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Harvard-Yenching Automation Complete

Harvard-Yenching Library has completed the last phase of a five-year project to automate its library processes. The circulation project, which entailed applying bar codes to over 640,000 Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Western-language books, finished ahead of schedule and concluded the library's technology conversion. The automation of circulation means that patrons can use their IDs to check out books—rather than hand-writing a card for each item. "The automation of the check-out, renewal, and return process is one of the services most requested by our users. They will benefit greatly from the completion of this project, as will the library, where work has been streamlined," said James Cheng, librarian of Harvard-Yenching.

Xiao-He Ma, head of access services, served as project manager for the circulation automation, and Ma and Cheng created a two-year plan to complete the project. They worked with Martha Creedon of the University Library's Office for Information Systems to create "smart bar codes" that had each book's title and call number printed on the small sticker. Then they hired bar coders familiar with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese, and the romanization of those languages, to work through the stacks book by book adhering the bar-code stickers. The project was organized by language, with bar coders finishing one language before moving to the next. The back end of the project—creating electronic records in HOLLIS for each book—had already been completed during the first half of the conversion, but bar coders still had to ensure the correct record would be displayed in response to the correct code.

Ellen McGill, a reference librarian at Harvard-Yenching who first came to the library as a Vietnamese and Japanese bar coder, said, "As we made our way through the stacks, it gave us a great opportunity to inventory the collections. Mr. Cheng and Mr. Ma realized the bar coders' role could be twofold, and so asked that we tag items that needed to be repaired and note problems with bibliographic records."

Complicating the project were large sets of collected works that contain hundreds of individual titles in each volume, such as the Siku quan shu, a 1,500-volume anthology of thousands of works. As only one bar code can be affixed to each volume, bar coders are currently working to provide links in each volume's HOLLIS record to the bibliographic records of all the subtitles in that volume, a process known as analytic cataloging.

The project affected all aspects of the library. Access and Information Services staff helped by bar coding books in the course of renewals and returns, and cataloging staff worked with the bar coders to fix problems and answer questions. The bar coders involved in the project include:

  • Western languages
    Xiao-He Ma, Elliott Burke
  • Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean
    Sungim Frankl, Chiyo Urata, Natsumi Shimbori, Akiko Tsugawa, Bin Yang, Guoxiu Huang, Ellen McGill
  • Chinese
    Shangyao Zhu, Guohua Hao, Lingwei Qiu, Huei Ling Li, Li-Hua Zhang, Hongmei Chen, Hwee-ting Kong, Guo-chou Shi

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Last modified on Wednesday, July 30, 2003.