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New library system being installed

By the time students are back next fall, the MIT Libraries will have an entirely new operations system resulting in improvements for both users and staff.

Advance, the system developed by Geac Computers, Inc. of Newtonville, MA, includes a public-access catalog; library functions to manage circulation, cataloging, acquisitions and accounting; and a new authority control function, which ensures consistency in searching and cross-referencing (for example, a search for works pertaining to Mark Twain would also automatically yield items listed under Samuel Clemens).

"It's much more robust and functional for network access," said Greg Anderson, associate director for systems and planning. Involved in the installation are more than 100 Libraries staff members, plus more from Information Systems and the Library 2000 group headed by Professor Jerome Saltzer of electrical engineering and computer science. Libraries staff are developing training, documentation, and publicity materials to help users become familiar with the new system, which should be as easy to use as the current one, he added. Even though the underlying system is changing, the MIT Libraries catalog will still be known as Barton.

Advance is actually an intermediate step; it will form the basis of a client-server system that will be installed in the summer of 1996. In what may be the first agreement of its type in the country, MIT and Geac have signed a deal to jointly develop the client-server system, which Geac hopes will also be adopted by libraries at other large research universities.

Concurrently with the Advance implementation, a means of searching library catalogs via the World Wide Web is being developed by the On-Line Computer Library Center (OCLC), which already provides the FirstSearch databases. The Libraries also plan to distribute a software client throughout MIT that would enable users of Windows-based computers to retrieve catalog information. Thus, library users will eventually be able to look at catalogs of libraries at MIT and other universities using a variety of electronic methods including Telnet, the Web, and Windows and Athena-based clients (the last already exists in the form of WILLOW, or Washington Information Looker-upper Layered Over Windows). "It gives people a little more freedom of choice," Mr. Anderson said.

This summer's improvement is coming somewhat later than expected. The Libraries originally intended to install a system called Horizon made by NOTIS, but that company abandoned plans to move forward with Horizon and MIT reopened its search, Mr. Anderson explained. Geac had been the runner-up in the first search when NOTIS was selected, he added.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 24, 1995.

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