I.T. Times
Volume 3. No 1 Information Technology News of the University of California, Davis Fall 1994

A View from Abroad

Libraries and Computing Team to Create New World of Information

by Kenneth Firestein, Data Services Librarian, General Library

On August 25 members of the University community heard a talk titled: "The Convergence of Libraries and Computing Centers in the UK" by Dr. Richard Field. The idea of bringing together Libraries and Computing Services is an idea that develops at numerous institutions in various ways. These two parts of the University Community work together naturally in many ways and bring to each other skills and resources that support and enhance each other. The successful development of both library and computing services has many positive ramifications for the teaching and research tasks of the whole University.

Dr. Field recently assumed the position of Vice-Principal of the University of Edinburgh with responsibilities for Academic Services, including Computing Services (both Academic and MIS), the Library, and Audio Visual Services. He has had a career highlighted by his work in the development of the Regional Computer Center concept in the north of England. He was Director of the University of London's Computer Center which became one of three national super-computer centers; he was part of a World Bank project in China; and he has spent time at UC's own Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where his investigations included looking at future trends in massively parallel systems.

Dr. Field has formal responsibility for developing the University of Edinburgh's Information Strategy -- and in his travels he is seeking examples and ideas for this strategy. The University of Edinburgh is one of the largest in the United Kingdom. It was started in 1583 and today has 16,600 students and 2,700 staff. Dr. Field noted that the Library at the University of Edinburgh was started in 1580, three years earlier! Computing Services started a bit later -- in 1966.

In the UK several reports were published in 1993 to guide the future development of the libraries. One was the Libraries Review Group Report by Brian Follet (the Follet Report). A sub-committee report by John Fieldon is very important and another report by Bryan Coles dealt with issues specifically related to science, technology, and medicine. The key report is the Follet Report, which has a vision of a "new information world" with virtual libraries and perhaps, virtual librarians. But the vision seen is not thought to be one that will actually happen. Instead a set of compromises are likely to occur such as:

At the University of Edinburgh 50 members of the Computing Center staff, out of a total of 160, have their offices in the Library, thus establishing a relationship. Note that here at UC Davis such a relationship exists, too. At the Shields Library there is now housed the CAIT (Center for Advance Technology) and the CAP (Campus Access Point) which are very important services of Information Technology.

In the UK and elsewhere there is a tradition of developing various strategies. There have been Computing Strategies and Library Strategies and the next strategy to develop is being called an Information Strategy, which will encompasses its predecessors. Dr. Field has formal responsibility for developing the University's Information Strategy -- and in his travels he is seeking examples and ideas for this Information Strategy.

In the course of Dr. Field's talk the following points were discussed:

Many aspects of information storage and dissemination are converging. Electronic transmission of texts and graphics is part of this convergence. Scanning and Optical Character Recognition is part of this, too. Libraries and other collections of information resources currently store valuable data. The organization of resources is a major task that needs a lot more work due to the diversity of the material that can now be handled. Access is the basic issue, and is based on good organization of quality resources with high-speed connections that are universally available. Today we talk a lot about the World Wide Web of information servers and clients of these servers such as Mosaic and Lynx. Bringing these tools together requires a strategy which will serve the needs of our academic community as we enhance our learning, research and teaching.

The talk by Dr. Field was attended by staff from both organizations including Dr. Carole Barone and University Librarian Marilyn Sharrow. We are fortunate here at UC Davis to have continuing cooperation at all levels of the Library and Information Technologies as useful convergencies develop.