University Secretariat and Legal Counsel

University Secretariat and Legal Counsel
University Secretariat and Legal Counsel

Scholar-Centred Computing in the Library

Endorsed by Senate March 30, 1995

Senate Library Committee

Committee Members: A.Allen (Secretary); B. Anderson; S. Bell; M. Dunstan; N. Florent; P. Goheen; F. Lock; R. Shenton; G. vanLoon; P. Wiens

January 16, 1995

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Progress in Development of Library Information Services
  3. Future Development of Library Information Services
    1. Integrated Access to Published Information
    2. Organized Access to Resources on the Internet
    3. Structured Access to Locally Produced Information and Scholarship
    4. Resources
  4. Education and Training
  5. Benefits to the University

1. Introduction

The creation, communication, and preservation of knowledge are essential to the academic community. The Queen's University Library forms an integral part of this community by acquiring, organizing, preserving, and providing access to information and knowledge sources, in whatever form or location, to advance the university's instructional, research, and public services goals. The Library is committed to service: its staff share a common purpose and responsibility to provide exemplary service. (Library Mission Statement)

The Scholar-Centred Computing vision has provided the computing and communications infrastructure needed by the Library to carry out that part of its mission relating to the provision of access to electronic information resources. This infrastructure is essential for library services now provided to the Queen's community; in the future, the development of library information services will rely even more heavily on the Queen's Computing & Communications infrastructure. The Scholar-Centred Computing initiative has also brought about a close working relationship between Computing & Communications Services and the Library, a synergy which will continue to grow at an increasing rate. With the opening of Stauffer Library -- in itself a concrete symbol of how complementary each department is to the other -- the communication among Library and Computing & Communications Services staff and respect for each others' expertise have grown enormously.

In view of the importance of scholar-centred computing to the provision of information services to Queen's faculty and students, the Senate Library Committee strongly endorses continuation of the Scholar-Centred Computing initiative.

This report describes how the Scholar-Centred Computing initiative has contributed to the provision of information services at Queen's and outlines a framework for the library's continuing development of electronic information services.

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2. Progress in Using Scholar-Centred Computing to Develop Library Information Services

The Scholar-Centred Computing plan has advanced the Library's role in supporting the teaching and research mission of the University. This initiative has permitted the Library to provide networked access to more information; made the Library an active participant in achieving the goals of scholar-centred computing; and has established a symbiotic relationship with Computing & Communications Services, a model for other universities to emulate. This could not have been done without the backbone infrastructure and the specific applications made possible by the Scholar-Centred Computing initiative.

The Scholar-Centred Computing plan has:

  • provided significant mainframe support to handle the additional features available in the upgraded releases of the Notis library integrated system software

  • permitted the expansion of QLine to include a range of journal index and abstract databases linked to Queen's journal holdings. Termed Infoshare, this expansion represents joint acquisition of and access to data by a consortium of University Libraries at Queen's, York, McMaster, and Windsor; each institution is responsible for mounting a portion of the data, with users at each institution having access to the pool of databases

  • provided networked access to CD/ROM databases in Stauffer and in Bracken Libraries; the initiative in Bracken was a cooperative effort involving the Library, Computing Services, the Faculty of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and the School of Rehabilitation Therapy to provide networked access to health sciences databases

  • permitted the Library to participate in INFOQ and GOPHER

  • enhanced Interlibrary Loan service by providing document transmission over the Internet

  • allowed the William R. Lederman Law Library to work with the Faculty of Law to begin to develop the Electronic Law Library

3. Role of Scholar-Centred Computing in the Future Development of Library Information Services

Although the printed page will remain the dominant form of information for sometime to come, library services must also incorporate the diverse and rapidly expanding world of electronic information. The new challenge is to access, manage, and deliver relevant information from a bewildering array of information sources in a manner convenient to the user.

Continuation of the the Scholar-Centred Computing initiative will enable the Libraries, in partnership with Computing and Communication Services, to ensure that Queen's faculty and students have state-of-the-art access to current information sources. We envisage bringing to the scholar's desktop the means to access and retrieve sources of scholarly information in a highly integrated and organized format. This system will bring together and put at the scholar's fingertips access to:

  • library catalogues
  • index, abstract, and full text databases
  • current contents services
  • document delivery of full text
  • scholarly information published at Queen's
  • scholarly information published around the world (Internet)

Document delivery services will include digital transmission from printed and electronic sources. An electronic reserve service will provide students with computerized access to traditional reserve readings.

The goal is to expand and add to existing services, to integrate them, and to provide a convenient, easy to use "single-system image" for all information resources. The scholar will not need to know whether the information is loaded at Queen's or elsewhere. The user interface will be graphical, highly intuitive, and common across different platforms and remote sites.

The Scholar-Centred Computing plan will affect the Library's development in four major areas.

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a. Integrated Access to Published Information

Formally published electronic information is available in a wide range of different formats from a large number of commercial and not-for-profit publishers such as governments, learned societies, academic publishers, scholarly associations, etc. Although scholar-centred computing has permitted the Library to expand access to information significantly, the scholar is often impeded by the maze of information sources, many of which require familiarity with different searching techniques.

The solution is both intellectual and technical. The intellectual solution involves the development of a sophisticated interface that presents information in an organized and integrated way. The technical solution sees the Library moving to distributed servers, client/server software, and support for the Z39.50 standard that uses a common local interface when addressing remote systems regardless of the platform or search engine used.

b. Organized Access to Academically Significant Resources on the Internet

Although the amount of academically significant information on the Internet has exploded, efficient and organized access to this information - much of which may take the form of ephemeral "grey literature " - remains a problem.

The solutions are being researched and debated around the world. To support its scholars in the interim, Queen's Libraries must improve methods of locating and using significant academic information on the Internet.

Working with faculty, the Library will select electronic journals and primary source documents of interest to the Queen's community. Using Gopher or world wide web servers, this information will be identified and made accessible by local acquisition or by pointing to the remote location.

c. Structured Access to Locally Produced Information and Scholarship

Support for local electronic publishing and access to scholarship should be a significant part of scholar-centred computing at Queen's. More academics and departments want to make available electronically a range of information including scholarly articles, class materials, and departmental information. Easy access to this information, from the campus backbone and Internet, depends on departments using a unified structure to present this information. Although each academic department must control its own information, it should be organized in such a way that it fits into an integrated whole.

In conjunction with Computing & Communications Services, the Library will assist in achieving this integration by providing advice on the standards used to structure, format, and organize information. The strategy is to assist academics and departments to make available information on the campus backbone more easily, using common standards and thereby to enhance accessibility across the university and around the world. This will enhance Queen's presentation of its scholarship, and, therefore, its image, to the world.

d. Resources

Renewal of the Scholar-Centred Computing initiative will make available additional resources needed by the Library to provide improved access to electronic information. These resources will be used to provide servers, increased network connections from on and off campus, more and better workstations, client/server software, software supporting wide area network access to information, and data acquisition (site licences).

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4. Education and Training

Over the last two decades technology, and the rapid pace of change in technology, has altered fundamentally the environment in which faculty and students access and retrieve information. This new environment of constant change presents significant new training and instructional challenges both for staff and users. Continuing education in the use of the ever-changing new technologies is essential. The Library is committed to providing education and training for faculty and students to assist them in making effective use of electronic information resources by:

  • setting up subject specific student instruction that is integrated into the curriculum
  • providing assistance to faculty and students to access, retrieve, and manage information
  • helping faculty find and develop electronic information resources for use in the classroom or multimedia curricula
  • indexing and providing facilities for student access to curricula materials outside the classroom.

Responding to these educational needs presents a major challenge for Queen's Libraries. Although additional staff will be needed, current budget constraints will require the Library to reorganize the existing staff complement to place greater emphasis on education and training. Staff will develop new and more efficient ways of assisting users in accessing and retrieving electronic information.

5. Benefits to the University

The continued development of the Scholar-Centred Computing initiative is integral to the future delivery of information to faculty and students. The Library is dependent on the Scholar-Centred Computing initiative to fulfill its mission of providing access to those information and knowledge sources necessary to advance the university's instructional, research, and public service goals.

Among the benefits to faculty and students will be:

  • state of the art access for both teaching and research purposes
  • greater availability of current information
  • integration of information from a variety of sources in a consistent way
  • common methods of access and retrieval across different platforms and remote sites
  • convenient access from, and delivery of information to the user's preferred location and preferred workstation
  • creation of an electronic information infrastructure which will permit shared participation in distributed national or international digital library systems.

Maintaining the link between scholar-centred computing and a barrier-free "library without walls" is crucial if the University is to continue to provide the flexible yet sound information infrastructure Queen's scholars and students need to lead in the global academic community.

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