From now on, students won't need to lug heavy books from Lamont Library to the Quad--they can take the information home on a five-inch, iridescent disc.
Lamont is the first Harvard library to permit students to check out CD-ROMs, compact discs holding information accessible by computer. Though the CDs have been available since August, the library has just begun to publicize it, according to Amy M. Kautman, Lamont's head reference librarian.
Lamont's current collection of CD-ROMs consists of 12 titles in both Macintosh and IBM format, including Smithsonian's America, Microsoft Art: The National Gallery, and Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time.
"We're faced with the realization that multimedia is here. The singular CD-ROMs that are out are no longer an electronic version of a book," Kautman said.
Patrons will be able to borrow CDs from Lamont for two weeks with unlimited in-hand renewal. Because the collection is so small, however, only two CDs may be checked out at a time.
Borrowers must also sign a form concerning copyright and liability issues.
But the most serious problem facing the new system is that the library does not have computers with CD-ROM drives available for use, so students must have their own access to a CD-ROM drive.
"On the same token, we check out videos, but we don't provide VCRs," Kautman said. "It's not a great solution, but right now, [computers with CD-ROM drives are] not within the funding."
Harvard librarians do, however, plan to set up a CD-ROM Local Access Network (LAN) system at Widener. This LAN system will allow patrons to access selected data tapes and CD-ROMs from all HOLLIS Plus terminals. Kautman said the system will probably be operational in a few months.
Students had mixed reactions to the circulation of CD-ROMs.
"Personally, I've used [CD-ROMs] a lot," said Margaret L. Roberts '96. "I thin it's really good for people looking for very specialized topics. They are very helpful."
But other students were not as enthusiastic. Julie Zikherman '96 said she was not convinced of the practicality of the CDs. If CDs become popular in the future, they will be used, she said, but "certainly not at the present moment. I can't see many people making use of [them]."
The idea for CD-ROM circulation was proposed by Widener librarian Edward P. Tallent at the end of the last school year.
According to Kautman, nine more, titles have been ordered, and the library has created a fund specifically aimed at purchasing more CDs Librarians may also use current book funds to supplement Lamont's collection