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Automation

After two years of planning, the campus electronic library (EL) moved to a web page format in January. MadCat, the on-line library catalogue, has remained the same except for the addition of some searching enhancements. The format allows the integration of text and images and easy linking to research and teaching materials from around the world. The explosion of electronic information is a mixed blessing, however. Full-text databases, especially in the sciences and technology, are being priced by commercial publishers at up to 150 percent of the print version. Although electronic dissemination saves them paper, printing, and mailing costs, it is likely to reduce the number of subscriptions. A few professional societies are offering the electronic version of their journals at discounts of 10 percent. Others will include the electronic version with the hard copies for a modest premium. Thus far, no unit on campus has been willing to drop the print subscription in favor of the electronic version. It is clear that the EL will be expensive and an additional burden on the acquisitions budget. Personnel are also affected by the burgeoning EL. The library of the future may need fewer staff assigned to routine operations, but will need more trained staff to teach users and to support its increasingly complicated automated systems.
The web page format provides a user-friendly point of entry to the EL. The variety of EL services has grown to the point where menu access will soon be unwieldy, however. The library staff is working on better ways to direct users with varying needs to the appropriate resources. The growth of the catalogue, index, and abstract databases has now stabilized to a steady and predictable pace and most of these are networked. The most rapid growth of the EL is in full-text services. In just the last four years, the library introduced users to over 400 databases which were accessed in more than 700,000 sessions, so the EL carries a substantial share of library traffic.
Automated library services continue to grow rapidly, from 60 to 75 percent per year. The most rapid growth in the user community has been among undergraduates. By fall 1995, more than 80 percent of all students on campus had activated their E-mail accounts, the most common first step for users; their next step is likely to be heavier reliance on the Electronic Library. Two new factors can be expected to drive use of the EL: 1) the campus-wide Communications "Course A" requirement will include a unit on information literacy; and, 2) the installation of the RESNET network which, when completed, will give all dormitory rooms the same level of access to campus networks now enjoyed by the faculty and administration.
In the first case, pilot programs in fall 1995 put considerable strain on both personnel and facilities for library instruction; both may need upgrading to meet this new demand. In the latter case, installation of RESNET may ease pressure on the Library and DoIT computer labs, but will generate demands for remote access of databases. A major issue in both is the database subscription fees that will be required and will most surely rise.
For students living off campus, as well as faculty and staff who use automation services from home, dial-up access continues to be a bottleneck during the peak evening hours, despite the addition of new phone lines and modems. DoIT's present system provides access only to those library services that can be reached by TELNET, which leaves out a substantial portion of library databases.
Most of the databases are available only on a stand-alone basis at the library that provides them because of problems with making databases compatible with multiple computer platforms and licensing prohibitions. Eventually the transmission of full-text databases could strain the networks' capacity, especially if it contains a great deal of graphic material. Library staff have tested and networked on graphic database that makes particularly heavy demands on network capacity, the ArcView geographic database.
One potential problem is the current initiative to revise copyright law to extend the protection of digital materials. Many publishers and trade associations are insisting that every transmission of copyrighted material over a digital link is equivalent to creating a printed copy and a royalty should be charged. They also hope to tighten the definition of "fair use." It is not clear how these issues will be resolved.


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Last modified July 7, 1998

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