UC Officials Consider New Software for Library System

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UC officials said yesterday they are exploring the possibility of replacing MELVYL - the system that links the libraries of all nine UC campuses - with a commercial vendor's library software.

Features of a commercial library system could include a combined catalog and periodical database, said Bernie Huley, UC Berkeley's director for library technologies. He added a new system could also perform searches in Chinese and other non-romance languages.

"I don't want to give the impression that the MELVYL system is collapsing," Huley said. "It's just getting too old and this seems to be the appropriate time to ask those questions."

The university must consider the long-term need to provide a dependable and efficient library research system for future students and faculty, Huley added.

A UC Berkeley committee of librarians at each UC campus is gathering input to assess the level of satisfaction with the features of the MELVYL system.

Ann Jensen, a member of the committee, said library patrons hope the university will use caution before replacing the system.

"They're hesitant that MELVYL will go away because they are pleased with how good it works," she said. "(A new system) is an exciting possibility, but I'm not ready to jump into the boat."

Officials will use feedback from students and faculty to determine what features of MELVYL to upgrade or maintain, said Huley, who also serves as the chair of the UC Berkeley committee of librarians.

The California Digital Library, which is hosting the project, is working with all of the UC system libraries to explain what the possibilities are for replacing the underlying technology of the MELVYL system and identifying what features are important, said John Ober, director of education and applied research at the library.

After considering proposals, employees of the California Digital Library will decide whether to replace the MELVYL system's software or continue to maintain it, Ober said.

Leaders of the project will request proposals from commercial vendors of library software systems, specifying the desired new features after processing the input of the nine UC campuses.

Officials said they do not know the cost of a commercial library system and are unsure when the new library software system might be in place should they decide to purchase it.

Although not everyone at UC Berkeley is familiar with the project, many said they are willing to try a new system, especially if it is more efficient.

Susan Rasky, an acting associate professor at the journalism school, said she would be "delighted" to learn an improved library system.

Others downplayed the importance of a change. One student said a new library system would not drastically affect him because he does "old-style" research.

"I like when people physically look to get materials affiliated with their field," said Jose Palafox, an ethnic studies graduate student.

He added that he does not accept papers from students unless they perform research outside the MELVYL system and the Internet.


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