MIT Reports to the President 1994-95


The academic year recently ended was one of exceptional activity and momentous change for the MIT Libraries. It was also a year like many years in the past two decades filled with challenges and accomplishments, with many successes and occasional failure, and, as always, propelled by the many outstanding individuals who comprise the staff of the Libraries. Certainly, the two events with the greatest current and future potential impact were the implementation of the new Geac Advance operating system and the search for a new director of libraries. At the close of the academic year, the system implementation was well along and the circulation module was actually turned on for public use on August 3. At the same point, the director search was in the hands of the President and Provost who had previously received a recommended list of candidates from the search advisory committee.

From 1865 to the present, there have been nine directors of the MIT Libraries. As the following list indicates, several of them including the present incumbent have served for 20 years or more:

William P. Atkinson 1865-1890 25 years
Clement W. Andrews 1890-1894 4 years
Robert P. Bigelow 1894-1925 31 years
William N. Seaver 1925-1944 19 years
John E. Burchard 1944-1948 4 years
Vernon D. Tate 1948-1955 7 years
William N. Locke 1955-1972 17 years
Natalie N. Nicholson 1972-1975 3 years
Jay K. Lucker 1975-1995 20 years

One generalization one might make is that MIT library directors either stay for a very long time or a very short time. Nonetheless, the history of the library administration would seem to suggest that the position has been characterized by relative stability of leadership. The evolution of the MIT Libraries from a print based to a print and electronic based environment has accelerated at a geometric rate within the past 25 to 30 years. It is likely that both the pace and the magnitude of technological change will continue to increase in the late 1990's and the beginning of the next century. The MIT Libraries have held a position of leadership in the research library community supported in large part by the faculty and research staff of the Institute. The new library director will enter an environment characterized by a strong tradition of library service, excellent collections, and a superb staff.

The selection of Geac Computers as providers of the new library operating system continues to produce very positive results and great prospects for the future. The agreement between Geac and MIT to work as co-developers of a number of new and emerging components of the client-server system has generated great enthusiasm in both organizations and has begun to show results. As the reports of the several associate directors that follow indicate, the implementation of the Geac Advance system was a library-wide, staff intensive, collaborative effort. It was a driving force during most of the year that provided both an impetus for action and a work overload for most staff. As expected, the staff rose to and above the occasion.

Two notable developments in information technology applications during the year were the work on the World Wide Web both at MIT and in collaboration with OCLC (the Online Computer Library Center in Columbus, Ohio) and the installation of 486 level workstations throughout the Libraries. In addition, the Encyclopedia Britannica online was made available to the entire MIT community. Two major space changes produced a fully equipped interactive electronic classroom in the Dewey Library, and a state-of-the art electronic training facility in Hayden Library.

Research efforts also continued apace during the year with work being undertaken with images databases, with an MIT publications database, with customizing access to the FirstSearch files, and with making a connection to the Copyright Clearance Center's transactional reporting system. The MIT Libraries also participated in OCLC's Internet Cataloging Project, a new and exciting effort involving a number of major research libraries.

Thanks to the efforts of the Associate Provost for the Arts, MIT has obtained a donor commitment for the renovation of the Music Library. When completed, this will provide much improved reading and listening space, better work space and offices for the staff, and expansion for shelving music books, scores, and other materials.

One of the major achievements of the year -- or any year for that matter -- was the signing of an agreement for reciprocal borrowing between the Harvard College Library and the MIT Libraries. Long sought after by MIT, this contract should prove beneficial to the faculty, graduate students, and research staffs of both Harvard and MIT. For MIT, the agreement will be of most immediate benefit to faculty and graduate students in the humanities and social sciences as it greatly enhances access to the collections in Widener Library as well as in Cabot (sciences), Fine Arts, Loeb Music, and Tozzer (anthropology). Harvard users should find collections in engineering, science, urban studies, architecture, management, linguistics, and philosophy extending their research and study capabilities.

The Boston Library Consortium will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1995. The past year saw progress in several areas critical to the current and future needs of the MIT Libraries. The most far reaching and with the greatest long term impact was the setting of cooperative collection agreements in chemistry, neuroscience, women's studies, and Asian business. In the first two areas, the member libraries agreed to support and maintain strong periodical collections by allocating responsibility for critical titles among the libraries. The other two agreements focus on monographic material. The BLC also completed the redesign of the union list of serials and by year's end it was operational on the Boston University library computer system.

The only major disappointment during the past year was fiscal. The Libraries' budget for materials and online services continued to trail by a considerable margin the needs generated by high price inflation and increased user demand. In FY1996, the third year of 2% staffing cuts will show up in the elimination of most overnight service hours for Hayden Library and in increased pressure of work on a diminished (by 10%) total staff. The prospects for FY1997 and beyond do not seem particularly bright at this writing, given the overall status of MIT finances and the national situation for support of scientific and technical research and education.

MIT Libraries' staff continue to be active in a number of national and international library organizations. They are also quite involved with a variety of MIT activities. The following list, while not inclusive, does provide an insight into the many arenas in which MIT Libraries' personnel serve the broader Institute community:

Last year the Libraries' Task Force on Safety and Security was given the MIT Campus Police Citizen Recognition Award for its work on defining and recommending improvements in the Libraries' safety and security program.


This was the year in which the Archives was "plugged in." It was a year in which the vision of how electronic tools would truly transform the Archives began to be realized. This vision rests upon four interrelated electronic tools:

1. Bibliographic records in the MIT, OCLC, and RLIN databases;

2. Electronic database of finding aids;

3. Electronic archival management system;

4. Electronic texts of selected documents from the paper collections as well as full text of electronic records.

Significant progress was made in all four areas during the past year:

1. Under a grant from the National Historical Preservation and Records Commission, records for 600 archival and manuscript collections will be created and entered into all three databases.

2. MIT is working in collaboration with counterparts at the University of California at Berkeley to develop a standard markup language for finding aids. MIT submitted sample aids that are now part of the UCB test database.

3. MIT is working with Geac Computers and with colleagues at New York University on requirements for an electronic archival management system.

4. The Institute Archivist and a senior staff member in Information Systems, Tim McGovern, issued a report on electronic records at MIT entitled "Managing Electronic Evidence: a Risk Management Perspective." This report will be circulated among the senior MIT administration.

During the year, responsibility for the acquisition and initial processing of all MIT publications was effectively transferred from Serials and Acquisitions Services to the Archives.

There was an unusually high volume of material added during the year totalling over 1300 cubic feet; this is 400 cubic feet more than the previous high in FY1994. Among the major contributors were MIT offices of the Senior Vice President, Financial Vice President, and Dean of the Graduate School. There were also significant transfers from the Department of Chemical Engineering, the Visual Languages Workshop, the Office of Capital Gifts and Legal Affairs, the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel, the Industrial Liaison Program, and Secretary of the Corporation. A major manuscript collection was received from Douglas Ross, founder of SofTech, including much of the company's history. New collections included the papers of Vera Kistiakowsky (Physics), Bertha Dodge (teacher and writer); Raymond Baddour (chemical engineering); Dennis Robinson (High Voltage Energy Corporation); Robert White (National Academy of Engineering); and the Underwood Company, a pioneer in food preservation. Important additions were made to the papers of David Baltimore, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Robert Shrock, and Jerome B. Wiesner.


MIT Reports to the President 1994-95