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Systems and Planning

Key Challenges

Key Challenges


Throughout the year, the work of OIS was defined by a number of significant challenges:

  • expanding and simplifying the discovery environment providing new online services for users;
  • enhancing the University’s capacity for long-term digital preservation;
  • promoting open access and data sharing;
  • improving the management of archival collections; and
  • collaborating ambitiously on image management.

Expanding and Simplifying the Discovery Environment for Users

Much work was done to refine systems used by researchers to locate library content. The HOLLIS Usability Group queried users to identify enhancement opportunities for HOLLIS and the library portal. Refinements included updates to the user interface, index and facet configuration, export options, and advanced search options. The entry screen for the Harvard Libraries portal was completely redesigned. The scope of the HOLLIS system was increased to include finding-aid materials in fall of 2009 and visual information data in 2010. Additional enhancements included refinements to the user interface, index and facet configuration, export options, and advanced search options. The addition of the bX Scholarly Recommendation service provides users with citations and links to related articles that have been used by other scholars.

Providing New Online Services for Users

Collaboration on Virtual Reference Analysis and Implementation

OIS worked with staff from throughout the libraries on the Virtual Reference Service Implementation Team to develop a collaborative environment for support of online reference services. This fiscal year OIS worked with the team to select a vendor, engage in accessibility testing, sign a contract, and implement seven instances of Springshare’s LibAnswers, now accessible from the "Ask a Librarian" link at

Scan and Deliver

Scan and Deliver is a new document-delivery service that enables patrons to obtain scans of book chapters and journal articles from participating Harvard libraries. Patrons place requests for scans of eligible items through HOLLIS and HOLLIS Classic. Scan and Deliver links appear next to each eligible item on full-record displays. Requests are received and fulfilled by library staff using the ILLiad interlibrary loan system.


On July 1, 2009, OIS implemented the Verde electronic resource management system for the management of centrally purchased and licensed electronic resources. By replacing the locally developed ERM system with Verde, OIS increased the efficiency of acquisitions and financial workflows for electronic resources, and now offers increased access for librarians to licensing and cost-sharing information. A second phase of the project will extend Verde functionality to individual units for management of local acquired electronic resources.

Harvard Geospatial Library Enhancements

Throughout the year, OIS dedicated continuous effort to interface enhancements and foundation work for a major FY 2011 overhaul to the Harvard Geospatial Library (HGL). In the coming year, the University plans to formalize a collaboration between HGL and the Tufts GeoPortal, adopting a new user interface and providing new search capabilities. Changes to date include a new HGL web service that allows users of data in the Center for Geographic Analysis WorldMap to link directly to the data-download screen in HGL and, ultimately, to obtain a copy of the GIS dataset. Other changes include a much-improved HGL search query that returns significantly more relevant search results for HGL and a "GeoRSS feed" for integrating HGL results with open-access mapping tools. Finally, substantial unreleased HGL work was done to collaborate with Tufts and MIT on software design with Open Source GIS tools so that HGL can benefit from this in FY 2011.

Enhancing the University’s Capacity for Long-Term Digital Preservation

Digital Repository Service—DRS2

OIS continued to work on "DRS2," a multi-year initiative to upgrade the Digital Repository Service (DRS), which is the central element of Harvard’s overall digital library infrastructure. Thus far, OIS has enhanced the existing DRS deposit tools to make them compatible with the redesigned DRS data model and metadata schemas.

In addition, OIS created new deposit tools that streamline the deposit process, produce more reliable metadata, identify virus-infected content, and store the metadata in the DRS more securely. OIS set up a new environment for the DRS2 deposit software, conducted extensive internal testing on the new software, and prepared training materials in preparation for releasing it to depositors for testing and training in August 2010.

OIS also conducted the following activities to prepare for the next set of DRS2 enhancements:

  • Functional requirements were gathered for the new DRS management interface from Harvard collection managers, collection administrators, depositors, and system managers. The new management interface will facilitate collection management and preservation planning for DRS content.
  • In partnership with the Loeb Music Library, OIS drafted preliminary designs and enhancement requirements for a streamlined audio deposit process and support for two additional audio formats in the DRS: MP3 and MP4/AAC. Many libraries at the University have requested DRS support for these formats.

EAS and E-Mail Archiving

To address the challenges of long-term management and preservation of born-digital content, a technical team from OIS is working closely with curatorial staff from the Harvard University Archives, the Countway Library of Medicine, and Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library to build a pilot Electronic Archiving Service (EAS).

Based on their permanent research value, e-mail collections representing institutional records and personal "papers" were selected as the first test content. Throughout FY 2010, the EAS technical team finalized system and metadata requirements, designed the workflows and staff management interface, completed the data model, and began building the back-end functions for security, ingest, conversion, parsing, and indexing.

These functions enable archival processing of the collections before they are stored in Digital Repository Service (DRS). The group jointly faced the challenges of the high-volume, heterogeneous content ranging from the need to accommodate multiple levels of processing to the probability of sensitive content in most collections using both technical and curatorial solutions. A September 2011 release of EAS is planned to include archival processing activities from ingest and appraisal through the creation of metadata to permanent storage in the DRS.

Promoting Open Access and Data Sharing

DASH—Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard

Harvard’s leadership in open access to scholarship took a significant step forward during FY 2010 with the public launch of DASH—or Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard—a University-wide, open-access repository. DASH has its roots in the February 2008 open-access vote in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In a unanimous decision, FAS adopted a policy stating that

Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit.

DASH is a joint project of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) and OIS. DASH is based on the open-source DSpace repository platform. The September 2009 release of DASH included a Harvard-developed authority-control system for uniquely identifying Harvard authors of articles, the ability to embargo deposited articles until a specified date, and customized header pages for downloaded PDFs. DASH is fully crawled by Google to support discovery of open-access Harvard articles through Google Scholar. Update releases during the year enhanced DASH to add an OpenSearch API for custom reporting, RSS feeds for public collections, and simplified submission screens, including publisher name lookup via Sherpa/ROMeO. By the end of the fiscal year, DASH was providing open access to over 3,000 scholarly articles by Harvard authors.

Open Access to Central Library Databases

The Collaborative and Open Development and Access, or CODA, initiative in FY 2009 demonstrated demand for library web services and established web services for querying bibliographic and circulation data as one of the top 10 priorities for OIS in FY 2010. Throughout the year, OIS engaged potential users in and effort to collect requirements specifically for web service access to HOLLIS data.

The result is the development, release, and documentation of a set of services dedicated to improving programmatic access to central library systems and data, which are known as the PRESTO tools:

  • a "Generic Aleph Export Service" that provides daily feed of MARC data for HOLLIS records;
  • a web service API providing direct access to individual HOLLIS records;
  • and, finally, a configurable HTML search box, or widget, that can be inserted into a library web page to provide MetaLib cross search of selected e-resources.

By the end of the year, these services were being actively utilized by a number of library and iCommons projects across the University. Also in FY 2010, the development work was completed for an updated iSites Library Search Tool incorporating configurable e-resource cross search to be launched in early FY 2011.

Improving the Management of Archival Collections

In 2009, through a collaboration with the Archivists’ Toolkit working group, OIS brought Harvard’s implementation of the Archivists’ Toolkit (AT) from pilot stage into full production. The AT, which is an open-source archival data-management system, supports the life cycle of archival materials from entail processing through discovery. By moving to the AT’s common processing environment, Harvard is promoting the standardization of information about archival materials and making it easier to understand these complex and extensive collections.

The AT working group focused an accessions module that imports existing accessions information from a range of local systems. The AT group also tested the full range of functions in the system, defined configuration necessary for Harvard-wide use, analyzed requirements for using AT for more functions, and made a host of recommendations for the future.

At this point, the Harvard University Archives, the Schlesinger Library, the Harvard Law School Library, the Frances Loeb (Design) Library), the Harvard University Art Museums, Knowledge and Library Services at Harvard Business School, and the Biblioteca Berenson (Villa I Tatti) are using the AT.

Collaborating Ambitiously on Image Management

In FY 2010, Harvard began a three-year project as one of two lead partners collaborating with ARTstor on the development of new systems infrastructure for managing institutional and faculty image collections. The new initiative, known as Shared Shelf, will be a robust, richly featured and standards-based image management platform—a web-based cataloging tool supporting efficient, effective, and flexible cataloging of images; ingest of images; and collection management. During year one of the project, a team from Harvard helped develop requirements and review prototypes of Shared Shelf, and in year two will move to testing early releases of the software. Images managed through Shared Shelf will be able to be integrated with a range of discovery systems, including ARTstor Digital Library (or Harvard’s restricted ARTstor collections), with HOLLIS and with other image-sharing sites. By collaborating on a common infrastructure for use by many institutions, Harvard hopes to make the best use of local resources while contributing to both tools and practices that will serve the wider community.