Academic year 1995-1996 marked the beginning of a new era in the MIT Libraries. In January 1996, Ann J. Wolpert assumed the position of Director of Libraries, bringing closure to the long and distinguished career of Jay K. Lucker.
As befits a transition year, this annual report reflects the strengths of the Libraries' past while pointing to directions for their future. If there is a common theme across all aspects of this year's report, it is the expectation for strategic renewal within the MIT Libraries. Excellence in library and information service has always required diligent attention and periodic renewal. Today's volatile environment, more than ever, demands the Libraries' continued focus on service to its core communities and on the strategic importance of information for education and research.
The Libraries successes and challenges rest firmly in the context of MIT's outstanding academic and research requirements. The Libraries must, therefore, always strive to be relevant to the world-class programs and activities of MIT. The Libraries have an equal obligation to seek the highest quality in its staff, resources, and services, and to represent MIT with distinction in its dealings with alumni and the external community.
In keeping with this mandate, the new Director's early months were dedicated to discovering the research, educational, and administrative requirements for Libraries services within MIT. At the same time, the Libraries' operations and plans were reviewed to gain detailed insights into the system's capabilities and issues. A few initiatives were suspended, the vast majority were advanced. The Music Library undertook dramatic renovations, a cooperative agreement was signed with Harvard's Graduate School of Design Library, additional databases were acquired, numerous service innovations were initiated, a modest development program was launched, training needs for professional staff were identified, and the Libraries' presence on the World Wide Web was expanded.
This year's annual report reflects the tensions inherent in a rapidly evolving planning environment. A number of factors currently influence the mission of premier academic research libraries, and the MIT Libraries are no exception.
And, unique to MIT, the Institute's sophisticated but heterogeneous network and desktop environment present special challenges to the ubiquitous delivery of contemporary library services.
The MIT Libraries have notable strengths to carry into the next century. Foremost among these strengths are the excellence of the staff, a strong commitment to service, innovation in process design, and the quality of the resources. As the Libraries move toward the 21st century, traditional assumptions will continue to be challenged. First, the definition of library excellence will change as the Libraries meet new and emerging needs within MIT. Second, the Libraries utilization of technology and space will evolve to accommodate new ways of scholarly communication, student learning and MIT research. Third, Libraries' staff capabilities and expertise will continue to develop to deliver quality service in a changing MIT environment.
Under the exceptionally able leadership of the Associate Directors, despite the transitional nature of this academic year, the Libraries have advanced many of the strategic objectives articulated for the year. The individual reports which follow illustrate the Libraries' considerable accomplishments during academic year 1995-1996.
The Libraries annual report also reflects the staff's ingenuity and professionalism in addressing these challenges. The activities highlighted below reflect innovation and initiative - in the design of fundamental processes, in the creation of new services, in the Libraries' use of technology. In the pursuit of these goals, the Libraries are appreciative of support received from many other quarters within MIT - most notably Information Systems, Resource Development, individual Deans and faculty members, the Associate Provost for the Arts, the Faculty Committee on the Library System, and the Office of the Provost. The reports that follow would not have been possible without the assistance of these and other exceptional individuals at MIT.
The major accomplishments for Administrative Services were in the areas of re-engineering and Geac Advance implementation. Both areas hold the prospect of future advantage to the work of Administrative Services.
Re-engineering continued to touch on many of the Libraries' administrative functions including new procedures for hiring temporary help, team-based building custodial services, and new mail handling procedures. The new SAP financial system has held considerable interest for the Libraries, in that many of the modules under development will impact directly on library operations. Modules for purchasing, accounts payable, and accounts receivable have obvious application in the Libraries. Administrative Services is pleased to be a test site for the Purchasing Department's Electronic Catalog system for obtaining office supplies.
The other major accomplishment for Administrative Services this year was the successful implementation of the Geac Advance acquisitions module. The work of the department is reflected in both the design of the module by Geac and in the implementation of the module within the Libraries. The Geac Advance acquisitions module provides the Libraries with a level of fund accounting, invoice processing control, and financial reporting not previously available.
Administrative Services has also coped admirably with Institute administrative mandates, such as the new parking fee and the new MIT identification card; MIT Libraries mandates, such as creation of a Web-based staff locator; and the impact of the early retirement incentive program on long-standing relationships across the Institute.
Ann J. Wolpert
This was a year in which staff involved in all areas of collection development and collection management faced daunting workloads and extraordinary change, and yet - by "working harder, faster, smarter" - realized significant success.
Guided by the Preservation and Collections Librarian and the Collections Managers, the subject specialists continued to build and shape the Libraries' collections. Two significant projects consumed their attention. In addition, an expanding focus on the selection of electronic information resources continues to be a challenge for all.
The Libraries' materials budget continues to be inadequate to sustain our collections at a rate equal to the growth in the scholarly literature and the increases in prices. For the fourth time in the last decade, the subject specialists carried out a review to select serial titles for cancellation in order to contain costs. They gathered data related to use, citation history, price increases, and availability at other libraries or from commercial suppliers. They used this data to compile lists of potential cancellations for review by faculty departments, and, after considering the responses, made final decisions. Based on this work, the Libraries will cancel approximately nine percent of its subscriptions in order to bring expenditures back into line with the budget for another few years.
The second project, while also very time-consuming, was a more positive activity. It was directed at speeding the receipt of new books and simultaneously freeing some staff time for more attention to the acquisition of electronic products. This was accomplished through the selection and implementation of an approval plan for book acquisitions -- a sort of outsourcing of the selection process. A subject profile was prepared with a vendor, who now supplies books which match the profile (without requiring a prior purchase order process by the Libraries). Incoming books are reviewed before they are added to the collections, and titles which are inappropriate can be returned to the vendor. However, the vast majority are suitable and are added to the MIT Libraries' collections shortly after they are published.
Subject specialists are selecting electronic resources as additions to the Libraries' array of information offerings at an expanding rate. The selection decisions for these materials are far more complex than those for print materials. In addition to considering the subject focus and the quality, authority, and uniqueness of the information, the selector needs to answer questions such as these: Which form of delivery is best for the Libraries' and the Institute's circumstances? Are the search and navigation tools adequate? Are the license conditions satisfactory to the Libraries' purposes and the fair use rights of the Libraries' customers? Is the price negotiable? What local support will be needed? Every product brings new questions and decisions.
A clearly emerging new trend this year was the trend toward consortia negotiation for electronic products. The Boston Library Consortium charged an Electronic Resources Working Group to consider networked resources for shared access by its member institutions. Products under review are Chemical Abstracts, BIOSIS, and three citation databases from ISI. Two Libraries' committees, CMG (Collection Management Group) and NUT (Network User-Interface Team), began discussions with Harvard University Libraries related to a joint project to tape-load Environmental Periodicals Bibliography. Finally, the Libraries learned of and joined with a group of Northeast research libraries which are organizing themselves into a consortium for the purpose of negotiating joint access to electronic resources. By the end of the year, access to the electronic versions of all of Academic Press journals was being negotiated for the group by Yale University Libraries. While all of these projects are still in the formative stages, together they give a clear indication of the growing importance of consortia agreements in the environment of electronic distribution of information.
On the other end of the spectrum, an important addition to the print collections this year was a gift to the Rotch Library consisting of rare architectural treatises from the library of William W. Cordingley. The gift includes early and original works which will be of immeasurable value to students in history, theory, and criticism courses of the Department of Architecture.
The implementation of Geac Advance, coupled with co-development efforts for an intended Geac client-server product, was the consuming activity for our acquisitions and cataloging staff this year.
The summer months were a period of intense analysis and training as staff learned the intricacies of the new system and made the myriad decisions necessary to begin using it. The Head of Serials Copy Cataloging and Records Maintenance carried out a special assignment to coordinate library-wide training in the use of the new system. The new training room in the basement of Building 14 greatly facilitated this effort.
The Geac GLIS system was turned off at the end of the 1994-95 fiscal year, but we were unable to bring up the new Geac Advance system until August 24. Due to our decision to continue using OCLC for our cataloging work, we were able to continue cataloging during this period, although the record loads were postponed until just before the August 24 implementation. In a significant shift, the record loads and bibliographic table maintenance became the responsibility of staff in Bibliographic Access Services (BAS) and Serials and Acquisitions Services (SAS) instead of the Systems Office staff.
The summer downtime was much more problematic for acquisitions than it was for cataloging, resulting in backlogs of orders, claims, unpaid invoices, unreceived books, and unresolved problems that took many subsequent months to work through. For serials acquisitions, the challenge was even more daunting, as the Libraries were moving to automated processing for the first time, and all of the manual check-in records had to be input. In a year of many significant accomplishments, the intensive effort to achieve this goal stands out. Collaboration of staff from Serials Acquisitions, Serials Cataloging, Bibliographic Access Services, and divisional and branch libraries, resulted in the creation of orders, "copysets", holdings statements, and serial item linking for 8,000 serial titles over a period of only five months. Even one of our vendors commented on this as an amazing achievement!
In addition to the staff's efforts to implement Geac Advance, many of them were also involved in teams working on co-development of the Geac client-server systems. This work ranged from responding to documentation or beta products in the areas of cataloging and authorities, to a more active collaboration with Geac staff on the design of an acquisitions client. Due to contractual issues with Geac, these efforts ceased in the spring months. While there was a mixed reaction of disappointment and relief, the staff's initial involvement in the process was valuable in stimulating analysis and articulation of basic functional requirements that will prove useful in future systems evaluation.
Preservation services continued at levels typical of recent years. Special attention continued to be given to the Rotch Limited Access Collection, including a summer cleaning project, purchase of Clarkson Book supports to protect rare volumes, and a special project to clean and display materials from the Cordingley gift.
Approximately 20,000 volumes were moved from MIT Libraries to the Retrospective Collection (RSC) housed in N57, and, in turn, a transfer of Archives theses and circulating volumes from RSC were moved to the Harvard Depository (HD). With the completion of the transfer of theses to HD, we are faced with much more difficult processes in the future to continue to make room in RSC for materials which need to be moved from our various libraries. The selection process for materials to be moved to HD will be difficult because we will need to move items with greater potential for user recall. In addition, this will require significantly greater staff effort to change bibliographic records and barcode materials. A planning effort for this new phase of our storage program was initiated early in the summer.
Considering the intense effort required to migrate to a new system and work on the development of a future system, it is a great credit to the staff that productivity in cataloging and acquisitions remained at normal levels. Achievements in serials cataloging were particularly noteworthy in that they included the highest CONSER contributions since the Libraries joined the program in 1988, and the reduction of materials in the pre-cat collections to the lowest in "recorded history". In addition, all Collections Services departments continued work on our long-term goal of expanding the coverage of the Libraries' collections in the on-line catalog, including: significant progress on cataloging Rotch art pamphlets; completion of retrospective conversion of records for all MIT theses from 1940 to date; continued retrospective conversion and reclassification (from DDC to LC) of materials in the areas of history, mathematics, and biography; and planning for and initiation of summer projects to convert records for sound recordings and unclassified serials.
Innovative applications of OCLC's Passport for Windows software have provided efficiencies in several areas of processing. A BAS staff member programmed function keys to automate procedures for inputting mandatory local system information into the OCLC records and for examining OCLC records to determine the potential for "fastcat" processing. The latter has enabled BAS to adjust its workflow so that approximately thirty percent of incoming receipts can be separated from more complex materials and processed immediately. An SAS staff member used OCLC Passport for Windows software to create macros to streamline the monograph receiving process as well as the summer serials retrospective conversion project.
Great progress was made this year in the use of the Internet for making Collections Services information available to staff throughout the Libraries. A Collection Services Web Team was created in the fall and worked throughout the year to create Collections Services Web pages to assist staff in their work. The most notable resources now on our Web pages include the following: a book search form for the use of local units, the Acme Bindery list of "out-of-house" titles, a Collection Services decisions archive, and an inventory of journal issues available in Gifts. In addition, the pre-existing serials commitments list, government documents databases, and Cataloging Oasis of external and internal policy and procedures information were incorporated. The Web has thus become a major working resource for staff within Collection Services and throughout the Libraries, and the team members have acquired and shared important new skills.
Several situations required and benefitted from the flexible use of staff across department and unit lines. These examples illustrate a significant transition in the way we work. As already indicated, there were contributions from staff from both BAS and Serials Cataloging in the process to convert serial records to the automated system. In addition, a BAS staff member who had formerly worked in serials acquisitions was called upon to help resolve serials invoicing issues which resulted from the need to convert records. Without her expertise, it would have been very difficult to complete this essential work before the end of the fiscal year. Two other BAS staff members were trained in receiving and invoice approval and assisted with the backlog of monograph receipts once Geac Advance was operational. The newly acquired skills will be utilized on a more long-term basis. As a result of MIT's early retirement program, the staff in monograph acquisitions has been reduced. In order to provide sufficient coverage, one of these BAS staff members will continue to supplement the staff in receipts processing, and a staff member from the Documents Section will be a back-up for the ordering process.
In another instance, we were also able to capitalize on skills acquired during a temporary assignment. In February, the responsibilities of the previous half-time Gifts Librarian were permanently assigned to a staff member who had filled in as Gifts Librarian during a vacancy a few years ago. The position resulting from this merger of responsibilities, Assistant Librarian for Monograph Acquisitions and Gifts, brings together related activities and provides a new stability for the gifts operation. It should also be noted that until February the Gifts position was filled on a temporary basis by the Head of the Retrospective Collection (RSC).
Collection Services is realizing significant benefits from a need to utilize more staff outside of their usual departmental or unit assignments to solve ad hoc problems: broadening the staff skill base and "whole process knowledge", and enabling more flexible use of staff in new job design.
A major serials review, initiation of an approval plan, and implementation of Geac Advance were dominant activities this year. Significant new trends were the expanded consortia efforts to acquire electronic resources, a shift toward more difficult storage decisions, creative advances in the use of technology, and increased flexibility in the use of staff resources.
In Collection Services, this has been a year of incredible challenge and note-worthy accomplishment, summed up best in the words of the Head of the Serials Acquisitions section: "In a very unusual year, many people made unusual efforts. We are thankful for all of them."
Carol J. Fleishauer
Innovative ways of working with faculty to impart to students a set of skills which will make them self sufficient in retrieving information here at MIT and in their future educational, research, and private lives has been a priority for many years. This year saw an extraordinary number of new and creative approaches come to fruition. A sampling:
This class was also an opportunity for the Institute Archives to experiment in the documentation of classroom activity. Recognizing the importance of the educational process in the classroom, and the difficulty in documenting that process, the Archives staff developed a documentation strategy for this course. Records assembled include faculty notes and overhead transparencies, librarian and archivist notebooks, e-mail correspondence among faculty and students, the class website, videotapes of classroom sessions, etc.
In each case, one or more librarians worked with a faculty member to integrate information retrieval skills into the classroom instruction. Frequently the conversations between librarian and faculty influenced the design of the course, making it a true collaboration. In all cases, faculty gained a new appreciation for the expertise of their librarians and the librarians felt enthused about their participation in the educational process.
Just as the faculty has been using IAP in recent years to supplement the curriculum with credit courses, the Libraries staff has had great success in focussed instructional activities. This past January saw more than a dozen well-attended activities. Examples:
"GeoRef: Down to Earth." Hands-on instruction in the use of the GeoRef CD-Rom product which indexes the literature of the geosciences.
"Introduction to FirstSearch." Another hands-on activity to teach students and researchers how to access 20 databases from their desktop.
"Blast Your Way Through the Aerospace Literature." An in-depth session with the Aerospace Database on CD-Rom.
"Everything You Wanted to Know About Patents." The ins and outs of the patent process at MIT, taught by a patent attorney, a staff member of MIT's Technology Licensing Office, and two librarians.
"Introduction to the World Wide Web." Two librarians teamed to do an overview of the WWW with a focus on library resources.
"Pointers for Post Docs." Segmenting the market of library users, this seminar focussed on online searching options, finding journal literature, current awareness products, and access to other libraries in the Boston area.
"Introduction to Online Searching for Chemists." A full day devoted to learning the basic command language of STN in the Registry and Chemical Abstracts files: the basic online databases for chemists.
"Searching MEDLINE for Biology and Neurosciences." Another market segment targeted for special attention in a hands-on session.
"How to Do Your Bibliography Electronically." Two librarians presented the strengths and weaknesses of various bibliographic software packages to compile and manipulate citations.
"Electronic Access to High Technology." Two subject specialists teamed to offer a combination of lecture, demonstration, and hands-on instruction on electronic databases covering the high tech field, from both a technical and business perspective.
As the Institute confronts the issues surrounding the use of Independent Activities Period, the Libraries will continue to mirror the emerging patterns of offerings. Recent experience has demonstrated that it is an ideal time to capture the attention of the students in targeted activities that enhance their core information literacy competencies.
The creativity and energy of the staff was demonstrated in a series of new service initiatives.
A sampling of feedback from library users:
"I can't tell you how grateful I am to have this service and how much easier it makes dissertation research."
"You provide an extremely valuable service."
"This...affords me the opportunity to express my appreciation to you...and your student staff for the consistent, efficient, conscientious, professional, and friendly service that you provide to graduate students in our department."
"The students were very appreciative...and I send our collective thanks to you and those who helped them. By the way, the presentations...were much improved over a similar assignment that we had in the beginning of the semester... So hats off, you certainly had an impact!"
"I appreciate your thoughtfulness."
"I am deeply grateful for your prompt and full reply to my recent inquiry...
You uncovered precisely the information I was seeking. Virtually every page you sent was helpful..."
The Libraries successfully migrated from the Geac 8000 legacy system to the Geac Advance system, as a planned step in the movement toward a client-server library automation product. The migration of bibliographic, acquisitions, and circulation databases was accomplished during the summer of 1995 through the work of teams consisting of library staff with expertise in each database, Systems Office staff, and vendor assistance. By the beginning of the fall semester, library patrons were using the new Advance online public access catalog; reserve materials were being processed, and items circulated, with the Advance software; and the acquisitions module was being used to order materials.
For the first time in the history of the MIT Libraries, serials are now managed in an automated environment. The design of the Advance serials system has made implementation a complex and frustrating endeavor. The goal of providing end users with timely and accurate information about our serials was difficult to achieve but has been accomplished thanks to the hard work and perseverance of the implementation team.
Fall and winter were periods of intense testing and learning as the staff attempted to get the maximum functionality from this new online system. The need to balance the modification of existing processes and procedures to accommodate the new system, with special programming to achieve desired functionality, drove the strategy.
The migration to Advance also marked the migration of machine maintenance from the Libraries to I/S. The new SparcStation server, upon which Advance runs, is maintained under contract by I/S and is physically located in I/S space. This shift signals a new way of doing business for both organizations.
In a parallel process, during Advance implementation, a co-development initiative was in progress to develop, with Geac, a client-server based library automation product. The terms of our contract with Geac afforded us the opportunity to work with a commercial vendor in developing the next generation of library automation and, at the same time, put the MIT Libraries in the forefront of library technology. Co-development teams of Libraries' and Geac staff were launched in the following areas: online public access catalog, cataloging, circulation, reserves, acquisitions and serials control, archives and records management, visual images, and security. The agreed upon co-development process involved stages of requirements analysis where the staff spelled out the task to be accomplished; functional analysis which resulted in a draft of specifications by the vendor; design where a prototype was developed for staff review and testing, and implementation where a mature product was ready for MIT and for the marketplace.
The schedule was ambitious. A promised completion date of Summer 1996 for all modules became increasingly unrealistic and the quality of the co-development relationship deteriorated during the Spring. The vendor's revised completion date of 1998 was unacceptable to MIT and the co-development project was terminated. The termination of the project was both a disappointment and a relief. The staff is certainly disappointed that the effort expended on co-development did not result in a "product." At the same time, it was clear by the ever extended deadlines that the project had stalled. The decision to focus on the Advance installation while monitoring the emerging client-server industry has been accepted by both the Libraries and I/S collaborators on this project.
David S. Ferriero
MIT Reports to the President 1995-96