LIBRARY AND INFORMATION RESOURCES
Creating a unified organization to support information technology and information services was identified as a major goal of the 1993 Report of the Committee on Libraries, Computers, and Media (COLCAM) and the 1993 University Communications and Computing Committee's (UCCC) Report to the President. The stimulus to unify information services emanated from perceptions that the application of information technology and services at the University was uneven and inconsistent. There was a need for an overall sense of direction, leadership and support for computing, media and libraries. To that end, the University created and filled the Vice Provost for Information Services and Dean of University Libraries position.
The Vice Provost was successful in effecting major organizational changes that resulted in the integration of information technologists who had previously worked in independent groups into a single reporting structure. This structure provides centralized systems and services for the effective, efficient and timely use of information in support of teaching and learning, research and service through the Office of Information Services (OIS). OIS provides leadership and a coherent framework for information services and technology strategies and standards. OIS includes the University Libraries, and the integration and reorganization of information technology providers who were formerly in the Academic Computer Center, the Administrative Computer Center, and the Audio Visual Department. This section of the Self-Study has been divided into two major components--the University Libraries and Information Resources.
The University of Rhode Island Libraries consist of the Main Library in Kingston which is an excellent undergraduate library and also serves as a research library for the many graduate programs offered at the Kingston Campus. The Pell Marine Sciences Library at the URI Narragansett Bay Campus serves as the research library for the Graduate School of Oceanography. The College of Continuing Education Library at the URI Providence Center serves that community as an undergraduate facility while still growing to serve the greater number of professional and graduate level programs operating out of this urban facility. The role and mission of the URI Libraries are described in its vision and mission statements.
The University of Rhode Island Libraries offer a variety of services for the University community as well as the citizens of the state. The Main Library, with a new addition dedicated in 1993, offers a seating capacity of nearly 1600. As part of that seating capacity, private and group study rooms where students can work either alone or in groups are available. Research study rooms are also available to faculty and graduate students. The facility also houses two electronic classrooms for instruction in the use of information resources; a newly expanded computer lab (to be expanded to 100 workstations for fall 1997) with a full-time help desk for students using electronic resources; and a media room storing a varied collection of media resources for use by students, faculty and staff which includes viewing and listening stations. Photocopy services and a number of print stations are also available to the campus community. Other features include exhibit spaces, an art gallery for the social and cultural benefit of students, and meeting rooms and community spaces where the campus community can meet and interact with one another. The Library also has created a leisure reading area where students can browse current monographic receipts and read daily newspapers and certain magazines and journals of interest. The Main Library currently is open 92 hours per week during the academic year and the Pell and CCE Libraries are open similar hours.
Professional staff members are well trained and have a minimum of a Master's degree in Library Science from an ALA accredited institution. While some faculty positions are vacant, current Library staffing levels at the University are comparable to our peer institutions. Instruction in the use of library resources is provided to thousands of students each year. Professional staff provide guidance to users in accessing electronic information resources located on-site or accessible via the Internet. An ongoing bibliographic and information services instructional program is available to assist students in using traditional and digital information resources.
Access to bibliographic information and data via electronic resources from all three library branches (Kingston, Pell, CCE) has grown enormously over the last several years. The following is a list of some of the access tools and products currently available to the university community: Higher Education Library Information Network (HELIN); OCLC; CARLUnCover; First Search; Expanded Academic Index; Engineering Village; Library WWW-Information Server; CD-ROM LAN' EB Online; and Dialog.
For many years, the allocation of the Library materials budget was along broad subject lines (e.g., Humanities, Social Sciences, Health Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, Physical Sciences). Gradually this changed from broad categories to more distinct categories, until 6 years ago when funds were allocated to correspond directly to the departments and programs of the University. This involved between 55 and 62 separate allocations each year. These allocations are for serials, books and non-book materials. The monographic allocations and journal expenditures are now maintained by the Innovative Interface Inc. (III) acquisition system. Fairly accurate data for department- related expenditures exist for the past five years. Complete information regarding library expenditures is available in the workroom.
Networks and Consortia. The University of Rhode Island Libraries have committed on a number of fronts to the sharing of resources and services through networks and consortia. For example, HELIN is a unique consortia consisting of private and public academic libraries in Rhode Island which have come together to share a common bibliographic database in the form of an on-line public access catalog (OPAC) which permits access to the holdings of all the institutions at each and every site. Participating institutions include the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, Providence College, Roger Williams University and the Community College of Rhode Island. The HELIN Integrated Library System supports not only an OPAC but also acquisitions, cataloging, circulation and reserve modules. HELIN is available from all mainframe- based terminals, all network-connected PCs, and via dial-in access, both locally, nationally and internationally. In a recent Governor's Report on Telecommunications and Technology, HELIN was praised as the model to follow in implementing the sharing of technological resources within the State of Rhode Island.
In addition to an integrated library system, the HELIN Libraries also share databases such as OCLC's First Search and Expanded Academic Index. The most significant recent development is patron-initiated Interlibrary Loan with the HELIN consortium. HELIN Libraries also have access to the CLAN database (R.I. public libraries) and the Brown University OPAC, as well as all other academic catalogs.
The Consortium of Rhode Island Academic and Research Libraries (CRIARL ) is composed of all the academic libraries in Rhode Island, including those which are not members of HELIN, such as Brown University and Salve Regina University. The consortium also has as members significant research libraries such as the Providence Public Library. This group comes together on a regular basis to discuss and implement possible areas of cooperation between like libraries. A recently successful initiative was the group purchase of the Encyclopedia Britannica On-line at significantly reduced rates. The consortium also has created a working group to investigate other areas of cooperative collection development, especially in the area of serials. Recently, the CRIARL libraries also have agreed to give priority treatment to interlibrary loan requests coming from fellow CRIARL members.
The New England Council of Presidents of Land-Grant Universities Libraries meets on a regular basis to share information and strategies for library and information services development at all six New England Land-Grant Universities. A project under discussion now is the creation of a pool of money for joint purchase of electronic databases. We recently came together to purchase at a group rate an electronic database, Electronic Village, at a substantial savings over individual library pricing.
The Library is also a member of such other regional and national resource exchanges as NELINET and OCLC (including but not limited to its International Interlibrary Loan Program). As libraries move from ownership to access, the Library could not offer the many services its clientele has come to expect without these cooperative efforts. We expect them to continue and grow.
Data Collection and Evaluation. The University Libraries continuously collect data and uses these data to improve and increase their effectiveness to the campus and community.
There are two alternating sets of national comparative statistics which are kept on an annual basis. One set is collected by the Association of College and Research Libraries [ACRL], and the other is the IPEDS report. Both of these collect similar data including numbers of staff, salaries, collection growth annually, size of collections, library materials budget devoted to the various categories mentioned above, collection use statistics, building use statistics, service statistics and hours open to the public. For continuing evaluation, the Library compiles these statistics and uses them for comparative purposes with our peers.
Use statistics by patron and by call number are reviewed each year. The III acquisition system automatically keeps these data. The data are reviewed annually. Accurate data exist for the past six years and useful information is available from 1980. Information prior to 1980 is less accurate because it was collected and compiled by hand.
Monthly records of processing routines are compiled to monitor work flow in order to get materials out to patrons in the most expeditious manner. The goal is to process, catalog and make available all incoming receipts in less than 2 weeks for monographs and less than two days for journal issues. These internal statistics are kept to assess this priority and shift workload accordingly to meet this priority.
For the past five years a CD-ROM product called OCLC/AMIGOS Collection Development CD Program has been used to track books which have been cataloged on OCLC for the past ten years along with the total acquisitions of certain peer groups.
This provides a snapshot of the total acquisitions by 500 separate categories which is then compared to other peer libraries. These are very sophisticated data which are used in collection evaluation studies on a regular basis and are now used for all accreditation studies. They also have been systematically used in the program review process.
The Library is responsive to students for their instructional needs, to faculty for their teaching and research needs, and to administrators and staff for their information needs. Librarians are committed to safeguarding intellectual freedom, to preserving and organizing the institution's records, to providing sophisticated reference services, and to engaging in bibliographic exchange on both regional and national scales.
The Library provides an environment conducive to scholarly research and study. It is a vital interdisciplinary resource whose support by the University exemplifies its commitment to educational excellence. The Library has an excellent undergraduate collection capable of meeting the research, curricular and leisure needs of our undergraduates. Library resources which support the University's graduate education and research mission are also good.
Physical access to the collections and information resources at the Main Library and the CCE Library are excellent. Library building facilities at Kingston and at the CCE Library in the Providence Center are newly refurbished. At the Pell Marine Science Library at the Graduate School of Oceanography facilities are inadequate and make physical access difficult.
Financial support for the Libraries has been inconsistent over the last several years. Support in 1996-1997 has improved somewhat although the recent increases have not kept pace with rising serials costs, inflation and exchange rates. Capital expenditures, traditionally used for books and serials, are now being used to purchase, maintain and replace the growing number of electronic information resources and their attendant need for hardware and software. We have slipped in relation to our peer institutions in a variety of indicators especially in monographs purchased and serials retained. Detailed information regarding additional indicators is available in the workroom.
URI has tried to relieve the budget shortfalls of the past several years with serials cuts. The University no longer can turn to this expediency without limiting its research library capabilities. The University is exploring, with other HELIN libraries, the possibility of purchasing pre-processed materials to avoid the cost of on-site cataloging and processing. Additional costs for processing materials are likely to place yet another burden on the collection development budget. Without a significant increase in this budget, the choices regarding what to buy or what to forego become more difficult.
The University of Rhode Island Libraries are marginally staffed in relation to our peer institutions. Unlike other measures of progress reported here, support for staffing has declined over the last five years. A related issue is the reluctance of the administration to hire librarians in tenure-track positions. The faculty union has been averse to agreeing to a new professional rank without faculty status. As a result, recent hires of professional staff have been at the lecturer level. Nevertheless, overall staffing in the current year is at its highest level of the 1990s.
The number of support staff has declined, although services and expectations for that group have increased. Some stress at this level has been alleviated by reassigning workload or moving to vendor outsourcing of work previously accomplished in-house. Student staffing is also a challenge. The Library depends on student assistants to maintain essential library services. Student employment budgets have been reduced to maintain a reasonable level of materials budget. As facilities and services have been expanded, support staff has not been correspondingly increased.
Several in-house training programs have been offered for staff especially with the growth of new technologies. In addition, training programs are offered by HELIN, NELINET, OCLC and CRIARL for professionals and non-professionals alike. Some vendors also offer staff training on their products. Increased utilization of new technologies will require expanded staff training activities.
The Library staff has developed a strategic plan to improve its capacity to deliver high- quality information services to the University community. The plan is available in the workroom and includes the following objectives:
Improvements to the Pell Marine Science Library at the Graduate School of Oceanography is a major priority. Plans for a major renovation have been developed and the dean along with the newly appointed director will continue working with the URI Development Office to identify potential donors as part of the GSO Capital Campaign.
The Office of Information Services (OIS) provides leadership and a coherent framework for information services and technology strategies and standards. OIS includes the University Libraries and the integration and reorganization of information technology providers who were formerly in the Academic Computer Center, the Administrative Computer Center, and the Audio Visual Department. The following lists the newly instituted subunits of OIS information technology providers and the respective missions of each.
Technical and Operational Services. Evaluates, selects, installs, maintains and operates central hardware and software systems for the University community and its clients.
Information and Instructional Technology Services. Provides consultation, training, instructional and classroom support, instructional computing facilities, and desktop computing support.
Management Information Services. Provides needs assessment and integrated solutions for institutional and administrative processes.
Networking and Telecommunications Services. Delivers voice, data and video communications to the University community and its clients.
In addition, several units provide computing facilities in support of specialized applications and activities. These include the Graduate School of Oceanography, the College of Engineering and the Computer Science Department.
The Technical and Operational Services (TOPS) group in the Office of Information Services supports academic and research computing activities on an IBM ES/9000 mainframe running VM/ESA with CMS, an IBM RISC/6000 POWERServer running UNIX/AIX, a DEC Alpha running OSF/1, and several IBM PC and Macintosh fileservers. Over 14,000 users receive account management services including local disk space, electronic mailboxes, and a suite of TCP/IP services consisting of telnet, ftp, gopher, listserv, netnews and the World Wide Web.
Information and Instructional Technology Services (IITS) manages and maintains centrally supported personal computer facilities for student use on the Kingston campus and at URI/Providence which are equipped with IBM PCs and Macintoshes. Supported software includes general applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, data base management, communications, Internet applications, and graphics, as well as a considerable number of specialized instructional programs. All IBM PCs and Macintoshes in IITS public facilities provide access to the campus network and the Internet. IITS facilities are staffed by student workers during hours of operation. Reference manuals are maintained in each area.
There are 38 centrally- and departmentally-supported computing facilities with 400 personal computers and workstations for student use. The University provides one personal computer for every 34 students. Twenty-four of these facilities can be reserved for class use. While some departmentally-supported facilities may be reserved for class use for an entire semester, there are no centrally-supported facilities which may be reserved in this fashion. Eleven facilities do not have access to the campus network and the Internet. In many facilities the equipment needs to be upgraded, the furniture replaced, and the space renovated. Often students must wait in line to use this equipment.
The Networking and Telecommunications Services (NETS) group is responsible for the campus data network. The University has an ethernet backbone campus network that supports TCP/IP. Many administrative and academic buildings have a building network that connects to the campus network. In most cases, this network exists in a limited area of the building and employs outdated network technology. There is no local area network in the Residence Halls. Dial-up access to URI's network and the Internet is available to other computer users through 148 modems.
URI has an affiliation with the Cornell Theory Center as a member of the Smart Node Program which provides accounts to URI faculty in support of supercomputer research, as well as for faculty members who teach courses in which access to supercomputers would be beneficial.
The Office of Information Services employs 68 full-time professional staff in the information technology units and is active in exchanging resources and services with other institutions. This is facilitated by participation in local, regional and national organizations as well as on-line forums. URI staff consult regularly with peers at other higher education institutions in the state.
Services. Professional IITS staff members and student assistants staff a Help Desk for walk-in consultation on a Monday through Friday, 8:30-4:30 schedule. Staff consultants who specialize in specific applications and systems are available by appointment at other times.
At the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, IITS offers short courses on Macintoshes, IBM PCs, VM/CMS and UNIX. The courses are free and are offered at various times to make them accessible. In addition, IITS responds to faculty requests for classroom presentations during regularly scheduled courses. IITS provides training video tapes and diskettes for self-paced learning in the Media Room in the URI Library. The tapes can be checked out.
Students, staff and faculty are eligible for personal purchase packages offered at substantial savings by Apple Computer Inc., Zenith Corp. and IBM Corp. Faculty, students, staff and departments often consult with specialists in IITS prior to purchasing decisions. The personal purchase transactions are conducted at the URI Bookstore.
The IITS staff maintains a large selection of documents explaining policies, procedures, software and hardware. These documents are available in printed and/or on-line form. The campus web page is used to post and distribute on-line documents.
Funding. Aggregate funding for centralized academic and administrative computing is approximately 2.2% of the overall institution's budget. During the past 5 years, increasing staff compensation and steady staffing levels have caused operating and capital budgets to decrease. During the same period, utilization, including the provision of electronic mail for all students and the number of student computing facilities, has increased significantly. The latter has been funded predominantly from one-time sources. The University introduced a $100 per-year Library and Computing fee in 1994-1995. The intent of this fee was to provide additional funding for these units. The entire fee was given to these units in 1996-1997 with 35% allocated to computing and 65% to the Library in order to achieve a $2M per year book budget for the Library. This is being continued in 1997-1998.
In 1994, the Board of Governors for Higher Education established an External Committee on Telecommunications to review the deployment of technology at the state colleges and to recommend needed improvements. After reviewing leading peer institutions, the committee established a goal of one modern personal computer or workstation for every 24 students at URI. This goal was approved by the Board in 1995. To achieve that goal, URI is adding 200 workstations in student computing facilities and establishing a replacement plan for existing equipment This replacement will provide needed capacity for occasional scheduled class use, class assignments, personal productivity, and computer classrooms which can be scheduled for an entire semester. Personal computers in instructional computing facilities will be multimedia ready. These workstations will have the capacity to run instructional courseware with audio and video components. This will enable more effective and efficient delivery of instructional programs through the use of information technology. All student computing facilities will have access to the campus high-speed network.
These technology enhancements will be funded by the bond referendum approved in November 1996. This Technology Initiative will provide the University with $29M, $17M for networking infrastructure and $12M for equipment, renovations and software. This funding will be received over a 5-year period. Specifically, the initiative will provide funding to:
URI is actively working with other State of Rhode Island institutions of higher education to establish a system wide network. This network will provide students at these other schools with the same network services that are available at the University. It will provide enabling technology for other services such as administrative applications.
URI is also a founding member of RInet, the Rhode Island Network, which provides computing services to the K-12 community. Other members include the Rhode Island Department of Education, Brown University, the Rhode Island Department of Library Services, and the public television station WSBE. URI is active in the planning, administration and maintenance of this network. URI students can use RInet to access the University network toll-free from all areas of the state. Also, URI installed and maintains the HELIN network.
Information resources maintains a post office protocol (POP) server for VM systems and has made the code available via the Internet for other institutions to use. It is used by over 20 institutions around the world. URI uses many applications that were developed at other institutions. These include many network applications for academic and administrative use.
Products developed at peer institutions are usually well suited for use at URI and are available free or at a nominal charge. In tight budget times, availability of these products has been valuable to our students, faculty and staff. Current staffing levels in information resources have limited URI's ability to develop and support additional products for others.
Staff members from information resources are active participants in the meetings of New England Land-Grant institutions, the Cornell University SmartNode program, CAUSE, EDUCOM, and several application user groups on the regional and national level. Participation in programs at the national level has been limited by restrictions in travel funding.
In 1994, the University filled the then new position of Vice Provost for Information Services and Dean of University Libraries. The Vice Provost initiated changes designed to create a unified information technology organization able to exploit the merger of voice, video and data technologies by:
The following were identified as critical in the implementation of the goals and objectives of this unified group:
The implementation of these initiatives will improve the availability of information resources at the University. The advent of high-speed networking has enabled the development and deployment of client-server applications to replace interactive applications. The new paradigm combines the efficiencies of centralized data and system maintenance with the effectiveness of desktop computing. URI has been converting and implementing applications using this new computing mode. However, this activity requires new central systems, robust desktop devices for all customers and a campus network that is available to everyone. Since the necessary infrastructure is not in place in all areas of the campus, URI has had to run older applications in parallel with replacement applications. This has impeded the delivery of current research and instructional applications and future multimedia courseware.
With the infusion of $29M of bond money over the next 5 years, the University has the opportunity to establish a comprehensive campus-wide network and place quality desktop systems at the disposal of faculty, students and staff. These facilities will allow the University to implement more cost effective processes which, in turn, will allow for the reallocation of resources. It will allow us to become more efficient and effective in addressing our teaching, research and public service missions. To maintain a modern technology rich environment, additional staff needs to be hired and a 5 year replacement plan for equipment must be implemented and funded. This will require a significant commitment on the part of a University that is being stretched financially in many other areas.
While the bond initiative provides significant funding for 5 years, there will be a need for continuous capital, operating and personnel funding to maintain and support this technology rich environment. The University needs to increase its annual budget for central computing services. The referendum initiative will provide one-time funding that will significantly increase the technology on campus as well as annual maintenance and support costs. An increase in financial support for technology will be needed to place URI on a par with peer institutions and allow us to maintain the appropriate level of information technology. In addition, funding needs to be provided to maintain departmental facilities and replace them on a regular basis.
Information technology units are understaffed when compared to our peer institutions. It is important that a significant share of any budget increase be allocated for additional staffing in customer support areas to maintain satisfactory services. Support staff needs will increase as the campus technology enhancements are implemented. For example, expanded training will be needed for commonly used application software and operating systems as well as more advanced training in topics such as network management. Training is needed in many forms including scheduled classes, video tapes, and on-line tutorials. Demand for in-class training to support undergraduate and graduate courses will continue to increase. Additional second-level support specialists will be needed for more detailed consultations as well as field support for problem resolution, hardware and software installation, and planning for new facilities.
The ability to achieve the mission requires strong support in terms of resources and commitment to change. Tasks forces have developed plans and funding has been approved for the following initiatives:
The University recognizes and is committed to providing the additional personnel and on-going operating funding to maintain this greatly enhanced environment. This will require a significant readjustment in fund allocation over the next 5 years. However, the technology initiative provides URI with opportunities for cost-savings and cost- avoidance by re-engineering business processes as well as increased revenue from student enrollment, research and services.
As a result of the Technology Initiative, the University will install an integrated high- speed network accessible by all information workers including students in Residence Halls. The new network will support higher speed technologies such as Fast Ethernet or Asynchronous Transfer Mode. The University must keep pace with improvements planned for Internet II in order to collaborate with peers and provide our community with access to information resources that are bandwidth intensive. Finally, dial-up services need to be expanded and enhanced through additional and higher speed modems for remote access.
Help Desk services will be enhanced by the addition of automated call tracking, knowledge databases, and World Wide Web interfaces. Additional walk-in, telephone, and on-line consultation services staffed by several professionals are also needed. Help desk hours should be expanded to a 7X24 model and staff will need access to facilities for troubleshooting remote hardware and software problems. The Help Desk will dispatch personnel for on-site service where necessary. Short course offerings will be increased. Use of distance education technologies should be applied to short courses to leverage their productivity. Instruction must be available when and where it is needed.
There is also a need to expand on-line information services to create an institutional intranet. This resource will provide readily accessible documentation on policies, usage and maintenance of resources. This is currently under development.
The Desktop Computing Group will need to identify and package standard configurations of personal computers and productivity software. A maintenance and repair facility is needed to support the clients who purchase these systems. In the technology intensive environment foreseen for higher education, standardization will be imperative. The Office of Information Services has recommended that retail sales be expanded and refined to include standard configurations of machines and software and maintenance and repair services. Negotiations are ongoing with the Administration, the Office of Information Services, and the Bookstore to determine the best model for computer sales.
To reach critical staffing levels, information resources will look for ways to expand services and add staff by providing services to other institutions and groups. The current consolidation of information resource units will allow the University to make more efficient use of limited personnel resources. Implementation of the plan to move all information resources staff into the same building will enhance services.
The University has demonstrated the ability to evaluate information resources regularly and use the data from these studies to increase the effectiveness of services. It needs to continue its internal processes of regular and systematic evaluation and work with the Office of Higher Education, sister state schools, and other partners to study shared technology services. It will continue the current process of consolidating central technology services and expand this group to include other units that provide similar overlapping services.
The NACUBO Benchmarking Study will provide data for systematic evaluation. The University has started compiling feedback from these studies. While the reorganization of information technology units is proceeding, additional organizational changes are needed. There needs to be greater integration between the IT units and the Library. The University must also review the relationship of this division with functions such as Institutional Research, Instructional Development and departmental computing facilities. Finally, the University will consider systemwide initiatives to improve and increase the effectiveness of services. The regular and systematic evaluation of information resources that has been put in place will provide the data needed to improve services. It must be expanded to include other University and system units.
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