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Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: September ::
British Library: Electronic Catalogues
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 221. Tuesday, 17 Sep 1991.
 
Date: 		Mon, 16 Sep 1991 15:15:49 -0400
From: 		Mike Post <
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Subject: 	Electronic Card Catalogues
 
I seem to be in the mood to write, so why stop now?  In reference to
the card catalogue discussion, I'd like to add a computer scientist's
viewpoint.
 
There seems to be an argument about eliminating a hard copy catalogue
in favor of an electronic one.  My personal opinion is this is
foolish.  Given the choice in a library of using either, I would
certainly use the electronic because of my background.  However, I
feel strongly that there should be as many methods of information
retrieval as possible.  What works for me may not work for another,
and an alternate method may be crucial.  Progress, to me, is not
necessarily replacing old systems, but enhancing them or providing an
alternate method which may be more useful in many cases.  I will say
that if an old system never really worked well, that it should be
discontinued, but I really don't think this is the case here.
 
I don't know all the actual points in the argument because they
weren't all sent through SHAKSPER, but I suspect there are two main
ones I can address:
 
Computers go down
 
Yes, this is true, and no-one knows it better than the computer
center, just ask them. There seems to be a direct link between the
computer going down and the phone ringing (irate users).  However,
'downtime' can be minimized.  When I managed a machine, I kept a
record of 99% 'uptime'.  Of course the 1% downtime was always at the
most inconvenient time.  It is the responsibility of the computer
center to provide for this down time.  A network was mentioned in the
discussion.  Networks imply a possibility for a redundancy factor,
allowing for a separate machine to be able to take on the electronic
catalogue if the primary computer goes down.  I can't speak to this
particular situation without knowing more about the setup at Northern
Illinois.  Check with Computer Services.
 
Maintaining both is time consuming
 
Yes and no.  If each and every book added to a library was double
entered (once in a computer, once on a file card), then yes, you have
doubled your work.  But why in heavens name are you hand typing a file
card?  For a relatively modest price you can purchase a printer
devoted to printing the file cards as soon as you enter them in the
computer system, in the proper format for a card catalogue, or at
least something workable.  Further, if you maintain a couple of
different catalogues, (Author and Subject-Title come to mind) you
should be able to print out cards formatted for each category. You
should be able to even batch them, say once a week, and print them out
in an order which will provide for the fastest filing.  This assumes
your software allows for this.  If it doesn't inherently, either check
with computer services about enhancing it, or find a different package
(I know, no-one can afford such a thing, but as a computer
professional, I find it offensive that a company might not have
considered this possibility)  Please keep in mind that computers when
used properly are there to make your life easier (though it often
seems the reverse 8-)
 
A couple of closing notes.  Someone should get in touch with Carnegie
Mellon University about this.  They 'married' computer and library
services, two disciplines which have often been considered mutually
exclusive.  It might be interesting to get their opinion.  Also, for
Northern Illinois, if your hardcopy catalogue is 10 years out of date,
maybe Computer Services can find a way of printing the cards out from
the electronic database as I mentioned above.  The worst they can say
is 'no'.  Lastly, while I have extensive knowledge of systems design,
I can only speak of what is generically possible.  Without firsthand
knowledge of a given computer system, I can not say whether a system
will work for it.  This is why I keep saying 'check with computer
services, check with computer services...'  Computer centers tend to
be overworked and understaffed (aren't we all?) and may not be able to
provide for the above possibilities without letting other crucial
projects slip by.  They know their operations, I don't.  I am always
willing to dispense my humble opinion, however 8-)
 
Mike Post
Graduate Student, MFA Directing/Acting
CIS Consultant
The Univeristy of Montana

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Disclaimer:  The University of Montana doesn't even know I write this!
 

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