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Library initiates project to unify book catalogs for entire 'shelf-list'

Freshmen and sophomores who will be working on their independent work in two years will benefit from a unified library catalog, a project that began March 9.

"This is something that had to be done to bring the library into the 20th century and eventually into the 21st," Provost Jeremiah Ostriker said.

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The library card catalog is currently divided into two systems: post-1980 titles in the Online Catalog and pre-1980 titles in the card catalog, which have been scanned into bitmap images. The Retrospective Conversion Project, or ReCon, will allow students to use one system for all their research queries.

The University has titles that go back as far as the 1870s, according to Rick Schulz, administrative director of ReCon. About 1.5 million titles are being mailed to OCLC, a nonprofit member organization that provides online services to libraries. The merger of the two systems will be completed by the first quarter of 2000.

Schulz added that current titles with brief descriptions will be given more detailed descriptions, based upon the OCLC database, allowing researchers to find relevant material more easily.

The OCLC has one of the largest library databases in the U.S. with over 36 million titles, which allows the organization to produce detailed records for most University titles.

Funding

ReCon will cost $4 million, but the funds will not come from the University operating budget, Ostriker said. Instead, the University will use funds from successful campaign efforts such as annual giving.

Funding the project is a "onetime only, capital effort" that should necessitate "negative maintenance, which will reduce annual cost," Ostriker said. He added that the project will reduce equipment and result in greater efficiency. Since the card catalog will be merged with the Online Catalog, there will be no need to maintain the bitmap images or the actual cards.

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The University began this project now for a few reasons, Ostriker said. First, 80 percent of all University titles already exist in electronic form, and that number is not increasing at a significant rate, he said. Second, labor costs are currently rising.

"We were delighted that the success of annual giving and the campaign enabled us to do this important service for the library, which is essential and long overdue," Ostriker said.

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