Harvard’s HOLLIS (Harvard Online Library Information System) Catalog is
the primary discovery tool for library collections located throughout
the University including books, journals, electronic resources,
manuscripts, government documents, maps, microforms, music scores, sound
recordings, visual materials and data sets. In addition, HOLLIS serves
as the Library’s processing system for managing, acquiring, cataloging,
processing, and circulating library materials.
In FY 2008, as in the past several years, improvements to HOLLIS and its
underlying Aleph software have been focused on increasing staff
productivity. Throughout the year, OIS worked to improve key
productivity tools and to add several services that allow library staff
to process new materials more efficiently.
- The Library Reporting System was enhanced and expanded to provide
library staff with a facility for running regular, templated reports and
to design their own ad hoc queries against the library collections
data. The reporting tool allows library managers to design more
efficient workflows, to measure productivity, and to facilitate the
process of tracking and managing large collections of library materials.
- With support from OIS, a university-wide task group expanded the
use of a macro building tool that allows library staff to increase
efficiency by automating many data entry procedures and reduce errors in
highly repetitive data entry.
- In addition, OIS initiated electronic data interchange (EDI) for
orders and invoices. This is yet another example of how routine tasks
can be automated to improve accuracy, efficiency, and rapid delivery of
new materials to library shelves.
- Data from Biblioteca Berenson at the Villa I Tatti was migrated
into Aleph in FY 2008, marking the end of a multi-year process to
incorporate all of Harvard’s major library collections into one shared,
integrated library system.
DASH—Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard
On February 12, 2008, the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS)
approved an open-access resolution granting the University permission to
make FAS scholarly articles openly available. The measure requested
that the Harvard University Library create an open-access institutional
repository to disseminate these articles. On May 1, 2008, the Harvard
Law School (HLS) faculty approved a similar measure. With those
mandates, HUL established an Office for Scholarly Communication to
implement the open-access policies, and to partner with HUL’s Office for
Information Systems in building and running the repository, which was
given the name DASH—Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard.
Working closely with Professor Stuart M. Shieber, director of the Office for Scholarly Communication, OIS chose the open-source DSpace
software platform as a base from which to customize and build DASH.
Each school at Harvard will be represented as a “community” in DASH. The
DSpace software will also be substantially customized—including
extending it with a Harvard look and feel, Harvard-specific communities,
collections, and metadata, Harvard ID login for submitters,
Harvard-specific licensing options; and other changes. A software
developer was hired on a contract basis for the DASH project in mid-2008
and, worked to implement these requirements in anticipation of a fall
2008 launch of a Harvard-internal beta version of the repository. The
DASH beta’s purpose is to allow faculty and other Harvard researchers to
deposit electronic versions of their papers in DASH, to increase the
quantity of content in advance of a public unveiling in 2009.
Editor's note: DASH, in beta form, was made available to the general public on September 1, 2009.
In FY 2008, book-scanning projects associated with the Harvard–Google
Project were completed in 10 Harvard libraries: the Botany Libraries
(FAS), the Godfrey Lowell Cabot Science Library (Harvard College
Library), the Fine Arts Library (HCL), Harvard Law School Library,
Harvard University Archives (HUL), Lamont Library (HCL), the Eda Kuhn
Loeb Music Library (HCL), the John G. Wolbach Library (FAS), Schlesinger
Library (Radcliffe Institute), and Tozzer Library (HCL).
In April 2008, OIS began to download Harvard copies of all
Google-digitized books. These files are stored and preserved in
Harvard’s Digital Repository Service for possible future projects and to
ensure long-term access to these valuable works.
Google Book Search for Harvard
Following an extended collaboration between the Harvard University
Library and Google, a Harvard-customized version of Google Book Search
was launched in March 2008. This significant new version offers users
the option to search the full text of all books available in Google Book
Search—whether contributed by Harvard, another library, or the
Users of Google Book Search for Harvard see “Find at Harvard University”
links displayed with every item in a search result set. By clicking
these links, library users reach individual catalog records when exact
matches are found in HOLLIS—together with information on location and
availability within the Harvard library system. If an exact match in
HOLLIS is not found, a pre-populated HOLLIS search screen opens, making
it easy for the patron to launch a new HOLLIS search session.
Any Internet user can access Google Book Search for Harvard from the “Harvard Libraries” portal or by linking directly to http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:googlebk.
Google Book Search for Harvard is also incorporated in “E-Research @ Harvard Libraries”
as a new entry on the “Quick Jump” e-resource list. Users with current
Harvard IDs and PINs can access the full text of e-books licensed by
Harvard. Users will be taken directly to the full text of the e-books
Exposing Deep Content
In FY 2007, the University Library Council established as its number-two
priority for OIS a project to provide access to Harvard digital
collections through Internet search engines. Internet search engines
“crawl” (i.e. find and index) content from what is known as the “surface
web”—web pages that can be located by browsing a web site. They can not
normally index the “deep web”—that is, data stored in databases that
can only be located by searching through a search interface (like
HOLLIS). Library systems must be modified to make their deep web content
available to search engines. For HUL, the applications that would best
benefit from the greater exposure of internet search engines were those
that focus primarily on providing access to digital content such as
Virtual Collections, VIA, TED, OASIS, HGL, and the book objects
deliverable by the Page Delivery Service (PDS).
To fulfill the goals of this project, OIS designed a set of
modifications to these discovery applications that included creating a
special index that would be search-engine-crawlable for all records in
each system. This index points crawlers to special display pages for
each data record. The display pages are optimized for search-engine
indexing, augmented with Dublin Core metadata, and simplified in their
By July of 2008, OASIS, TED, and Virtual Collections had been updated in
production. The result has been a dramatic increase in discovery and
access to Harvard collections by Internet users. For example, the OASIS
application now receives six times as many hits from users who locate an
OASIS finding aid in Google Web Search as it does from users who do a
search using the Harvard-developed, OASIS user interface. TED
collections nearly doubled the number of hits in comparison to those
from the TED user interface itself. Virtual Collections crawlability was
just released as FY 2008 drew to a close. OIS expects that by
continuing to provide access to search engines, these numbers will only
grow in the future and go a long way towards making Harvard’s digital
collections broadly available for scholars far beyond the walls of
Task Group on Discovery and Metadata
Following months of review, study, and consultation with several
national experts, the Task Group on Discovery and Metadata presented its
final report to the ULC in September 2007. As stated in the final
report of the group:
“The Task Force was asked to provide the University Library Council
(ULC) with both a way to think about these developments and with
specific recommendations for short-term action. Unlike other, more
formal, studies done elsewhere, the aim was not to present a systematic
analysis of the options for libraries and a fully worked out action
plan. Rather the work of the group was based on the assumption that
there will be continuing and rapid change in these domains, and that the
Council will need to revisit the topics repeatedly in years to come.
Given this assumption, spending a considerable period of time studying
the landscape and deciding on the “right” strategy is inappropriate. In
this environment of dramatic change and continuous surprises, education
and awareness are critical, and short-term plans are more effective than
A full copy of the Task Group’s final report is available. An open presentation and discussion of the report for the Harvard library community was held in February 2008.
The primary recommendation of the task group was that Harvard should
immediately move ahead with a project to evaluate, select and implement a
new platform for the HOLLIS online public catalog. A new discovery
environment for Harvard would incorporate the new and innovative
features such as faceting browsing and relevancy ranking. The task group
was reconstituted and charged to make a recommendation by the end of
the academic year. With this challenging timeframe driving the process,
the task force identified 5 most likely system options and designed a
process that would allow them to evaluate all options quickly and
effectively. The criteria used to evaluate options was refined based on
the work and recommendations of the previous group. Five sub-teams were
formed so the evaluations could all be completed promptly. The Task
Force met with vendors and communicated with peer institutions. An open
meeting to update the library community and gather feedback was held on
May 5, 2008. The final report was presented to ULC in July 2008.
Editor's note: The Task Force presented its final report to the ULC
on July 1, 2008. Following intense technical evaluation, the ULC
selected AquaBrowser as the new platform in Feburary 2009. OIS launched
the new platform in April 2009 at http://discovery.lib.harvard.edu.
Assessment and Measurement
In FY 2008, OIS took on a ULC priority project to better measure the use
of systems and services developed through the University’s Library
Digital Initiative (LDI). An analysis of the systems was undertaken and
methods to measure the important functions of each were implemented. The
project resulted in new online monthly reports of system statistics.
HGL Usability Study and Redesign
In 2006, the Harvard Geospatial Library (HGL) Standing Committee
identified “usability” as a key factor in limiting the discoverability
of HGL resources by the ever-widening customer base for geospatial data
at Harvard. The use of digitized maps and map data was exploding among
undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers at Harvard, and yet
HGL retained a user interface from an era when only GIS specialists were
expected to seek access to geospatial data sets.
In FY 2007, as a preliminary step to a new user interface design, the
OIS usability and interface librarian conducted a usability study of
HGL. The study tested a variety of real-world geospatial data discovery
and mapping tasks, and was conducted with a set of users with a wide
range of exposure to geospatial information systems and to HGL in
particular. The results clearly identified a set of 17 priorities for
redesigning and rethinking how users interact with modern discovery and
mapping systems. The study also identified accessibility enhancements
that would make the system usable by a wider range of potential users.
In FY 2008, the Harvard Geospatial Library underwent a comprehensive
redesign of the user interface to incorporate design changes suggested
by the HGL usability study. A GIS design consultant worked closely with
Harvard College Library staff and OIS usability and development staff to
create the new design. At the same time, the HGL software developer
investigated new open-source user interface and mapping technologies
that would give HGL modern, high-performance underpinnings. By the end
of the year, development work was well under way, with a public launch
of the new user interface planned for the middle of FY 2009.
Editor's note: The new HGL interface was launched on March 13, 2009.
Digital Preservation Program
Over the course of ten years, the Harvard libraries and museums, working
through the Library Digital Initiative, have made substantial gains in
developing the infrastructure and the expertise necessary to support the
work of acquiring, licensing, scanning, cataloging, storing, and
integrating digital library content into the academic enterprise. A key
aspect of these developments has been the evolution of new forms of
metadata. These are needed not only for discovery and access, but also
for the long-term preservation of digital content, which stands as one
of the key challenges for librarians in the 21st century.
As FY 2008 came to a close, HUL established a new Digital Preservation
Program within OIS. The program is charged with providing leadership in
digital preservation efforts across the University, as well as
overseeing the rapidly expanding and strategically vital Digital
Repository Service (DRS). Harvard’s DRS has been in production for more
than eight years, and its future development will focus on the expanding
demands for persistent digital asset management.
Initially, the Digital Preservation Program will focus on two broad areas:
- defining additional infrastructure requirements, including
enhancements to the DRS, that more fully support digital preservation,
- providing detailed analyses of several new formats for the DRS, including but not limited to PDF files and e-mail.
Communication and Outreach
OIS keeps the Harvard library community informed about access to
resources, infrastructure development, digital library projects, and
related activities through articles and announcements in Harvard
University Library Notes, presentations throughout the University, and
the Office for Information Systems web site.
In FY 2008, OIS staff redesigned its web site to accommodate the growth
of information. The Library Digital Initiative web site was integrated
into the new design and two new sections were added: one on digital
library projects, and a news feature for announcements related to
systems and services. The news feature includes a searchable archive of
A Selection of Web-Accessible Collections continues to provide easy access to many of Harvard’s subject-specific digital collections.
New Collections Based on the OIS Virtual Collections Service
Since 2006, curators and librarians have used the OIS Virtual
Collections Service to harvest descriptions and links from Harvard union
catalogs and to provide a customized, web-based catalog of these
materials for library users. In FY 2008, OIS facilitated the launch of
five new “virtual collections” using the Virtual Collections (VC) tool.