MIT Reports to the President 1997-98
The academic research library has long played a critical part in learning, research, and scholarship in world-class universities. Here at MIT, as elsewhere, students, researchers, and faculty are dependent on libraries and library resources for important aspects of their work. Not surprisingly, however, MIT's Libraries reflect the Institute's own unique educational philosophy.
At the end of the 19th century, MIT introduced an innovative approach to the academic research library. Unlike other universities, which were at that time building large centralized libraries, MIT opted instead for a distributed library system. "With us," wrote MIT President Francis Walker in 1893, "books are tools for handy use; just as much so as the apparatus of the chemical or physical laboratories."
A century later, the MIT Libraries face the fascinating challenge of managing their superb and unique collections into the digital era. During 1997/1998 the Libraries learned a great deal about the true opportunities and diminishing technical barriers to a digital future, and--as a result--have a better understanding of the obstacles the Libraries face in their goal to create the integrated, mixed-media library of the future. In preparation for the future, in 1997/1998 the MIT Libraries focused on introducing digital resources and tools to the MIT community, and on integrating those resources and tools into MIT's own highly-successful distributed library system.
Librarians and computer scientists alike once held high hopes that the digital library would be achieved by the year 2000. Highly visible economic and technical advances to the Internet and the World Wide Web suggested that the materials of higher education, research, and scholarship might soon be available in a low-cost, readily-accessible, stable and archived environment. Few now expect the digital library environment will be so readily achieved. Neither will it be automatically easier to use, simpler to manage, or less expensive--at least for the foreseeable future. Among the present truths the MIT Libraries currently face are the following realities:
Perhaps the most significant trend in recent years has been the steady migration of scholarly communication into the commercial (and commercial-like) publishing sectors. The questions of who will own digital resources, how those resources will be retained over time, and what economic models will control intellectual property are increasingly the purview of multinational publishing and multimedia corporations that now control large and important segments of scholarly communication. Intellectual property issues of critical importance to higher education have become the focus of international treaties, litigation, legislation, and licensing, with the result that long-standing rights of fair use in libraries, in classrooms, and for non-profit research may not carry forward into the digital environment.
While digital remedies for the costs and problems of the networked environment and scholarly communication are neither certain nor obvious, during 1997/1998 the MIT Libraries developed a strategy for moving ahead. Supported by the Provost's willingness to enable multiyear financial planning, and building upon the planning and accomplishments of 1996/1997, the MIT Libraries took steps on several fronts. An extensive array of educational and research-oriented digital materials was acquired and served, the Libraries' capacity to digitize and serve digital material owned by MIT was significantly improved, key national experiments were supported, and planning for a new integrated library system was initiated. During this time, the work of MIT's Council on Educational Technology reinforced the MIT Libraries' agenda and supported a vision for the MIT Libraries that was consistent with the Libraries' own expectations for the future.
STRATEGIC AND OPERATIONAL INITIATIVES
The MIT Libraries are committed to meeting the needs of current students and faculty, even as planning for the future goes forward. As a practical matter, in 1997/1998 the work of the MIT Libraries continued to be dominated by print resources. The vast majority of material selected, acquired, and preserved in support of MIT's educational and research mission has, as yet, no digital (or no affordable digital) equivalent. In recognition of the dual nature of their responsibilities, Library Council targeted both strategic initiatives and important operational goals for special attention during 1997/1998. Combined, these strategic and operational initiatives provided essential stewardship for existing resources, and built the foundation on which the future will rise.
UNDERSTANDING INFORMATION NEEDS
The MIT Libraries have a long-standing commitment to understanding and meeting the evolving information needs of students, faculty, and researchers at the Institute. An in-library survey conducted during 1996/1997 revealed the critical importance of the Libraries to MIT students and in 1997/1998, with generous support from the Chairman of the Libraries' Visiting Committee, a student survey was conducted. Preliminary results suggest that despite the ubiquity of web access and the vast array of sites on the web, students continue to look to library resources for their research and educational needs. In particular, MIT's graduate and undergraduate students continue to rely heavily on the MIT Libraries' book collections, research tools, databases, and study spaces.
THE VIRTUAL LIBRARY
Digital resources require staff skills and physical facilities that differ significantly from those of the traditional library. The Libraries' approach to computer systems support was fundamentally redesigned in 1996/1997 and in 1997/1998 the remaining computer/systems positions were described and, for the most part, filled. The one notable exception was the Web Manager position, which should be filled in 1998/1999. The Libraries continued to invest systematically in computer resources, training, and software and by mid-year had begun to realize hoped-for service and productivity gains. The MIT Libraries' website continued to grow and improve in content and usability.
The Libraries also continued to add relevant digital resources to the MIT Libraries' collections and resources. Significant savings were achieved in the cost of these resources through the tenacious pursuit of academic, institutional, and group discounts. Working through consortia, and independently, the electronic resources acquisitions effort brought a multitude of new research materials to MIT desktops. Notable among the acquisitions were:
In all, the MIT Libraries added some 36 new databases to their digital collections. And by year end, the number of electronic journals available to the MIT community approached 300 titles.
The success of the electronic reserves pilot project in 1996/1997 dictated that electronic versions of required reading material continue as a high-priority initiative for the Libraries, despite scaling concerns and the limitations and constraints of MIT's network. Several "off-the-shelf" software packages have been identified and evaluated, and the Libraries will proceed with a test deployment in 1998/1999.
In May, the Libraries' Instruction Team introduced the MIT Libraries Instruction Laboratory. This newly established web-based service was created for the purpose of assisting library instructors across the MIT Libraries in teaching core information competencies, utilizing pre-prepared instructional materials and handbooks, gathering statistics to inform future instructional activities, and sharing ideas and successful strategies.
THE ACTUAL LIBRARY
The MIT Libraries' print collections continue to grow at an estimated 10-15,000 linear feet per year, despite careful attention to acquisition and retention policies and the energetic pursuit of digital alternatives. With over 20% of the collections already in storage, the Libraries face difficult choices in balancing the space needs of education, research, computer facilities, and staff. Moreover, the Libraries' buildings are increasingly inadequate for the work and study habits of the contemporary MIT community. In 1997/1998 a report documenting these challenges was prepared by the Associate Director for Collection Services. The Libraries have initiated a series of conversations about options for dealing with this dilemma.
Dewey Library completed a major redesign and remodeling of its main service desks and entry area in 1997/1998. Administrative office areas in Building 14 were renovated to take better advantage of existing space. Security and furnishings were upgraded in several MIT Libraries' facilities. Network drops and power outlets were installed in Divisional Libraries to accommodate students and faculty who prefer to use their own laptops while working in the MIT Libraries.
The Associate Director for Public Services initiated a process to involve Public Services' staff in rethinking and redefining the way library services are delivered to the MIT community. The process has as its goal a redefinition of Public Services' structures and operations to create a work environment that is supportive and resource efficient for staff, while remaining flexible and responsive to changing student and faculty expectations. The process has engaged and energized a wide cross-section of Public Services' staff.
With energetic and capable support from Resource Development and the Alumni Association, the MIT Libraries continued to improve their resource development position. Gratifying progress was made in 1997/1998 in returns from the annual mailing, in private support for special projects, in alumni giving (thanks to a position on telethon place mats), and in Institute support for the Libraries' capital campaign goals.
Each of the initiatives and operational priorities identified above and in the reports that follow illuminated a fundamental need for improved communication techniques and vehicles by and about the MIT Libraries. Effective strategies for telling interested parties about Libraries' capabilities and needs, and for informing the MIT community about new products and services are required. The Libraries need to improve the usefulness of text and online publications, and to develop better in-library self-service tools. To this end, in 1997/1998 the MIT Libraries obtained assistance from a professional communications consultant. A communications plan has been developed, and the recommendations will be implemented on a prioritized basis starting in 1998/1999.
The MIT Libraries began the year at an all-time high for minority representation among the administrative staff. In 1996/1997 the MIT Libraries had achieved, for the first time, the goal of 10% representation of minority employees among professional and administrative staff. Regrettably for the Libraries, three of our minority staff accepted positions outside MIT during 1997/1998. Two staff members went to positions in private industry, and one accepted a higher-level position in another ARL library. Because only one minority was hired during this time frame, the Libraries' minority representation has again fallen to 7%. The MIT Libraries continue to examine their recruiting practices and retention options with regard to minorities, and to explore alternatives for expanding the pool of minority candidates for vacant positions.
In an effort to address the overall shortage of minority candidates in the library profession, and to improve diversity among the staffs of academic research libraries in general, the MIT Libraries supported and subsequently
participated in a new diversity program of the Association of Research Libraries. The ARL Leadership and Career Development Program is designed to prepare racial minority librarians for top leadership positions in academic and research libraries. The program has as its goals (1) increasing the number of minorities in positions of influence and leadership in academic and research libraries by preparing participants to become more competitive in the promotion process, and (2) creating role models and mentors for minorities who might not have otherwise considered librarianship as a career. The MIT Libraries nominated Poping Lin for participation in the program, and supported her participation when she was accepted.
The significant progress described on these pages, and in the more detailed reports that follow, is a tribute to the dedication and professionalism of the staff of the MIT Libraries. Over the years the MIT Libraries have been exceptionally fortunate in the quality of their staffs. This good fortune continued in 1997/1998 when Eric Celeste agreed to serve as Assistant Director for Technology Planning and Administration, and Virginia Steel accepted the position of Associate Director for Public Services.
No annual report can chronicle all the important events of a given year, and this is particularly true in times of challenge and change. The extraordinary efforts associated with new technologies, new services, renovations, security, and Institute initiatives such as reengineering and SAP implementation are sorely underrepresented in this report; as are the efforts associated with recruiting and retaining staff in times of low unemployment, and with documenting and addressing salary inequities.
The staff of the MIT Libraries can look back on 1997/1998 with a strong sense of accomplishment and with deep satisfaction for the myriad achievements of the Libraries. Our success is due to the competence and commitment of the staff, to the interest and support of MIT's senior management, and to the generosity of the many friends of the MIT Libraries.
More information about the Libraries can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL: http://libraries.mit.edu/.
Ann J. Wolpert
The past year was highly productive for the public services units of the MIT Libraries. After the arrival of a new Associate Director for Public Services in August 1997, the Divisional and Branch Libraries' staff renewed their focus on understanding more about the information needs of members of the MIT community and on developing electronic services to enhance those already available. A number of new initiatives were carried out, and work continued on several initiatives from the preceding year.
LEARNING ABOUT NEED FOR INFORMATION RESOURCES
Over the past decade staff members in the MIT Libraries have conducted periodic surveys of selected segments of library users to learn more about their information needs. During the past year, a more comprehensive approach was taken as the first part of a multiyear effort to track and analyze changes in the information-seeking behavior and needs of MIT students, faculty, and staff. With generous assistance in market research methodology arranged by Patrick McGovern, Chairman of the MIT Libraries' Visiting Committee, and provided by IDG Research Services, a team of three librarians developed a questionnaire that was mailed to a sample of 1500 undergraduate students and 1500 graduate students at the end of the 1998 spring semester. Questions on the survey inquired about techniques used to find information, whether and how the Libraries' electronic resources are used, whether and how the Libraries' facilities are used, and how the Libraries might be more helpful to students during their academic careers.
Information from the survey is still being tabulated, but the initial results show a greater than anticipated response rate of more than 40 percent. Some of the intriguing preliminary answers reveal a student population that has had little or no instruction in methods for finding information or using libraries, but that has substantial interest in receiving more assistance in both of these areas. The students who answered the survey identified a number of high-priority changes the Libraries should make to better meet their needs including extending hours, providing electronic reserves, and offering a web-based Barton online library catalog. The data from the survey will be studied further and used to determine strategic directions for the Libraries' public service programs, and a second study focusing on faculty information needs will also be undertaken.
Two additional, more targeted surveys were conducted during the year. One, focusing on Architecture and Planning students, was carried out earlier in the spring in response to a DUSP Student Council request for longer hours in Rotch Library. Based on the feedback received, Rotch Library's open hours for summer 1998 were increased, and plans have been made to extend evening hours during the fall semester.
The Institute Archives' staff carried out a survey and analysis of use of the Archives Reading Room. After categorizing and counting the types of uses made at different times of the day, the Archives' open hours were adjusted to make more efficient use of limited staff time while maintaining a high level of service to the MIT community.
MEETING INFORMATION NEEDS
New Electronic Resources and Services
Among the new electronic resources offered by the MIT Libraries, the introduction of three new networked services covering a variety of disciplines created the need for a coordinated publicity and instruction program to educate faculty, students, and staff about their availability and usefulness. Public Services' staff developed communication strategies and instructional programs for the following new research capabilities:
In addition to purchasing or acquiring access to commercially-produced databases, library staff undertook or continued efforts to create web-based resources tailored for the MIT community:
Beyond making parts of the Libraries' collections accessible through the web, other efforts focused on providing enhanced services in a number of ways. One of the most well-received innovations in circulation operations was the introduction of an e-mail courtesy notice service that automatically sends a message to users who have borrowed library materials that are due in several days. This has resulted in fewer complaints and unhappy borrowers, and, as one would expect, the number of overdue fines collected has decreased.
Providing adequate access to the MIT network and web-based Libraries' resources from within the Libraries has been an ongoing challenge in the MIT Libraries. This year workstations that provide open web access were installed in several locations, and plans are in place to increase the number of machines with this capability. A related new development at the end of the year was the installation of patron-accessible network drops in Rotch, Dewey, and Hayden Libraries. These "dynamic" network connections can be used to access the MIT network and the web by anyone with a laptop registered with IS to plug into the network. If response from faculty and students is positive, additional drops will be added.
Building on work started last year, several projects continued to consume the time and energy of public services' staff. One of the most important of these was the task to identify and select an off-the-shelf electronic reserves system for use by faculty and library staff. A team of IS and Libraries' staff arranged demonstrations by two vendors, and they expect to make a recommendation early in the coming academic year. The team will then address solutions for managing printing volume on the network.
Continued development of the Libraries' website was another major undertaking which required the Libraries to decide what its structure must be to effectively manage its web presence. To do this, a task force was established in fall 1997. After studying web staffing structures at a number of research and academic libraries, the task force recommended that a web manager position be created and that this position be given responsibility for the overall development and maintenance of the Libraries' website. Until a position can be freed up to take on this assignment, the Information Technology Librarian/Public Services, also a new position but already filled, has been named Interim Web Manager.
One other activity that began was planning for a pilot project to accept MIT theses in electronic format. Several staff from Document Services collaborated with IS staff to develop a proposal for doctoral students in two or three departments to submit their February 1999 theses electronically. In spring 1998 the Committee on Graduate School Policy endorsed the plans for a pilot, so this will become a priority for the 1998/1999 year.
Enhanced Traditional Services
In spite of the demands of the numerous, high-visibility projects involving electronic resources and services, public services' staff remained committed to developing and refining existing, high-value traditional services. One of the most important areas of emphasis was the Libraries' instruction program. Through the efforts of the subject librarians, progress was made in contacting faculty and arranging for instructional sessions to give students a better understanding of techniques for finding information on their class or research topics. Three recently hired librarians were particularly successful in promoting bibliographic instruction, with the result that new course-based instruction was given in Chemical, Civil, and Electrical Engineering. Librarians in the Humanities and Dewey Libraries moved ahead in creating course-specific web pages as a supplement to other forms of library instruction. Among the most successful of these were websites developed for Product Design and Development (15.783J and 2.739J), System Design and Management, and Introduction to Psychology (9.00).
Another area of discussion and experimentation concerned the relationship between circulation, information, and reference services. With the advent of networked information resources, staff in research libraries across the country have begun to rethink the tried and true but often artificial division of services offered. In the Dewey and Rotch Libraries, support staff and professional staff collaborated on projects to test different staffing models for service points that combine circulation and reference assistance. At Dewey Library this model has become part of the standard service program throughout the year, while in Rotch the model has seemed most effective during the summer months when reference traffic is at lower levels. The rationale for changing the reference/information/circulation model is to attempt to provide "one-stop shopping" for library users rather than referring them from one service desk to another.
The two-year Building 20 Project, funded by the Provost, neared completion at the end of the year. Project Archivists have arranged for the transfer and processing of 47 collections or additions to collections of archival records from faculty and program offices being moved out of the building. The Project Archivists also supervised a photographic documentation project funded by Physical Plant that captured a visual record of the building in its pre-demolition state. In addition to these activities, one of the archivists contributed to the commemorative event held in March 1998, "MIT's Building 20: The Magical Incubator," by providing information about the building's history and occupants and designing displays and a timeline.
MIT LIBRARIES: THE ENDURING IMPORTANCE OF PLACE
With all the information resources available on the network and through the web, it is tempting to think that the Libraries as physical spaces for studying, browsing, consulting, and doing research are not, perhaps, as important as they once were. Based on responses to the survey of undergraduate and graduate students mentioned earlier, this is clearly not the case. In the survey, 50 percent of the students responded that the availability of electronic resources has had no impact on their use of the Libraries' facilities, and another 24 percent reported that they visit the Libraries more frequently than in the past. With this in mind, the year's projects completed and in the planning stages to improve the Libraries' facilities are of great significance.
In the Dewey Library, work to renovate the Circulation/Reserve and Processing areas was finished just as the fall semester began. The contemporary design of the circulation/reserve desk now provides a single place where library users can go to check out regular and reserve materials and to get information assistance when reference librarians are not available. The redesign has also eliminated the queuing problems that had occurred during peak hours before the desk was modified. The space freed up on the ground floor by moving the microforms upstairs has become a popular reading space for users of Dewey Library newspapers and other materials. And the staff have benefited, too, by now having ergonomic, efficiently designed work surfaces that help keep the production operations of processing incoming serials and journals moving quickly.
One of the most exciting opportunities to collaborate with an academic department surfaced early this spring when the Aeronautics/Astronautics Department approached the Libraries to ask whether the Aero/Astro Library might
want to be part of the project to reconceptualize the Aero/Astro pedagogical approach and design lab. The Libraries are eager to participate and have started the process of working with the Project Manager from Aero to plan a newly conceived vision of the Aero Library that will offer services similar to those found in corporate information centers, while still retaining the essential parts of the extensive and valuable print collections and traditional services.
One other smaller-scale renovation project that occurred was the reconfiguration of the Institute Archives' receiving area for materials recalled from storage. The space allocated for this function was problematic due to the placement of shelves and the need to have numerous booktrucks available to move materials upstairs to the Archives' reading room. A new layout was designed and the space was renovated with the center stacks removed and industrial-weight shelving installed around the perimeter of the room. This has created a safer working environment for Archives' staff and has reduced the physical effort required to handle materials.
STAFFING AND ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE ISSUES
With the increasing emphasis on the use of technology as a tool for providing services in research libraries, staff members in the MIT Libraries' public services units experienced significant new demands on their time. Staff were faced with the need to continue traditional activities while simultaneously acquiring new skills in areas such as web authoring which enable the Libraries to create and offer an enhanced array of services. In each divisional and branch library there was a growing demand for coordination of public services' technology initiatives and for support for hardware and software. In order to address these needs, a position was reallocated from Dewey Library to create a centralized Information Technology Librarian for Public Services. Following a national search, the position was filled in December 1997. The incumbent has already played a lead role in arranging technology training for public services' staff and in overseeing projects such as the electronic reserves initiative. Additional information technology support was provided when the Engineering and Science Libraries, following the model established in other MIT library units, reallocated portions of positions to create part-time Local Technology Experts whose responsibilities include troubleshooting and providing first-line support for hardware and software.
On a broader level, the changes in technology and methods for delivering library services have caused many peer academic library public services' staff to rethink their structures and operations. The issues that these libraries
have encountered are the same as those confronting the MIT Libraries--how best to remain flexible and responsive to changes in resources and expectations. To begin this discussion in the MIT Libraries, several vacant librarian positions were frozen and a Public Services Redefinition Process was launched in January 1998. With invaluable assistance from Human Resources' Performance Consulting and Training Team, a project plan was written and a series of task forces were appointed. The first task force developed a set of Public Services Values, and the second task force built on this to draw together a list of Service Priorities. The next task force will tackle issues arising from problems with the current structure of the Libraries' public services units. Their work will be followed by task forces charged to review and make recommendations for measuring public service performance and for the establishment of communication channels. While there has been some inevitable anxiety about this process, there is a great sense of energy and an encouraging willingness to discuss ways to resolve some of these thorny issues. The task force work is scheduled to conclude early in the year 1998/1999. The recommendations will then be reviewed in light of resource requirements and system-wide impact, and an appropriate implementation schedule will be established.
As can be seen by the list of accomplishments and projects included in this report, Public Services' staff have worked hard and achieved a great deal to meet the needs of the MIT community. Their ability to be aware of the expectations that MIT students, faculty, and staff have for library services, both virtual and physical, has resulted in many positive changes. These staff are the Libraries' closest link to our users, and they have become increasingly perceptive and creative in making the Libraries both proactive and responsive. The staff are a vital asset for the Libraries!
The significant achievements of Collection Services this year illustrate the ongoing tension within the Libraries to move forward in delivering new electronic resources and services, while maintaining strong traditional services and functions.
MOVING FORWARD - THE VIRTUAL LIBRARY
Networked Information Resources
The Libraries continued to acquire access to significant information resources for delivery to MIT faculty and students over MITnet, adding 36 new databases this year. Three significant scholarly databases were the primary additions: the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)'s Web of Science, Lexis/Nexis Academic Universe, and Beilstein Crossfire:
As research libraries face high costs in new electronic products, as well as continuing high inflation in prices for print serials, new collaborative buying patterns are emerging in order to leverage purchasing power. Each of the three products above were acquired through consortial arrangements. ISI's Web of Science was purchased cooperatively with other research libraries in the NorthEast Research Libraries consortium (NERL). NERL was established in 1996 in order to seek improved pricing structures and license terms for electronic products. Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe was also purchased through NERL, but in this case NERL itself collaborated with several other consortia in a nation-wide "mega-deal" including more than 600 university libraries. Beilstein
Crossfire was acquired through cooperation within the Association of Research Libraries, with the University of
Wisconsin Library acting as the lead institution. Each of these collaborative licensing arrangements netted several thousand dollars' cost savings for the MIT Libraries.
The Libraries continued its efforts this year to negotiate appropriate license terms to ensure fair use of the products by MIT scholars and to establish processes for reasonable efforts compliance with license requirements. The Acquisitions Librarian for Digital Resources developed standard descriptions of MIT's site, computing environment, and authorized users to use in license agreements. She also developed a generic statement to be displayed on webpages describing the appropriate use of licensed electronic resources, accompanied by more information linked through an "I" (information) button for products with more restrictive license language.
Improving Barton, the Online Catalog
One of Collection Services' most important achievements this year, in collaboration with the Systems Office, was the reloading and reindexing of the Barton database after vendor processing of the 800,000 bibliographic records against an authority file. While the vendor processing took place in 1996/1997, the reload of the records took place in August, 1997, and the results were apparent to users of the catalog when the academic year began. The catalog now provides significantly greater consistency of author, subject, and series headings, as well as cross-references to headings from variant forms. Over 500,000 associated authority records were also loaded into the processing system and linked to the bibliographic records. Having linked authority records in the database will enable global changes and automated manipulation of headings in order to maintain a high level of database integrity over time.
The project required significant follow-up activity in a number of areas. First was a series of training sessions for cataloging staff on the creation and maintenance of local authority records. In addition, several focus sessions were conducted for public services' staff to ensure that they understand the implications of the "authorization" of the database for users. Secondly, staff prepared for ongoing quarterly loads of vendor-processed records. This included defining set-up tables and testing a loader for loading updates. Several serious problems arose during the post-load period: the documentation from the Libraries' integrated systems' vendor, Geac, was found to be inaccurate and incomplete, the Geac project manager abruptly left the company, and the authorities vendor, Blackwell North America, divested itself of its authorities services, making it necessary to search for an alternate vendor for the ongoing processing to keep the database current. It is a credit to several key staff members in Bibliographic Access Services and the Systems Office that the project has succeeded and that the planning for regular updates is proceeding effectively.
In addition to multiple online databases, the Libraries currently provide access to approximately 300 e-journals. During September and October of 1997/1998, a pilot project to catalog a defined group of 76 e-journals, and to test standards developed in the previous year, was carried out by Serials Cataloging. The pilot project was successful, allowing staff to fine-tune and document policies and procedures. Since that time, staff have successfully cataloged remaining titles and now catalog new incoming titles on an ongoing basis. As a result of this work, users of the MIT Libraries' online catalog now find records for e-journals along with records for print journals and all other library collections.
MAINTAINING AND IMPROVING TRADITIONAL COLLECTION SERVICES
Even as the Libraries move steadily into the provision of networked digital resources, they continue to add print collections at a barely diminishing rate, and face extremely difficult challenges in housing those collections and in providing adequate work space for library users and staff. A report documenting these challenges, MIT Libraries' Space Needs (http://macfadden.mit.edu:9500/space97/), was issued in November. It demonstrated that total space, seating, and linear feet of shelving are all substantially below standards and also below that of other academic research libraries with similar size student bodies and collections:
MIT Libraries square feet
Standard for student body and collection size
Average for ARL libraries in similar size institutions
MIT Libraries seats per student population
Standard for typical residential university
MIT Libraries number of seats
Average for ARL libraries in similar size institutions
Hayden Library volumes per foot of shelving
Standard for volumes per foot of shelving
The Libraries have additional space needs which are not obvious from the numerical comparisons, such as the need for group study, consultation and teaching spaces, and for the accommodation of growing numbers of computer workstations. While these significant space needs require a long-term solution, severe interim strategies will be necessary before such a long-term solution can be realized. In particular, planning for significantly increased moves of collections to storage began in the last months of the year.
Loading Invoices. This year staff in Serials Acquisitions worked together with Systems Office staff to implement the invoice loader program in the Geac Advance library system. This enabled automated loading of invoices for over 5,000 titles from four major serials vendors. Improved data accuracy and significant time savings have resulted.
Direct Online Ordering. With assistance from the Systems Office and the Authorities Group, custom programming and a few "work-arounds" enabled Monograph Acquisitions' staff to overcome previous obstacles to placing orders directly online in the system of our major book vendor (Yankee Book Peddler). The order records are subsequently loaded into our Geac Advance library system. MIT Libraries was the first Geac Advance site to implement these processes. Several benefits have accrued: reduced keying, order duplication alert, speedier fulfillment of orders, reduced postage and paper costs, ability to continue ordering during year-end fiscal processes, ability to place a rush request on an existing order. In other words, this was a "big win".
Core Cataloging of Serials. In continuing efforts to find ways to streamline traditional processes and free-up resources for new initiatives, the Serials Cataloging Unit this year undertook an analysis of the potential of the newly defined national standard for Core Cataloging. Discussions with public services' staff were carried out to define elements of cataloging records that could be eliminated while still providing records that serve the needs of the broad range of users of the Libraries' catalog. Several fields were identified for elimination. Many others, it should be noted, were identified as necessary, and the result was a definition of a "pretty full" record, in the words of the Head of Serials Cataloging. While this effort resulted in a modest reduction in work per title, it was also noteworthy as a serious exploration of the utility of various cataloging tasks.
E-mail Transmission of Withdrawal Information. Bibliographic Access Services' staff realized a "creative break-through" this year in solving a long-standing issue related to managing withdrawals in a decentralized system. Divisional and Branch Libraries' staff can now wand barcodes of items to be deleted and transmit them to BAS staff via e-mail, eliminating the previous awkward and time-consuming procedures of making print-outs or detaching and sending barcodes through campus mail.
World Music Classification. Since 1990, the emphasis on world music in MIT's music curriculum has grown substantially. The Libraries have supported this curriculum change by building a significant collection of world music CDs. The growth in the collection strained a classification scheme which was originally intended to organize a collection of United States folk music. In order to streamline world music call number assignment and to facilitate shelving and browsing by country, a staff member in Bibliographic Access Services designed a new classification scheme based on the Library of Congress' G (Geography) schedule. It provides a constant number to each country, unaffected by changes in the country's name. The new scheme was implemented after review by the music faculty, and 500 music CDs were reclassified and relabelled. The response to the new shelving arrangement has been extremely positive.
Achieving Currency. Serials Cataloging eliminated backlogs of print serials held in "Pre-Cat" collections in all Libraries. Monograph Cataloging achieved currency in cataloging microforms, videos, and computer files, and significantly reduced the map cataloging backlog. The microform cataloging included creating individual catalog records for the Fowler microfilm collection of early architectural books.
Once again the efforts of staff in Collection Services have paid off in the effective acquisition, cataloging and management of the print and electronic resources which provide the basis of the Libraries' services. When an MIT student or faculty member finds a book on the shelf, a recorded performance on a CD, or an e-journal on the Libraries' web, the consistent, informed processes and practices of Collection Services' staff have made it possible.
A year of tremendous changes in staff and organization have left the MIT Libraries ready to develop a strategic approach to our technology needs. Not only is our Systems Office staffed with enthusiastic and expert managers and consultants who support the technology we put in place, but we also have a new Computer Coordinating
Committee equipped to examine technology issues across the Libraries with an eye to devising appropriate policy and articulating a compelling vision of how we should harness technology to the tasks of librarianship.
TECHNOLOGY SERVING OUR PATRONS
During the year we have increased our emphasis on technology which serves our patrons. Some of our efforts (like "electronic courtesy notices") were wild successes, some of our failures (like the repeated system crashes of the Fall) reminded us how much a part of the fabric of the Institute library systems have become. In all cases we work to make sure the MIT community has access to the technological tools they need to make use of the resources we provide.
Patrons have given us positive reviews for instituting an "Electronic Courtesy Notice" this year. This notice, sent via e-mail, notifies patrons of books that will become due in three days' time. This early warning system was developed by Systems Office and Circulation staff who are now working on similar notices for holds and recalls.
A survey of undergraduate and graduate students confirmed that half the responding students are prepared to plug their portable computers in the Libraries if we only had network connections available for them. Seventeen such drops were installed across the Libraries and will be publicized for the Fall 1998 term. We are working with IS for both the installation and to develop consistent visibility for drops of this sort whether they are in the Libraries, dorms, or hallways around the Institute.
The importance of our web services continued to grow during the year. We defined the role of a Web Manager to ensure the quality and consistency of our website's content, and though we have yet to fill this position, the interim Web Manager (our Information Technology Librarian for Public Services) has already had a notable impact by responding to user demands for more navigable database menus and more informative news. Plans for a Web Advisory Group have also been put in place. This difficult planning work lays the foundation for significant improvements to come.
We still don't have proper Service Level Agreements in place for the equipment which forms the heart of our Barton library catalog, but we have been working to document our relationship with the IS Operations team at W91 more clearly. We did experience a spell of rough weather from August-November 1997 when the Barton server repeatedly crashed and the W91 and Sun technicians had trouble resolving the problem. The bitter complaints from our patrons during this time reminded us of our importance to the MIT community. We have worked hard to ensure consistent performance our patrons can count on; there has been no significant downtime since December 1997.
Other efforts continued to make progress during the year:
TECHNOLOGY ENABLING OUR STAFF
Of course, though patrons are the center of our attention, our staff also serve our users and must be adequately supported in their technological endeavors. This year has seen us lay a solid foundation of networking for our workgroups, revise our equipment purchase strategy so that it can be more responsive to the needs of our staff, and build closer ties to IS through the use of common tools.
The Systems Office of the Libraries has firmed up its knowledge of Windows NT and deployed an NT domain ("MITLIBRARIES") to manage both staff and public access to our workstations. Requiring an NT logon for our workstations increases security for staff workstations and manageability for public workstations. The foundation
of an NT domain also enables us to begin planning new services for our staff, including filesharing for workgroups and portable "profiles" for staff who work in more than one location.
Our Computer Coordinating Committee has rationalized the central purchase of equipment for the Libraries, and tied it to the goals of the organization and to a set of expressed principals. An almost fully staffed Systems Office has improved our ability to roll out new equipment efficiently. In 1998/1999 we will move from annual to quarterly purchases of new equipment in an effort to increase our responsiveness to patron and staff needs.
Our Systems Office has worked closely with the Computing Help Desk this year, forging a relationship that helps both parties be more efficient in passing tasks back and forth. We now track our own trouble reports with the Help Desk's CaseTracker system. Other units in the Libraries are also considering CaseTracker including our online reference staff and our interlibrary loan staff.
Many other staff projects have also seen steady progress:
STAFF MAKING TECHNOLOGY WORK
For technology to serve the needs of patrons and staff, someone has to make sure that we make the right technological choices and back those choices up with strong support. The year 1997/1998 marked a complete rebuilding of this policy-making and support structure within the Libraries. From a fresh Systems Office to a new Computer Coordinating Committee to a fleet of hard-working Local Technology Experts, the staff of the Libraries began to build a structure that will ensure a responsive computing environment for years to come.
Our redefinition of the Systems Office required a major push this year as the rest of our old staff left the office to be replaced by completely fresh faces. Nobody on the staff of the Systems Office in July 1998 was there in July 1997! The new staff has revitalized the office and drawn high praise from library staff. The new staff fill redefined positions in a much more team-oriented Systems Office. Their work to pull together as a team has paid off in productivity, presence, and professionalism.
The new Head of the Systems Office (who started in February) oversees a staff including a Library System Manager (who started in August) and two Library Technology Consultants (who started in March). Another Library Technology Consultant hired by the Engineering and Science Libraries works closely with the two Consultants in the Systems Office. In fact, the three Consultants share a job description which is closely modeled on the Consultant I job in IS. This alignment with IS jobs via the Consultant descriptions gives our staff a clear growth path they have not previously enjoyed.
All of our staff have done an extraordinary job of learning their jobs and becoming productive very quickly. We engaged MIT human resources' staff to provide us with team-building workshops and outside trainers to teach us more about administering NT servers. We continue to look for team-building and training opportunities.
Finally, we have started the process of renovating the rather dismal offices in which our Systems' staff work. An MIT-assigned architect has begun to work with the staff to plan changes which include much needed ergonomic improvements and staging space for equipment deployment.
In addition to a rededicated Systems' staff, the new Assistant Director for Technology Planning and Administration implemented our plans to distribute responsibility for technical planning beyond the Systems Office. This year we hired two new Information Technology Librarians (the ITL for Public Services started last winter, the ITL for Collection Services starts later this summer) who will pay particular attention to the technological needs of their areas. These two ITLs along with the new Assistant Director, the Head of the Systems Office, and our Head of Administrative Services have formed our Computer Coordinating Committee to guide the technological growth of the MIT Libraries.
STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS
While we will be pursuing many efforts over the next year, we have identified these four important technological directions:
Converge on key technologies. We will continue to focus on the web as a service point for our patrons with additional data resources, new services, and expanded access off-campus. Behind the scenes we manage a set of NT servers and are looking to expand their capabilities with other tools; you will see more and more machines around you become NT workstations as a result.
Convey information. Our patrons should notice clearer instructions and more timely notification. To our staff we will convey information both through newsletters and training.
Emerge from the woodwork. We will be raising the Libraries' profile as learning space with more extensive network access and by telling the MIT community about our resources via public relations.
Become more strategic. We will be using the documents and goals established by Library Council and the Public Services Redefinition process to help us establish priorities for equipment and technology services.
Our strategies for success will continue to be: focusing on patrons, working together with the Libraries' staff, coordinating with Information Systems, and training our own staff to handle both the technology and the customer-service aspects of their jobs.
MIT Reports to the President 1997-98