On Course Archives
On Course, Spring 2002
The electronic revolution, which includes the growing power and accessibility of computers, has opened up endless vistas of easy and affordable access to information. We have created an era of converging needs and opportunities where the demand for information is greater than ever before and the United States and the state of New York are working to be at the cutting edge of an information-based society and economy. The struggle lies in creating a framework to organize and prioritize easy information access for all. I believe the best possible framework lies in our diverse library system. In this issue of On Course we propose to demonstrate how the State University is leading the way in this necessary transformation.
State University libraries, collaboratively, are working together not only to keep up with the times, but to ensure that all of our students and faculty have easy access to academic information. The linchpin effort, under the leadership of Assistant Provost Carey Hatch, is the University’s integrated electronic library project SUNYConnect. SUNYConnect will facilitate a virtual merger of the University’s 80-plus libraries—housing more than 18 million volumes—into a single, electronically accessible resource for the entire State University community.
Further, we have broadened our vision of leveling up library services beyond the confines of the University. With the support of Nylink, a not-for-profit library membership organization housed within the Provost’s office, we have helped initiate a State-wide collaboration called the New York State Higher Education Initiative (NYSHEI). Dedicated to enhanced and shared library resources, NYSHEI features collaboration with SUNY, CUNY, the state’s private and public libraries, and the State Education Department. This is an exciting effort for the University with vast potential benefit not only to our students and faculty but to all of New York State.
New York State’s academic librarians have enthusiastically responded to Provost Salins’ call for a concerted effort to “level up” academic library services statewide through the New York State Higher Education Initiative (NYSHEI).
“The basic focus of this effort is to foster collaboration among all state academic libraries,” said Provost Salins. “Our goal is to create an unprecedented partnership to share resources, enabling all member institutions to expand information services and access.”
The idea was born in September 2000 when the Provost addressed the annual retreat of the Nylink Council, Nylink’s strategic planning advisory committee. Nylink has 370 member institutions, including public and private academic libraries (see related article, page 4). Dr. Salins suggested a coming together of academic library leaders to discuss how such a collaborative effort could be structured and what it might accomplish.
The Nylink Council was receptive to the Provost’s proposal and in the Spring of 2001 the State University Council of Library Directors passed a resolution supporting an initiative to bring all higher education libraries together. Subsequently, City University (CUNY) librarians and Pi2, an association of 70 private college libraries, voiced support for the collaborative effort.
In the summer of 2001, a large group of academic librarians joined together ultimately forming a small steering committee that worked to formulate the NYSHEI Mission and Vision statements shown above. A major goal of the academic library initiative is to enhance teaching and research through the collaborative acquisition of the latest scholarly electronic resources and infrastructure. The state’s academic libraries will be able to leverage their investments through cooperative acquisition of materials, programs and services.
“We are also optimistic that we will be able to promote collaborative advocacy on behalf of the state’s academic libraries with respect to funding sources, including the state and federal governments and other organizations,” said Nylink Director Mary Alice Lynch. “This concept of a coordinated effort for academic library funding is popular with Columbia, Cornell, New York University and the other private institutions,” added Carey Hatch, Assistant Provost for Library and Information Services.
In April 2002, the Initiative’s Interim Governing Board met for the first time. Three committees are currently working to create by-laws, a financial plan and job description for an executive director.
“The Initiative will give academic libraries a vehicle to work together,” said Hatch. “Together, we will leverage taxpayer dollars and student tuition to create greater access to library materials throughout the state.”
Academic librarians in New York State have been impressed with the progress made by the State University’s SUNYConnect initiative, a
long-term project that is integrating the newest technology-based library and information systems with the State University’s more traditional
“While other states have launched similar cooperative ventures among academic libraries, this initiative shows an even greater level of cooperation between public and private universities in New York,” said Hatch. “Cooperation within SUNY has been tremendous, and Chancellor King was well received when he outlined the concept at the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU) annual board meeting.”
Yet another goal of the New York State Higher Education Initiative is to improve the scholarly communications model. Currently, colleges and universities frequently pay twice for research articles produced by their own professors; first to have the research published in scholarly journals, and again through library acquisitions when the publisher sells the journal itself. The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) are two international programs created to improve the existing structure of scholarly publication. The collaborative support for and adoption of these types of programs by New York colleges and universities will be an important component of NYSHEI.
“We have been in close communication with Commissioner Mills and the State Education Department on this endeavor as well,” said Provost Salins. “For example, the New York State Education Department’s proposal for New Century Libraries—which envisions basic resource support for all library types—was recently amended to request additional funds for higher education academic library support.” Discussions have already taken place between State Library and NYSHEI leadership to leverage such funds with investments by higher education libraries, ultimately permitting the acquisition of research level materials beyond the scope of the New Century plan. “Provost Salins’ vision is that cooperation among the libraries is only a piece of growing collaboration and cooperation among the state’s public and private colleges and universities,” said Lynch.
Provost Salins noted the critical nature of Nylink’s leadership in this effort. “Nylink is the key to the new initiative. It is an entity that can provide the needed infrastructure for all the state’s academic libraries.” Lynch said that Nylink already provides contracting, billing, user and infrastructure support to libraries statewide. She said the new initiative, at least initially, will need these Nylink services.
“The initiative will bring together the academic library community in new ways to provide a forum for communication,” Lynch said. “For example, virtual reference services and digitization are major issues. The perfect solutions in these areas have not yet surfaced. The new initiative will bring New York’s academic libraries together and put New York libraries in the forefront of library development and resource support.” The new initiative also will provide comprehensive, well-developed collections for the greater research community, and coordinate the preservation of print collections and the archiving of electronic collections for the state’s academic libraries.
The co-convenors of the NYSHEI Interim Governing Board are Assistant Provost Hatch and Loretta Ebert, Director of Research Libraries at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who is also Chair of Nylink Council. Members of the Interim Governing Board elected to date include representatives from: the University at Albany; Monroe Community College; CUNY administration; Hunter College, CUNY; New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Hofstra; Manhattanville College; LeMoyne College; and Nyack College. Mary-Alice Lynch will serve as an ex-officio non-voting member along with State Librarian Janet Welch.
“This effort is a dynamic statement about the proactive spirit of our libraries and about the potential that comes with true collaboration,” said Provost Salins.
Nylink has provided libraries in New York State and beyond with technology assistance and other collaborative services for over 25 years. Administered through the Office of the Provost, within the University-wide Academic Programs area, Nylink is a concrete example of the role that the State University plays in furthering education throughout the state.
Created in 1973 as the SUNY/OCLC Network to support the use of OCLC cataloguing and interlibrary loan services for a small group of academic libraries [OCLC, the Online Computer Library Center, is the backbone for global library support services for 41,000 libraries in 82 countries], the name of the organization was changed to Nylink three years ago. The name change reflects how Nylink’s membership has grown to include all types of libraries in New York.
“As libraries and OCLC have evolved, so too has Nylink,” said Executive Director Mary-Alice Lynch. “The scope of our services has increased from limited training and support on the OCLC system, to training, support and consulting on the myriad of OCLC options and other library technology issues, consortial purchasing arrangements for electronic information and technology and advocacy on behalf of our members.”
A not-for-profit membership organization, Nylink is composed of 370 member institutions representing more than 700 academic, special, government,
law, public school and non-profit libraries and library systems. The largest bloc of members is drawn from private higher education; SUNY institutions
comprise 14% of Nylink’s constituency. Other members include all City University libraries and large public library systems, such as New York,
Brooklyn, Queens, Rochester and Buffalo, medical and special libraries, and school, and multi-type library systems.
As the OCLC regional service provider for New York State, Nylink helps individual libraries and library groups acquire and use OCLC’s databases and electronic collections. Nylink administers a contract with OCLC through the State University and provides OCLC training, user support, advocacy and billing for Nylink members. More than 100 New York State OCLC participants saved nearly $450,000 on electronic subscription packages in 2001 because of Nylink’s efforts.
Nylink also negotiates cooperative purchasing contracts between member libraries and other electronic content providers and library technology companies. In addition to cost-savings, libraries benefit from consolidated access to electronic resources as well as centralized billing and user support. For example, Nylink entered into an agreement with netLibrary in early 2000 to provide a mechanism for member libraries to introduce electronic books into their collections. A 5,000 e-book collection was purchased and shared among participants; these books have been used more than 31,000 times in the first year.
“There are many electronic providers,” Lynch said. “We work for the libraries both within and outside of SUNY.”
Nylink provides fundamental user support and training for member libraries in information technology and reference services. There are 12 trainers and seven training sites: Albany, Buffalo, Highland, Long Island, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse. Onsite training is also done at large member libraries. Nylink staffs a toll-free telephone number for user support.
Nylink taught 104 classes in 2000/2001. Eighty-six percent of the topic areas focused on OCLC services; the remaining classes dealt with technology, the Internet and web page development. And Nylink is a vehicle for collaboration among member institutions.
“Nylink pulls libraries together,” Lynch said. “Libraries share expertise. They test new products, for example the virtual reference service of Library of Congress and OCLC. Members meet with the developers of these products.”
Named Nylink Executive Director six years ago, Lynch previously was director of learning resources at Adirondack Community College for five years. Before that, she served nine years as head of technical services and systems at Schenectady County Community College. A librarian for over 30 years in public and academic settings, she earned an M.L.S. from the University at Albany and a B.A. from Syracuse University in English and political science.
As a membership-based organization, Nylink relies on advisory units to provide input about programs and services, to stay in touch with members’ needs and to set Nylink’s direction. Elected representatives on Nylink Council reflect all types of member libraries and voice the interests and concerns of members regarding long-range planning and initiatives.
“In 2001, Nylink formulated a strategic role in a statewide academic library coalition, collaborated in national partnerships and contributed leadership to the on-going evolution of a new OCLC vision and mission,” said Loretta Ebert, Chair of Nylink Council, Director of Rensselaer Research Libraries at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. “All of these have brought enhancements to the entire library community constituting the Nylink membership.”
“The next 25 years and beyond will continue to be ever-evolving and changing,” Lynch said. “Choices in electronic information, technology and management systems will proliferate. OCLC will continue to enhance and improve its services. And Nylink will continue to strive to provide the best possible technology support and services to its members.”
Implementation Expands to 23 Campuses
The new Library Management System that is a core component of the SUNYConnect library initiative, ALEPH 500, is either in operation or being introduced at 23 State University campuses this year. SUNYConnect, the University’s electronically integrated library initiative, is a long-term effort designed to integrate the newest technology-based library and information systems with its more traditional library resources.
Binghamton University, University at Stony Brook, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Fredonia, Tompkins Cortland Community College, and SUNY Morrisville are already operational with the new common Library Management System using Ex Libris’ Aleph 500 software. Six more campuses are scheduled to be operational this summer: SUNY Cortland, Health Science Center at Syracuse, and Broome, Cayuga, Herkimer and Onondaga community colleges. At the same time, eleven additional campuses will begin the installation process.
The transition to the new system is a time intensive process that varies by campus depending on library size and the functionality of each campus operating platform,” said Carey Hatch, Assistant Provost for Library and Information Services. “The implementation schedule began in 2001 and is expected to run through 2004.”
Hatch added that the most visible component of the ALEPH 500 Library Management System is the electronic card catalog. This union catalog of library materials allows searches of all State University library collections, totaling over 18 million volumes.
Other features of SUNYConnect include: a common circulation system enabling user-initiated circulation of library material across the system; a World Wide Web gateway integrating access to essential library resources; equal availability of essential library resources to distance learning and other SUNY students, regardless of program or location; and a comprehensive collection of full-text, full-image and multimedia digital publications and services. Building on the contract signed with Elsevier Publications Science Direct in May 2001—providing all SUNY students with access to 820 electronic journals—the University has purchased electronic medical books, now available to all SUNY campuses. And the Expanded Academic ASAP product has been upgraded to the InfoTrac OneFile. OneFile allows users to search in the broader categories of humanities, education, business, science, current events, art, politics, economics, and more.