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
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:
- Implementation of a new library operations system to be fully functional in
early August 1995.
- Leadership and involvement in a library-wide study team investigating the
issues and models for computer support in the Libraries.
- Implementation of a Libraries World Wide Web server supporting both public
and staff information resources.
- Deployment of new technology in the Libraries; almost 100 new machines with
accompanying network connectivity; Library systems now supports 320 486 level
Windows machines, 8 PC servers for LANs and MITnet, 250 printers, two Unix
servers for network access and World Wide Web services.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica online.
- Agreement, design, and installation of equipment for the Libraries' new
technology training room.
- Agreement and favorable scheduling for the Libraries in the new Athena
electronic classroom in E53-220.
- Visiting Committee. A key success of the Corporation Visiting Committee on
the MIT Libraries in April was a "technology fair," demonstrating the variety
and extent of the Libraries' technology program.
- Agreement and working activity with Geac Computers, Inc. on co-development of
next generation, client-server based library systems.
- TULIP: an electronic journal infrastructure using Elsevier Science Publishers
titles in Materials Science.
- Development of a prototype with the MIT Archives to place Faculty Committee
- Initial prototyping of a library-wide Local Area Network service.
- Development of a Web/Z39.50 gateway service to provide access to Barton and
other library catalogs and citation databases via the Web.
- Electronic Reserves. Building upon existing tools and architectures, the
Libraries have been working to build an electronic reserve library system.
- Faculty Committee minutes online.
- Development Guidelines for MIT.
- Research progress on the Computer Science Technical Reports Project with the
LCS Library 2000 project.
- Award of a Z39.50 grant as part of the Boston Library Consortium information
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:
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
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
- We are committed to our DLI Vision;
- We are committed to a Unix environment for our server;
- We want to move as far along the client/server development path as possible.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PROTOTYPING & DEVELOPMENT
Reports to the President 1994-95