Querying, Navigating and Visualizing a Digital Library Catalog

Aravindan Veerasamy, Shamkant Navathe
College of Computing
801, Atlantic Drive
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0280, USA.
Phone: 1-404-894-8791
E-mail: veerasam, sham@cc.gatech.edu


We describe the design of an User Interface for a ranked output Information Retrieval system that integrates querying, navigation and visualization in a seamless fashion. Highlights of the system include the following: By providing a rich set of features, the interface coherently supports a wide spectrum of information gathering tactics for different classes of users.

KEYWORDS: Visualization of results, visual query languages, query processing, information retrieval


A typical user session along with the response of the interface for every user action is described below using an example (refer to Figure 1).

Figure 1. Sample querying session. The window titled ``Positive Objects'' is colored green and the window titled ``Negative Objects'' is colored red. All ``incantations'' of an object in the display are colored green/red whenever it is classified as positive/negative.

Figure 2. Visualization of results for the base query.

Figure 3. Visualization of results for query with feedback information.


A prototype interface [VHN95] written in Tcl/Tk [Ousterhout] using a ranked output information retrieval system, INQUERY [CCH92] for a library catalog, Compendex containing about 300,000 documents has been implemented. The interface facilitates the inherently interactive nature of the information seeking process. ``Drag-and-drop'' operations (using the mouse) form the basis of interaction encouraging the user to provide feedback information to the system and helps in the dialog between the user and the system. Almost any information on the screen can be used by the user to provide feedback information. An online thesaurus, WordNet [Miller90a], is integrated with the interface to form a single system.

The interface also supports a visualization scheme which illustrates how the query results are related to the query words. Visualizing the results of the query keeps the user more informed on how the system computed the ranking of documents. With this information, the user is better equipped to reformulate the query for the next iteration. The interface also has facilities to browse the Table of Contents of publications and to browse the list of articles written by a specific author. It is our opinion that integrating all of the above features in a seamless interface leads to an interplay between different items that is much more beneficial than the sum of the individual items in isolation.

We are in the final stages of implementation, and in future, we intend to test the effectiveness of the interface by conducting studies on how library users, experts looking for detailed information as well as naive users, interact with the interface and how they react to ranked output systems as opposed to existing boolean systems. We plan to include a domain-specific thesaurus for the engineering domain from Compendex and a collection-specific word-association thesaurus if possible.


We are thankful to Dr. Bruce Croft for letting us use the INQUERY retrieval system. We are indebted to the Dean of Georgia Tech Library Ms. Miriam Drake and Engineering Information Inc without whom it would have been impossible to use Compendex data for the experiment. Many thanks to Dr. Marti Hearst whose Tcl/Tk code for the SMART system was helpful as a spring board for us to write the interface. Support in part by ARPA contract No. F33615-93-1-1338 is also appreciated.


[CCH92] J.P. Callan, W.B. Croft, and S.M. Harding. The inquery retrieval system. In Third International Conference on Database and Expert Systems Applications, September 1992.

[Miller90a] George A. Miller, Richard Beckwith, Christiane Fellbaum, Derek Gross, and Katherine J. Miller. Introduction to WordNet: An on-line lexical database. Journal of Lexicography, 3(4):235--244, 1990.

[Ousterhout] John K. Ousterhout. Tcl and the Tk Toolkit. Addison-Wesley, 1994.

[VHN95] A. Veerasamy, S. Navathe, and S. Hudson. Visual interface for textual information retrieval systems. To appear in Proceedings of the Third Conference on Visual Database Systems. IFIP 2.6, 1995.