
   You can change the automatic e-mail message in the beginning to tell the users that it
    is a testing period and to give feedback about their experience of the program.
   If users have access to email they probably have access to the Internet also.
   You can use one of your computers in the office (e.g. the ARIEL workstation) to show
    users how to use the system and to help those that cannot retrieve their files
   Keep the documents for a longer time on the server than you tell the users.
   We will combine the publicity for using Prospero with that of the user interface on
   Prospero does not save a lot of time, but it saves considerably in printing supplies,
    such as paper and toner cartridges.
   You do need IT support for setting up Prospero.

6. Future possibilities...

Ariel Version 3, is coming out early in 2001 with a few new features. One of them is the
forwarding of documents to a server or directly to the user. Notification by e-mail will also
be possible. We do not know yet whether it will be as customizable as in Prospero. We
decided to start with Prospero now and compare the two when Ariel Version 3 is
available. It will definitely be easier to use one system.

To implement Prospero will take some effort, especially in the beginning with the training
of users. At this stage of the year 2000, we perhaps feel we cannot face another
change...but these words from Abraham Maslow (used by Eric Schnell in a talk about
Prospero) will be some encouragement:

“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth”

7. Bibliography

Web sites:


Chudnov, Daniel. Open Source software: the future of library systems? Library Journal
August 1999 pp 40-43.

Schnell, Eric. Freeing Ariel: the Prospero document delivery project. Journal of Interlibrary
Loan, Document Delivery and Information Supply Vol 10 nr 2 August 1999 pp 89-100.


Schnell, Eric. Open Source projects: the Prospero experience , presented at the Medical
Library Association Annual Meeting. Vancouver, BC, Canada. May 8, 2000.

Schnell, Eric. Prospero : freeing Ariel from the tree, presented at the Midwest Chapter of
the Medical Library Association Annual Meeting. Grand Rapids. MI. October 7, 1999.

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