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The CIC virtual electronic library project

Bonnie McEwan
Collections Officer
Pennsylvania State University Libraries, U.S.A.

(SLIDE 1 , SLIDE 2, SLIDE 3, SLIDE 4) The CIC is the Committee on Institutional Cooperation. (SLIDE 5 )It's a 35 year old consortium which unites the University of Chicago,the University Of Illinois,the University of Illinois at Chicago, Indiana University,the University of Iowa, the University o Michigan, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, Ohio State University, Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Some of you may recognize that this group of institutions is essentially the Big Ten athletic conferences.

But these universities are more than a collection of very good athletic teams. Collectively the CIC universities account for more than 17% of the PHDs awarded annually in the United States, approximately 20% of all science and engineering PHDs, in excess of $2.5 billion in externally funded research annually and over 17% of the total holdings of the Association of Research Libraries. (SLIDE 6) The Libraries include thirteen ARL members; hold more than 60 million volumes; maintain more than 5550,000 serial subscriptions; expend $238 million - $75 million of which is dedicated to acquisition of new material.

The CIC has a long and rich history of collaboration, but our collaborative efforts may yet realize their greatest potential in the area of networked information. This is not surprising, nor is it a new concept. In fact, the 1963-64 report from the CIC libraries directors tells us that they

"...are discussing possible ways to coordinate the development of automated procedures at individual institutions in order to overcome costly duplication and facilitate new patterns of cooperation in the use of library materials."

I am happy to report that after 34 years we are ready to make some progress in this area!

(SLIDE 7) This worked is guided by the three founding principles of the CIC:

  • That no single institution can or should attempt to be all things to all people;
  • That inter-institutional cooperation permits education experimentation and progress on a scale beyond the capability of any single institution acting alone, and;
  • That voluntary cooperation fosters effective, concerted action while preserving institutional autonomy and diversity.

In 1992 the Presidents and Provosts of the CIC Universities called upon the Library Directors to develop a unified approach to address the many pressures our university libraries were facing. These pressures arose from a variety of sources, but generally manifested themselves in budget crises. These crises were often brought on by the need to invest (and continually re-invest) in a network infrastructure capable of meeting the demand for the delivery of digital information and the fact that our acquisitions budgets could not keep pace with either the rate of publication or the rate of inflation. One of the pressing issues is, of course, the phenomenal growth of publication in the sciences. Most branches of science show an exponential growth of about 4-8% annually, with a doubling period of 10 to 15 years. As an illustration of this trend, chemical abstracts took 31 years (1907 to 1937) to publish its first one million abstracts; the second million took 18 years; the most recent million took only 1.75 years. Thus, more articles on chemistry have been published in the past two years than throughout history before 1900.

In response to this call for action, the library directors worked together on the development of a strategic plan that has been endorsed by the Presidents and Provosts. The essence of the plan is captured in the mission statement:

(SLIDE 8) "by the beginnings of the twenty-first century, the CIC libraries will have a cohesive consortial organization guided by a vision of the information resources in the CIC as a seamless whole, whether those resources are developed or owned individually or collectively."

What this implies is the development of one super research library without barriers.

In order to meet this bold vision, the collaborative work of the CIC libraries falls into three general categories:


  • Collaborative management of and access to traditional collections
  • Collaborative management of and access to electronic information resources
  • Collaborative management of entirely new kinds of digital information systems

The Centerpiece of our collaborative library activities is the Virtual Electronic Library (VEL). The goals of the CIC VEL is to allow any faculty, staff or student of the CIC universities to request a book, download a graphic, listen to a sound recording, view a video, or print a full text file right at their desktop. Having said that, I suppose some of you may be thinking, well, we have that now and it's called the World Wide Web. But, what we are working towards is the kind of structured access to information that is provided in a traditional library catalog, providing access to a coherent body of managed, authoritative information resources. In this library, there are no barriers of closed stacks or materials held in another building to which you don't have access; or items that are available only on a specific machine that can't be accessed on the network. This library presents no barriers of time, geography, or space.

(SLIDE 10)

Such a system must connect disparate types of automated library information systems including legacy mainframe library catalogs' circulation systems; discrete collections of digital information and it must them be able to deliver the information across (and between) our campus networks to the users desktop. Further , the system must have a navigation tool that allows the user to query, browse, download, request information, and interact with information professionals. This all must be accomplished in an environment secure enough to satisfy a wide diversity of vendors and 13 different computing security officers!

(SLIDE 11)

Following a mammoth two-year effort, we can report consideration progress toward achieving this goal. We have successfully linked the 12 disparate online library systems through z39.50 protocols and eleven libraries have the VEL available for their users. This means that the students and faculty have access to 60 million books, 550,000 serials, and countless databases and digital systems owned of licensed collectively by the CIC libraries.

(SLIDE 12)

The platform for the VEL is OCLC WebZ software. WebZ servers at each of the CIC campuses provide an interface to a range of databases - primarily the various CIC OPACs. An interesting and important feature of the VEL is that each library customizes the interface to work best with its local Web site. That is, the VEL is often listed as one of many digital resources available from any CIC library Web page. The VEL is not a separate and monolithic system. This allows a great degree of flexibility in presenting the VEL to users. However, it also means that the VEL is presented differently on each campus.

(SLIDE 13)

Using a standard Web browser, the user points to the local WebZ server (generally through the local library's Web sites and can conduct a search of any or all CIC catalogs with a single command. Library users are able to connect seamlessly to bibliographic and circulation information from the local catalogs, locally mounted resource files and remote databases. (SLIDE 14) Once an item is located, the same interface allows WebZ-to-OCLC link known as OCLC ILL Direct Request. (SLIDE 15 & 16)

Because the Phase I implementation is dependent upon Z39.50 protocols, the CIC libraries have devoted a great deal of attention to the issues around this standard and its application in a linked systems project such as ours. The CIC Library Automation Directors recently authored a white paper outlining some of our major concerns and this document is available at (SLIDE 17) We have, also, recently hired a consultant to further investigate those issues. His report will be available, when ready, from the same site.

(SLIDE 18)

Phase II development of the VEL - providing a complete management system for CIC interlibrary lending and document requests is under way. Guided by a team composed of CIC members and key OCLC development staff, we are in the process of defining and developing a "peer-to-peer" interlibrary loan and document request system. (SLIDE 19) The system will be client/server based, with a management server handling all of the incoming and outgoing interlibrary loan and document requests for each CIC universities. The server will interact with circulation systems, document suppliers and bibliographic utilities, and will be built based upon standard protocols for such data exchange.

I would like to spend just a little time talking about some of the work the CIC libraries related to the VEL. (SLIDE 20) We have achieved major success in the area of jointly negotiated contracts for licensed electronic resources. We currently have contracts in place for 24 resources. We have achieved savings of over $2 million dollars with cost avoidance close to that amount. We have worked hard to influence and shape the marketplace for pricing, access, features, and contractual language for these resources. A copy of our guidelines for the purchase of these resources can be found at our web site. We are currently drafting a similar document that will guide our licensing of electronic journals.

(SLIDE 21)

Other collaborative collection management projects include:

The Healthweb project is a very successful effort to select and organize the resources on the web in health-related disciplines. It is organized by the Health Sciences Librarians. They have divided up the universe of information and taken responsibility for selecting the resources, designing the pages and maintaining them.

Similarly the music librarians have organized themselves to design a web page, recommend electronic products to be purchased consortially and worked to influence the future of scholarly communication in their discipline by working with vendors and contributing to digital projects.

There are literally dozens of subject groups working together on similar efforts. Two Southeast Asia Collections are experimenting with a shared bibliographer.The cataloging librarians are another group that meets regularly. They are working on collaborative cataloging projects and sharing information and expertise as we all move into the new world of cataloging electronic resources.

(SLIDE 22)

As we work to build digital collections we have task forces addressing issues around security, interface and access tools, content, archiving (including the preservation and refreshing of data), and copyright, licensing and intellectual property. Two years ago there was a major meeting to discuss copyright issues and a Task Force has been working through the issues identified by that group since then. We are currently working with EB to digitize the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannic. The goal is to provide a product needed by our users, preserve a valuable resource currently crumbling in all of our libraries and create a testbed for addressing all of these issues. Additionally we will experiment with using commercial digitizing services in combination with jointly digitizing a product at several different locations. The challenge will be to put the product back together as a single coherent whole at the end of the project.

(SLIDE 23)

What's next for the CIC? We will continue the projects currently underway. The VEL will continue to grow and develop and the various projects will come together to become part of the VEL. We will turn more of our attention to issues related to scholarly communication. Identify partners outside the CIC - including CNI and the DLF - and explore opportunities to work with corporate sponsors in ways similar to our project with EB.

We are beginning to explore licensing and contract issues with large electronic journal publishers.

There is much work to be done and we believe it makes sense to work on these issues together in the CIC. Check our web page to learn more about these projects and to keep track of our progress and activities in the future.

What's next

Issues related to scholarly communication

Continuing to identify partners outside the CIC (CNI, DLF, corporate sponsors, etc....)

Licensing and contracts with large e-journal publishers

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