LOC Web site to offer access to holdings

The Library of Congress plans by October to complete installing its integrated library system, called Voyager, that will allow the public to use PCs to conduct comprehensive searches of the extensive collections available at the world's largest library.

Voyager, from Des Plaines, Ill.-based Endeavor Information Systems Inc., will replace many of the library's older, independent automated systems - some of which date back to the late 1960s and early 1970s - with a single client/server system that will support all standard library operations.

Users will be able to search a list of resources that may include books, maps, manuscripts, periodicals or sound recordings, as well as the precise locations of where resources are located, including whether it's on a shelf, checked out, being transferred to microfilm or is in storage.

The searches may be conducted on-site at the library or via an online catalog, which will be accessible via the library's World Wide Web site at www.loc.gov. Electronic searches of different collections at the library currently require using several separate catalogs.

"This is a momentous occasion in the history of the library," said Librarian of Congress James Billington. "It marks our transition to a new era of automation that promises improved library services to Congress and to the nation by bringing disparate operations together for the first time."

The library plans to invite the media to an Oct. 6 demonstration of the ILS, which took about 15 months to complete, said Guy Lamolinara, a spokesman for the library.

"The system will be a lot more user-friendly than what we have available," Lamolinara said. "It will be easier for a person who's not a librarian."

The task of building the ILS required installing software on nearly 3,000 staff and public workstations and loading about 12 million bibliographic records and four million authority records.

Cindy Miller, director of product strategy at Endeavor Information Systems, said there are obvious differences between the new systems and the one the library currently uses.

Miller said users will know instantly if the library makes changes to documents, a feature not available on the current system because of incompatibility among computer systems. "This will be very new for the library to have all that information in one place," Miller said.

Congress set aside $5.6 million for the project in fiscal 1998 to cover the costs of software, training, maintenance and support, in addition to some new system hardware and other items to support inventory tracking and the initial conversion of the card files.

"The Library of Congress is using the same software as the rest of our customers," Miller said. "Their current system was developed internally. They're going to be very happy with the new system.

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