Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

For Some People, It's Becoming Increasingly Difficult to Tell Where Traditional Libraries Stop and Traditional Computing Services Begin*


As new technology becomes increasingly familiar in higher education, the line that used to separate libraries and computing services has widened into a broad area of overlap. Librarians use new technologies to better their support of scholarly research and curriculum development. Technologists are increasingly busy creating, categorizing, and distributing digital content, in order to support similar goals.

The overlap is especially broad and productive at Dartmouth, where both the Library and Computing Services have collaborated on the deployment of new technologies to support their common mission of supporting students and faculty. For example, the Dartmouth College Information System, a joint venture of the Library and Computing Services, is intended to enable easy access to a vast repository of information on the computer network. The pace of convergence is likely to quicken in coming years. The design of the new Berry Library brings together librarians and technologists to an unprecedented degree, in order to create a uniquely valuable resource at the geographic and intellectual center of the College.

'People ask why we need a new library at all, when everything will eventually be electronic,' Librarian of the College Margaret Otto said. 'But that simply is not going to happen right away. We need to allow for both streams, the traditional and the technologically supported. One is not more important than the other. But combining them makes a great deal of sense.' 'Berry/Baker will remain a humanities, social-science driven library, but it will also be an information center for the entire campus,' Director of Computing Larry Levine said. 'The new library is being driven by advances in technology, which allows people to both generate and access tremendous quantities of information.'


Given the similar histories and attitudes of the Library and Computing Services, talk of combined services does make sense. Both organizations have seen immense changes in technology during the past thirty years, yet each has been heading toward the common goal of providing excellent support to faculty and students. The design of their respective buildings, however, did not always reflect that dedication to people. Early computing devices required strict climate controls and attendance by trained experts. Thus, the design of the Kiewit Computation Center, which opened in 1966, placed the machines in a glass-enclosed core, surrounded by the offices of researchers and administrators. General users were relegated to one of the teletype-style workstations clustered away from the core. However, Dartmouth mathematicians John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz saw the earliest computers as teaching tools that could be used to develop critical reasoning skills, and to teach math and statistics. It was their focus on extending the use of computers into areas that were considered radical at the time, such as undergraduate education and administrative support, that sparked a commitment that continues to this day.

With the seeds of user empowerment in place, the change to a distributed, networked desktop environment turned the notion of a machine-centric computing model on its ear. When the campus data network was installed in 1984 and Apple computers were offered at a discount to students, more than 70 percent purchased one. By 1991, personal computers were considered so integral to academic life at Dartmouth that the faculty required all incoming students to purchase one.

'During the mid-80s, computing took a leap from the few, the nerds and the wizards, to a common tool used by everyone,' Levine said. 'And we're still taking that leap, with the Internet, the Web, and e-mail.' As a result, the focus in Computing Services changed from machines to user services-answering questions, teaching people how to use these new tools to best advantage. The change is perhaps best reflected in the architecture of Kiewit: First constructed with a large Machine Room and an empty basement, staff offices now cram the basement. New offices continue to be carved out of space in the Machine Room, as those machines continue to shrink.

A similar shift has been taking place in libraries, where the acquisition and maintenance of collections was the historical point of emphasis. Like Kiewit and its special Machine Room, libraries were built primarily to house their collections, with staff and users as secondary priorities, said Geoffrey Freeman of Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott of Boston, the principal architect charged with designing Berry Library's interior spaces. Over the years, the focus began to change. Users, and user support, became increasingly important. The size of the collection mattered, but so did helping faculty and students make the best use of it. But user services have grown in scale and focus beyond what the original Baker designers had anticipated. For example, the reference office on the first floor was originally created for a single librarian; building floors and stairs into rooms with high ceilings has created additional administrative office space.

The mushrooming of Computing Services as an organization during the past thirty years parallels the infiltration of technology into many aspects of academic life, including Dartmouth's libraries. A timeline of Dartmouth's computing history notes the formation in 1963 of a 'Committee on the Implications of Modern Electronic Data Processing Equipment for the Dartmouth College Libraries.' Director of Library User Services Phyllis Jaynes can recall the use of electronic information systems at Dartmouth when she first arrived here in the early 1970s.

The collaborations have grown during the years, including the creation in 1988 of the Dartmouth College Information System group and the cessation in 1991 of maintenance on paper-based card catalogs, in favor of the DCIS Online Library system. That has made the Library's offerings much richer, but also more complicated, she said. Some had predicted that electronic tools would reduce demand for library services, but the exact opposite is happening, Jaynes said. 'People can get started on their own, but then we're consulted at a more advanced, more difficult point in the search.'

Similarly, Computing Services' focus has been not only in developing new technologies, but also in making them more accessible for users, Levine said. The Information Systems team developed applications to allow for the on-line viewing of the Library's card catalog system, as well as a wide range of information resources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, scholarly journals, and more. 'The library is on your screen,' Levine said. So it was only natural that when plans were floated for a new library, technology needs would emerge as a primary concern.


Combining various information resources in one central location also made sense to members of the Task Force on the Library of the 21st Century, appointed by President James O. Freedman in October 1993. He asked the committee 'to think creatively about Dartmouth's library facilities of the future, particularly with regard to information technology, and to make recommendations about the design and function of the new Berry Library.'

With the new technology in mind, the Task Force started building its recommendations from scratch. 'We decided early on that we had to build the (library) program from the bottom up,' said committee chairman William C. Scott, Humanities Distinguished Research Professor and Dartmouth Professor of Classics. 'We had to decide what we wanted in the new library.' The group's members hailed from all corners of the College-students, faculty, and staff, and from every school, including the professional schools- 'as broad a group as it could be,' Scott said. The intent was to bring a wide range of viewpoints into the planning process, especially those of faculty and students. The result would hopefully be a library plan that could be claimed by everyone in the community, developed by a representative group that could give the plans a broad, institution-wide endorsement. The plan that emerged was pervaded by recognition that new information technologies had a large role to play in the library of the next century. The final report, released in May 1995, contained the basic design goals that have guided the project to this day. Among the highlights:

  • Berry Library should be integrated with a renovated Baker Library, 'to serve as a crossroads of the campus.'
  • Berry Library should have space 'for user education in a range of print and electronic information formats.'
  • Berry Library's design 'must allow for and enable the expansion of cooperation between the Library staff and the Computing Services staff.'
  • Space in both Baker and Berry 'must be designed with maximum flexibility in order to permit easy adjustment to emerging technology as well as changes in staff organization.'
  • 'Resources for information technology should be spread throughout the building and made available to all users.'

The baton was then passed from the Task Force to the Library Building Committee, chaired by John Crane, the Library's Director of Administrative Services, and composed of many Task Force veterans, including staff from the Library and Computing Services. That group was charged with translating the programmatic vision of Berry Library into concrete plans. Design work on the project commenced in January 1996, and proceeded in a number of discrete phases, Crane said. The object was to nail down approvals and consensus at several points in order that problems identified late in the process did not threaten the progress made to that point.

The first step was program development, to take the project as outlined in the Task Force report and translate it into a series of functional spaces. That concluded in October 1996 with the creation of a document that listed all program elements for the combined Berry/Baker project and their rough space requirements. That document, called 'A Building Program for the Berry and Baker Libraries,' included ideal space requirements for a range of library elements and services shoehorned into Baker-acquisitions services, circulation and reference staff, new stack space, and preservation services. It also included space for the Academic Computing division of Computing Services, currently based in Kiewit, and the offices of the Information Systems group, currently located in both Kiewit and Baker. It did not assign specific locations to any element.

Next came the site accommodation phase. Now that the architects had an idea of what was required of the new structure, in terms of space and function, it was time to examine building sites to see how Berry might fit with Baker, and with the rest of the campus. During that phase, which concluded in January 1997, the footprint of Berry Library was placed on the maps to the north of Baker to form the anchor for the new Berry Row, extending northward to the new psychology building now under construction near Maynard Street. However, that ideal footprint overlapped the Kiewit building and would require the eventual removal not only of Kiewit, but also of Bradley and Gerry as well.

That triggered urgent discussion about where to locate the services contained in Kiewit, if Kiewit were to be demolished. These services included the data network headends, the central Machine Room, the staff of Technical Services, and the Computing Services headquarters and administrative support staff, along with student services such as the print window. That is where the value of the Task Force report and a segmented approach to managing the project became evident, Crane said. Within the priorities described by the original report, it was possible to reach an agreement on what elements of Computing Services would be included in the building program without derailing all of the work that had been done up to that point.

'That was a nerve-wracking time,' Associate Provost Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain said. 'The potential removal of the Kiewit building changed a whole set of assumptions about computing. Our Berry plans all worked when Kiewit was next door. Now what?'

The building program, then, was changed in February to include space for Technical Services and the network headends, Computing Services headquarters and User Communications, as well as the cable television network headend and the media production division of Instructional Services. Adjacencies were key in each case: Video and data network operations could share space at a central location; Computing Services administrative and editorial offices could be closer to the heart of the emerging information center; and media production would be better positioned to collaborate with Academic Computing on digital content projects.

The schematic design phase came next. In concert with the architects from Shepley Bulfinch, a series of working groups, consisting primarily of line staff from the Library and Computing Services, started arranging different program elements inside both the existing sections of Baker (to be renovated as part of the project) and the new Berry space.

The object in this phase was to arrange the known elements within the known footprint so that the functional adjacencies described in the Task Force report could be fully realized. As that aspect came into focus, Crane said it became also easier to anticipate how users would experience the Library as a whole.

The idea of functional adjacencies, specifically the adjacency of those groups from the Library and Computing Services most concerned with direct support of students and faculty, is best exemplified by the current set of plans for Berry Library's Level One. Level One takes the idea of user support to a new point in the continuum that has the glass house at its opposite end. Students and faculty come to a library or computing center to find information, help in finding information, or help in creating and presenting information. But getting the needed services required the development of some expert knowledge, particularly with knowing where needed services are located on campus.

If someone needs sources for a research project, the solution might lie in Baker or another library on campus for the books, in which case the user may need to be facile with Online Library or DCIS Navigator. Multimedia resources might be located in North Fairbanks Hall, or somewhere on the computer networks. Staff resources exist for helping users digest that information. Reference librarians might help faculty assemble printed or electronic materials. Instructional Services might help students and faculty with video and classroom support. Curricular Computing might help with programming for the Web. And the Consulting Group might provide students with access to scanners and other specialized equipment.

All those resources are currently scattered in several buildings across the campus. Berry Library pulls it all together in one central resource at the center of the College. If the information is not stored, retrieved, or manipulated in Berry, someone can tell you where to go to get the expert help you need. The resources may vary depending on whether you are faculty or a student, but the idea is the same: If you need information or help in working with it once you have found it, Berry Library's Level One is the place to start. The focus of Level One will be the central information desks, where queries can be referred to one of several locations: The computing Help Desk, the reference librarians, or the faculty computing center.

The faculty center will be staffed by the two units of Academic Computing devoted to faculty support. Research Computing, formerly UNIX Computing, provides computing support for researchers. Curricular Computing provides support for development of curricular materials, especially Web sites. The lines between these two computing groups are increasingly blurred, Director of Academic Computing Malcolm Brown notes. Research Computing staff helps with developing curricular applications in the sciences, and curricular applications often run on equipment managed by the research group. 'It all depends on where the expertise lies,' Brown said. 'I think the element to watch will be the faculty computing center,' Brown said. 'It will be a facility tailored to the faculty's needs, with advanced equipment and support staff. Given the importance of technology in the Library's services and proximity of the reference desk, it will be exciting to watch the librarian/computarian synergies grow over time.' 'The librarians, with all their content expertise, have a major role to play here,' he added.

The center's emphasis does not rest exclusively with fitting out high-end development spaces, although that is part of the plan. During a focus group session with faculty in the fall, nearly all of the time was spent talking about support, Brown said. 'The support we offer to faculty, not the equipment, is the most important part of the process.'

In that regard, the computing staff might learn from the librarians, who have an excellent reputation for user service. The skill of a reference librarian rests with his or her breadth of knowledge and ability to understand how information is organized, said Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian Bill Moran. Librarians are concerned with how scholarship is produced, organized, and disseminated, Moran said, so it is only natural that they become familiar with the new tools. 'When the Task Force began its work, from the Library's point of view, we saw a natural set of mutual interests,' Moran said. 'For example, electronic text-if that's where the attention of scholars is, then there will be a convergence with computing experts.'

If faculty are already familiar with how to obtain services from the reference librarians, it will be easy for librarians or faculty (or both) to spontaneously interact with the computing staff. Both sides are beginning to brace for the expected surge in demand for services.

'It is not just moving in that will trigger the demand. The move will allow better integration of technology with the traditional academic needs of faculty,' said John Hawkins, Academic Computing's Associate Director for Curricular Computing. 'Being there on Level One will build that in. They can just step over and consult, or vice versa.' There is not so much of an overlap between the roles of technology and reference experts as there is a complement, in Hawkins's opinion-and he has worked in both Kiewit and Baker. Moran uses the word synergy- 'that's general enough to cover it.' 'We sense that we'll be working together in many different ways that will bring many benefits,' Moran said.

A recent collaborative effort is centered on Baker's Map Room, a repository for thousands of geographic documents. Technology is changing that field rapidly, as new types and formats of digitized information become available. The challenge for researchers is how to access and manipulate that information to best advantage. Research Computing is working with Library staff to disseminate better some of the raw data available from public sources, such as the U.S. Geological Survey or the Census Bureau. It is a simple experiment, focused at its initial stage on simply making information available, said Gurcharan Khanna, Academic Computing's Associate Director for Research Computing. But it may pave the way for more advanced methods of manipulating that information, in collaboration with librarians and researchers. Librarians 'need to be able to cover the bases on resources. The researchers need to be able to do whatever they want. The UNIX experts have unique resources to make this all happen,' Moran said.


Part of what the Curricular Computing team does is prepare content for digital delivery, for example by digitizing video. As part of the Berry project, the Instructional Services production team will move into offices near the faculty computing center-placing them closer to the hub of curricular service delivery and to content stored on Berry's Level Two. In advance of the Berry project, the Instructional Services media collection, made up of thousands of videos purchased at faculty request for their classes, will be assimilated into the Jones Multimedia Center, whose name reflects the rapid changes the project has to contend with.

The original Berry plan included space for the microtext center, currently squirreled away in one of Baker's basements. That space, first called the Jones Microtext Center, would contain specialized devices for accessing content on microfilm, microfiche, and similar formats. The Library never had the mandate, money, or space to fully develop its non-microtext holdings, Moran said-the duty fell to Instructional Services, although the Library acquired significant pieces as the need arose.

As Computing Services considered its overall needs in light of Kiewit's impending demolition, it seemed natural to move the media collection (and its staff) to the Library-and give the Library control over and access to a new type of media for its collection, Brown said. As the plans developed, the name of the facility changed to reflect the broader variety of materials that would be located there.

The change reflects the move toward bringing information and services for faculty and students together in one central location, said Phyllis Jaynes: 'I think the overall plan will enhance interactions between users and staff. No one will have to wonder where to go.'


Resources for students are also concentrated on the first floor. On the computing side, a new student development laboratory is being created out of services that were once combined in the Computer Resource Center (CRC). The development lab will contain equipment for digitizing audio and video, such as scanners, as well as high-quality color and black-and-white printers that can be used for special purposes, such as creating résumés. The lab will also contain several high-end workstations.

Those resources are currently available on a limited basis in the CRC, which is primarily a facility for evaluating hardware and software before making a purchase. The relationship between the CRC and Computer Sales and Service is currently being examined, but one thing is clear: The CRC needs more space than it currently has, even if it does not play host to any student development functions. Berry Library addresses those concerns, with space allocated for both the CRC and for the student development lab. The exact specification for the lab has not been fixed yet, but is likely to evolve during the next four years, said Randy Spydell, Academic Computing's Associate Director for Consulting and User Education.

Some of the most valuable services for students are not directly related to computing, Margaret Otto said. The 24-hour café and study area on the ground floor (outside the perimeter of the Library's core) is intended to be a gathering point for people seeking a respite from the grind. And there are many places throughout Berry and Baker where students can study, as an alternative to working in the residence halls, Otto said. There will be plenty of places for people to work by themselves, or in groups-in whatever way they prefer. But all can now find what they need in one location, without the distraction caused by having to leave and come back (or end up not coming back, as the case may be).


Both the Library and Computing Services have had pressing needs for well-equipped instructional centers. The Berry/Baker program goes a long way toward addressing those needs. Academic Computing's Consulting and User Education group has used the Kiewit Instructional Center for years to teach minicourses on how to use personal computers-everything from system basics to word processing to advanced applications. Its sixteen student seats and one instructor seat are equipped with dual Macintosh and Windows 95 machines, projection equipment, network connections, and blackboards. However, until recently it has been the only facility of its type on the campus-and it is increasingly in demand for a range of other uses. For instance, faculty use the room to teach students how to use specialized applications for their courses, Brown said. Other departments, such as the Library, have been looking for space in which they can train staff, or faculty and students, in new technologies.

A new instructional center, at Building 37, at the far northern edge of campus, opened recently and ought to help satisfy demand for the immediate future, Brown said. However, the Building 37 facility will 'overflow almost immediately' when coupled with the demand for training administrative users on a range of major administrative systems currently being deployed as part of the Student Information System project. The Berry Library provides relief for these problems, with state-of-the-art computer instructional facilities located at the center of the campus. Unlike the Kiewit center, which was shoehorned into the basement, and the Building 37 center, which occupies part of a former cafeteria, the Berry facilities are being designed for computer instruction from the ground up, with careful attention to sightlines, acoustics, and lighting.

'The Task Force report describes a technology laboratory where users can learn how to use these tools,' Brown said. 'The instructional centers are a vital part of that plan. I expect that, even with these expanded facilities, the rooms will be in very high demand.' Phyllis Jaynes agrees. 'We'll have really good instructional centers, and we'll do them right, to meet the need for additional technology training.' With a total of ninety-eight student seats, the Berry instructional centers will 'allow user education on a scale we've never done before. It will let us leverage instructional technology into new areas, including administrative areas. This is a huge leap forward, with very few obstacles.'


As construction on Berry Library and renovations to Baker gears up, Library and Computing Services staff will find new opportunities to collaborate and new experiences to share. An ad-hoc group of staff from both organizations (and representatives from Human Resources and Facilities Planning) began meeting during the winter of 1997-1998 to begin discussing ideas on how to minimize the impact of construction on services to faculty and students, as well as the impact on the productivity and morale of staff affected by the day-to-day construction.

Members of the Berry Change Project also discuss longer-term organizational issues posed by the closer working relationships between Library and Computing Services staff. Early projects have addressed both aspects of the group's mission: A well-attended midweek cookout on Tuck Mall included information about the construction project and opportunities to share concerns and questions. Given the nature and pace of change in both the Library and Computing Services, new opportunities for collaboration and cooperation are likely to continue emerging in coming years.

* This essay is a version of material originally prepared for Interface, 29:2 (Winter 1998). Other background information can be found in Dartmouth College, Computing Services, 'Report of the Computing Services Building Committee on Space Priorities,' December 1996; and Dartmouth College, Computing Services, 'Computing at Dartmouth Time-line,' 1990. Readers may also wish to visit the project Web site at .

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