Interview: Deb Morley
Deb Morley is the director of information technology services (ITS) in the
Harvard College Library. Morley holds undergraduate and master's degrees in
industrial and systems
engineering from Ohio University and an MSLS from the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She came to Harvard from Vanderbilt
University. There, she served as assistant director for IT in the
Vanderbilt Law School (including its library)
and, prior to that, for the Vanderbilt Medical Center Library. Morley
arrived at Harvard in February 2002. She was interviewed for Library Notes
on July 8.
What was it like getting here in the middle of the Aleph implementation?
Very exciting! It's been a great opportunity for me to get to know HCL
staff, including those in my own department, and for working with
OIS [the University Library's Office for Information Systems]and
developing what I hope will be a very collaborative relationship between
the two groups.
It's certainly an intense way to get to know all of the players.
Yes. It has been a challenge to come into the organization with the Aleph
project so far underway, decisions already made, and the course of
implementation pretty well set. I've needed to trust, be patient, and spend
time observing and learning from the staff. I feel fortunate to have such a
wonderful 14-person staff. They are a great bunch of peoplehard workers,
very committed, very service-oriented.
You supervise 14 people directly, but the number of people you affect is
Our group has information technology responsibilities within the 11 HCL
libraries. The demand for systems support and services continues to
increase, but the need for more strategic planning to ensure that the
growth and development of "information technology services" support the
programmatic needs of the HCL has become paramount. I look forward to
leading this effort.
Where are the boundaries between your office and OIS?
Clearly, OIS has responsibility for the integrated library system. But
because Aleph is a client-server system, there's a piece of it that we're
deploying and have support responsibility for on the workstations within
the HCL. We are also very involved with end-user support, making sure HCL
staff can connect and login to the system. I think of our job as getting
people up to the door of the Aleph system. But getting in through the door
may be an HCL IT issue or it may be an OIS issue depending on where the
problem is. I'm encouraging our staff to take problem resolution a step
further and not just assume that it is not our problem. Overall I think
that both HCL ITS and OIS have done an excellent job in the roll-out of
this new system, and that the collaboration between the two units has been
successful because all of us want the same thing, a system that works for
our staff and patrons.
Right now, Aleph obviously is the thing on everybody's mind. But the other
area of collaboration between the two departments is the Library Digital
Initiative (LDI). LDI is seen by many as an OIS programbecause they have
the responsibility for developing the data repository system,
catalogs, and other system components. But the majority of information that
is being digitized comes from HCL collections, is converted in one of the
three HCL digital conversion facilities, and is accessed by HCL staff and
Obviously, there are technical infrastructure, workstation configuration,
and curator advocacy issues that involve HCL's ITS department.
What's your goal for HCL's LDI-related programs?
To be as capable in providing access and information services with our
digital collections as we are with our print collections. Not just building
these collections, but addressing issues of sustainability. And that
involves all of usITS, OIS, HASCS, UIS, really all the technology units on
LDIeven with its demonstration projectsis about infrastructure. It's a
University-wide, University-funded initiative to create infrastructure for
digital objects in Harvard libraries, museums, and other repositories. The
next big sequence of digital library programs will be about populating the
Yes. And that "populating" has implications for us. For example, some
recently funded LDI projects involve audio. This is forcing us to rethink
the public workstation in our libraries. In some areas, we have a few
beefed-up public workstations that we call the "research workstation," in
which access to applications and CD-ROM resources are provided. We're
asking the question, "What does the next generation of research workstation
need to look like?" It's not just a place where you can search the catalog,
go off into the stacks, and find your books. But a workstation where you
can be engaged in doing your research and having access to images and
audio, and many other information resources and research tools.
How did you happen to come to HCL?
I had left my position at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center library
to pursue a management opportunity. I was assistant director for IT at the
Vanderbilt Law School, which included their library, but also included all
the other departments of the School. While this was a wonderful opportunity
to gain experience managing a unit that had a broad range of technical
responsibilities, after a period of time I realized that I really missed
being more directly involved in a library
environment. I also knew when I moved to Nashville that I probably wouldn't
be in Tennessee my whole life. I feel very fortunate that there was an
opportunity to apply for this position at Harvard.
You trained as a systems engineer
and as a librarian. How do you think of yourself?
The two careers fit together more than most people think. To me it was a
natural progressionI developed and supported systems initially, but over
time developed an interest in more than the boxes and the wires. It was my
interest in "information management" and how people worked with information
that lead me to study information and library sciences. Some days I think
of myself as a systems engineer who works in a library, and other days I
think of myself as a librarian who works with systems. But generally, I
don't get too hung up on the labels and the titles.
Sounds very holistic.
Yes. I actually wrote a little essay
once on holistic systems management. That was very much the approachto
look beyond the boxes and wiresto see the content, and to especially see
Is librarianship changing?
The library as a whole is growing as a business entity. That may not be a
popular belief, but I believe it to be true.
At Harvard, of course, we also contend with the vastness of the system.
Very much so. I have spent a lot of time in my first few months meeting
people. I started off within Widener, and then ventured out into the other
libraries within HCL, and now I'm meeting more folks at OIS, and venturing
out and talking with IT managers all over the University. All of these
relationships are very important. I think that a lot of what I'm here to do
is build bridges.
What are the next 12 months like for you?
HCL ITS has a key role in the Widener renovation project. We're working
very closely with facilities as offices are remodeled and people move into
swing space. The department's done a wonderful job, coming in early and on
weekends and staying late to setup systems and keep staff connected. We
want the Widener staff to be able to arrive at work the morning after an
office move and not need to deal with system downtime.
Secondly, our supportive role to OIS with Aleph will keep us busy for the
next 12 months. We are now only beginning to understand printing issues
related to the new system. I would say anything that involves the continued
support of the deployment and staff usage of Aleph will continue to be big
on our radar screen.
Also, we are expanding the services that HCL ITS offers. In addition to
network, server, and workstation support, we are getting more requests for
"development" types of projects. This includes systems that support the
business functions of the HCL, programming needs of the libraries, and the
development of web tools and applications beyond "informational" web sites.
For me personally this brings the challenge of investigating staffing
models that will support this growth.
But finally, let me reiterate what you've heard me say throughout the
interview about the importance of building bridges and building
relationships. I'm hoping that we can all share some common goals and
objectives and understand everybody's piece in making things happen. Much
of my energy will go towards this vision in the next 12 months.
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