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Client/server network assures students hit books.

Many college students consider all-night cram sessions par for the course. Today, however, this informal rite of passage features a new twist--a 24-hour, electronic library that eliminates the footwork traditionally associated with locating a book.

Students at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania can find any book they want without leaving their dormitory room. They search the library's card catalog using their own personal computers (PCs) and Macintosh systems, which are networked to a Unix-based file server.

"It's a little more difficult now for students to cop out," says Willis M. Hubbard, head librarian at the Musselman Library at Gettysburg College. "Even if they wait until the last minute to complete a project, chances are they can easily find citations to the needed library materials any time day or night by using our on-line system."

Gettysburg's client/server architecture, based on hardware from Sun Microsystems, enables students--as well as faculty and librarians--to access the card catalogs of 695 libraries around the world.

"Our vision is to create a modern information campus, where knowledge is easily accessible," says Dennis Aebersold, associate provost for computing and science at Gettysburg. "By networking all of our hardware in a standard client/server architecture, we achieve this goal."

The new library system, Musselman Library Catalog (MusCat), replaced a mainframe running an older library package last year. The migration was long overdue, since the library system was riddled with problems.

Even the most complex searches are completed instantly. "Overall, searches are many times faster with MusCat than they were with the previous system," says Hubbard. "This improvement makes a big difference in student and faculty attitudes. They're willing to search for more material on their own. Before MusCat, they relied more heavily on the help of librarians."

High maintenance costs were also a leading factor in Gettysburg's move to Sun SPARCservers. "We used to pay $72,000 a year for the mainframe," says Aebersold. "To maintain our current hardware, we pay 75% less per year and we operate several CPUs."

When selecting server hardware, the college demanded Unix. "We believe strongly in standards," says Aebersold. "Unix opens up our selection of software. Plus, it's the direction of the future." Aebersold also cites Sun's reputation for reliability.

Other features, such as windowing and multitasking--the ability to perform several tasks simultaneously--were also critical.

"I need my computer to look like my desk," says Aebersold. "My desk is multifaceted. I could never work in a single-task environment."

Perhaps the most significant benefit of Gettysburg's solution is the ability to make information available across a campuswide network.

"We couldn't provide a high level of accessibility without strong networking capabilities," says Aebersold. "We know that, with this hardware, we're equipped to face the future."
COPYRIGHT 1994 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Education; Gettysburg College
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1994
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