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Libraries improve computer system, exchange with Harvard

By Angela Liao

In response to the various student needs and budget cuts, the MIT Libraries have gone through several changes this year in both personnel and services. These include a new computer system, shorter hours, and an exchange program with Harvard.

Director of Libraries Jay K. Lucker retired in August after 20 years of service.

Ann J. Wolpert, executive director of library and information services at the Harvard Business School since 1993, was appointed and assumed her duties in early January.

"The major challenge facing all research libraries now is managing the transition to a world where more and more information will be delivered electronically rather than in print on paper," said Carol Fleishauer, then-acting director of Libraries.

Wolpert "sees changes which will move our libraries to libraries of the future, with emphasis in computers and communication technology," said Provost Joel Moses PhD '67, who made the appointment.

Libraries advance electronic services

Before Wolpert assumed office, then-acting co-directors Fleishauer and David S. Ferriero took steps to improve traditional services and develop new electronic services for students.

Over the summer, the libraries began using a new computer system, said MIT Libraries' associate director for systems and planning Greg Anderson.

The $360,000 system is the result of a five-year-long collaboration between the Libraries and I/S to improve public access, said Anderson who is also the director for information/technology discovery for Infor-mation Systems.

The new system is more powerful, has more sophisticated indexing, searching, and processing capabilities, and has a structure superior to the old GEAC 8000 system, Anderson said.

The changeover will culminate in the development of a client/server system for MIT Libraries. That part of the new system, also a joint effort between MIT and GEAC, will be in place by next summer, Anderson said.

Hayden hours, subscriptions cut

Because of financial cuts, the Charles M. Hayden Memorial Library's hours were cut down from the traditional 24-hour a day schedule. The library now closes promptly at midnight and opens at 8 a.m. weekdays and Saturdays and at noon on Sundays.

The shortening of hours is a result of long-term cuts. "For the past three years, each department has been asked to reduce their budget by 2 percent a year," Ferriero said. "At some point, something had to give."

Student reaction to the closing was relatively low-key, according to Anand Mehta G, a student services re-engineering team member. "I'm not sure how many people actually used the library after midnight," he said.

Returning to a 24-hour schedule is "possible, but not something I see as very likely to happen," Ferriero said.

MIT, Harvard agree on exchange

In addition to the new systems and changes in services, faculty, research staff, and graduate students from MIT and Harvard University now have free limited access to both universities' libraries as of the beginning of September. Under-graduates from MIT and Harvard are not entitled to the new exchange borrowing privileges.

"We are very excited about this agreement," Ferriero said. The Institute has been working toward having such an exchange for the past 130 years and has been seriously negotiating an agreement for the last 20 years.

Qualifying members of the MIT community must go to an MIT Libraries reference desk for approval for privileges at Harvard libraries. Once approved, applicants will receive Harvard borrowing cards. Literature describing the details of the exchange process are available at the Hayden Library's circulation desk.

The borrowing privileges extend to Harvard's 12 undergraduate libraries and MIT's 12 libraries. Cross-registered students, including undergraduates, are entitled to full privileges at Harvard libraries.

Undergraduate students are excluded from this exchange program. "That's the way Harvard wants it," Ferriero said. MIT might work towards setting up an undergraduate exchange in the future, he said.

The current exchange program is up for evaluation at the end of its first year.