I list here some questions for discussion. Some are issues at Harvard; many are probably also issues at other major university libraries. Few have obvious answers, and some have been considered or were originally raised in one way or another by library staff.

  1. How might we increase communication between faculty and librarians about how the library makes purchasing decisions and how to influence purchasing requests? Is it worth developing a web site that lists new acquisitions and perhaps even the status of new requests? Should there be a standard weekly list in the Gazette of HOLLIS Plus items? How can HOLLIS II solve these communication problems more formally?
  2. Should HUL excercise bibliographic control over electronic materials through HOLLIS even for purchases outside of HCL, perhaps even for those outside of the library system?
  3. Is there some way to ease or institutionalize the negotiation of site licenses for networked resources?
  4. How can the library gain the expertise necessary to build a more complete collection of numerical databases? Should Government Documents have representation on the ERC?
  5. Books are purchased for current scholarly use as well as for apparent long-term archival value. In contrast, networked resources are only purchased based on current need at present. Should we begin to buy networked resources for their archival value too?
  6. Networked resources do not cover all current needs of faculty and students, but book purchases are intended to cover all current book-needs and many other areas of no current interest. Given this, when is it appropriate to turn down a request from a faculty member's for an electronic resource in order to buy books (or expensive microfilm collections) that no faculty member currently wants?
  7. Much effort at Harvard and elsewhere has gone into preserving paper materials. At present, little is being done to preserve electronic data, although many groups, consortia of universities, and nonprofit organizations are talking about the problem. Should we begin to study whether anything can be done in this area, or when it will become feasible to do something?
  8. Should we pass up on electronic materials that are difficult or impossible to preserve? (Preservation of electronic materials includes concerns not only about the physical longevity of the media on which the data is stored, but also whether the format, operating systems, and the computers necessary to run the software or access the data will remain available.)
  9. Some electronic materials can only be run on one PC. Should we pass up on purchasing these in favor of networked resources? Should we also not buy items that have especially unfriendly user interfaces?
  10. Should we focus on acquiring only those electronic materials that can run on the library's computers, or should materials that can be run on other computers around campus be considered as well? To put it another way, should the library be prepared to provide access to computer hardware and software for all electronic media it acquires? The library does not provide translation services for foreign language books; should it provide user support for unfamiliar electronic services?
  11. Some electronic databases come with their own front-ends that can only run on one PC, but their data are accessible directly. That means that it is possible, although in some cases very difficult, to reprogram them to be accessible on the network. Should the library allocate funds to do this reprogramming or wait until the industry responds to this need? (At present, the library does no reprogramming of this kind, although HASCS does a small amount when requested for specific classes.) What if the industry does not respond for some data bases?
  12. Should the library spend additional money or effort to extend site licenses so that students and faculty can access these resources off-campus?