logo ULC Annual Report 1993-94


Automation Subcommittee

The 1990s are witnessing rapid growth in library automation. As the decade opened automation was largely a matter of computerized card catalog access and bar-coded circulation control. Today a rapidly growing community of users requires access to full-text or abstract services, such as CD-ROM data bases. Electronic publishing is in its infancy, but is expanding rapidly as books, journals, and unpublished manuscripts become available in digitized form.

During the 1991-1993 biennium, runaway computing costs forced stringent sacrifices in the budget for automation, with corresponding restrictions on services. Through an agreement with the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), the GLS now has an effective cap on the costs of computer time and local software development, which will permit rational budget management throughout the campus libraries within the limits of available resources.

A direct data link to the Milwaukee campus library system is now fully in service. Gopher servers provide remote access both to our own resources and to libraries throughout the world from workstations on campus, and to users with modem-equipped personal computers. Access to workstations in libraries across campus has been expanded and upgraded through the installation of 250 new PCs, and as many more will be installed as space becomes available after remodeling.

For the immediate future, the focus is on expanding the scope of information accessible through existing automated resources, especially services such as CD-ROM, while providing the hardware, software, and the user education required to serve a rapidly-growing base of users. Libraries are participating in several multi-year consortial grants which will increase automation structures and make possible new library services.

Meeting the growing demand for user education, which has grown by a factor of 2.6 in the past five years, is a major challenge. During the current academic year, DoIT is expanding undergraduate access to computer services, and undergraduate demand is now driving the rapid growth of library user education.

Demand for nearly all of the seminars and workshops offered in the fall of 1993 exceeded capacity. These sessions are developed and taught by librarians. We are approaching the limits of personnel and facilities for this service, and are examining opportunities to collaborate with other units on campus, but eventually meeting this demand will require new user education positions as well as expanded facilities for instruction.

Computer assisted instruction has proven a valuable adjunct to user education at other universities, and we anticipate that UW-Madison will soon take this route. A considerable local effort to develop text that is tailored to our campus facilities, and the resources to purchase the requisite hardware and software will also be required.

Though campus libraries are taking advantage of opportunities for extramural funding of automation, the cost of the bulk of this expansion must come from within the State budget. It is imperative to protect the State funding base, and to enlarge it as services expand.

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