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OIS News -- December 2000


Ex Libris (USA) Chosen as HOLLIS II Vendor
HOLLIS II December open meetings
Office for Information Systems announces reorganization

HOLLIS portal (service formerly known as HOLLIS Plus)

Enhancements planned for HOLLIS portal site
Recent web browser incompatibilities with portal resources
Fiscal 2000 database usage statistics available


Update on new Accounts Receivable system
New Accounts Payable policy regarding invoice processing
HD and extended HOLLIS ILS calendar closings
Library privileges for long term casual employees
Payments flagged as weedable

Notes & reminders

Restricted FTP access to OIS server "Sylvia"
OIS holiday systems and support schedule
URLs in this issue


Ex Libris (USA) Chosen as HOLLIS II Vendor

The Harvard University Library has reached agreement with Ex Libris (USA) for the purchase and installation of ALEPH 500 in the Harvard University Libraries. The ALEPH system will replace the current HOLLIS ILS, used by staff and the public at the libraries at Harvard since the mid-1980's. The contract was signed on November 25, 2000. A target date for installing all ALEPH functions has been set for the summer of 2002.

The HOLLIS II Project

Since the mid-1990’s the need for a new generation library system has been widely recognized. The goal of the HOLLIS II project is to replace the aging HOLLIS software with a new system, one more suited to integration with the network-based systems which comprise the emerging digital information landscape. New generation library systems are typically based on a client/server model that will allow staff and patrons alike to make much better use of their powerful desktop computers and will also extend the library’s reach across existing networks. The library’s plan was to purchase a commercial system rather than continue with the extensive local systems development characteristic of the current HOLLIS. The intention, of course, was to choose a system close to the beginning of its technological life and to choose a vendor who will serve as a strong partner for Harvard libraries as technology continues to evolve in the years to come.

Following an intensive evaluation period involving many knowledgeable members of the library staff, the choice was narrowed to two possible systems: TAOS, developed by Data Research Associates, Inc. (DRA) in St. Louis and ALEPH, a system developed by an Israeli company, Ex Libris. Early in 1998, the University Library tentatively chose Data Research’s TAOS product as the next generation system. At the time TAOS was still in development, but it was believed that architecturally, technically, and functionally the system had enormous promise. Because it was incomplete, instead of moving directly to a purchase contract, a Letter of Intent was signed with DRA, committing to purchase the system if certain development milestones were met. The most important milestone was a successful implementation at UCLA, then planned for the beginning of the 1998-99 academic year. Unfortunately, the UCLA implementation did not proceed according to schedule and was delayed a year. In December 1999, uneven progress at UCLA led the project steering committee to a decision to investigate other options, while continuing to monitor progress at UCLA.

A quick survey of the marketplace in the winter off 1999-2000 revealed little major change in library system vendors or products. Ex Libris, however, had made significant progress in developing ALEPH for the North American market and so it was decided to begin a new evaluation of the system, concentrating on what had changed since 1998.

Ex Libris – a second look

During the earlier evaluation process, the primary concern about Ex Libris was that the company had little presence or experience in the U.S. library market, though they had been quite successful in a large number of major installations in Europe and Latin America. Ex Libris has since moved more effectively into the U.S. and Canada. ALEPH 500 has been installed in North American sites such as the University of Notre Dame, the University of Iowa, McGill University in Canada, Brandeis University and Boston College. Other large academic sites in are in development, such as the State University of New York (SUNY) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In addition, the company has opened two US offices, one of which is located the Boston area.

Assessment of ALEPH during the spring and summer of 2000 involved library evaluation teams, public presentations, and many discussions with the vendors on issues ranging from scaling concerns to implementation strategies to Harvard development requirements for the system. The key strengths of the system include well-developed functionality, sophisticated technical infrastructure (using Oracle databases), and an extensive level of flexibility that will allow Harvard to configure the system to meet Harvard requirements.

A major milestone – Harvard Ex Libris contract signed

In the fall of 2000, the University Library Council accepted the recommendation of the HOLLIS Steering Committee that Harvard begin contract negotiations with Ex Libris. The contract includes extensive conversion and implementation services as well as some significant system developments that will be implemented before the system goes live in Harvard libraries, currently scheduled for the summer of 2002.

  • Developments that will be added to the ALEPH system include:
  • Better indexing infrastructure, including the development of a configurable index generation tool for well-ordered results from a browse search and improvements to the system to better incorporate authority data into search results;
  • Improved holdings data, implementing full support for holdings records including serials receipts and duplicate detection for MARC import and export of records;
  • Enhancements to meet the requirements of the Harvard University financial system, including support for the 33-digit chart of accounts
  • Recommendations to improve the staff interface of the circulation, acquisitions and cataloging modules of the system

Next Steps

Planning for Aleph 500 implementation begins in December with a series of kickoff meetings involving Ex Libris staff at Harvard. A number of joint Harvard/Ex Libris working groups have been established to develop specifications for selected Aleph developments in areas such as data conversion, indexing, serial check-in and holdings, fund accounting and communications with the Harvard Depository. All library staff will have an opportunity to learn more about Aleph implementation plans at three open meetings on December 19, 20 and 21.

In early 2001, activities intensify as Harvard implementation teams are appointed. Most of these teams will be formed along functional lines (acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, etc.) and their focus will be planning the conversion of HOLLIS I data to Aleph and modeling the Aleph environment to accommodate Harvard's processing needs. There will also be teams responsible for handling desktop client issues, staff productivity tools, and training. Implementation activities will continue more or less non-stop until the actual cutover to Aleph 500 in the summer of 2002.

An Aleph 500 test system installed at Harvard should be up and running by late winter. OIS and Ex Libris staff will use this system to test the conversion and loading of Harvard data as well reconfiguration of Aleph for Harvard's use. Since Harvard has a lot of data (8.7 million bibliographic records, 1.3 million authorities, 1.08 million holdings, etc.) and a very high volume processing operation, there will also be repeated testing of Aleph performance.

Effective communication between OIS and the libraries will be crucial during implementation. OIS will revitalize the role of HOLLIS library liaisons, and expects to develop other methods to insure timely communication with everyone involved in and affected by this process.

The University Library Council extends thanks to the many members of the Library community who worked together on the HOLLIS II evaluation project. It is now time to put past delays behind and look forward to the exciting, challenging process of planning for and implementing a new system. This implementation will impact all library staff as well as the patrons we serve. The success of the project depends on the participation and contributions of all Harvard library staff. The project will undoubtedly bring some difficult changes but will also provide many new opportunities to improve both staff processing and library services to patrons.

For more information about the HOLLIS II Project, contact Kathy Anderson (HOLLIS II co-Project Manager) in OIS. Ì

HOLLIS II December open meetings

All Harvard library staff are encouraged to attend a December open meeting to learn about the early stages of HOLLIS II implementation planning. There will be three opportunities to attend this open meeting:

Tuesday, Dec. 19 9:30 - 10:30 am Lamont Forum Room

Wednesday, Dec. 20 10:30 - 11:30 am Minot Room /Countway Library (Medical area)

Thursday, Dec. 21 3:00 - 4:00 pm Lamont Forum Room

Pick the date and location that is most convenient for you. No RSVP necessary but if you have questions, please contact Kathy Anderson in OIS. Ì

Office for Information Systems announces reorganization

Libraries are changing. The explosive growth of digital information and the development of the internet, are having profound affects on library operations and collections. In recent years, the Office for Information Systems has been striving to manage an ever-increasing number of information technology related developments and initiatives while still providing stable support and high quality service for existing and newly developed systems for Harvard library patrons and staff. In recent years, these developments have challenged the ability of OIS to meet the demands of library staff and patrons (as well as to meet our own expectations). To help address this issue, OIS is undergoing a reorganization which we hope will put us in a better position to manage development projects, incorporate new systems into a full support model, and provide responsive services to Harvard libraries.

OIS will be comprised of six teams lead by the following staff members:

Application Support – Caren Smith

Application Programming – Stacy Kowalczyk

System Administration and Operations Support – Jean Spoolstra

Digital Library Program – MacKenzie Smith

User Support – Julie Wetherill

Network Desktop Support – Lesly Corrielus

An organizational chart reflecting the new OIS team structure is available on the OIS web site.

As in any period of change, considerable effort will be spent on clarifying new roles and channels of communication both within OIS, as well as between OIS and library staff. More information will be published on the About OIS web page during the coming months as the reorganization plan is implemented and refined. It is important to note that two senior OIS staff members have been promoted as a result of the reorganization.

Caren Smith will be the Manager of the Applications Support team. Caren brings many years of library and technical experience to her expanded role. Stablizing new systems is particularly challenging in these times of rapid growth and complex technical projects. Caren’s strong project management skills and interest in making sure that our library systems are robust, maintainable and "useable" will enable her to improve the ongoing support of all our library applications. Application Support will focus on technical support for all existing library applications including HOLLIS, the HOLLIS ILS, VIA, OASIS, and other new systems as they evolve beyond the early "development phase" of LDI. Because of their expertise in the data and functions of the HOLLIS ILS, several members of the team will also be heavily involved in the HOLLIS II project.

MacKenzie Smith will take on an expanded role as Manager of the Digital Library Program. MacKenzie’s involvement in the Library Digital Initiative started long before the project was funded. MacKenzie’s deep understanding of library automation combined with her facility for absorbing new technologies has made her a key player in development of digital library infrastructure, tools, and services. Understanding how these new systems and services will be incorporated into Harvard library operations and collections is essential to the success of LDI. Along with Dale Flecker, MacKenzie will play a lead role in guiding Harvard libriaries through this initiative. The DLP team will coordinate and oversee both LDI grant projects as well as other projects that grow out of the Library Digital Initiative and over the next few years help to define ongoing support and development needs for digital library applications and services.

Please feel free to contact Tracey Robinson with any questions, concerns or suggestions. Ì

HOLLIS portal (service formerly known as HOLLIS Plus)

Enhancements planned for HOLLIS portal site

Plans are in the works for a new release of the HOLLIS portal web site, expected to be available before the beginning of the Spring 2001 semester. Usability testing and input from library staff and end users during the first three months of the portal's initial release resulted in the creation of a large list of requests for improving the site. The enhancement requests range from increasing the amount of contrast between text and background to refining the subject categorization of e-resources. In general, they represent functional, navigational or visibility enhancements rather than re-design of the site. A sampling of enhancements follows:

1. Increase the size of the "Comments" link to enable people to find it more easily, and add links to the comment forms within the appropriate Help sections.

2. Increase the size of the persistent menu options and the letters of the alphabet gif on the e-resources page, to make positioning of a mouse on an option or a letter easier.

3. Improve the navigation providing by the cascading menus by adding cascade links, removing redundant links, re-ordering the links etc.

4. Re-design of the initial "e-resources" page to compress it vertically and display more useful content.

5. Division of the "search library webspace" function into two search domains: the library home pages and the site itself. The latter search type will facilitate quicker access to a known resource.

6. Display a count of retrieved items when a search (such as "biology" "electronic journals") is invoked.

7. Supplement current LC-like headings with additional user-centered subject headings such as "Area Studies" or "Classics".

8. Change the flag indicating APC proxy resources from "A" to "P". (This is a tiny change--- but users tended to think that "A" meant "abstracts"). Turn this "P" into a link to APC configuration help, so that users can link directly to that help.

9. Add an "announcement" section which is dedicated to important news such as downtime, system changes or other feature items (such as migration to the university PIN system in Fall 2001).

10. Create an automated "library information reminder" system to check update dates on library pages, and automatically email the person responsible for updating the pages.

An ad hoc HOLLIS portal interface group has nearly completed its goal of prioritizing and refining enhancements for the HOLLIS Portal site. The members of the Ad Hoc HOLLIS group are Barbara Burg, Kathleen Donovan, Michael Jimenez, Janet Taylor, Victoria Lin, Elaine Fadden, Susan Gilroy, Cliff Wunderlich and John Carper.

A library staff preview period will precede release of the enhanced site. More precise information about the new HOLLIS portal release will be made available after the new year. Please direct any questions to Caren Smith in OIS. Ì

Recent web browser incompatibilities with portal resources

The recently released Netscape 6 does not work well with resources available from the HOLLIS portal. Most notably, the browser can not be configured to use the APC proxy, so APC resources are not fully accessible. Also, URLs from the Name Resolution Service (NRS) do not work. Other problems include the failure of various mouse-over features, no pre-configured telnet client, and certain navigational links failing.

A solution to this problem must come from Netscape, probably in a future maintenance release. Until then, please advise patrons to revert to an earlier version of Netscape. Also, please consult with OIS before installing Netscape 6 on any library workstations.

On the Internet Explorer front, evidence is mounting that use of IE version 5.x browsers with Lexis-Nexis can result in the error message:

"We are unable to process your request. You may be submitting a previous request that has expired. Please review your request, then submit it again."

If patrons encounter this problem, please ask them to use Netscape or an earlier version of Internet Explorer. OIS continues to investigate and will report when more is known.

Contact Janet Taylor in OIS if you have questions. Ì

Fiscal 2000 database usage statistics available

Usage statistics for HOLLIS portal resources available during the fiscal year ending June 30th 2000 are now available on the OIS website. They can be accessed directly at


A link is also provided from the Digital Acquisitions web site. Direct any questions about HOLLIS portal statistics to either Jennifer Montbach or Ivy Anderson in OIS. Ì


Update on new Accounts Receivable system

This is an update on the new Accounts Receivable system and policies that will be in place as of January 2001. OIS has been informed that some of the libraries have received conflicting information about the new process, and this email will hopefully clarify where things stand at this time.

Background: In January 2001, Accounts Receivable will begin using a new computer system. This will create some changes in the way that information is transmitted from the HOLLIS ILS to the new system. The current process (with some potential deviation, depending on the library), is as follows:

  • A preliminary print report is delivered to the libraries containing patron bill/fine information. This print report contains patron information for those individuals that would receive an invoice with library fees and fines from Accounts Receivable. These patrons are, generally, the non-student population of the University. Student information is transmitted electronically to the Student Billing office (Termbill).
  • The libraries review this preliminary report and make appropriate changes to bill/fine records.
  • A final report is then printed from the HOLLIS ILS and submitted to the libraries.
  • Each library signs off on this report and submits it manually to Accounts Receivable for invoice processing. A/R then inputs this information into their system and generates invoices that are sent to the patrons.

What will change: The new process, which is still being drafted at this time, will consist of the following:

  • Libraries will still receive a printed preliminary report from the HOLLIS ILS that will be delivered to the libraries with their products. This report will be augmented with bill/fine record number and other identifiers that will make it easier to locate these bill/fine records in the patron file.
  • Accounts Receivable is requiring that every customer in its new system have a customer number. HOLLIS will compare the patrons listed in the preliminary report with the A/R customer file electronically. Any patrons who are not currently a part of the A/R customer file will have their information sent to A/R by OIS so that customer records can be created for them in the new system.
  • After a short period of time in which the libraries have had a chance to review their preliminary report and make changes to the bills in question, and A/R has had time to create needed customer records, the HOLLIS ILS will transmit a data file to the new Accounts Receivable system.
  • A final printed report will be generated by the HOLLIS ILS for the libraries that will contain a record of what was electronically submitted to A/R, including the A/R invoice numbers.

Explanation: The main change will be the electronic feed from the HOLLIS ILS to the new A/R system, and an improved preliminary and final report of bills submitted to A/R, which will be generated by HOLLIS and delivered to the libraries. OIS has been working on the electronic feed for several months. Small sample data sets have been successfully transmitted to the A/R test system.

Business Practices: A meeting is being arranged between OIS, some circulation librarians and Widener Book Accounts with Accounts Receivable in early December to discuss training, reporting from A/R and general A/R policies. The result will be new HOLLIS documentation including "best practice" recommendations concerning what to do after bills have been submitted to A/R.

If you have any questions about the new A/R system, OIS will attempt to answer them as we obtain information about the new process. Please direct your inquiries to Patty Hatch or Martha Creedon. Ì

New Accounts Payable policy regarding invoice processing

On November 9, 2000, OIS received notice from the Accounts Payable department that it will no longer accept invoices that are created and approved by the same operator for disbursements larger than $5,000.

Implications: In HOLLIS terms this policy change means that there should always be separation between the operator who creates a HOLLIS invoice and the person who releases the invoice batch. The university central accounts payable system is implementing this policy via security for transactions greater than $5,000. Under these new guidelines, a single operator will no longer be able to both create AND approve an invoice larger than $5,000. (NOTE: in some tubs, this amount may be smaller than $5,000). This policy is intended to decrease the opportunity for fraudulent transactions.

Library units should follow the following procedure: When paying an invoice greater than $5,000, one operator in your library should create an invoice and a second operator, with appropriate authorization, should approve it.

Smaller library units that may have only one or two individuals creating and approving invoices will have to consider the implications of this policy change and possibly make appropriate adjustments to their current payment policies.

There is nothing that can be changed within HOLLIS security to impose this restriction for HOLLIS operators. Therefore, library units need to be aware of this new policy when creating and approving invoices in HOLLIS.

Please address any questions you may have about this policy change to Patty Hatch in OIS. Ì

HD and extended HOLLIS ILS calendar closings

This annual notice is a reminder that extended closings during the holidays can interfere with the setting of HD delivery and "hold until" dates.

When HOLLIS computes the day on which an HD item will be delivered, it uses circulation calendar tables for the owning library and for the Depository. Libraries commonly identify periods at the end of December in which no books are to come due. Unfortunately, such days are indistinguishable in the calendar tables from days when the library is truly closed. A patron requesting a book from the depository will not be told to expect it on any day which the library has said is not a valid due date. The result is that the expected delivery date displayed to the requestor is unreasonably far in the future. This is bad information.

You may be need to assure bewildered, or otherwise emotional, patrons that HD will continue its usual prompt service, operating throughout this period Monday through Friday, University holidays excepted. With this information and your own library's schedule you can estimate the actual expected arrival date of requested items.

Notice that the "hold until" date displayed for the patron will be similarly advanced. Libraries should consider the effect of this on their hold shelf management routines.

Please contact Martha Creedon in OIS if you have questions. Ì

Library privileges for long term casual employees

As you may know, the University recently implemented a new policy for Extended Part-Time Employees (EPE) which grants selected casual staff members various privileges, including "access to University Libraries and Museums." Following a discussion at the ULC, HUL/OIS plans to initiate changes in HOLLIS to facilitate EPE borrowing and access to databases. However, these changes will take some time to implement. We expect that these "new" patrons will be incorporated into HOLLIS and will be functional no later than the beginning of the spring term.

A letter has been distributed by Human Resources to the relevant part-time staff notifying them of their new privileges. The letter also alerts them to the anticipated delay in activating their library privileges and indicates that they will be notified when library privileges are in place. No library should feel compelled to provide privileges to EPE patrons until the spring term, by which time EPE staff will be included in the patron database. HUL/OIS will notify the libraries through HULINFO when the EPE patrons have been added to HOLLIS. Please DO NOT add these patrons manually to the HOLLIS patron file. These records will be loaded from the central HR file as soon as programmatic changes to HOLLIS are complete. Thanks for your cooperation.

If you have any additional questions about the changes to HOLLIS to accommodate EPEs, feel free to contact Tracey Robinson in OIS. Ì

Payments flagged as weedable

Fiche of payment statements approved between 7/01/89 and 12/31/99 were distributed on Tuesday, November 14, to those with subscriptions. These fiche should replace the previous set which was for 7/01/89 to 6/30/99. The actual flagging of payment statements as "weedable" has already occurred. If you have any questions please contact Maureen O'Drisceoil in OIS. Ì

Notes & reminders

Restricted FTP access to OIS server "Sylvia"

Recently, OIS has had to restrict FTP access to its main web and mail server "Sylvia" (also known as Hulmail) as the result of a series of "denial of service" attacks. A few staff members have encountered this new restriction when trying to use FTP to transfer files to or from Sylvia. Even with a legitimate login and password, Sylvia's response will be "connection refused."

OIS has begun the process of evaluating the best ways to keep FTP access open to the people who need it for web site maintenance and software downloading while lessening the security risk to Sylvia. Until we can implement a permanent solution, FTP access to Sylvia (sylvia.harvard.edu) is restricted to computers on the OIS subnet or from specific computers, (that is, from specific IP addresses) registered with us. (Note that the "OIS subnet" includes all HUL administrative units except the Harvard Depository.)

If you are getting "connection refused" error messages for FTP connections to sylvia.harvard.edu (either the Hulguest account used for software downloads or specific web maintenance accounts) and need to have your access restored, please send an email to oishelp@hulmail.harvard.edu to let us know. In your message, please tell us briefly what areas of the server you need to access, and list the IP address(es) of the computer(s) you want to connect from. If you don't know what that last bit means, please send us contact info for your system administrator or someone else who can find the needed information. Apologies for the inconvenience. Ì

OIS holiday systems and support schedule

During the upcoming holiday period, there will be slight changes to availability of some OIS-supported systems and services. A summary of the OIS system and support holiday schedule appears below, with more detail available on the OIS web site at [http://hul.harvard.edu/ois/systems/holiday2000sched.html].

Systems Availability

All public systems (HOLLIS Catalog, HOLLIS Web, VIA, OASIS, EReserves and the HOLLIS Portal) will be available according to their regular schedules.

Of our staff systems, OLIVIA will be available on its regular schedule. HULPR will be available on its regular schedule except:

December 24: System will be brought down at 12 noon

December 25: System will be unavailable all day

HULPR will return to its normal schedule on Tuesday, December 26.

HULPR Extended Hours

HULPR availability has been extended to accommodate later closings at the Law School Library and Cabot Library in December 2000 and January 2001. See http://hul.harvard.edu/ois/systems/holiday2000sched.html#extended for the details.

OIS Schedule

The Office of information Systems will be closed Christmas Week (Monday, December 25-Friday, December 29). Regular office hours will resume on Tuesday, January 2. During this time, OIS phones will not be answered but voice mail messages will be collected daily and any urgent calls will receive some response within 24 hours.

Systems Support: Emergency technical support will be "on call" in the event of any major systems failures except on Christmas Day. In the event of a systems emergency, call the UIS Operations Desk at (617) 495-3232.

In addition, technical and desktop client support will be unavailable during this period.

OIS Staff will be monitoring the twelve most heavily used HOLLIS Portal resources during the holiday period. While the HOLLIS portal will be available throughout the holidays, we cannot guarantee that all the services made available *through* the portal will be available continuously through this period. Any problems with HOLLIS portal resources should be reported at the comments page on the World Wide Web at http://lib.harvard.edu/comments/index.html.

HULPR Products: Products will not be distributed from December 25-January 1. HULPR Products for all system activity performed during this period will be available on Tuesday morning, January 2, 2001.

If you have any questions concerning this schedule or HULPR extended hours, please contact Patty Hatch in OIS. We wish you all a happy holiday season. Ì

URLs in this issue

OIS December 2000 organization chart

"About OIS" section of OIS web site

Fiscal 2000 database usage statistics

Digital Acquisitions web site

Winter 2000 systems and services schedule

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