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veritas Harvard University Library Notes, For Harvard Library Staff, Number 1325 May 2005


Dan Moriarty, Harvard's chief information officer (CIO)


Harvard University Library Notes / September 2005 / No. 1327

Interview: Dan Moriarty

Dan Moriarty has served as Harvard's chief information officer (CIO) since September 1999; he oversees University Information Systems and a series of new instructional computing initiatives. From 1995 to 1999 he was the CIO and dean for information technology at Harvard Medical School, where he was responsible for the planning and management of the School's activities in IT. He is past director of the health–care information systems practice at APM (Applied Practice Management, now part of CSC Index) and president of JSI Information Systems, a health–care software development company headquartered in Boston. He has taught at Harvard for 15 years, most recently at the Harvard School of Public Health (SPH), where he taught competitive strategy in the MPH program, for which he won the student teaching award in 2000.

As the University's chief information officer, what is your purview, and within that purview, what is your charge?

You can describe my purview in three broad areas.

The first area is academic information technology. As CIO, I co–chair the Harvard Academic Computing Committee (HACC), which is the University–wide forum for sharing knowledge and developing plans for IT in support of academic priorities.

The second area is administrative information technology. In this area, I lead the Central Administration Information Technology (CAIT) organization. CAIT is a newly developed consortium of the University's core administrative and technology infrastructure groups.

The third area is infrastructure IT—through which we offer a diverse array of technology services to the University community overall.

The charge is to provide the highest—and the most thoughtful—level of University–wide IT service in support of Harvard students, faculty, and staff.

What are your current priorities?

For this academic year, we're working with three major priorities.

To maintain dependable and robust University IT infrastructure during a time of substantial growth and increasing operational dependence.

To promote collaborative planning among and between the various schools and other major IT groups such as the research community, the museums, and the registrars.

To complement the activities of school IT groups with targeted programs to support the academic and research uses of IT, such as our recent Presidential IT Fellows program.

How does your charge relate to the specialized world of the University's libraries?

We're working toward the fuller integration of Harvard's library resources and services into course web sites and academic portals—and streamlining the experience of our students in accessing Harvard's intellectual resources.

Initially, technology at Harvard developed quite locally and in very distinct streams. The libraries, obviously, developed a specific technology stream based on the need for discovery tools. Over time, those tools became increasingly comprehensive—incorporating financial systems and, ultimately, information–delivery systems.

As each of the University's different IT streams became more comprehensive, they began to overlap, and we obviously want to avoid duplicative effort. With the iCommons effort, we now have 85% of course web sites at Harvard using a common technology platform. That presents an opportunity to think about a lot of things in a more integrated and more consistent way, including integration of digital library information. In the days when 10 schools had 10 course–management platforms, that was a real hardship on the libraries to efficiently and effectively integrate information and technical functions. We are now making very good progress on a number of fronts.

As much as we want to achieve efficiencies, we're really out to maximize the potential benefits of IT collaboration across all of Harvard's schools and organizations. The potential inherent in concerted University–wide action has grown, and will continue to grow, tremendously.

Where can we see the University's IT streams merging?

Today, there is enormously successful collaboration among iCommons, the Instructional Computing Group (ICG, FAS), the FAS Registrar's Office, and the University Library's Office for Information Systems (OIS). The immediate result is the new Reserves List Tool—which is not actually a single tool, but a collection of web–based services that allow instructional staff and library reserves staff to work jointly in the management reserves reading lists that are delivered directly to Harvard students on course web sites.

The architecture of the Reserves List Tool capitalizes on the individual special natures of technology at OIS, ICG, and the Registrar's Office. The three different interfaces involved— for students, for faculty, and for librarians—"borrow" material as needed from the appropriate server.

Let me just say that developing the Tool is one job. Testing and implementing it is another. Our IT professionals have relied heavily on Harvard's reserves librarians to make the Tool a success.

Obviously this sort of collaboration is admirably efficient—financially, organizationally, and intellectually. But the ultimate benefit is to the students.

Working collaboratively, IT specialists across the University have brought about the iSites service, which allows users with basic computer skills to design and manage their own web–based communities, from academic portals and school intranets to club sites. Student views of course web sites are now integrated into iSites portals. We're making maximum use of student academic portals that include links to library resources.

Can you offer any observations about the Library's pilot project with Google?

The pilot project that we announced in December is continuing. As of August 12, however, Google has suspended the scanning of books in copyright—at least until November 1. So right now, only works in the public domain are being scanned. According to Google, the goal of this suspension is to give publishers the chance to identify those works they do not want scanned (for which they hold copyright). The suspension doesn't reflect a change in Google's view of copyright law or of its provisions.

Five years ago, Google was barely on the radar screen, and today it's a factor—in more ways than one—in the day–to–day business of the libraries. Can you characterize the ways in which the digital environment has changed in the last several years?

The digital environment has become increasingly competitive—not just among major companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, but among different sorts of entities that combine technology and information management services. I think it's important for universities to form partnerships to leverage evolving commercial technology where it really adds value to the academic mission. Google's search capability seems to us to be a good fit in this regard today. At Harvard, libraries in some respects may envision the HOLLIS catalog as being in some form of competition with commercial information–location tools, particularly from an end user's perspective. There will clearly always be a need to support the special obligations that libraries have to select, authenticate, deliver, and preserve information in its many forms. Finding the right balance of internally developed solutions, purchased applications, and commercial partnerships is important.

Editor's Note: For a related story, see page 5: "Online for the Fall Semester: Harvard's Reserves List Tool"


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