Library Computerization Is Now `Full Steam Ahead,' to End in 1997

A computerization project that will bring the University library system's entire catalog of 12.2 million volumes into the HOLLIS network within five years is now underway, library officials said yesterday.

The University has contracted Online Computer Library Center Inc. (OCLC), an Ohio-based national library database network, to computerize the card catalog, said Larsen Librarian of Harvard College Richard De Gennaro.

"You can't overestimate the importance of this project, not only for Harvard but for the scholarly community outside Harvard," he said.

The project, announced last spring, is now going full steam ahead. The library system has been sending shipments of records to OCLC "in steady streams" since October, De Gennaro said.

"Many of the smaller libraries will be converted long before the five years are up," he said.


Some of the cards in the catalog date as far back as Abraham Lincoln's presidency, and De Gennaro said that most patrons tend to bypass the yellowing records and go straight to HOLLIS.

"If you go up on the second floor of Widener, you see almost no one using the card catalog," said Kenneth E. Carpenter, assistant library director. "And if you do, it's usually someone with gray hair...young people don't use the cards."

The library system has been computerizing the records of its acquisitions since 1976 on HOLLIS, De Gennaro said.

"I'm utterly convinced that you can't run alibrary in the modern age with half the cataloginformation on cards and half in machine-readableform," he said.

"[With the conversion], we can manage thecollection more efficiently and make it much moreaccessible," he said.

The conversion will increase the use of thelibrary system's older materials, Carpenter said.

"Without this project we would be cuttingourselves off from the past," he said.

The project may turn up even more volumes toadd to the University's collection, De Gennarosaid.

"There may be as many as 900,000 new recordsgoing into the database for the first time," hesaid.

The computerization would also makepreservation work and inventory much easier andless expensive, among other "management andintellectual benefits," Carpenter said.

"This makes possible more intensive and broaderaccess beyond the libraries themselves," he said.

De Gennaro said funding concerns were a majorreason the project has not been attempted before.

The University's central administration isfunding roughly half of the project, he said, andthe various faculties will try to raise the rest.

"For now, we're borrowing our half of themoney," he said.

"We've done the planning, we've signed it's just a matter of doing whatwe've decided to do," De Gennaro said.

"I have no difficulty in anticipating that thiswill go to a successful conclusion.