Browsing Penn’s Cyber Stacks, continued

The digital library started with what used to be the card catalogue. In 1986, the University’s library system—a network of 15 libraries, including fine arts, business, and engineering—began to make its card catalogue available on a network of computers. This computerized “Franklin” system is now accessible on a Web page rather than by dialing into a computer network.

“We had gotten so big

that it was just unwieldly

to have this collection of

sites not knotted together.

We needed to stitch all

of our sites into a

single database.”

Many functions have been added to the library’s main Web page over the years, including various databases and electronic journals. One recent addition of special interest to alumni is the “Alumni and Friends Portal,” which provides links available to alumni and others (see box).

The digital library, which can also be accessed from the library’s home page, contains several categories of information that have their own links. They include:

The Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image (SCETI), where the images of rare books, art, and other items are exhibited. There are currently 10 collections on the site that came out of specific Penn projects for which the library received a grant or support from alumni. There are also 10 “exhibitions,” including one about the invention of ENIAC at Penn’s Moore School of Engineering.

Oxford University Press history books, which are readable online. The library is adding to the site the 200 to 300 historical volumes published by Oxford University Press each year. The books do not have to be scanned in, because the manuscripts are already on publishers’ computers and can be converted into Web format by Adobe Acrobat.

“The online books page,” a rapidly growing list of links to thousands of volumes of fiction and nonfiction on Web sites all over the world. There’s a special (and quite helpful) database for women’s books.

“Research and prototypes,” tools created to blaze new paths in digital librarianship. A big one is the Typed Object Model (TOM), a way to interpret and translate data formats so that materials added to or reachable through the library’s Web site are accessible even if the format is obscure.

Of course, each of these categories has links within it, some overlap, and many are likely to change as the digital library evolves.

previous page | continued

You can tap a few computer keys and read “After the Ball is Over: Bringing Cinderella Home” in the new folklore periodical Cultural Analysis, but you can’t read anything in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology.

You can access the Population Index (a database of demographic information from 1986 to the present), Toxnet (a group of government databases on hazardous chemicals and poisons) and Northern Light (a database full of searchable newspaper and magazine articles and Internet documents), but you can’t get into Lexis-Nexis (an extensive compendium of major newspaper and magazine articles and biographical data).

The library system has worked to make many Web site materials available to alumni and the general public, but not everything is. Thus, it has created a link called the Alumni and Friends Portal that contains only unrestricted items.

Here are some links that can be found on the alumni and friends portal (www.library.upenn.edu/portal/) on the library homepage:

E-news and e-journals (links to newspapers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Pennsylvanian, plus a host of electronic journals organized by subject)

High-content Web sites (links to thousands of sites for specific topics, ranging from law to Philadelphia to organic chemistry to African-American studies)

The “library showcase” (a link to the digital library)

The library book club (descriptions of featured books by Penn authors that are available for purchase)

The library catalogue (Franklin)

Alumni news and events, and information about donating. Of the databases available on the library’s main page, 22 are available to anyone, and 187 can be accessed only by Penn faculty, students, and staff. A section for online journals has 951 available for anyone and 4,877 restricted to Penn faculty, students, and staff.

The reason for this is money. The University pays a fee each year to license certain online databases and journals. Sometimes Penn pays as part of a consortium, sometimes alone. To make the materials available to the 40,000 students and others in the University community costs one amount, but to make them available to the 248,000 people in the alumni community is much more expensive.


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Copyright 2002 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 1/2/02