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Systems & Planning: Office for Information Systems

Highlights from FY 2007--Enhancements to Library and User Services

Highlights from FY 2007


HOLLIS (Harvard Online Library Information System)

The HOLLIS Catalog is Harvard’s primary discovery tool for 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. This union catalog is updated continually as material is ordered, received, and cataloged.

HOLLIS operates on a commercially developed integrated library system called Aleph. HOLLIS was upgraded to the latest version of Aleph software in August 2006. The upgrade marked the fourth full year of running HOLLIS on the Aleph system.

Support for non-roman scripts was a major reason that Aleph was selected as the cataloging system for Harvard in 2000. Initial work focused on the implementation of support for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean scripts. That support was expanded in the fall of 2006 when library staff began to enter HOLLIS records that contained Arabic, Hebrew, Cyrillic, and Greek scripts. This new milestone accomplishes the initial goal of supporting all of the most common non-roman scripts represented in the Harvard library collections.

In FY 2007, the scope of the HOLLIS system was expanded when, after several decades of operating an independent integrated library system, the Harvard Business School’s Baker Library fully joined the HOLLIS system. Although Baker records were previously loaded into HOLLIS, this step means that all Harvard libraries are now relying on one central library system to manage their collections.

In addition to local holdings, HOLLIS also now includes the holdings of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), which is a consortium of North American universities, colleges, and independent research libraries. CRL acquires, preserves, and provides access to newspapers, journals, documents, archives, and other traditional and digital resources for research and teaching. More than 1.1 million holdings from the CRL collection are now easily accessible through HOLLIS.

Throughout FY 2007, OIS staff collaborated with colleagues across the University to make a range of new tools and processes possible. For example, technical services librarians now rely on new, automated tools to process new titles into the collections as efficiently as possible. To facilitate the order and payment process for materials in print and for licensed access to electronic journals, databases, and reference sources, OIS has implemented a vital new electronic data interchange (EDI). In addition, new reporting tools allow library staff to assess and manage library collections in new and creative ways that take advantage of HOLLIS as an enormous, electronic union catalog that has evolved over the past 30 years.

Expanding Library Content into Course Web Sites

OIS continues to support is Reserves List Service, which facilitates the compilation and display of reserves lists directly on course web sites. More than 5,000 courses at Harvard now use course web sites to support the academic experience for Harvard students. Following a pilot in FY 2006 that was limited to courses in the FAS, five of the graduate and professional schools (Divinity, Design, Education, Law, and Public Health) began using the Reserves List Service in FY 2007. Expanded use also led to expanded functionality, including support for course sections.

VIA: Accessing Visual Collections

VIA, or Visual Information Access, is the public union catalog of visual materials at Harvard. VIA contains descriptive records and images for paintings, sculpture, photographs, drawings, prints, architecture, decorative arts, trade cards, rubbings, theater designs, and maps. For researchers, VIA is the central resource for discovering the wealth of visual materials available across the University.

Repositories that contribute to VIA include archives, museums, libraries, and other collections across Harvard University. In FY 2007, two new repositories and collections began contributing to VIA.

FY 2007 also brought about enhancements to VIA that have increased the user’s ability to manipulate and customize the display of search results, for example, by showing all the images on one page, showing only selected images, and toggling between results containing only digital images and sets including all visual resources, including records that do not link to digitized images.

An important feature of VIA is that the catalog includes many views of a single visual object (e.g. a building or a work of sculpture). Another new feature added this year allows library staff to designate a primary image for any work in VIA and to display images in a cataloger-specified sequence.

The ability to create “bookmarkable” links to VIA search results and to records was released in the spring of 2007. VIA users can now create links that can be copied into web pages or other applications to directly link to individual VIA records and search results.

Harvard Geospatial Library

In fiscal year 2007, HGL development work resulted in three major enhancements:

  • The creation and release of an HGL desktop “plugin” that allows users of the ESRI ArcMap desktop GIS tool to search HGL directly from their desktops. This means desktop users no longer need to switch from a desktop application to the standard HGL web application to search for data sets and download them for use. Discovery and access is fully integrated with ArcMap.
  • The addition of a raster clipping function to the HGL download process. This allows users to explore very large raster datasets in HGL, such as satellite imagery, and download only the geographically bounded portion that is in their region of interest.
  • The development of a “data provider” that is compatible with the Open Archives Initiative and allows external applications, such as the Dataverse Network service, to harvest metadata from HGL—making GIS datasets discoverable within the external application search interface.

Through HGL, OIS collaborates extensively with Harvard’s Center for Geographical Analysis (CGA), which focuses on research and education in the field of spatial analysis and geographic information. CGA’s goal is to work with entities across the University

  • to strengthen University-wide GIS infrastructure and services;
  • to provide a common platform for the integration of data from diverse sources and knowledge from multiple disciplines;
  • to enable scholarly research that would use, improve, or study geospatial analysis techniques; and
  • to improve the ability to teach GIS and spatial analysis at all levels across the University.

DRS Batch Builder

For depositors to the Harvard Digital Repository Service (DRS), OIS released its new Batch Builder in May 2007. Batch Builder is designed to facilitate creation of DRS batch deposits so that any Harvard unit may become a depositor without requiring programming skills and so that libraries can purchase digital files from external vendors who can deposit their products directly to DRS. Given a directory of digital files and a small amount of administrative metadata, Batch Builder will generate the batch control file (batch.xml) that must accompany a batch of digital objects deposited into the DRS.

Early adopters of the new tool include the Harvard University Art Museums (HUAM) for digital images and the MCZ Ernst Mayr Library for page-turned digitized manuscripts that document specimens.

Task Group on Discovery and Metadata

In late 2006 the Task Group on Discovery and Metadata was formed by the University Library Council (ULC) and charged with reviewing the key developments in the closely related domains of discovery systems and metadata—areas of critical importance to the operation and service of libraries. The group was asked to provide the ULC with a way to think about these developments and specific recommendations for short-term action.

As part of its charge to open this discussion within the wider Harvard library community, the task group sponsored a series of presentations in FY 2007, including:

  • Terry Ryan: Next Generation Discovery and Delivery at the University of California
  • Karen Calhoun: Libraries, Catalogs, and the Strange New Digital Landscape
  • Karen Coyle: Metadata

Web Archiving

The LDI Executive Committee approved funding for the first LDI project related to preserving “born-digital” material. The two-year pilot began in July 2006 to address the acquisition and management of web sites for long-term archiving. OIS and three University project partners are collaborating to identify the technical and collection-management issues associated with web archiving.

The key technical focus will be on the development of services for ingesting, storing, preserving, and delivering archived web sites. The pilot will focus on harvesting the surface web for content in a focused area to enable small-scale, curated collections. In general, the “surface web” refers to content that is discoverable to search engines through web crawlers, as opposed to content in a database that is hidden from web crawlers.

In the pilot, which will be launched in FY 2009, three project partners will collaborate with OIS to address collection-management issues, including intellectual property rights, best practices for description and discovery, and determining searching and browsing requirements for delivery:

  • Harvard University Archives (Harvard University Library): “Documenting Born-Digital Harvard: A Demonstration Project to Collect and Make Accessible Departmental History of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences”
  • Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America (Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study): “Blogs: Capturing the Alternative Voice”
  • Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies (Faculty of Arts and Sciences, with sponsorship from Harvard College Library): “Japanese Constitutional Revision Kenkyűkai”

Harvard–Google Project

The Harvard University Library and Google are collaborating on a project to digitize a large number of Harvard’s library books that are out of copyright and to make them available to Internet users. The project, which is one of several collaborations between Google and major research libraries, is expected to bring millions of works to the web.

Building on a successful pilot conducted by Harvard and Google throughout 2005, the project combines the skills and library collections of Harvard University with the innovative search skills and capacity of Google. The Harvard–Google Project will benefit students and scholars wherever they are. Google has launched related projects with a number of major research libraries, including Oxford, Stanford, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, the University of Texas at Austin, the New York Public Library, the University Complutense of Madrid, and the National Library of Catalonia along with four affiliate Catalonian libraries.

By the end of June 2007, the Harvard–Google Project was in full swing. Harvard began to send books to the Google scanning facility in September 2006 and scanning in five libraries was completed in FY 2007:

  • Andover–Harvard Theological Library—Harvard Divinity School
  • Monroe C. Gutman Library—Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Frances Loeb Library—Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library, including a selection of volumes from the Harvard Forest Library—Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine—Harvard Medical School

Work is under way in the Fine Arts Library, Widener Library, Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library, and the Harvard Depository.

Thousands of links to Google-scanned books were added to the HOLLIS catalog in May 2007 and they continue to be added weekly. OIS continues to work on the development of project infrastructure and on data storage.