On 12/12/03 8:40 PM, John Durno <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> What programming-type projects have you undertaken that really had some
> benefit in that context?

Ah, here is a story I love to tell, but I will only mention a few:

1. LENDS at the Hagerty Library, Drexel University

In 1985 I worked the lending side of interlibrary-loan at the Hagerty
Library, Drexel University. Every day I would use Fred Kilgour's OCLC M300
terminal to phone home to Dublin, OH, and download my pending requests. I
would then run around the library looking for the items, packaging them up,
and shipping them off. At the end of the day I would go back to Fred's
terminal and update the requests. My boss told me I would have to create an
annual report describing my activity. It involved counting lots o' pieces of
paper. I wasn't looking forward to this, so I wrote LENDS (remember FILLS?)
that created my annual report daily. I first wrote it in a hot copy of DBASE
II, but when the director found out, I re-wrote it in BASICA.

2. QuickCAT and Ask Eric at the Catawba-Wateree AHEC Library

My first professional job was as a medical librarian at the Catawba-Wateree
AHEC Library in Lancaster, SC from 1988-1991. My job was to drive around
from hospital to hospital providing library services. The library (such as
it was) had a tiny collection and no real catalog. I proceeded to use
UltraCard to do data-entry and print catalog cards. The data created by
UltraCard was in plain text, so I proceeded to read the UltraCard data,
parse it accordingly, and wrote an online catalog in QuickBASIC complete
with field searching, Boolean operations, and rudimentary circulation
features. This program, QuickCAT, won me an award from Computers in
Libraries. It was cool because I could put my entire card catalog on a disk
and give it away to all my ten hospitals.

As a part of a grant from the National Library of Medicine, I wrote a
front-end ("expert system") for MEDLINE and DOCLINE. Using a
HyperCard/Microphone II/PubMed combination the program asked the user a
number of questions, created an online search on the user's behalf, applied
the search against PubMed, downloaded the results, allowed the user to
select items of interest, and submit those items for delivery via DOCLINE.
The thing saved me buckets of time. I presented this software at an Apple
Library of Tomorrow conference ("Thanks, Steve Cisler!") where I coined it
"Ask Eric" -- before the Ask Eric of University of Syracuse fame ("Sorry
David Lankes"). What's really cool is that I can still run the the program
on my PowerBook G4.

3. Mr. Serials, Alpha It!, and MyLibrary at the NC State University

Working for the NC State University Libraries from 1991-2000 I wrote many
hacks, but there were three in particular. First, there was Mr. Serials. Mr.
Serials was an account on a Unix computer. "He" subscribed to various
mailing lists hosting electronic serials. As new issues of the serials were
distributed, Mr. Serials extracted the bibliographic information, saved a
simple text file to a gopher (and later HTTP) server, indexed the results,
and provided both a searchable and browsable interfaces to the collection.
Many people pooh-poohed the whole idea, but when it was time to submit ARL
statistics administration counted the serials collected by Mr. Serials. Mr.
Serials lives on in various venues. One is/was Index Morganagus ("Thanks,
Roy!") and most recently as COWLZ. There is also an archive:

OCLC's CatMe program was used to search for MARC records. Once identified,
it saved these records to the local drive. This wasn't very useful since the
records had to be uploaded to the our ILS, the now defunct DRA. To solve
this problem I wrote Alpha It!, a simple Kermit script that opened up a TCP
connection to our Alpha host, uploaded the MARC records, and executed a DCL
script importing the new records into the catalog. The program worked so
flawlessly that years latter people were still using it without
modification. It ran into problems when the operating system (VMS) could no
longer keep track of the 32,768 versions of the logs files. Staff members
called the program Ralph It! as if the computer were vomiting.  :-)

MyLibrary@NCState made a big splash in 1998/99. Originally conceived as a
personalized interface to collections of Internet resources in libraries,
the program is really a database-driven website application. The Library
created a committee to oversee the application, lots o' talks were given,
but it never got as far as I hoped it would. At the same time, MyLibrary is
becoming part of the library vernacular, and while the MyLibrary application
currently distributed by the University Libraries of Notre Dame is not the
only "MyLibrary" out there, the concepts behind MyLibrary seem to have
caught on:

Here at Notre Dame we are working on writing MyLibrary version 3.0 which is
object-oriented and will provide better means for importing and exporting
its data in various formats.

4. University of Notre Dame

I don't write very much software for my day job any more.  :-(  Now I spend
much more of my time planning, prioritizing, and facilitating communication.
I'm a middle manager. On the other hand, I still get to hack at home. My
current hack is an index to my home book collection where I make use of Yaz,
Net::Z3950, MARC::*, and swish-e (an unsung open source hero). My index

  * author, title, and subject browsable lists
  * search result sorts by author, title, year, and rank
  * preference settings
  * a search history
  * all the cool search functions of swish-e such as field searching,
    phrase searching, nested queries, and left-hand truncation
  * a "Did you mean?" function a la Google

Luckily my vocation is also my avocation.  8-)

Eric Lease Morgan
Head, Digital Access and Information Architecture Department
University Libraries of Notre Dame

(574) 631-8604