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Libraries and Information Resources cuts to focus on computing areas

STANFORD -- Libraries and Information Resources will cut $405,000 from its budget in fiscal 1995 - largely in computing areas - but will reinvest $100,000 to improve security on the university network.

The Stanford University Libraries largely will escape cuts in its $28 million budget, but will undergo a reengineering of technical services in the future.

In a town hall presentation on Tuesday, April 12, Robert Street, vice provost for libraries and information resources, said he was given a target of cutting $305,000, or 7.5 percent, from an administrative budget base of about $4 million. He exceeded the target in order to reallocate funds because "the network needs more security and greater reliability," he said.

Other cuts will come from reducing the growth of administrative computer usage, eliminating Data Center costs associated with Gandalf connections, migrating functions from Stanford's mainframe computer, lower income from the campus phone system and substituting income for general funds relating to the broadcast area.

The cuts come on top of a 25 percent reduction across the whole organization since 1990. Street said it is somewhat surprising, but true, that despite the cuts "we feel pretty much OK."

Street's unit is made up of three divisions: the University Libraries, the Data Center and Networking & Communication Systems.

Together they supply library services and programs for most of the campus, campuswide information services, academic computing, support of teaching, and large-scale computing services for the library, student affairs and the administration. Other services include administrative decision support services, networking, workstation and distributed computing support, telephone and video services, and linkage to the Internet.

Street said his unit "straddles the administrative and academic domains." On the administrative side, he identified cuts, as requested, of a total of 15 percent to 30 percent over three years. On the academic side, "we have focused on reallocation, reengineering and infrastructure investments," he said.

Two key constants must be sustained, Street said. The library materials budget, which includes costs of acquiring books and providing information about them, cannot be cut. And, referring to the "information superhighway," the university must maintain its network, "which is the lifeblood of this organization," he said.

Budget cuts

In the area of budget cuts, Street said he expects to save $190,000 by reducing the growth in administrative computer usage. This will be done, in part, by making systems more efficient and encouraging use during non-peak hours.

More budget savings will come through elimination of support for Gandalf connections. About 2,000 are still in use. Users will find it cheaper to invest in new high-speed modems, and in any case must make the change by 1997, Street said.

His operation will achieve savings in the near future as it starts moving programs off the mainframe to the client-server environment. A large number of electronic mail users will be shifted off this summer, and plans call for removal of the student financial aid system and NOTIS Horizon, the library system for technical services.

In the telephone area, the university is doing extremely well, Street said, with costs well below the commercial market. As a result, rate increases will be held lower than earlier projections, reducing income for the unit.

In the area of cable TV, Libraries and Information Resources this fall will begin delivering at no cost to hooked-up dorm rooms the university's educational broadcasting programs, along with network television stations. For a fee, students will be able to receive basic and premium cable services. Completion of hook ups should be done by 1997 when the network is supposed to fully extended to all dorm rooms. Fees from cable hookups will be substituted for general funds supporting the unit's educational budget.

Looking ahead

To support the teaching environment, Street said his unit is working with other units to make technological improvements in classrooms, encourage use of the new multimedia center in Meyer Library - the first of its kind nationally - and help set the stage for paradigm changes in teaching methods.

In the library area, Street said the reconstruction of Green Library's west wing will offer opportunities to maximize functions and modernize services. Another goal is linking Green East and West and Meyer Library in a way that makes them a functioning library quad, he said.

Technical services will undergo major reengineering in the future, tied in to plans - still preliminary but approved in concept by the provost - to construct a new state-of-the-art, $7 million facility that would house staff involved in acquisition, delivery, cataloging and preservation of materials, Street said. It would be located near the Auxiliary Library, off Pampas Lane.

It is not yet clear how the reengineering will be done, Street said in a separate interview, but it should produce about $750,000 in savings, most of which will be reallocated toward the building and its electronic infrastructure.

"This provides the opportunity to take a major process and do it over from scratch, and have it as modern and as efficient as possible," he said.

The project also dovetails with plans for Green West, freeing up space for seminar rooms, reading rooms and classrooms. It would delay the need for additional library space in the center of campus, he said.

Because of normal attrition and possibilities in job retraining, it is entirely possible that technical services could be reorganized without layoffs, Street said.

The possibility of moving into the area of online journals and reports is of interest, Street told approximately 150 town hall meeting participants.

He also discussed Portfolio, a new gateway application to be introduced at a Libraries Information Fair on April 21-22, that will provide access to information through client servers rather than the mainframe. It will allow users to "go surfing on the Internet," Street said. Portfolio, a substitute for Folio, will move a "sizeable portion of the community off the mainframe," he said.

A faculty and senior-staff committee on the Distributed Information and Computing Environment is now creating a plan for distributed computing activities for administrative and academic functions through the year 2000, Street said in discussion of what the future holds. The committee's report is due in November.

"DICE will give us a blueprint for the future," Street said. Meanwhile, Street and his colleagues are trying to avoid the need to upgrade the mainframe.

Street concluded saying that "if we have provided for the scholarly and administrative needs of the university and TV for the students, we must have a plan."



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