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The MELVYL information system is an important component of the University of California's (UC) strategy to transfer from print to networked information. This paper traces the development of UC's library automation strategy over the past five years and the role of the MELVYL system within this strategy. This paper will highlight the need for systems, such as the MELVYL catalog, to function within an overall institutional strategy and the issues raised by such coordination efforts. (1) The evolution of the MELVYL system into a manageable production operation, and the development of an institutional library automation policy framework within which the MELVYL system could succeed, may be of interest to other information technology planners and managers in educational institutions charged with developing institutional initiatives in this vital area of information technology.
ORIGINS OF THE MELVYL SYSTEM: A POLICY PERSPECTIVE
The MELVYL catalog had its origins in the 1977 Plan for Development for the University of California library system. (2) Although the plan called for the development of a specific automated system to provide a unified view of the library collections maintained by University of California's nine campuses, which became the MELVYL catalog, the 1977 plan did not articulate an institutional library automation strategy. At this time, there was little coordination between the planning for a UC information technology infrastructure (both networking and computing) and library automation initiatives. In the late 1970s, library automation was still viewed as an in-library activity largely unrelated to broader universitywide information technology planning. This perspective preceded the age of ubiquitous networking.
The lack of coordination between the MELVYL system and other universitywide computing and networking activities was acute by the mid-1980s. The MELVYL system operated from a computer center separate from other universitywide computing applications. As the first large-scale networked universitywide computing application, a universitywide …