The MIT Libraries provide relevant, high-quality information resources and services in support of the educational and research activities of MIT. The Libraries have fulfilled this mission with distinction for many years, acquiring materials and delivering services essential to MIT's dynamic community. Today, as MIT and its Libraries confront the emerging impact of information technology on higher education, the Libraries' challenge is to devise transitional service strategies, and to be prepared to adapt and evolve their traditional functions. The year 1996/1997 was a time during which the MIT Libraries renewed their focus on the central purposes of the Libraries, and began the critical process of rethinking the research library for MIT.
Major challenges confront academic research libraries, and the MIT Libraries are no exception. Fundamental changes in the ways scholars communicate among themselves present opportunity (for faster, cheaper communication) and risk (for loss of authenticity and permanence). Unremitting double-digit inflation in the serials base continues, even as the volume of growth in published content for the disciplines supported at MIT places relentless pressure on collections and space. The high cost of scholarly electronic publications, the changing nature of the skills required to use and work in libraries, and the expectations of the MIT community are, likewise, important concerns for MIT's Libraries.
Scores of scholarly disciplines and sub-disciplines are supported by the MIT Libraries, each with its own print and electronic publications. Required resources range from the popular to the esoteric, and must address the needs of a community that itself ranges from undergraduate students to tenured faculty. Through it all, the MIT Libraries have an obligation to assure the availability of important works over time; so that in the 21st Century, MIT students and researchers will have the same ability to draw upon a coherent body of knowledge as do the students and researchers of today.
A TIME FOR NEW INITIATIVES
During 1996/1997, the MIT Libraries gave serious attention to testing the operational requirements and viability of the Digital Library. While a relatively small percentage of scholarly publishing has an electronic equivalent at present, the scene is changing steadily. Recognizing the need to more fully explore the Digital Library, Library Council established three specific initiatives that would facilitate access to electronic information resources. Leadership for these strategic initiatives came from within Library Council, with major support from individuals and groups across the Libraries staff.
Networked information resources. The MIT community is at work all hours of the day and night. To "open" the MIT Libraries beyond existing hours and locations, the Libraries launched a program to significantly increase the provision of scholarly information resources over MIT's network. Web-based products were selected, principally because of network requirements and the ubiquity of web browsers. In consultation with faculty, eighteen important electronic databases were selected and acquired; satisfying long-standing needs of both faculty and students. Simultaneously, pre-existing license agreements for the most heavily used commercial database vendors were extended to include additional sites.
Automated authorities control. When the MIT Libraries' catalog of library holdings became available on the network, patrons could search for items from anywhere on campus. To improve the quality and usability of the Barton database for remote users, the Libraries initiated automated authorities control. This initiative creates cross references within the catalog, and increases the accuracy and completeness of search results. Once the initial quality improvement is completed, the Libraries' catalog of holdings will be enhanced on a quarterly basis.
Computer support within the Libraries. Desktop computing, networked information resources, and web-based educational and research tools have become a reality in the MIT Libraries within a very short period of time. All areas of the Libraries now require a level of computer support that cannot be sustained with traditional organizational models. At the same time, the specific skills required to perform ordinary library functions in the contemporary library are evolving. This initiative segments the tasks required within a contemporary library, provides for adaptive training, establishes point positions for key areas of responsibility, and creates a new model for communication and support within the computer-based activities of the MIT Libraries.
A TIME FOR FUNDAMENTALS
Even as the MIT Libraries explored the digital environment, the inexorable demands of traditional print continued. Because print still provides the vast majority of material used by MIT students, researchers, and faculty, activities within the MIT Libraries also focused on the four fundamental aspects of an effective research library: services, staff, information resources, and facilities.
The MIT Libraries undertook several studies and surveys to gather data about the current use of the Libraries collections and services. One survey, which included every public service unit of the MIT Libraries, captured information regarding patron status, the purpose of the visit, and the level of success/satisfaction experienced in the visit. Simultaneously, traffic volume into the Libraries web server was captured to compare in-library volume to network access volume. Other surveys collected data on activities such as reference type and volume, and walk-in traffic.
In a fourth strategic initiative, Library Council addressed the Libraries' emerging need to deliver consolidated fee-based services. Two important service issues are addressed through this initiative. First, as the MIT Libraries renew their focus on the MIT community, they must also acknowledge the importance of the MIT Libraries to the community outside the Institute. MIT's collections are exceptionally strong in many areas, and access is highly valued by scholars and researchers beyond MIT. Second, as the MIT Libraries develop strategies for sustaining service with available resources, tiered or premium services may become appropriate. This Library Council initiative explores the implications of offering tiered services to the MIT community, and provides tools for the Libraries to better manage the demands of non-affiliated patrons.
The Engineering and Science Libraries accepted the challenge of designing a new approach to meeting the information needs of the Physics Department. Subscriptions to 42 electronic physics journals, and a variety of other electronic resources, were made available to the Physics Department through a customized Physics and Astrophysics web site: http://libraries.mit.edu/science/Subjects/physics.html.
Reference librarians from across the MIT Libraries built an online, web-based collection of reference materials for the MIT community. The Virtual Reference Collection can be accessed at http://libraries.mit.edu/services/virtualref.html.
The Humanities Library conducted a test of the feasibility of providing web-accessible scanned images of required reading, as an alternative to the print versions in the Reserve Book Room. In collaboration with faculty, Document Services, and the Library Systems Office, a highly successful image-based network-accessible "reserve reading room" was created.
During 1996/1997, the Libraries began to address the changing nature of library work and the associated training requirements. In a distributed system such as the MIT Libraries, the professional and administrative staff of the Libraries carry significant responsibility for shaping the future of the Libraries' resources and services. The Libraries Steering Committee determined that these staff should receive an improved level of support and attention to reflect the changing nature of Libraries work. Training programs were developed and delivered to enable staff to work effectively in new ways, and to better understand the nature of and responses to change. Recognizing the need for an improved focus on administrative and professional staff, a Director's Office position was restructured to provide targeted administrative support for professional and administrative personnel issues within the Libraries.
Library Council also addressed staff issues through the establishment of a fifth strategic initiative: to market library expertise to the MIT community. The professional expertise resident in the staff of the MIT Libraries represents a unique capability within the Institute. No other MIT department possesses the combined insights and knowledge of published sources, scholarly research behavior, bibliographic instruction, and digital information resources. When this expertise is deployed effectively, particularly when working with faculty, students and faculty alike gain great benefit. This initiative developed strategies and tools for integrating information literacy into courses, and for identifying and reaching out to interested faculty.
The year was also remarkable in the demands it placed on the MIT Libraries staff. No report would be complete without special recognition of the exceptional contributions of so many Libraries staff. Every department faced a major challenge of some kind, and yet the Libraries' accomplishments during 1996/1997 were extraordinary. The enthusiasm and energy of the staff are a tribute to their individual and collective commitment to MIT and the MIT Libraries. Special thanks go to Margaret de Popolo for accepting leadership, mid-year, of the Institute Archives and Special Collections, and to Theresa Tobin, Ruth Seidman, and Margaret de Popolo for energetically advancing the Public Service agenda in the absence of an Associate Director.
In 1996/1997 the MIT Libraries said farewell to two individuals whose keen intellects and years of service profoundly influenced the MIT Libraries. David Ferriero, Associate Director for Public Services, resigned in July to accept leadership of the Duke University Libraries. In April, Helen Samuels, Institute Archivist and Head of Special Collections, accepted a policy position in the Office of the Associate Provost in order to more actively pursue her research interests in the archiving of electronic records. The MIT Libraries will long remember their many contributions.
In 1996/1997 the Libraries also celebrated a new beginning, with the appointments of Virginia Steel as Associate Director for Public Services, and Eric Celeste as Assistant Director for Technology Planning and Administration. Steel and Celeste were named to their positions following extensive national searches. The Libraries are indebted to the Information Systems Department for their advice and participation in the successful conclusion of the Assistant Director position.
During 1996/1997, the Libraries' achieved remarkable improvements in the usability of and access to information resources acquired by the Libraries. In addition to the Digital Library activities described above, Collections Services made great strides in both work process improvement and retrospective conversion rates. Major progress was made toward a viable plan to address the large (and largely invisible) Dewey Decimal Collection.
Institute Archives launched a project to document the history of Building 20. In anticipation of the evacuation and demolition of this venerable edifice, special funding allowed Archives staff to assist departments and individuals located in Building 20 with the disposition of their records. Project Archivists also conducted a photographic documentation project, gathered historical facts about Building 20, and developed a presentation on the history of the building.
The Library Systems Office oversaw the complete redesign of the MIT Libraries' Home Page. Utilizing the talents of a consulting team, both the graphical design and the underlying structure of the Libraries web site were redesigned. The goals of the project were to improve the site's appearance, increase the ease with which new material could be added, and ultimately reduce the overall maintenance effort.
In 1996/1997, considerable progress was made to improve the quality and appearance of a number of Libraries' spaces. With some notable exceptions, the Libraries public spaces have not kept pace with changing service requirements. Adequate, quiet, and comfortable seating; space and infrastructure needs of digital library resources; a contemporary mix of study spaces; and sufficient shelving capacity for print resources are among the service requirements in need of attention. With generous support from the Provost, former and current Associate Provosts for the Arts, Physical Plant, and many friends of the MIT Libraries, the Libraries began to address some deferred facilities needs in 1996/1997.
The new Rosalind Denny Lewis Music Library is a splendid tribute to music scholarship at MIT. This highly successful renovation was made possible through the generosity of friends and alumni of MIT, and was celebrated with a dedication and open house in December. Other, smaller projects included office remodeling in Archives, upgrading the chairs and carpeting in the Humanities Library, and designing and installing a new reference desk and LAN workstation counter and chairs in the Science Library. Planning for a redesigned and consolidated service desk in Dewey Library culminated in a June construction start.
OTHER ACTIVITIES OF NOTE
In April 1997 the Libraries' Visiting Committee convened in Cambridge. The theme of the meeting was "Libraries in Transition". The Committee's visit provided an opportunity for the Libraries to review their many accomplishments during the two years since the Committee's last visit, and to garner insights and ideas from the members of the Committee. Presentations by senior staff informed (and entertained) the committee, as did the hands-on demonstrations of new services and resources; made possible by staff from many service departments within the Libraries.
Progress was made toward operating more effectively in the Libraries new local system, Geac Advance. While significant difficulties persist, particularly in Circulation and Reserves functionality, considerable gains were made in online journal check-in, in report writing, and in cataloging efficiencies. The Libraries continued to meet and correspond with Geac, Inc., in a systematic approach to addressing outstanding issues.
The Libraries continued to pursue opportunities to collaborate with other high-quality libraries. Cooperative agreements provided significant discounts for electronic resources and enabled the Libraries to leverage MIT's financial resources. Existing agreements with the Boston Library Consortium, North East Research Libraries, and Harvard University continued, and new arrangements with JSTOR and the Harvard-MIT Data Center were negotiated.
A sixth Library Council strategic initiative, to improve and support Libraries development activities, was launched with support from the Vice President for Resource Development. The MIT Libraries house one of the world's finest collections of scientific and technical materials. Deep strengths exist, additionally, in the collections that support management, architecture, planning, and key areas in the social sciences and humanities. Because these disciplines produce many of the most expensive publications available today, the costs of maintaining such world-class resources, in the many media required, have outstripped the Libraries' ability to pay. New financial resources are urgently needed to stabilize and sustain the Libraries print and electronic collections until larger, external economic issues can be resolved. This initiative is the first step in a journey of many miles, intended to acknowledge the importance of the Libraries' many generous alumni and friends, and to strengthen the Libraries finances through resource development.
The individual reports that follow this overview provide additional detail on the activities of the MIT Libraries during 1996/1997.
Ann J. Wolpert
This year was marked by a major reorientation in the MIT Libraries approach to providing digital resources to the community. During 1996/1997, online databases and full-text database services were selected and installed for direct use by the Libraries' patrons -- both over the campus network and in any MIT Library. While librarians are still available to conduct complex searches for those members of the MIT community who prefer the precision of a skilled searcher, do-it-yourself searching is now widely available on campus. This reorientation was accomplished through three concentrated efforts.
Reorienting digital resources toward a model of network-based self-service created a number of opportunities to enhance other traditional library services. Notable among these efforts were the development of a Virtual Reference Collection, a new approach to Information Instruction, and an experiment which delivered reserve materials to students, electronically.
The Virtual Reference Collection is a web-based service that brings together on one page a wide array of pre-selected sources of frequently used information. Included in the Collection are digital dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, manuals, maps, and a wealth of other useful general and technical electronic information sources. The Collection builds upon the subject-specific web pages that are maintained by the staff of our public service units to support the academic disciplines of MIT. The Collection's links point to free sites as well as resources to which the MIT Libraries subscribe on behalf of the MIT community. The Libraries' reference coordinators developed the Virtual Reference Collection page, which is now maintained by the Associate Head for Information Services of the Dewey and Humanities Libraries.
Information Instruction in the networked digital environment presents new opportunities and challenges. The MIT Libraries response came in the form of (1) increased training and instruction for the MIT community and (2) expanded but structured opportunities for one-on-one research consultation and advanced-level training. Training in the use of the most popular online databases was offered frequently throughout the year. Support for undergraduate education in core information competencies was a high priority in 1996/1997, with an emphasis on working with faculty on course-based training. Libraries-wide support to Course 9 (Introduction to Psychology, 9.00) and Course 2 (Design Project, 2.73) were among the most intensive and successful efforts.
Another foray into electronic resources was lead by the Humanities Library, in conjunction with Document Services and the Library Systems Office. With the enthusiastic support of a Anthropology Section faculty member, an experiment to electronically deliver reserve materials to students was conducted. The experiment was so successful that in 1997/1998, the MIT Libraries will work with MIT's Information Systems Department to develop processes that can scale up to serve the larger MIT community.
In counterpoint to these many digital developments, the newly renovated Rosalind Denny Lewis Music Library opened to rave reviews in October. In an architectural tour de force, the former Music Library was transformed into a two-level jewel for the study and research of music at MIT. Renamed in honor of Rosalind Denny Lewis, the Library was dedicated, and the library's principal donors and many friends sincerely thanked, in a well-attended celebration in early December.
During 1996/1997, the Public Services units of the MIT Libraries undertook a variety of surveys and studies designed to gather information on the Libraries user community. The most significant survey was an exit survey, conducted in every public service unit. The survey identified users by category (undergraduate, graduate, non-MIT, etc.), captured the purpose of their visit, and measured the level of success/satisfaction with library services. The highest users of the Libraries are MIT students (graduate and undergraduate) and MIT researchers. Study and research are the two most prevalent uses. As suspected, other academic communities and the general public place considerable demands on our collections and services. Data from the survey informed ongoing projects to review the outside users policy and expand fee-based services.
An important, but more narrow, survey was conducted to analyze the information needs of the Physics Department. Following faculty and graduate student interviews, and after a benchmark study of library support for Physics Departments in 10 peer institutions, the Engineering and Science Libraries developed a new approach to providing information support to Physics at MIT. The approach has three elements: (1) the development and maintenance of a high quality web page focused exclusively on the information needs of Physics and Astrophysics, (2) subscriptions to over 40 physics journals in electronic form, and (3) collaboration with the Physics Department on a transition strategy for the print-oriented Physics Reading Room.
Institute Archives and Special Collections undertook a special project to assist departments and individuals in Building 20 with the appropriate disposition of their records and files. Anticipating the demolition of this historically significant building, project archivists worked systematically with all administrative offices, individuals, and clubs resident in the building. Excellent progress has been made in this delicate and challenging assignment to gather and process records before occupants were moved from the building. The archivists also conducted a photographic documentation project, funded by Physical Plant, to record the structure in its final years of service. Building 20's history also became a focus of fact-gathering over the year; culminating in a presentation to the MIT System Design and Management Program.
During 1996/1997, Document Services made significant progress toward its goal of financial self-sufficiency. Operating improvements were realized in both cost savings and revenue enhancements. Document Services eliminated nonproductive programs, aligned staff size with demand, and introduced new, useful services. Over the course of the year, interlibrary lending services (including BookPage) were transferred to the department, and plans were developed to transfer privilege card sales to Document Services in 1997/1998.
Staff training, professional development, and support for staff-conducted library and information science research continued to be a high priority for the Libraries Public Service units. Public Service librarians participated in intensive presentation skills training, and in HTML and web design training. Opportunities were provided to attend introductory and specialized library management training. Support (financial and flexible time) was offered for travel to important conferences, and for the conduct of professional research.
The MIT Libraries continued to pursue opportunities to collaborate with peer libraries in New England and across the United States. The Boston Library Consortium, and the North East Research Libraries, provided opportunities to leverage the Libraries purchasing power and to provide a rapid response when needed information resources are not available at MIT. The MIT Libraries cooperative agreements with the libraries of Harvard University provided local access to research material not owned by MIT, and opened the door to additional successful collaborations; such as the Harvard-MIT Data Center agreement, and joint staff development programs with the Harvard College Libraries.
Margaret dePopolo, Ruth Seidman, Theresa Tobin
During 1996/1997, Collection Services made major steps forward in incorporating digital information resources into its services and processes, in improving its major user product -- the online catalog, and in realizing the benefits of automation to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its work.
INCREASING ACCESS TO INFORMATION RESOURCES
For several years the Libraries have been slowly adding digital resources to the traditional collection of print resources we acquire for the MIT community. The first major thrust was the acquisition of CD-Rom databases in the late 1980's, which we made available initially on single stations within the libraries, and more recently on local area networks within individual libraries. In the mid-1990's, a few significant networked products were added: Britannica Online, Oxford English Dictionary, and several electronic journals. At the beginning of 1996/97, the growth of the World Wide Web and the availability of effective network navigation software had created a much more fertile environment for distribution of digital resources, and the Libraries' staff decided to utilize a project approach to learn how to manage our traditional business of acquiring information resources in this new environment.
The project became one of the Libraries' strategic initiatives: to significantly increase the provision of scholarly information resources on the MIT network. A small project budget was established and staff began to work through the processes and develop the expertise required to acquire networked access to information resources. While the selection decisions for print products are based almost exclusively on content and price, digital products introduce several other areas for consideration: effectiveness of search interface, competitive offers from various providers, license terms, and technical requirements. In order to manage these more complex decisions, the Libraries created a working group of collections managers and reference coordinators -- Networked Electronic Resources Domain (NERD), defined a role of product sponsor for subject specialists, and created one new position: Assistant Acquisitions Librarian for Digital Resources. An important result of the year's project is that many MIT librarians have moved up a steep learning curve. We are much more able now to assess interfaces, to evaluate pricing proposals, to understand and negotiate license terms, and to understand the relationships between various providers' packages of products. The most obvious and significant result for the Libraries' users is the actual list (see below) of new products now accessible on the MIT network. The products span the disciplines reflected in MIT education and research. Some are significant bibliographic databases; others are full-text. Some are current publications; others are retrospective. Together they represent an impressive transition toward providing core scholarly resources to MIT scholars and researchers in the office, lab, and dorm room. We are planning a publicity program to inform returning students and faculty about these new networked resources this fall.
Anthropological Literature: index to journals in anthropology and related subjects. 1984-present
Bibliography Of The History Of Art: index to journals in art and art history. 1973-present
BIOSIS Previews (combines BIOSIS and "Reports, Reviews, and Meetings"): abstracts of articles, reviews, and books in the life sciences. 1990-present
Business Insite: full-text or summaries of articles from business periodicals. Latest four years
Computer Insite: full text or summaries of articles from computer periodicals. Latest four years
GeoBase: abstracts from journals in physical and human geography, geology, mineralogy, and development studies. 1980-present
GeoRef: abstracts from journals, books, reports and maps in geology and geosciences. 1785-present
Hispanic American Periodicals Index: index for journals on U.S.-Hispanic and Latin American topics. 1970-present
JSTOR: an archive of back volumes, in full-text, for major scholarly journals. New subjects and titles are added continuously. Back volumes cover from Vol.1 of each title to recent years. The latest volume archived depends on each publisher's archiving decision, but is generally within 3 to 5 years of the present year.
Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts: abstracts from journals, books, and dissertations in linguistics and related subjects. 1973-present
Market Insite: full text or summaries from market information publications. Latest four years
Materials Science databases: Engineering Materials Abstracts 1986-present; Materials Business File 1985-present; METADEX 1966-present Abstracts, news, and reports covering industry, regulations, applications and technical information on metals, alloys and non-metallic materials.
Meteorological & Geoastrophysical Abstracts: abstracts in the fields of meteorology, climatology, oceanography and related subjects. 1974-present
Project MUSE: full-text of the journals published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. 1997, with earlier years for some titles
Transport: combines three indexes: International Road Research Documentation, TRANSDOC, and Transportation Research Information Service. 1968-present
World News Connection: a foreign news alert service containing summaries from print and broadcast media on socioeconomic, technical, political and environmental topics. Latest two years
There was also significant progress this year in improved management of collection development of print resources. Under the direction of the Collection Management Group, subject specialists produced draft collection development policy statements for over half of our subject areas. This work will be completed in the next year. In addition, the goal of spending the collections budget at a 100 percent level was aggressively and successfully pursued.
IMPROVING THE LIBRARIES' ON-LINE CATALOG DATABASE
Another major focus for Collection Services this year was a second Libraries' strategic initiative: implementation of automated authority control. The results of this initiative will also benefit students, faculty, and researchers this fall. During the spring and summer months, the Libraries had its database of 758,000 online catalog records processed by an outside vendor for the purpose of bringing greater consistency to the name and subject headings and providing cross references from alternate forms of names and subjects to the authorized forms used in the catalog. This project required careful planning on the part of several key staff members to select a vendor, to manage requisite systems upgrades, and to determine the logistics of electronically transferring the database to the vendor and subsequently reloading and re-indexing it without unduly disturbing the use of the database by library patrons or staff. The result will be significant improvement in the ability to successfully search the database for known items, and to bring together all items by or about a given author or on a given subject.
Another noteworthy improvement in the Libraries' online catalog was the addition of records for the Libraries' collection of sound recordings. The catalog now provides complete, integrated access to all cataloged music scores, books, and sound recordings. This enabled the newly renovated Music Library to open its doors without space allocated for card cabinets. In addition, significant progress was made in adding records to the catalog for the Libraries' retrospective collections of serials and theses.
PLANNING FOR CATALOGING DIGITAL RESOURCES
The addition of digital resources to the libraries' offerings raises important issues related to the building and maintenance of the Libraries' catalog. The bibliographic records that make up the catalog are prepared in conformity with national cataloging standards which enable libraries nationwide to cost-effectively cooperate in the creation and use of catalog records. The standards have developed over decades and reflect responses to the broad scope of user needs and publishing practices. Digital publishing has not yet developed the standards that print publishing has, and user needs in relation to these new products are not nearly as well understood. The library profession is in the beginning stages of developing the standards necessary for useful bibliographic records for these items. This year in the Electronic Resources Cataloging Task Force (ERESCat), Collection Services staff defined local practices for cataloging these materials, and, through participation in two national cooperative projects, CONSER and InterCat, contributed to the development of national standards. In the second phase of the work, the Libraries' catalogers are currently initiating a project to catalog digital networked resources. This work will prepare our catalog for another transition expected within the next year: a WWW format for the catalog. When that is implemented, the catalog records we are beginning to create will make it possible to link directly from the catalog record to the digital resource via the URL, a significant advance in information retrieval.
REAPING THE BENEFITS OF AUTOMATED PROCESSING
This year several advances in the use of technology came together to considerably improve the efficiency with which we can provide bibliographic and physical access to new materials. In keeping with the Libraries' strategic initiative to reorganize computer support, Collections Services has designated and currently posted an Information Technology Librarian position, and each of the three departments has designated half of an existing position as a Local Technology Expert. The staff in these new positions will provide enhanced technical expertise and skills development within Collection Services.
Already this year, productivity benefited greatly from expanded use of technology. The production of spine labels in Binding and Repair was automated, saving staff time and ensuring accuracy. The installation of OCLC's Passport for Windows software on all catalogers' desktops accelerated the use of staff-created macros to perform automated shelflisting, to automatically review cataloging copy for level of difficulty, and generally to streamline procedures. Macros are now also used in acquisitions to facilitate receipts processes, reports production, searching and fund information displays . The benefits of automated check-in of government documents and serials continue to accrue. Serials check in staff fine-tuned processes in the first full year of automated serials control and began to use the systematic claiming features. Tangible evidence of our progress in automating procedures was the removal of kardex and shelflist card cabinets from our working areas this year!
The most measurable advance this year was the improvement by approximately one-third in cataloging productivity in both serials and monograph cataloging units. This is a level of increase rarely achieved in one year in any technical services work. While the use of technology was essential to this achievement, equally essential was the hard work and continuing commitment of staff. Indeed the technical gains themselves would not have been possible without staff "savvy", with which the MIT Libraries and Collection Services are truly blessed.
The Systems Office serves the technology support needs of the MIT Libraries. We manage web servers, the Barton library system, desktop workstation networking & support, and the computer-related capital equipment purchasing and installation process. Our staff works with staff around the libraries to accomplish these tasks. Local Technology Experts in each of the departments of the libraries, for example, help us troubleshoot and support desktop workstations. Staff at every level of the libraries help maintain our web sites. Recently we've even encouraged staff in another department of the libraries to help us write reports for Barton. Our job is to facilitate the effective and appropriate use of information technology tools around the MIT Libraries.
This year the staff of the Systems Office endured a great deal of turmoil as virtually the whole staff departed the libraries and the task of rebuilding the Systems Office anew began. The staff of the MIT Libraries generously lowered their expectations during this difficult time; but even so, the Systems Office moved the technology agenda of the MIT Libraries forward.
MAJOR REORIENTATION OF THE OFFICE
Our Systems Office has been rededicated to customer service. We are a support organization for the MIT Libraries, facilitating its efficient and appropriate use of information technology. We've put in place a two day response period to emphasize to libraries staff that they should hold us accountable. We have also taken steps to make ourselves more visible to libraries staff.
As one of the libraries' six strategic initiatives for the year, we developed a creative solution to the dilemma of an increased need for desktop workstation support without an increase in Systems Office staff. Each department of the libraries now has a Local Technology Expert who works with our Systems Office to troubleshoot and support desktop workstations. We have also worked with Public Services and Collection Services to define Information Technology Librarians who will work with the Assistant Director of Technology Planning and Administration to develop computing policy for the libraries.
During this fiscal year most of the Systems Office staff left the libraries. In an office that was by all accounts understaffed even when fully staffed, we finished the fiscal year with just two of five positions permanently filled. While the Local Technology Expert structure should help bear the load over time, right now those staff also need training from the Systems Office, making local support at best a break-even proposition this year. Hiring a Workstation & LAN Support Coordinator has been critical to our ability to function during this extremely short-staffed time. In the coming months we must hire staff to fill our three vacant systems positions.
LIBRARIES WEB SITE REDESIGNED
Consultants helped us redesign the libraries public web site. We now have a new design that encourages greater consistency of approach to our web pages and provides tools to maintain lists of resources without writing actual web pages. The new design also provides a more professional polish to the site. In the coming months we will move all public web services to the "libraries.mit.edu" server from the "nimrod.mit.edu" server and define a clear structure for management of web services and content within the MIT Libraries.
IMPROVED BARTON, THE LIBRARIES' CATALOG
We continue to improve our online catalog, Barton. All of our bibliographic records were sent to Blackwell North America for "authorities" processing. This project, another of the libraries' six strategic initiatives for the year, will add "see" and "see also" references to our catalog for the first time since we left our cards behind in the 1980's. The processed records will be loaded back into our database during August 1997 and we will continue to process records on a regular basis from then on.
We also developed and tested a web interface for our Barton catalog. Unfortunately the test showed that the Z39.50 server provided by Geac (our library system vendor) still had some problems, so we couldn't roll the system out for public use. But the effort puts us at the ready to offer this service once we have an upgrade from Geac.
Finally, we tracked down and resolved a problem that was limiting us to fewer than 90 simultaneous users on Barton. Our library system has been much more stable since this resolution.
ELECTRONIC RESERVES, A PILOT PROJECT
We developed a pilot electronic reserves (e-reserves) page on the web for course 21A.230J "The Contemporary Family." Materials usually kept on reserve for this course were also scanned by our Document Services department and then mounted as Adobe Acrobat documents on a web server in the libraries. Students in 21A.230J were given a password to access, view, and print these reserve materials from any workstation with a web browser and Acrobat Reader on MITnet. The lessons we learned from this experiment will help us build a scaleable e-reserves project in the coming year. We plan to work closely with MIT Information Systems to provide faculty with a tool to give their classes online access to required reading.
DESIGN OF A LIBRARIES-WIDE LAN
Though virtually all computers within the MIT Libraries are attached to MITnet, we do not have any tools which facilitate staff working together or make available a common suite of software. Putting a libraries-wide "local area network" (LAN) in place has been a long-standing goal. This year we designed, specified, and purchased equipment for a new libraries-wide Windows NT LAN. The servers for this LAN are now in operation. New equipment we roll out this summer will be attached to the LAN. We will upgrade existing equipment to work with the new LAN during the next year.
A number of divisional libraries also have small public LANs, used mostly to distribute CD-ROM applications within each library. This year we migrated the Dewey and Humanities public-access CD-ROM networks to a new and more stable version of Lantastic's local area networking software.
As we provide more common software and services centrally, we will also need to coordinate our computer-related capital equipment planning process with our strategic direction. To this end we plan to work more closely with libraries departments early in the fiscal year to help define their priorities and ensure that equipment we purchase for them moves them toward their goals.
STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS
Working with libraries staff. Involve other libraries staff, particularly the Local Technology Experts, in the work of systems. Engage staff in system-wide training efforts and installation rollouts. Make sure they receive the backup and training they require.
Coordination with MIT Information Systems. Work closely with central MIT Information Systems staff whenever possible, particularly with regard to our e-reserves efforts. Determine what our common agendas may be and make sure we are leveraging each other well.
Training for AD and SO staff. Take advantage of MIT and other training for both the new Assistant Director for Technology Planning and Administration and the Systems Office staff. Especially seek training in team building.
MIT Reports to the President 1996-97