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HOLLIS: The First 17 Years

On Thursday, June 6, 2002, Dale Flecker, associate director of the University Library for systems and planning, issued the following message to Harvard's library community.

At 5 pm last night, we shut down forever the HOLLIS technical services functions (acquisitions, cataloging, serials). These functions were first implemented 17 years ago, and formed the initial core of HOLLIS (the online catalog and circulation systems were just a gleam in a few eyes at that point!). I believe it was July of 1985 when a group gathered in 88 Widener to celebrate the HOLLIS implementation. There, amid keypunch machines and card sorters (still in use at that point for the circulation system), we (including Oscar Handlin, then departing director of the University Library, and Sid Verba, the incoming director) toasted the team responsible for the implementation.

While a great number of people had contributed to that implementation, three people above all were responsible for the system: Tracey Robinson and Charlie Husbands, both wonderfully still with Harvard, and Cilla Caplan, now with the Florida Center for Library Automation. Tracey, Cilla, and Charlie had worked for two years in the difficult technical bowels of Notis to make it the system envisioned by Harvard librarians. The celebration in 1985 provided well-deserved recognition for a difficult job well done.

One of the joys of working with technology is the excitement and wonder that comes with continuous technical evolution and change. The dark side of that coin is that little one does lasts for long. Tracey and Charlie have for some time now been deeply engaged in implementing Aleph, spending nights and weekends replacing the HOLLIS they built with equal effort in 1985.

HOLLIS has served our libraries well for an extraordinarily long time. Seventeen years is a very, very long life for a system. As we enter its final days, we should pause to recognize and thank those responsible for its great success, and especially Tracey and Charlie, for so many years of contribution.

In the hours that followed Flecker's message, a coda was added by Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library.

Let me second Dale's message. Tracey and Charlie have worked with skill and dedication and stick-to-itiveness beyond ordinary expectations. And let me add Dale to that list. And many, many others. The library community and users and many more people are grateful.

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Last modified on Tuesday, July 23, 2002.