MSEL's Neal Wants Library More Online Chris Rowett ----------------------------------- Homewood News and Information Jim Neal is an easy man to read. As the new director of the university's Eisenhower Library, he has his priorities and goals clearly in focus; just a few weeks on the job, Neal is determined to see the library grow with the information age of the '90s. "I think Hopkins is poised to make enormous progress and advance its leadership in the national research library community," he said. As anyone who has entered a library in the past few years knows, resources and research have taken on electronic formats, a move Neal calls a "revolution." The leaders of that revolution must be able to expand and adapt to change, while continuing to acknowledge the importance of printed publications, he said. "It's a very schizophrenic information environment that we're working with, and it will challenge libraries in the next decade," he said. "How do we effectively continue to acquire a range of information formats, select those of high quality and of relevance to the faculty and students of this university, organize them effectively, make them available, and preserve and archive them?" One response to that challenge is a plan to improve the network infrastructure at the university. Those improvements, Neal said, will increase resource availability and result in a "migration" from the electronic catalog system to a client server system. "When you go to a catalog now, it tells you a publication exists," he explained. "You have to go to the library stacks or to government publications and search for it. Increasingly, what we want to do is not just point at information; we'd like to bring that information to the computer." That technology, he said, will make more resources available to more students and researchers when and where they need it. Hopkins has already made strides in that area, Neal noted. Under Project Muse, more than 40 scholarly journals published by the Johns Hopkins University Press are being made available on the World Wide Web at http//muse.mse.jhu.edu. Students and scholars will have the capability to access research from their dorms, homes or offices, Neal said. "The network is a global community," Neal said. "I'm amazed how researchers perhaps have more contact with colleagues around the world than they do with colleagues down the hall. "There is a community of scholars that now can, in fact, interact internationally in a real-time basis," he added. "You don't have to wait for the conference in Vienna next year. You have the ability to jump on line and collaborate." The Eisenhower Library is also one of 1,400 research libraries throughout the country that has been selected by the U.S. Government Printing Office to have access to a variety of electronic-based sources, including the GPO Access Database and Congressionals reports on legislation. Additionally, Neal envisions a time when information will be available using a variety of networked, interactive, multimedia capabilities. "We have to accept a major commitment in our business lives and our professional lives to equipment replacement and upgrading," he said. "[It is] a condition of constantly shifting technology." In the electronic age of information, however, printed works will remain essential tools of education and entertainment. "We'll be publishing books in our lifetime," Neal said. "There are certain types of literature that clearly lends itself to that format. We will want to read novels. We want potable technology like the printed book." Neal, 48, arrived at Hopkins after six years at Indiana University, where, as dean of university libraries, he coordinated a system of 57 libraries on eight campuses. Prior to that, he served as an assistant dean at Penn State and held library posts at the University of Notre Dame and the City University of New York. At Hopkins, Neal is directly responsible for the Eisenhower Library, including the Garrett Library at Evergreen House and the George Peabody Library. The Welch Library, the Friedheim Library at Peabody Conservatory and the libraries at the Applied Physics Lab and the School of Public Health are run independently; Neal expects to work closely to coordinate efforts among the facilities. On that same note, Neal would also like to develop a coalition of research libraries in the mid-Atlantic region-- similar to one he worked with in the Midwest--to coordinate a plan of action in addressing and sharing future challenges and resources. "Cooperation gives us the opportunity not only to enhance the services for our faculty and students, but to pursue them in a much more cost-effective way," he said. "I'd like the library to continue to be more and more innovative, to establish partnerships." For now, though, Neal and his wife, Fran, are settling in Baltimore and anticipating their move into a house later this month. It is not the only transition on the couple's minds. "We came here from Notre Dame, Penn State and Indiana: football and basketball," Neal said. "We're trying to learn a lot about lacrosse real fast." They are in just the right place.
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