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Release: July 7, 1999

UI, Law Libraries plan technology improvements

IOWA CITY, Iowa - A new, integrated library system with a look and functionality familiar to Web users will replace OASIS, the online text-based library catalog and information system used by the University Libraries and the Law Library.

The new system, scheduled for use August 2000, will make it easier for patrons searching for a book title, journal, or holdings at any of the UI’s 11 branch libraries or law library to view and access search results by clicking on hypertext links. The system will also allow users to see a listing of items already checked-out, search for materials by library location, date of publication, and other data fields. In addition, the Web-based format will offer patrons services not currently available through OASIS, such as the ability to make interlibrary loan requests, to view items they’ve already checked-out, and to use multimedia features such as video and sound. The system will allow UI-affiliated users unlimited Web access to UI holdings from any on- or off-campus computer.

The system also offers benefits for library staff. It will simplify the ordering materials, maintaining collections information, accounting, serials control, and circulation.

The new system software, dubbed ALEPH 500 by the producer Ex Libris, will likely be renamed to replace OASIS, a UI-created acronym. Although the system has been installed in hundreds of European locations, the UI is the third major North American university to purchase the software. The University of Notre Dame has installed the system and McGill University in Montreal has contracted for the software.

In a separate effort, 700,000 remaining paper bibliographic records now available only in card catalog files will be converted into an online format, says Sheila Creth, university librarian.

The UI Libraries administration is contracting with an outside firm for the conversion project that will take three years and cost $1.5 million. Currently, there are 2.3 million records available through OASIS, but many items purchased before 1979 have not been converted to online form. As a result, patrons sometimes have to travel to various campus libraries or to the Main Library to search for materials using the paper catalog, Creth says.

"Having the entire Libraries’ holdings online is important to furthering cooperative efforts among libraries in the Center for Institutional Cooperation," Creth says. Institutions in the CIC, which is made up of the Big Ten universities and the University of Chicago, rely on each other for interlibrary loans. The number of interlibrary loans will increase with the virtual electronic library project.

"The investment required to make technology improvements and to convert the remaining bibliographic records signals a major commitment by the university administration to enhancing the value of the library’s resources," Creth says.

The necessity of replacing OASIS, for which upgrades and technical support will no longer be available, has presented the university with a great opportunity to improve access to library holdings, says Mary Sue Coleman, UI president.

"I commend Jon Whitmore, our provost, and Douglas K. True, our vice president for finance and university services, for devising a long-term plan to accommodate this expensive project within a tight university budget through reallocation, without detracting from other library needs or other critical areas of the university," Coleman says.