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Automation

The scope and magnitude of Electronic Library services continue to grow rapidly, though as we approach saturation in the number of users the growth rate has subsided somewhat. One fact is becoming increasingly clear; library automation does not save money. Ease of access to information generates increased demand, and the providers charge as much or more for these services as for the print resources that they replace. In many cases the addition of automation services takes place without the cancellation of traditional media, since vendors or users require the purchase of paper copies in addition to automated services.
One force that continues to drive growth is the conversion to World Wide Web (WWW) pages as user interfaces. The ease of setup and use of web browser software and the linkage to nearby and remote databases simplifies access for users with limited training. As a sign of the university's achievements in developing its web page formats, the Memorial Library homepage was recently selected by the Lycos Internet Guide as a "Top 5 percent" site among university library systems.
For internal library resources, the most rapid growth in acquisitions is in networked full-text databases. The most popular are journal indexing services, which enable a user to conduct a literature search on-line. Electronic journals or electronic versions of printed journals are the most rapidly-growing sector of our electronic holdings. Some of these services are new, while others have been converted from stand-alone systems formerly available in a single library. Many have been made accessible via WWW interfaces. The decision as to which databases to network is in large measure economic: license fees for networked databases are substantially higher than for stand-alone use, so the demand must be sufficient to justify the additional costs.
Over the next three years, library automation staff will be preparing for a major change. The NOTIS and related software that has provided the backbone of the electronic library up to this time must be replaced. It was originally written for mainframe computers, and essential parts are machine-specific. The commercial provider of this software is phasing it out. This software handles circulation management, catalog services, and a number of internal library functions. Specifications for the new system are being developed. Several firms are currently developing systems for other universities, so the library should have a range of products from which to choose. For users who are already accessing the Electronic Library through graphic interfaces such as Netscape Navigator, the changeover should be essentially transparent. In so far as is possible, the new system will cover all UW campuses.


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Last modified July 7, 1998

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