Systems & Planning: Office for Information Systems
Highlights from FY 2006--Enhancements to Library and User Services
E-Research @ Harvard Libraries
E-Research @ Harvard Libraries was launched at the beginning of FY 2006 and expanded on the e-resource functionality of the “Harvard Libraries” web site, which serves as the University’s primary research “portal.” The interface evolved during FY 2006 based on feedback collected from staff, students, faculty, and researchers. The most significant change to the E-Research interface was the development of an “accessible” version of the user interface that can be used with screen-reader software for users with visual impairments. The new site for screen-reader software closely replicates the functionality of E-Research and is easily found on the E-Research homepage. One important feature of the new site is that the screen-reader interface to E-Research can be set up as a display preference for users with a visual impairment so that, following initial setup, users will always be sent to the screen-reader interface after logging in.
In addition to interface improvements, the libraries are working to
make new tools and services available to library users that assist
students, faculty, and researchers in using the often confusing array
of new online resources more effectively. In addition to many locally
developed research guides, the libraries licensed a new tool called
RefWorks. RefWorks allows users to import citations from many
e-resource databases and to maintain bibliographies and folders of
citations in unique personal accounts. RefWorks links to content when
available and can be used with Microsoft Word to create bibliographies
in a number of citation styles.
HOLLIS (Harvard Online Library Information System)
Harvard’s HOLLIS Catalog, which reached the 10 million record mark in FY 2006, is the primary discovery tool for the books, journals, electronic resources, manuscripts, government documents, maps, microforms, music scores, sound recordings, visual materials, and data files owned by the University and its libraries. The union catalog is updated continually as material is ordered, received, and cataloged.
Improvements were made to HOLLIS to enhance search and discovery of materials by library patrons. When users log into their accounts, they can now immediately import saved searches into the EndNote application, which facilitates publishing and managing bibliographies of title, author, or subject searches. When viewing lists of search results, users are now able to see online availability without having to go to full records, and they have several new options for sorting record sets. A pilot project in the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library allowed users to request quick processing for materials that were ordered, but not yet on the shelf. As a result of the enthusiastic response from library patrons, this enhanced feature was extended to all interested libraries at Harvard.
In another major improvement, OIS implemented a new cataloging service to provide expanded access to over 16,000 electronic journals through the HOLLIS catalog. Known as MARCit!, the service pulls records from the Find It! database and adds, maintains, and deletes electronic journal records through regular automated batch loads into both HOLLIS and E-Research. The project corrected the fact that, for years, HOLLIS had no title-level access to titles or holdings in aggregated collections such as Academic Premier and Lexis/Nexis. These aggregate databases also contain many titles that Harvard does not own in print.
Maintaining electronic journals presents a challenge because the
titles in collections are volatile—holdings and coverage change
frequently. Regular, automated processes add new titles and maintain
changes to electronic journal subscriptions, coverage, and access.
Aleph was upgraded in August 2006 to the latest version of the software (17.01). The annual upgrade process has gotten more streamlined as the vendor continues to improve the process. In FY 2006, several improvements were made to increase the efficiency of getting records into the catalog, including the introduction of the Z39.50 search protocol that allows searching in remote computer databases. This protocol enhances the ability of library staff to find new records for our collections, greatly improving the turnaround time for new records to be entered into HOLLIS. Using Z39.50, librarians can search large bibliographic record databases, such as the collections of several national libraries, including the Library of Congress and the national libraries of Estonia, New Zealand, and Norway, as well as large union catalogs in Germany and Israel.
Virtual Collections Service
Spring 2006 saw the debut of Virtual Collections—a new OIS service that can harvest descriptions and links from Harvard union catalogs and provide a customized web-based catalog of these materials for the user. Virtual Collections (VC) allows a curator to highlight important collections drawn from the millions of resources available in the HOLLIS Catalog, the VIA image catalog, and the Harvard Geospatial Library.
To harvest catalog records, VC utilizes a subset of rules established in the OAI–PMH (Open Archives Initiative–Protocol for Metadata Harvesting). Records are transformed from their native formats (MARC, VIA, or FGDC) into a common metadata format known as MODS, or Metadata Object Description Schema, that is shared by all collections, and loaded into a VC database. Once a virtual collection is defined, the curator can use an administrative interface to maintain the collection, including an option to add collection-specific subject vocabularies to records.
Virtual collections can be implemented as “stand-alone” catalogs that are hosted by OIS, or as “integrated” catalogs that are hosted on web sites under the curator’s control. Stand-alone collections offer a standard user interface with a modest set of options for customizing look and feel. Integrated collections are highly customizable, with a look and feel that is completely under the curator’s control.
The first use of VC was a collection of Latin American pamphlets from the Harvard College Library (http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:latampdc). The Open Collections Program will be using VC to support its collections, including Women Working, 1800–1930 (http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/ww), Immigration to the United States, 1789–1930 (http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration), and future collections as they are implemented.
Future plans for Virtual Collections include support for record harvesting from the OASIS catalog of finding aids and TED custom catalogs. There are also plans to allow harvesting of virtual collections data by outside institutions.
Page Delivery Service Enhancements
The Page Delivery Service (PDS)—a delivery service for digitized documents—underwent a few enhancement cycles this fiscal year that added new features for end users and for document maintainers.
Since FY 2004, Harvard libraries have increasingly turned to the JPEG 2000 standard when digitizing their materials. In spring 2006, the PDS user interface was enhanced with new options to zoom, pan and change the display size of page images derived from JPEG 2000 master images. Additional changes to PDS improved navigation and simplified printing of PDS documents.
Late in 2005, OIS released a completely redesigned PDS maintenance system, used by curators to edit PDS documents. The primary goals of the redesign were to make it easier for curators to edit a document’s pages and navigation structure and to see the effect of their editing in real time. A new structure editor was added, with many new editing options and a graphical tree display that exposes all parts of a document’s structure. With this release, curators are now able to merge individual documents together and assign persistent identifiers to any part of a document.
OASIS (Online Archival Search Information System) is our online union catalog of finding aids to Harvard archival and manuscript collections. In June 2006, OIS released an updated version of OASIS, with some new functionality and changes to the look and feel of finding aids implemented in response to user feedback over the previous year.
There were additional behind-the-scenes modifications, which are invisible to users but essential for those responsible for creating finding aids. This included migration of the OASIS database to the most recent version of the standard finding aid document type definition, EAD 2002.