Brown University is among a handful of leading institutions that in the 1970’s made a conscious decision to help shape the future use of computing and telecommunications technology through the delivery of information directly to the end user. In 1981, Brown installed a campus-wide broadband network in an academic environment. This leadership tradition was continued in the 1980’s through the widely publicized work on the Network of Scholar’s Workstation Project, the implementation of the Brown University Library Online Catalog (Josiah), and the work done in conjunction with commercial vendors to network CD ROM and other information resources to the campus community. Brown has a network infrastructure in which all academic buildings and dormitories on the core campus have been connected via fiber optic cable, providing access to networked information resources from every desktop in residential halls, administrative, and academic offices.
Participation in the CNI “Assessing the Academic Networked Environment” project would enable the Brown University Library and Computing & Information Services to develop longitudinal measures of performance on the delivery of services which could be used to assist us in understanding how well we are meeting our objectives and how we can better meet the needs of our users in a highly networked and decentralized environment. We are particularly interested in participating in the areas where efforts have been made in the past or in areas where we need better and more consistent assessment.
As part of the project, the Brown University Library would like to develop measures of the use from the network of the Brown online public access catalog and other networked library information resources. These networked services include CD ROM databases available through a SilverPlatter ERL server (Bio Abstracts, EconLit, ERIC, GeoRef, Medline Express, MLA Bibliography, PAIS, Popline, PsycLit, and Sociofile); commercial services available through Brown’s web, such as the Britannica Online, EBSCO Academic Search, Engineering Information Village, MathSciNet, JSTOR, and OCLC FirstSearch databases (WorldCat, Books In Print, General Science Abstracts, Humanities Abstracts, Medline, Newspaper Abstracts, Periodical Abstracts, Readers Guide Abstracts, Social Science Abstracts); and databases mounted locally such as the Oxford English Dictionary. The usage patterns of these networked services have not been systematically analyzed or compared. Some historical data is available, particularly on use of the online catalog and the ERL databases. These measures will assist our user services, collection development, and systems staff in identifying current usage patterns and needs, and in focussing on areas where further efforts are warranted.
CIS would like to develop measures of network and support services, including the help desk, network repair and service, classroom and public clusters, and network training. Some data for assessment in these areas is available in existing databases; in other areas we are implementing systems that would allow us to develop more consistent assessments. For example, records have been maintained for network training for several years, and a recently implemented help desk problem-tracking system promises to provide ongoing information that can be used to analyze and improve network and consulting services.
The specific areas of assessment that Brown is interested in participating in are:
- Network traffic
- Network services
- Online catalog and other electronic information resources
- Web usage
- Support services
- Help desk
- Network repair and services (and would like to expand on the measures suggested)
- Availability of networked resources
- Network training
Although we may eventually be interested in assessing network support staff, network documentation, and the areas listed under USE, COSTS, and USERS, these areas hold much less immediate interest for us.
Brown offers no Distance Learning and so would not be able to participate in that portion of the assessment.
Both Computing & Information Services and the Library have collected data on usage, but the data has not been systematically analyzed. Systems and databases in place or now being implemented would enable us to collect data and develop more rigorous and consistent means of assessing services. The Library has some historical data on usage of the online catalog and the cd rom databases and has also conducted user surveys of faculty, student, and staff use of the libraries.
Florence Kell Doksansky
Since 1983, Florence Kell Doksansky, Associate University Librarian for Public Services and Collection Development, has been senior administrator for all library public service operations which includes reference, shared resources, ILL/ document delivery, circulation, course reserves, medical library services, Art Slide Library, Demography Library, and University Media Services. In the mid 1980’s, Ms. Doksansky served as chair of one of the first ARL Public Services Self Study which surveyed users, analyzed results, and implemented recommendations to improve library services. A follow up survey was taken of the entire user population in 1989, and several focused surveys have been completed since that time.
Howard Pasternack is Library Systems Officer for the Brown University Library. He and his staff are responsible for supporting and maintaining the technical infrastructure, including the online catalog, the networked CD ROM resources, and the public and staff computing workstations in the libraries. He has been head of library systems at Brown since 1983. Mr. Pasternack has an M.B.A. in management science from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago and an M.A. from the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago.
Mary E. McClure
Mary E. McClure is Director of Academic and User Services for Brown University’s Computing & Information Services (CIS) . Academic and User Services is responsible for basic support services such as training, documentation, and the help desk; applications software licensing and distribution; instructional computing facilities (public clusters and some of Brown’s electronic classrooms) and faculty support for instructional computing; departmental planning and consulting; and Brown University’s Web service. She has been with CIS since 1984 and has managed various aspects of user services since 1989.
Richard M. Kogut
Richard M. Kogut is Director of Systems and Operations for Brown University’s Computing & Information Services (CIS) . Systems and Operations is responsible for planning, implementing, operating, and providing technical support for the systems and networks used to run the major administrative applications, electronic mail and other general information services, and to support student computing and academic research. He has been with CIS since 1987.