MIT Reports to the President 1994-95


This annual report is intended to capture and celebrate the information technology achievements accomplished by the MIT Libraries in FY1995. In looking back, however, the essence of this year and the recent past is captured in two personal concepts: a Golden Age and Heroes.

When I worked in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress, a veteran reference librarian counseled me to recognize a golden age as we live in it rather than after it had passed. He explained that a golden age is one where a community works with cohesion, adds value to the life surrounding us, and gives a sense of happiness in the accomplishments in our expansive life and work. Although such a feeling may be hard to capture on a daily basis, golden ages are often characterized by the energy of change, the creative engagement of thought and deed, and an excitement in working on a great enterprise. In its strategic effort to become a service and access oriented library by leveraging information technology and networked communications, I believe that the Libraries and its staff have been living and working in a golden age.

A golden age means that there are heroes. In a recent article, James Schneider, science writer of the New York Times, described heroes as those people who should be celebrated and honored for striving to do their work well. Today, Schneider writes, we confuse celebrities and heroes; heroes are those people who reflect what it is that we feel is best in ourselves. Heroes lift us up and enable us to see higher qualities and achievements within ourselves.

As I leave the MIT Libraries, I would like to use this Annual Report to express some personal thoughts. The past six years have been a golden age for me, and I am confident that there is a new golden age ahead for MIT, the Libraries, Information Technology, and those people who strive to do that work well. An important measure of the combined success of the Libraries and IS is that the spirit and principles of our collaboration and partnership are embodied in the new MIT Information Technology framework. The MIT IT focus on process and collaboration to maximize expertise and contributions in all parts of the Institute mirrors some of the work and principles we have been pursuing in the Distributed Library Initiative. It is important for all of us to recognize what we have achieved and what we are poised to achieve and to celebrate this golden age that enables us to feel alive and challenged.

In this last annual report for the MIT Libraries, I would like to celebrate and recognize the heroes with whom I have been privileged to work every day: Tom Owens, Grant Young, Carter Snowden, and Ray Charbonneau. I would like to celebrate the heroes in the Barton Operations Group and all of the staff in the Libraries, IS, and throughout the Institute who are working to make a difference. At a Libraries' Visiting Committee dinner, then President Paul Gray said that "we are all here to scratch the same itch, and that is to understand something well." These heroes have all helped us to understand excellent library service well.


The technology program of the MIT Libraries has achieved significant milestones this year in three critical information technology processes: operations, prototyping, and research. These milestones are measures in the Libraries' goal to deliver high quality services. The whole infrastructure for this delivery of service is the staff, the content, and the technology. Each side of this triangle must be strong in order for the service to be effective, and each component must be integrally linked and integrated into the Libraries' daily existence. At present the Libraries' information technology component is strong, but stressed; it has not yet achieved full integration into the Libraries' cultural and organizational structure; but, it has become fully integrated into the Institute's technology environment.

Expectations for leadership are high at MIT. In the Libraries, these high expectations are based on the principle that we are living in the Information Age, and that Libraries and electronic scholarship are fundamental to this age. Therefore, the MIT Libraries, in collaboration with the entire MIT community, should explore and exploit technology for the effective and efficient delivery of library information. Expectations are both incentives for the organization and energizers for the staff. Fulfilling expectations through focused, expert work is the key to the health of the organization.

The remainder of the annual report will focus on achievements in these three areas of work:

Operations & Services

Prototyping & Development



The heart of the Libraries is its ability to deliver high quality services on a consistent basis day after day. This year the technology component of services to MIT comprised these operational achievements:

Implementation of a new library operations system to be fully functional in early August 1995

The effort to select and implement the new operations system for the Libraries has been the most significant achievement of the Libraries this year. Following the June 1994 Ameritech decision to discontinue development of the NOTIS Horizon system, the Libraries and IS began an immediate recovery program. Libraries and IS renewed contact with automation vendors. Through updating of existing information and quick evaluation of new opportunities, the Libraries and IS launched an evaluation and selection of a new vendor for the operations system.

Returning to our initial evaluations from the summer of 1993, the Libraries/IS Steering Group agreed on a few key principles learned during that first search process:

Adhering to these principles, we then agreed that we would renew communications with Geac Computers, Inc., whose Advance system was our original second choice. In addition we surveyed the library automation environment and investigated vendors who were new, currently in great demand, or who had an interesting vision. Through these investigations, including business analysis, functionality review and evaluation, and telephone or in person visits, we concluded that Geac met our vision most closely.

The Libraries/IS Steering Group accepted the recommendation to choose Geac in October. Work on the implementation program began immediately. Contract discussions were initiated. Hardware was selected and purchased. Library implementation groups were formed to shepherd the migration to the new system. Geac assigned a project manager to MIT.

The contract discussions provided the Libraries and MIT an immediate migration path and a long-term working relationship. The contract stipulates that Geac will deliver a client/server based product by the summer of 1996. In order to get to that point, the host-based system, Advance is being implemented for the summer of 1995. The two-tiered arrangement of the contract: immediate services and the Co-Development plan that describes the

deliverables and the working arrangements are believed to be a first for major academic libraries and library automation vendors.

The new SUN server 2000E (one gigabyte of RAM and 18 gigabytes of storage) was purchased by the Libraries and installed in W91 where IS will maintain and support the environment.

The first Geac migration to Advance (GMA) data were shipped to Geac in December and received in January. Those data were installed on the new server and testing and evaluation of the migration decisions began. Geac training on the new system began in February and was repeated in May. A second GMA was completed in May and June based upon the problems and issues identified from the first GMA test. This second GMA created new problems; a Geac programming bug in the migration caused problems with the data, and a systems programming conflict surfaced as well, causing downtime for the server. The end result was that Geac agreed to a third GMA which was received in July. Those data are currently being evaluated and the new implementation target is August 1.

Almost every member of the Libraries' staff has been involved in the New System Project. A Steering Committee composed of the Associate Directors and Dan Weir, Information Systems Director of Computing Support Services provided oversight for the implementation. The Barton Operations Group provided the day-to-day management of the effort. Grant Young of the Library Systems Office was the key implementation leader and worked with all staff on the effort.

The Co-Development effort also began in the winter. Progress was made on the Geac online public access client, GeoPAC; staff installed, tested, and evaluated the product for Geac. MIT Archives staff worked with Geac on an Archives Management System, including a detailed set of requirements. A team began work on the cataloging client, IS staff gave Geac an introduction to Kerberos, and Geac met with the Rotch Visual Collections staff to investigate image handling and delivery services.

Leadership and involvement in a library-wide study team investigating the issues and models for computer support in the Libraries

A cross-section of Libraries' staff was charged with investigating and recommending viable support models for the Libraries' computer infrastructure. Chaired jointly by Tom Owens, Head of Library Systems and Keith Glavash, Head of Document Services, this group surveyed the environment, consulted with a wide-variety of experts at MIT, in higher education, and in industry, and identified key issues related to the support and management of the more than 320 microcomputers in the Libraries. The report was issued at the end of the year. No single model was recommended among the three general concepts of highly centralized support, highly decentralized support, or a hybrid of those two ends of the spectrum. There was general endorsement that the Libraries conduct a pilot experiment based on a team-based approach to support. Although a model was not approved by the Libraries, the report has identified key issues and requirements for the Libraries to support its technology base. The report also stated a common denominator need for additional staffing in Systems, no matter which support environment might emerge.

Implementation of a Libraries' World Wide Web server supporting both public and staff information resources

The Libraries' campus-wide-information-system (CWIS) services migrated this year from a Gopher-based architecture, supporting text-based documents, to a World Wide Web (WWW) Server environment supporting graphical information and HTTP links to other relevant information both here at MIT and beyond. The Web server is managed in the Library Systems Office by Carter Snowden who facilitates both the technical and editorial work of the Libraries' group charged with this responsibility. The Libraries have been key contributors and supporters of the MIT CWIS renewal program, and the Libraries' Web services provide a wide-array of academic information to the community. There is a direct link to the Libraries Web page from the MIT "home page." In addition, there is a separate Web page for the MIT Libraries' Staff which contains information to support the work of the Libraries. The Libraries' Systems Office has assumed responsibility for the manage- ment and technical organization of the Web services and is engaged in development of new services for MIT.

Deployment of new technology in the Libraries

This year a continuous stream of new machines and technology flowed into the Libraries. Almost 100 new machines with accompanying network connectivity were installed bringing the number supported by Library systems to 320 486 level Windows machines. In addition, Library Systems also operates eight PC servers for LANs and MITnet, 250 printers, and two Unix servers for network access and World Wide Web services. Ray Charbonneau installed and coordinated the distribution of these new devices. In addition, Library Systems coordinated the installation of network drops for the new machines with IS Network Services. The installations this year come immediately after the installation of over 200 machines and network drops in FY1994. The Libraries' budget process calls for updating and renewing this technology base on a four year cycle. Replaced machines were made available at cost to Libraries' staff through a lottery process.

Encyclopaedia Britannica online

Information Systems and the Libraries are providing campus-wide access to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a World Wide Web accessible resource for all students, faculty, and staff. This effort was led by a joint Libraries/IS group which evaluates and investigates network interfaces.

Agreement, design, and installation of equipment for the Libraries' new technology training room

The Libraries requested and received allocation of a storage room in the basement of Building 14. Through funding from CRSP the room was outfitted as an electronic training facility and was ready for use with the first cycle of Geac training in February. Since that time the room, which contains 13 Windows workstations and a large screen monitor for presenters, has been in constant use to provide training events related to the new operations system. The refurbishment and outfitting of the room required close coordination between Physical Plant, the Libraries' Administrative Services Office, and Library Systems. Sheelah Britt, Head of Administrative Services, was instrumental in the timely completion of the work.

Agreement and favorable scheduling

Through an agreement with Greg Jackson, IS Director for Academic Computing Services, the Libraries allocated room E53-220 in the Dewey Library as an electronic classroom. IS converted the room and provides the technology and scheduling support. In return, the Libraries receive preferential scheduling for the room. An added outcome for the Libraries is the extended use of Library services by students and groups which are using the room.

Visiting Committee

A key success of the Corporation Visiting Committee on the Libraries in April was a "technology fair," demonstrating the variety and extent of the Libraries' technology program. As a component of the agenda created for the Corporation Visiting Committee meeting in April, Libraries' staff presented a "technology fair" to showcase the information technology accomplishments for library services. The presentations ranged from high-quality, production scanning operations, to electronic journals, Web services, computer science technical reports, and the new library operations system. The technology fair used three areas: the new technology classroom described above, an Athena electronic classroom, and Document Services to demonstrate digital scanning capabilities. This presentation in one place gave everyone a sense of the scope of the Libraries' accomplishments with technology and a sense of excitement about our future uses of technology to deliver better services.

provided, and discussions are underway regarding efficient distribution and licensed use of administrative and office software that would be provided by the LAN server.


MIT Reports to the President 1994-95