Computers in Library Services

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. So library employees may say when they look back on the history of computing in Library Services. The library has a lot to be proud of, being the first on campus to install a local area network (LAN), the first to purchase online information services, and the first to offer microcomputers in an open computer lab. These advances were made to improve service and to increase productivity and were accomplished through vision, employee skill, and good luck.

The first two computer "dumb" terminals arrived in the library in the late 1970's to assist catalogers in creating records for the card catalog. These M300 workstations from IBM were used exclusively to dial online to the OCLC corporation in Ohio to purchase cataloging information. The first Apple computer arrived in 1981, and was used to dial into the Kansas City Metropolitan Library network from the interlibrary loan office. The first local area network (LAN), installed in 1987, allowed staff to share files, software and the sole laser printer. Associate Director Rosalie Schell was instrumental in bringing the LAN to the library and championing the purchase of personal computers for library faculty and staff use.

The first open microcomputer lab on campus was in the Self-Instruction Center (SIC). The SIC had long served as a media center on campus, offering audio tapes, films and filmstrips, records, and other media for student and instructor use. The microcomputer portion of the lab began with the purchase of two Apple IIe computers, each complete with two 5 1/4" floppy disk drives and a monitor (no hard drive), for $2,400 each. The progression into micro computers seemed a natural step for then SIC director Diane Smith, who also started the Education Microcomputer Lab in Lovinger.

The lab, recently renamed Computer Commons, has been expanded and upgraded three times since its establishment. It now contains 70 public access computers, consisting of 38 Windows and 32 Macintosh computers. It also offers 3 computer scanners and Zip drives. The Commons is planning a fourth expansion, as the Kirkpatrick library will have over twice the amount of space and a greatly improved computer networking infrastructure.