The Carnegie Mellon University Library Information System (LIS): Applications within the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) Online Environment

By Tinsley, Lynn G.; Yourison, Karola M. | Special Libraries, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview

The Carnegie Mellon University Library Information System (LIS): Applications within the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) Online Environment


Tinsley, Lynn G., Yourison, Karola M., Special Libraries


THE SOFTWARE ENGINEERING INSTITUTE (SEI) is a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Department of Defense under contract to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The institute employs technical staff of approximately 200 members. Communication at the institute is based on local area networks, electronic mail, and electronic bulletin boards. Each employee has access to a terminal or workstation which is connected to the local network. As part of Carnegie Mellon University, the SEI is also connected to the university computer network through the Internet.

To support the information needs of the technical staff, the SEI Library was established. At the initial planning stage a decision was made by management to create a fully automated library. This decision is in line with the research of the institute whose goal is to promote a software engineering discipline. Campus library facilities in place were already highly automated; therefore, the SEI Library decided to utilize this technology to its advantage. Thus, a special relationship between the SEI Library and the CMU Libraries began in 1986 and continues today.

CMU library services available to the SEI include acquisitions, cataloging, and document delivery. Through cataloging, the SEI library materials are included on the Library Information System (LIS), an online retrieval system developed locally for the CMU Libraries. Access to the university's library system is available to all SEI employees from their desktop. Employees are encouraged to utilize the online system for information retrieval. Library orientation is in place to accommodate new employees, visiting scientists, and resident affiliates to become knowledgeable about the features of LIS.

The focus of this paper is to profile the features of the LIS and how it is utilized by the SEI community. Electronic mail applications, online request forms, file applications, and current awareness capabilities for the SEI community will be highlighted. A brief history of the LIS and the newly developed system LIS II, (the Mercury Project electronic library prototype under development at CMU) will be discussed.

CMU Automation Background

The Library Information System (LIS) is a locally developed and maintained information retrieval system. This system supports the teaching curriculum and research projects of the community and is accessible from offices, dormitories, libraries, and off-campus sites providing standard library catalog information, commercial databases, and campus information.

Development began in 1985 based upon available hardware and software on campus. Criteria essential to the building of the retrieval system included the design of a single search interface for different types of information (each database having the same search protocol) and several optional terminal interfaces to enable the widest campus distribution possible. The Carnegie Mellon community uses an array of computer terminals, workstations, and departmental computing systems. This variation in equipment posed a considerable technical challenge to introducing campus-wide compatibility. The first version was released to the campus in the Spring of 1986.

LIS was a centralized system housed on an IBM 3083 mainframe running IBM STAIRS retrieval software. At the time of its replacement by LIS II, the system contained 15 databases including an online full-text encyclopedia and dictionary, local library holdings (CMU libraries, SEI, and the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation), and a variety of vendor databases loaded from magnetic tape such as INSPEC and the Information Access Corporation products. Local campus information was also made available in Who's Who at CMU, an online version of the CMU faculty, staff, and student directories. Full Boolean searching capability was supported with the default operator set at "and". Some system features included set limits and sorting, mailing of single records, and help screens at all levels. …

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